There is a magical mountain in Portugal. It’s called Estrela – Star – because it almost touches the sky, and it dominates the center of the country, crossed by the impressive Zêzere River Glacier Valley. It has an semi-sacred animal, the sheep, which offers two treasures to the world: cheese and wool. The first, the renowned queijo da serra (“mountain cheese”), is one of the country’s most superior delicacies. The second, made into a fabric called burel, is luxurious comfort.

Portugal has long cherished its great mountain range, and it has always attracted those who seek the tranquillity of its havens. In 1948, a beautiful inn was built there, near the village of Manteigas (a lovely name: it literally means Butter), a couple of hours east of the city of Coimbra. It was designed by architect Rogério de Azevedo, with interiors and furniture by Maria Keil, two important names in modernist art. Today it’s called Casa de São Lourenço and it’s a 5-star sustainable hotel, an amazing and welcoming place.

There are strong reasons to relax here – the spa with panoramic views, the indoor and outdoor heated swimming pools, the superb restaurant, also with views over the mountains, run by chef Manuel Figueira, a native of the region –, but the menu of outdoor experiences is outstanding. There are nine walking routes that range from exploring the various Estrela lakes to impressive natural monuments and icons of local heritage, including a route that retraces a famous scientific expedition from 1881. One of the routes can be done on a mountain bike.

Returning to that mountain treasure, the burel: you really can’t miss a guided visit to the Burel Factory, very close to the hotel and owned by the same company, to learn how this fabric is made. It’s the perfect slow production: they still use the same machines from the 19th century, when the factory was founded, combined with manual labor, resulting in a final fabric of unique softness, color and resistance, used in clothing, decoration and architecture. A distinctive product.

More reasons to go up the mountain? The Estrela Ski Resort is a 40-minute drive away. Oh yes, you can also ski in sunny Portugal.