• Megan Kate

Berlenga Grande, Portugal's Hidden Paradise | Travel Recommendation

Updated: Jun 30, 2020

Hello again! I've forgotten how to write!

Let me explain- If you don't follow me on Instagram you won't know that last week I was off visiting Morocco for the first time and I can tell you now that there are MANY posts coming about that wonderful place, but it did mean I had to pre-write a few posts to schedule while I was away (are you proud that I managed it? Because I am) and so I've not actually sat to write for a couple of weeks. Marrakech was so much fun, and a real eye opening experience for someone who's never ventured to somewhere very culturally different to the UK before. But, me being me means I have SO MANY photos, tips and recommendations that I need a minute to sit and plan/ organize everything into some coherent posts, or it will just be a massive brain vomit on the page and nobody wants that.

Until then I'm going to break myself back into writing with the easiest kind of post to create: The Posts Where I Just Gush About Somewhere/Something I Love Lots post, which brings me to Berlenga Grande Island.

Now I've already told you about our wonderful (and surprisingly cheap) trip to Lisbon in a post a while back -you can recap here if you'd like- but one thing I didn't mention was our small splurge on a day trip too, as I was saving it for a special post all to it's self. Everyone told us to go to Sintra while we were there, but my Boyfriend actually discovered this small tour to an archipelago just a few hours outside of the city; It had minimal reviews and wasn't very well advertised but looked absolutely incredible, and I'm SO glad we took the risk.

The exact tour we did still doesn't seem to show up on any day trip comparison websites but it was this one by Go2Lisbon.

I genuinely feel like all I have to do to convince you to go here is show you some photos, but I'll give you a quick round up of the day too.

Firstly, a little bit of info about the island itself. So the chain of small islands is just off the coast of a fishing town called Peniche, an hour and a half's drive away from Lisbon. The only island in the Berlengas Archipelago that's actually inhabitable is the Berlenga Grande Island, and it's been used as all sorts over the years including a stint as housing for French pirates and as a monastery for the monks of Misericordia da Berlenga. However, people later realised how great it would be as a military defense island (The positioning of the Island was perfect to spot pirates and invaders coming from the Atlantic) which is when the St John Baptist Fort was built in the 15th Century. This is the fort that you can still visit today, and is actually a hostel now, how cool is that? Also on the island is a lighthouse from 1841 and most excitingly an incredible array of protected marine flora and fauna, making the island a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.

So, as you can imagine once we'd done our research and looked at a couple of photos online, we decided to ditch the more touristic recommendation of Sintra (although I would love to go back and visit there too) and head out on what we hoped was an exciting island adventure, and that it was!

The tour picked us up from central Lisbon and got driving straight out to Peniche. One thing I would note is that when we arrived, we were told that the lunch spot on the island was closed due to it being off season, so luckily they let us run to a little sandwich shop to bring a packed lunch if we didn't already have one- so definitely check with your tour operator to see if you need to bring anything along!

After a short boat ride with some amazing latin music playing (not just Despacito) along the way, you'll arrive into the little port on the island. From here you will have two options: free to roam until the return journey a few hours later, OR head back to the pier in an hour's time for the caves experience either via glass bottom boat or kayak. The caves were definitely something we wanted to see while out there, so we did the short walk up to the top of one of the island's hills for a full view of the area before heading back down to explore them. Another thing to note is that if the water is too choppy, you will not be allowed to kayak and will have to take the glass bottom boat. Unfortunately this was the case while we were there, but to be honest the guided tour of the rocks and caves from the boat driver was so good that it made up for the fact we couldn't do it ourselves.

A few snaps of the views from the boat

The island from this view point is even more stunning, I've honestly never seen water such a bright shade of turquoise in my life; it felt more like being inside a post card of paradise rather than real life! The boat will take you all along the Eastern side of the island from the port, round to the Pedra do Elefante (or Elephant Rock) before turning back towards the St John Fort. Once at the fort you can either hitch a ride back to your starting point, or hop off the boat to attempt the climb back up to the pathways and do the coastal walk back round to the port; I'd definitely opt for the climb if you're able as the views of the Fort and island along the way are honestly incredible. This is also a good spot to jump off and have some lunch! You can sit on one of the walls and re-energize for the walk with the most breathtaking view.

Elephant Rock is quite aptly named

From the fort, you can just head along the arched causeway back to the main island and head up the steep, rocky steps that are embedded in the cliff side. I think there were around 500 in total which is pretty good going in the blazing heat, but honestly we just stopped along the way to admire the scenery from all angles (and breathe for a second). Once at the top you'll have incredible views of all the little rock forms and small islands, and you'll soon notice all the different birds that have made Berlenga Grande their home. Stay on the pathways when it comes to the birds too, they're harmless unless they are guarding eggs but don't head into their territory just in case, a bird after you is the last thing you need! Oh and while we're on the subject of the animals, it took us a while but we eventually noticed the crazy numbers of tiny little lizards on the rocks and pathways as well. They really are tiny so don't be scared but we had to really try our hardest not to step on any throughout the walk, so just be aware!

The trail up from the fort, stop for photos as a breather while climbing the stairs

The walk back around to the port is just as beautiful as the rest, past the old lighthouse which you can go up to and have a nosy at. It really is one of those places where you stop every few steps just to oggle at the shapes and colours. You can take such beautiful photographs and relax in the sun without the worry of crowds too, as Portugal limit the number of tourists allowed to visit the area in order to preserve it's beauty!

Once you're back round at the port, you can spend the remainder of your time at Berlenga at it's little beach area. The tour provides snorkeling equipment included in the price, so if you have time or didn't do the caves then definitely take the opportunity to explore what's under the water- the place is known for it's marine life! Or if you've had enough adventure for one day, the white sand beach is perfect for sunbathing and relaxing, or take a dip in the sea to cool down for a while before the journey home.

All I can say is that I honestly cannot recommend this place enough and I am so glad we took the risk to go somewhere less popular. A friend of mine is going in June and I've practically forced her to book this as one of her day trips haha. Definitely pop it on your bucket list if you haven't already!

Do let me know if you end up visiting, and as always please send photos! Morocco posts are coming from next week, Meg x