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IMG_0573This waterfall feature in central Portugal has been getting quite a bit of attention on the Internet lately. At first we thought that somehow this waterfall took place naturally, but after a little bit of searching we discovered it is actually the entrance, a funnel, to a 1,520 meter tunnel. The lake, or pond rather, was created by the construction of two small dams located in a small basin area on top of a mountain. Water runoff from the mountains collects here and then is funneled down the tunnel to supply water for the region.

Gathering the water by drilling through the mountain, rather than building and placing a large pipeline up and down the mountain was ingenious. There is nothing here to show that this place is being used for community water supply, except this water fountain, which looks amazing as foliage has gathered at its edges, making it seem all rather natural.

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The two dams that create the pond

The Covão dos Conchos is located in the Serra da Estrela (“Star Mountain Range”) natural park, which contains the highest mountain range in Central Portugal. The highest point is 1,993 metres (6,539 feet) above mean sea level. There’s a ski resort at the summit, called Vodafone Ski Resort. We arrived there from the west from our stay at the Bussaco Palace near Coimbra.

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Getting there is not so easy. It isn’t really near any main cities, but it is worth visiting for the very scenic walk to the feature and the drive through and over the mountain range. There are some great views and bizarre and beautiful landscapes. In some places there are large boulders sitting on top of flat rocks, like they were just recently scattered there randomly, some precariously balancing, looking like they are about to fall. In other areas it is a flat prairie-like plain, with short shrubs and grass.

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The walk starts at Lake Comprida and follows along beside it for some time, about half the walk. The total round trip is about 10 km and it takes about two hours or a bit more. The ground is often damp from the water runoff, so you want to have good walking or hiking shoes. And it can get a little cold from the wind blowing over the plains at the summit. Below is Lake Comprida in the background, on our return trip.

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Once you arrive to the small pond, continue to circle it counter-clockwise, crossing both dams and doing a bit of climbing. It is kind of hidden in one corner of the pond.

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Our next stop was the town of Belmonte and to get there we continued on the same highway (N339), which took us right over the mountain range of the Serra da Estrela and provide us with an amazing, very scenic drive. Some of it was through fog, but when we came out of it we had spectacular views all around and an amazing drive down into the valley.

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