Stunning nature at Berlengas Portugal + 8 things to do

You’ll discover one of the most beautiful locations off the coast in Peniche! Berlengas, Portugal, is an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, and you’ll reach the main Berlenga island after 40-45 minutes by boat. The island is fantastic for nature lovers, and the old Fort São João Baptista is the main attraction. The island was on my wishlist for some time, and when a local told me I could stay overnight, I was sold! Curious? Let’s find out why the Berlengas became one of my favourite destinations in Portugal!

The Berlengas Portugal highlight is a visit to the fort São João Baptista

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What to expect at Berlengas Portugal

  • What to see? The Berlenga Nature Reserve contains stunning hiking trails along the coast! You’ll see the fort of São João Baptista, the fishing town and the lighthouse. The turquoise waters of Praia da Berlenga Grande will invite you for a swim in the sea. 
  • Costs? From € 22,00 per person for a return boat trip. You can add a boat tour to the caves or book specific tours to enjoy the island.
  • Where? The Berlengas archipelago is located off the coast of Peniche, about 1,5 hours north of Lisbon. You can reach the island by ferry. 
  • Is visiting Berlengas Island worth it? If you like nature, then YES! Visiting the Belengas Islands is a fantastic adventure and is suitable for kids. You might want to prepare a little when staying overnight, but the archipelago is well worth visiting! 
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What and where is the Berlengas archipelago?

Just over 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) off the coast of Peniche, you’ll find a small archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean. It’s the incredible Ilhas Berlengas! The Berlengas Islands, Portugal, are made up of granite and consist of three islands: Estelas, Farilhões-Forcados, and the main island, Berlenga Grande.

Berlenga Nature Reserve is a great day trip from Lisbon or Peniche, and it’s a little paradise in Portugal! The islands have been a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve since 2011 and are a fanatic spot for nature and bird lovers. There are several hiking trails, and you’ll witness the beautiful São João Baptista fort.

Berlengas Map

How to get to the Berlengas Islands?

There is only one way to get to the Berlengas archipelago, and that is by boat! The boat ride takes around 45 minutes, and there are several tour companies. We travelled with Feeling Berlenga, and the service was fantastic. Visiting Berlengas is popular as a day trip from Lisbon or Peniche

You can book tickets in the harbour in Peniche, but I advise booking in advance online. Only 350 people are allowed on the island daily, so tickets are quickly sold out. We went off-season in mid-April, but the boat was already pretty full.

From Lisbon, you can reach Peniche by car or bus. There is a car park at the harbour in Peniche, but it gets busy in summer. We took a Flixbus from Oriente Station in Lisbon to Peniche. The bus station in Peniche is a short walk from town and the harbour. 

Tours to Berlenga Island

Most visitors will book a day trip to the Berlenga islands, and there are several options. For example, you can add a cave tour or enjoy a private tour of the island. You can start the boat trip from Peniche or book a day trip from Lisbon.

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When booking a return boat trip, you have some spare time on Berlenga Grande, the largest island. You can hike on the island, visit the ort of São João Baptista, or swim in the ocean. There are also specific tours to the Berlenga Nature Reserve. You can come bird-watching, dolphin-watching or scuba diving, for example! 

You can even stay overnight when you can’t get enough of this incredible protected area! More about that later 😉 We contacted Feeling Berlenga about how to get tickets for two separate days, and they were most helpful. This is a more expensive option, and we paid € 34,00 per person for a return trip to Berlenga Grande Island (2024 prices) and € 9,00 per person for the boat tour to the caves.

8 Berlengas things to do

The Berlengas archipelago is a raw place and perfect for an adventure! There are several hiking trails on the island, and although some are uphill, they are easy to follow. You’ll enjoy stunning landscapes with coastal views. The ecosystem is precious hence, there are only a certain number of visitors daily. Please stay on the marked trails, and don’t leave any rubbish behind! Let’s have a look at what you can do at Berlengas Portugal.

1. Fort of São João Baptista das Berlengas

The most famous building on Berlenga Grande is undoubtedly the historical fort! The current Fort of São João Baptista das Berlengas was built in 1651 on the orders of Dom João IV and completed in 1656. Materials from the ruins of a former nearby monastery were used for the construction. 

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The Fort of São João Baptista was built to protect the island from invaders, and several attacks happened throughout the years. It was besieged by a Spanish fleet in 1666 and later used as a base for British troops.

Since 1914, the fort has no longer been used for military purposes. Nowadays, you can find a hostel inside, and the fort is open to visitors in summer! During your day trip, take a look inside and climb to the roof for a stunning view! Later, I’ll explain overnight stays in this unique place!

2. Farol da Berlenga

Another hard-to-miss building is the lighthouse! The Marquis of Pombal ordered the construction of Farol da Berlenga in 1758, but the building was only completed in 1842. The white lighthouse is 29 meters (95 feet) high and is also known as the Duke of Bragança Lighthouse. It’s built on the highest point of Berlenga Grande, and it’s still in use. It is sometimes open for visitors too!

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3. The fishermen’s houses

The Arquipélago das Berlengas is a fantastic place for fishing, and a group of fishermen regularly stay on the island. Although no one officially lives on Berlenga Island, several fishermen’s homes are near the harbour. This area is known as Ilha Velha. 

There are three rows of white buildings at Bairro dos Pescadores. This way, the fishermen can stay overnight on the island while fishing the turquoise waters. Please respect their privacy, as these are their living quarters. Next to these houses, you’ll find the restaurant, the Bed & Breakfast and Praia da Berlenga Grande.  

White Fishing houses at Berlenga Grande

4. Discover the caves at the Berlengas archipelago

When visiting Berlengas Islands, Portugal, you also have the option to book an additional boat tour. This way, you can admire the Berlengas Nature Reserve from the water and discover several caves. When the tide is low enough, the boats can sail through some of them. 

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The Furado Grande is the biggest natural tunnel and is 20 meters tall. The blue cave and the elephant rock are other highlights, and the cave tour is totally worth it! The guide will tell you much more about the flora, fauna, and islands’ history. 

5. Discover the coastline by kayak!

Another way to explore the caves is by kayak! Traditional boats can only reach some areas, and while kayaking, you can look at the incredible rock formations in your own time! Take a moment in the clear water, and you’ll spot plenty of fish! Besides kayaking, some tours offer snorkelling gear, too! 

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6. Flora at Berlengas

Although Berlengas, Portugal, is a windy place, the islands have rich flora! You’ll see plenty of grass and bushes but also stunning flowers, depending on the season! Even two endemic species can be found in Berlengas: the Armeria Berlengensis and the Pulicaria Microcephala. There are more than 100 plant species to discover during your visit to the biosphere reserve!

7. Fauna at Berlengas

The Berlengas Islands are also a happy place for seabirds, and it’s a much-loved breading spot. You’ll see plenty of gulls and occasionally a European Shag. Other birds that like the environment are the Common Guillemot, Madeiran Storm Petrel, Cory’s Shearwater, and Black Redstart. Bring binoculars if you like bird-watching! 

You’ll also spot lots of lizards and black beetles on the hiking trails! But not only on the island, you’ll spot plenty of life; underwater is another paradise! You can enjoy snorkelling and diving around the islands to spot the most colourful fish and enjoy marine life! Plankton also attracts another favourite mammal, the dolphin

8. Praia da Berlenga Grande

There is one easily accessible beach on the Berlengas islands, and it’s beautiful! The sand beach Praia da Berlenga Grande is perfect for a dip in the sea. The water temperature is pretty cold all year round, and the best thing is to just jump in! The crystal clear water certainly looks inviting, and it’s great to spend some time on the beach. 

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Hiking trails on Berlengas Islands Portugal

You’ll want to explore the island, and there are two fantastic hiking trails at Berlengas, Portugal. It’s hard to get lost as the trails are signposted and easy to follow. After arriving by ferry, you can find the first trail on the eastern part of Berlenga Island. The Ilha Velha trail is circular and is around 1,5 kilometres (0.93 miles) long. 

There are some height differences, but they are easy. Wearing good (hiking) shoes is recommended, as many loose stones can be slippery. You have magnificent views of the other islands from the Ilha Velha trail. You can also see Peniche and Cabo Carvoeiro in the distance with clear weather. 

The Berlenga trail is slightly longer. The linear trail is 3 kilometers, or 1.86 miles. You can start this route straight after finishing the Ilha Velha trail or near the Fishermen’s Quarter, where the boats drop you off.

You’ll have an incredible view over the B&B, the fishermen’s houses, and the tiny harbour. You’ll pass Carreiro dos Cações Cove from there before reaching the lighthouse. There is a trail towards Cova do Sonho and another ending at the Fortress of St. John the Baptist.

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Where to eat at Berlenga Island?

Berlenga Island is very barren, and all products need to be imported from mainland Portugal. As you can imagine, there is not a whole lot on the island. Thankfully, there is a restaurant on Berlenga Island with incredible food! Enjoy fish, meat, or a vegetarian option with a soft drink, beer, or wine. 

When you stay overnight, you can book a table for dinner. It’s the only place on the island where you can eat out! In the morning, you can enjoy a tasty breakfast with a view! If you stay overnight in the fortress, you can cook yourself. Buying food in Peniche is recommended in this case!

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Staying overnight at Berlengas, Portugal

Staying overnight at the Berlengas archipelago is an adventure! How often can you say you slept on an inhabited island? There are two options for visiting Berlengas in summer: stay in the hostel or book the B&B.

The Associação dos Amigos da Berlenga (AAB) runs the hostel. Each room sleeps 2 people and costs between € 60-70 per night. Staying inside a fort is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and you’ll wake up to the sounds of the birds. There is a kitchen area where you can prepare a meal, but you’ll have to bring food from the mainland. Staying in the hostel might take a bit more planning.

Another option is to stay in a B&B, which offers a beautiful view. The rooms have a private bathroom, and breakfast is included. The B&B is located at Ilha Velha, and the restaurant is above the five available rooms.

The restaurant is also open for dinner in the evening, and the staff is incredibly sweet and welcoming! The accommodation is simple but perfect for an adventurous stay at Berlengas Islands. 

📍 Rooms are filled quickly! Be sure to book yours this summer!

Please note that there used to be a camping area, but it is no longer in use. Camping on the Berlengas Islands is currently forbidden

Things to keep in mind when visiting Berlengas

  • The small islands are in the middle of the ocean, meaning there are few facilities and no WiFi. However, if you have a Portuguese SIM card (or E-Sim), you will have a reception in many island areas. Visiting the Berlengas Nature Reserve is incredible for enjoying its natural beauty, but you won’t find luxury amenities
  • The weather can be treacherous in some months, and the sea rough. When you travel off-season, remember that the ferry to Berlenga Grande might get cancelled due to strong winds. We went in mid-April, and the sea was pretty rough on the way out. Bring some seasickness tablets if you’re prone to seasickness! The staff is also happy to help you when feeling sick. The boat trip back to Peniche was a lot calmer for us.
  • Bring water and snacks from the mainland during your stay. You can also buy food and drinks at the restaurant, but it’s wise to bring some extra things from the supermarket. This way, you always have something to eat. 
  • Depending on the season, you should also bring enough clothes. Even in summer, it can get chilly after sunset, especially when it’s windy. And remember your swimwear for a dip in the sea! Protect yourself from the sun with a good SPF and a sun hat.
  • The Berlengas islands are a nature reserve. Follow the hiking trails and avoid other areas. Many birds live here, and you want to maintain their natural habitat
  • When you book a cave excursion at Berlenga Grande, you can exit the boat at the fortress. If you want to see it from inside, this saves a lot of hiking. You can then hike back to the Berlenga harbour to catch the ferry back to Peniche. 
  • An overnight stay is pricy compared to other hotels in Portugal. The facilities are pretty basic, and therefore, you might expect more bucks for your money. Please realise you’re in a very remote area that needs everything imported. The hospitality is incredible, and personally, it’s worth every penny to me! 
  • Although there is a road from the harbour to the lighthouse, some areas are inaccessible to wheelchair users. The boat is wheelchair-accessible, but most activities aren’t.
  • When you take public transport to Peniche, ensure the bus times match the ferry departure times. In addition to Flixbus, you can check Rede Expressos and the RDO websites. It is, of course, also nice to explore Peniche while you wait!

The best time to visit the Berlenga Nature Reserve

We visited Berlenga Grande in April, not knowing that April and May are actually the best months to see the Berlenga Islands! The reason? The islands are blooming! All the flowers come up in spring, creating a colourful display on the rocks. In summer, there is less rain, which means a dryer climate. Once the flowers bloomed, the island appears more rocky.

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FAQ

You can reach the Berlengas Islands by taking a boat in the coastal town of Peniche. The ferry takes around 40 minutes to reach the main island, Berlenga Grande. 

The distance is just over 100 kilometres. If you come by car, the drive from Lisbon to Peniche takes around 1,5 hours. There are also plenty of buses, and the journey takes 2 hours by bus. You then embark on a boat from Peniche to Berlengas, which takes approximately 40-45 minutes. There are also excursions from Lisbon to the Berlengas Islands.

It depends on which service you book, but on average, the boats take 40-45 minutes to travel from Peniche to Berlengas. 

You can! You can book a room at the hostel inside the Fort São João Baptista, or in the B&B. The hostel has limited facilities, and the B&B offers a bit more comfort and includes breakfast.

Officially, no. In addition to tourists who stay overnight, staff and fishermen also stay on Berlenga Grande. 

Conclusion

Visiting the Berlengas islands was a great trip! The only thing we regretted? Not staying another night! Berlenga Grande is relatively small, but the landscape is stunning and feels wild and raw. The tour companies are very knowledgeable and provide much information about this rugged habitat. 

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Explore the island by foot as well to see the lighthouse and Fort São João Baptista from up close. For the ultimate Berlengas Portugal experience, stay the night! When all the day tourists and tours are gone, you have the whole place to yourself! Walk to the beach for a morning swim and enjoy the many birds that live on the Berlengas Islands!

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