REACH FOR THE STARS
Sera da Estrela, Portugal, 10-days
The view from the top would have taken my breath away – if I had any left after the ride up. It’s not often that you get to ride to the very top of a mountain, but that’s what I’d done. Not just any mountain, either. I parked my bike on the summit of Torre, the highest peak in Portugal and took a good look around. The experience is simply staggering.
The Serra da Estrela – the mountain of the star – is a compact mountain range that rises on the border between Spain and Portugal.
The big draw is the N339 that climbs from the small city of Covilha, going straight up and over Torre in an explosion of hairpins, before descending in broad, steep swoops to the town of Seia. This is the so-called Portuguese Stelvio and, like the Italian pass it’s named after, it is a road that’s worth the trip. Mostly because the roads that lead here are all astounding.
From the moment you roll off the Santander ferry, you’re surrounded by brilliant roads. Through the Picos de Europa mountains, across the wide-screen plains of Leon and over the border into Portugal I found mile after mile of immaculate tarmac that was as rich in brilliant bends as it was empty of traffic.
And then I reached the Serra da Estrela. The first road I found was the N232 – 20 beautiful miles of broad, wide turns climbing up the mountain followed by a dizzying dozen hairpins dropping down the other side. It was great – but it was only the beginning. The M501, N230, N338… everywhere I went, the roads got better, the views got bigger and my smile got broader.