When Is the Best Time
About 10 km west of the small fishing town Peniche, the rugged, windswept Berlengas Islands rise out of the Atlantic Ocean.
The islands appear harsh in the beginning, but a closer look reveals that the nutrient-rich seawater and sheltered cliffs provide an ideal habitat for numerous breeding birds and marine animals. This healthy ecosystem is under special protection and forms the Nature Reserve da Berlengas.
Powerful storms regularly hit the Berlengas. The rocky archipelago was a threat to ships. Therefore, in the 16th century, a monastery was built on the largest island, Berlenga Grande, to accommodate shipwrecked sailors. However, this was abandoned after a short time because of numerous attacks by pirates.
Later, the São João Baptista fortress was built for protection. Today, this picturesque fortress is one of the most beautiful in Portugal and one of the main attractions for visitors. Some visitors are dropped off here at the fortress and hike to the harbour for their pick-up.
Tourists have the opportunity to visit the largest island of the Berlengas, Berlenga Grande, on a day trip from Peniche.
A typical excursion includes a boat ride along the rock formations, a visit to the São João Baptista fortress, a hike in the island's hinterland, bird watching, a snorkelling tour, swimming and some time at the only accessible beach.
Glass-bottomed boats depart from the port on Berlenga Grande, where you can explore the caves and the diverse marine habitat.
How to Get to Berlengas?
To get to Berlengas, you must book a boat transfer or guided tour from Peniche Harbour. You need a rental car or book a guided small group tour to get to Peniche from Lisbon. It takes less than a 1 1/2 hour drive from Lisbon to get to Peniche on HW 8 to the north.
The boat route runs along Peniche’s rocky coast, passing the Cape Carvoeiro headland and straight forward to Berlengas, which you can already see in the distance.
Berlenga Grande Map
The offered Berlengas tour lead along the interesting southeast coast, south of the beach and the lighthouse.
How Long is the Boat Ride to Berlengas?
The ferry boat ride takes 45-50 minutes, depending on the sea conditions. It is usually bumpy, and you shouldn't eat much for breakfast. You can also take a speedboat which needs 20 minutes to reach Berlenga Grande.
When Can I Get to Berlengas?
The Berlengas are exposed to the full power of the Atlantic Ocean and are not far away from Nazare, famous for the highest waves in the world. Tours to this island are only offered from mid-May until fall. However, tours are cancelled during strong winds and storms, which cause high surf.
Can I Swim in Berlengas?
You can swim and also jump into the water from different places. Most visitors swim from Praia do Carreiro do Mosteiro. This beach is located next to the jetty. Another excellent spot to swim in the crystal-clear sea is “Ponte do Forte”, the bridge which leads to the fortress.
A staircase on the hiking trail “Caminho do Forte São João Baptista” leads to the bridges and also to the sea. Although the sea is colder at the Berlengas than in Peniche, it was a great refreshment.
Hiking on Berlenga Grande
The main route is the most popular route between the harbour and the São João Baptista fortress, which is 3,8 km long and very well maintained. The trail to the cemetery in the southwest is closed. The track to Buzinas in the southeast is a narrow and quiet trail. The entire area is full of nesting seagulls and their chicks.
At the end of Buzinas, you are able to spot nesting shags.
The Best Time to Visit Berlengas
The best time to visit Berlenga Grande is from May to September. If you would like to swim here, I recommend July to September when the sea temperature reaches a maximum of 20°C/68°F. We experienced 17°C at the beginning of July. August is the peak season and is super busy here because Berlengas is a popular destination for locals.
I recommend booking a morning tour to experience Berlenga Grande with fewer visitors - the afternoon is super busy, and the only accessible beach is crowded.
Offered Tours to Explore Berlengas
Two guided tours are offered to see more of the beauty of this island.
- A glass-bottom boat explores the caves and the entire southeast coast with you.
- A kayak trip in small groups accesses the caves, and you paddle along the coast, which we preferred.
Best Months to Visit
Location and Tips
The Berlengas are a few islands within 10-17 km from Peniche, the mainland of Portugal. Berlenga Grande is the biggest island and the only inhabited one.
Although there are hard conditions, some robust plants adapted to it in this environment.