Visit PortugalBerlengas, Portugal’s West Coast Secret

Sindy Smith7 months ago

The Berlengas Islands is an archipelago located just off the west coast of Portugal. It is made up of diverse landscapes, wildlife and a unique Portuguese experience.

The entire island is a Nature Reserve, and many efforts are made to conserve its local flora and fauna.

Here we introduce the Berlengas Islands, with a brief history, guide to its location, how to get there, what to do, where to stay, places to eat, and what you can expect when visiting the Portuguese archipelago.

The Berlengas Islands

It is possible to visit and explore the largest of the three islands, Berlenga Grande, during the summer months. People visit for its dramatic landscapes, walking trails, diving experiences, and many more outdoor activities.

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Berlengas Sea

History of the Berlengas Archipelago

Since the Roman Period, the Berlenga Islands have been visited and briefly inhabited by humans, including Muslims, Vikings and even pirates from England and France.

In 1513 the monks settled and founded the Monastery of the Misericórdia da Berlenga. This remained on the island until the 16th century when diseases spread across the island.

In more recent years (2011), Berlengas was added to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, to protect the species on the archipelago. Today the island is still very much protected, as well as a site visited by tourists in the summer.

Are you a history buff? Check out our other guides to the history of Portuguese Tiles, Portuguese Art, and the Top 15 Museums in Lisbon for history and art lovers.

Where are the Berlengas Islands?

The Berlengas are located 10-15kms west from the surf town Peniche in Portugal.

Only one of the islands “Berlenga Grande” is habitable, though there is no permanent habitation there at present. The other islands are grouped into two islets, the Estelas Islets and the Farilhões-Forcados Islets.

What to do/Visit on Berlengas Island?

  • Carreiro do Mosteiro Beach – There is a small cove on Berlengas Grande where the ferry boats land. This small beach delights all visitors with its calm and clear waters and beautiful silky white sand.
  • Snorkeling/Diving – You can join a snorkel or dive course with G3 Store, based in Peniche, they take everyone from beginners to advanced divers to explore the underwater beauty of Berlengas. Get more information here.
  • Trekking – Berlenga Grande is only about 1500m long and has a perimeter of 4.000m, meaning there are lots of hiking trails to explore the island’s natural landscapes. Take your hiking shoes, these trails are not all well paved and do not leave the paths. They are there for a reason, and to conserve the local flora and fauna.
  • Kayak – Discover the islands by sea, one of the prettiest and exciting ways to explore the archipelago.
  • The São João Baptista Fortress – a Monastery from the 1500s that was later destroyed and now houses visitors who stay overnight on the island.
  • Berlengas Lighthouse – A functioning lighthouse at the highest point of Berlenga Grande; and a great place to take in views of the island.
  • Glass-bottomed boat cave toursFeeling Berlenga offers some fantastic tours of the island’s cave and even the opportunity to see dolphins. Check out their website for more information.
  • Explore some caves – There are numerous natural caves on the island to discover: Flandres Cave, Ines Cave, Brandal’s Cave, Blue Cave Muxinga Cave, Lagosteira Cave, and Dreams Cave.

Spend a day exploring the Berlangas archipelago with Get your Guide. This tour departs from Lisbon and you’ll spend a day exploring the island on foot and by boat, it’s an incredible experience.

Wildlife on the Berlengas Islands

Natural Reserve Berlengas

On these islands, you can discover unique manifestations of animal and plant species, as well as a luscious landscape.

The island is classified as a Nature Reserve and is home to some threatened species like the bocage lizard and other lizard species, the common mure, the shearwater, and the maritime crow.

The island is famous for its overwhelming number of seagulls populating the island, which are the main threat of species on the island. Curious about this biosphere reserve? Check it here.

There are also some interesting species of flora to discover including Lobularia poppies, marigolds and more.

Looking to explore more of the Silver Coast in Portugal? Read our other guide here.

Weather Averages in the Berlengas

The climate on Berlengas Island varies throughout the year. The hottest month is August with an average of 23 degrees Celsius while the coldest month is January with an average of 11 degrees Celsius.

The windiest month is July with an average of 18km/h winds and the wettest month is December with an average of 52.8 mm of rain!

When to Visit the Berlengas

We recommend visiting in the shoulder seasons May-June or around September to enjoy the best of the sunshine and avoid the extreme winds.

These are however also the busiest periods to visit so be sure to reserve boats, tours, and accommodation in advance.

Berlengas Boat

How to get to there?

Getting to Berlengas Island is as easy as taking the island ferry or charter boat from the Peniche Harbor.

There are plenty of boat companies ready and available to transport you over to the island. The journey takes about 35-50 minutes and can be a bumpy ride!

The ferries and boats only operate from May 22nd to September 15th, since during the winter months, the sea is to rough to travel. The ferry’s first departure from Peniche is at 10 am and the last departure from Berlenga is at 6.30pm.

A round-trip for adults’ costs between €15-20, children aged between 5-12 will cost €7.50-12.50, and children under 4 years €5. The price varies according to the day of the week and low or high season – you can expect the increased prices during weekends and months May-June. See more information on the price of tour tickets and schedules here.

Berlengas from Lisbon, A Day Trip

Most visitors spend around 2-4 hours on the island, depending on how much time is spent on the beach or in the sea. The ferries operate from mid-May until mid-September, so plan your trip accordingly.

Here’s my recommended itinerary for a day trip from Lisbon to the Berlengas:

  • Drive to Peniche Harbor – A 90-minute journey, best by car or by bus from Lisbon’s Sete Rios bus terminal (€8.50 one-way)

Peniche Dock

  • Eat breakfast or brunch in Peniche to avoid the lack of cafes on the island. My favourite pit stop is Java House Pastelaria, they have great coffee, brunch, and cakes.
  • Stock up on water and snacks at the local supermarket.
  • Take the ferry across to Berlengas Grande.
  • Now enjoy the island! Follow the walking tracks, lay on the Carreiro do Mosteiro beach, snorkel or go diving in the crystal-clear waters, or do a glass-bottomed boat cave tour! Above all, enjoy the beauty of these natural landscapes.

Hotels on Berlengas Island

Options are limited!

You might be surprised to find that there are places to stay while visiting Berlengas Island. While not conventional in the least, here are four accommodation options for visiting the islands.

Sleep in a 17th-century fort!

Berlengas Forte

Built in the early 1500s, and originally used as a monastery, the Forte de São João Baptista das Berlengas today is used to house island visitors.

Camp on the biggest island of Berlenga

For a completely rustic experience, why not pitch a tent, and spend a night under the stars? Nearby the dock is a section of campsites in the hillside, and the cost is just €8/tent.

Stay in a Lodge

For lodging that is slightly more comfortable than the ground or a fort, the Pavilhão Mar e Sol. It offers visitors comfortable double rooms with sea views. There are only six rooms available, so reserve in advance to avoid disappointment.

Sleep in a … lighthouse!

Berlenga Grande’s lighthouse, built in 1841 and powered by solar energy, allows some fortunate individuals the chance to sleep in a lighthouse!

This does mean that your average tourist can’t pay for a night here, but people working on special nature projects can, in fact, apply for a permit to do so.

Best Restaurants on Berlengas Island

Unsurprisingly, there aren’t too many locations to dine out on Berlengas Island.

There are just two restaurants to choose from and or that reason, the prices of the meals are fairly high. But considering that all the ingredients must be shipped over from mainland Portugal, the cost is justified.

You can either dine at the Sea and Sun Restaurant, adjoining the Pavilhão Mar e Sol lodge, or eat by a small café near the dock. We recommend bringing your own food supplies to avoid being hungry or overwhelmed during your visit.

Want to fine dine in Portugal? Read our guide for the Best Michelin Star Restaurants in the country!

How much will you spend?

A day trip or overnight trip to Berlengas can become quite pricey, depending on the number of people you journey with, ie. With family or with friends. You must consider the cost of the ferry (up to €20), cost of food and accommodation if staying overnight. We’d expect that for a day trip, €60 per person (give or take) would be sufficient to include the ferry, a meal, and bus ride to and from Lisbon.

Some Other Useful Advice/Rules for Your Trip

The Berlenga Archipelago is protected by Portuguese law, and part of the Natural Reserves of the Nature Conservation Institute. Please abide by the reserve rules, and do not disrupt the conservation in place.

  • Do not leave the walking trails
  • Use only marked fishing grounds
  • No picnics are allowed
  • Do not collect animal or vegetable species
  • Do not practice underwater hunting
  • Power supply is conditioned, and the generator is turned off at 11pm

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Sindy Smith

I'm a freelance copywriter and free-spirited traveller from Australia. I fell in love with Portugal when I arrived here and hope to share with you all the reasons why.

Jeronimos Monastery Lisbon

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