Beyond Santa Comba Dão, the IP3 bears away from the Dão valley and the views are soon of the Serra do Caramulo, breaking to the northwest. The eastern turn-off point for the mountains is the small, unassuming town of Tondela, 20km from Santa Comba Dão, from where the minor N230 winds through a succession of tiny villages at the heart of the mountain range, including Caramulo itself, a twisting 19km from Tondela. This is the only worthwhile overnight stop, with a fantastic museum, and makes a good hiking base; most of the other serra villages are little more than hamlets, surrounded by rhododendrons, brightly coloured azaleas and thick green shrubs growing wild on the hillside. After Caramulo, the N230 descends to Águeda, western access point to the mountains, 37km from Caramulo, which is close to the main north–south routes between Coimbra and Aveiro/Porto.
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Tucked beneath the granite outcrops and wind turbines of the high Beiras serra, the straggling village of CARAMULO glories in some staggering views. It’s a somnolent place, with a belvedere garden and vast, shady chestnut trees at its heart, while several waymarked footpaths radiate from the village through neighbouring hamlets and up to the local peaks. The summit of the loftiest, Caramulinho (1075m), is a five-kilometre drive from the village, while at Cabeço da Neve (a 4km drive) there’s another sweeping viewpoint. The best walk is the circular Rota dos Caleiros (8.2km; 3–4hr), which is detailed in a leaflet available from the turismo: it picks its way past the old stone aqueducts (caleiros) and granite boulders around Caramulinho, with magnificent views east to the Serra da Estrela and west to the Atlantic Ocean.
The extraordinary Museu do Caramulo was founded by two brothers with a love of “art and automobiles” and displays everything from primitive religious sculpture to souped-up Harley Davidsons. Once you’ve browsed through the Picasso sketches and sixteenth-century tapestries, it’s on to the superb collection of vintage cars and motorcycles, most of which are in working order and given a run-out every September for the Caramulo Motorfestival (wcaramulo-motorfestival.com).