The Berlengas Islands are a hidden gem off the coast of Portugal. Not well known by travellers, find all the details you need to add this magnificent spot to your itinerary in the guide below.

— Visited July, 2019

A view of the São João Baptista Fortress from on top of the cliff with people walking on the water passage and fishing boats on the Portugal island Berlenga Grande

Ten kilometres off the coast of Portugal you’ll find a Portuguese Archipelago called the Berlengas Islands. Being just a small group of islands, their history is intriguing having had many different occupiers over the years. Nowadays, they are home to a few sleepy fishermen who brave the dramatic weather conditions. If you are into history and dramatic views, you must visit the Berlengas Islands on your next trip to Portugal.

We hope you enjoy… The Berlengas Islands – Day Trip to Berlenga Grande.

History of the Berlengas Islands

History records of Berlenga Grande date back to the early middle ages. However, modern history is recorded from the 15th century when under the support of Queen Eleanor of Viseu, Monks from the order of Sao Jeronimo established a monastery. This was to provide aid to seafaring people and victims of frequent shipwrecks in the archipelago. The Monastery of Misericordia da Berlenga remained until the 16th Century. However, due to frequent attacks on the monks, it was later abandoned…

Soon enough, the island was inhabited by the Portuguese army as a strategic point of defence. During the reign of King John IV (17th Century), the monastery was demolished and replaced with the Fort of São João Baptista das Berlengas which is still hidden away in one of the bays today. The position proved to be very beneficial stopping a number of attacks on the mainland.

What to see on Berlenga Grande

The Berlengas Natural Reserve is a unique part of the world with incredible landscapes and wonderful fauna & flora. Whether you are here for the historic sites, landscapes or bird watching, you are in for a good time!

The São João Baptista Fortress

The São João Baptista Fortress is the obvious highlight of the island and probably the main reason you want to visit the Berlengas Islands. Believe me, soon as you see this spot for yourself, you’ll pat yourself on the back for making the trip happen!

Looking down at the winding arched path as it sits raised above the ocean leading towards the 17th Century fortress, you’ll be in awe that places like this can still be witnessed. Especially considering the strong crashing waves that the island is known for.

Did you know you can spend the night in the fortress? More information on this further on in the blog.

Praia do Carreiro do Mosteiro

The Praia do Carreiro do Mosteiro (Praia da Berlenga) is the only accessible spot for a bit of swimming on Berlenga Grande. Nestled between two large dramatic cliffs at the end of the fishing harbour, it’s a beautiful place to witness. The stone walkway, turquoise water and fishing boats also make for a fantastic photo opportunity.

If you are feeling confident, you can rent kayaks and stand-up paddleboards to go explore the island from the Berlenga beach. To do this, you might want to stay the night to ensure you have enough time to see all of the sights.

Glass Bottom Boat Tour

Small tour boats, leaving from the fishing harbour that you arrive in, provide an informative tour of the island. But they also provide a unique way to see the island as you get up close to the dramatic cliff faces and explore the secret caves.

The boat cost us €5.00 for a 30-minute tour and we visited the blue cave, Furado Grande (a natural 70m tunnel through the cliff), Elephant Rock (we won’t ruin the surprise for you) and the Ponta da Franca headland. The boat tour also gives you stunning views of the São João Baptista Fortress from the ocean. If you do this tour as soon as you arrive, you’ll have more time to explore the island en-route back to the fishing harbour.

Go Birdwatching!

You will quickly realise when you reach the island that birds greatly outnumber the humans here. The Berlengas Islands are actually a nature reserve (Reserva Natural das Berlengas) and are home to breeding sites for puffins, seagulls and cormorants. If you can time your trip well, you will get to enjoy watching baby birds test out their wings for the first time.

The Berlenga Islands are a must visit location when venturing on a Portugal road trip

How to visit the Berlengas Islands

Ferry to the Berlengas Islands

The only way to get to the Berlengas Islands is by ferry and the only island accessible to tourists is Berlenga Grande. All of the ferries leave from Peniche harbour. You can readily buy your ticket from one of the many ticket office operators on the docks. If you want to check out your options online prior to arriving, then here are a few of the tour operators:

The standard ferries take around 45 minutes. But some of the operators run a faster option on speedboats which take approximately 20 minutes. Return tickets to Berlenga Grande start at €20 but this increases during the high season. The time schedules are very strict. So make sure you confirm the return time or you might risk getting stuck for the night.

Tip: During the summer months, the ferries are very popular so it is recommended to book tickets in advance. In autumn and spring, many trips are cancelled due to the weather and rough sea conditions. We recommend checking the weather prior to your trip. In the winter, most of the tour companies shut down completely.

A girl walking the wall at the São João Baptista Fortress

How to get to the Berlengas Islands from Lisbon?

To get to the Berlengas Islands you need to head in the direction of Peniche. The drive is just over one hour from Lisbon to Peniche city centre. The best way to take on this adventure would be to hire a car or van and combine the Berlengas with a road trip of the country. We have some great details on our road trip through Portugal in our blog ‘Portugal Road Trip – Our Complete Guide to the Coastline‘. The other option would be to catch a bus from Lisbon, one of the big providers in Portugal is Rede Expressos.

Where to Stay on the Berlengas Islands

If you want to stay overnight so that you can enjoy the morning with little to no crowds, then you have three options:

Questions & Answers

  • Where to eat on the Berlengas Islands?
    There is only one restaurant on the island called the ‘Mar e Sol’ located at the fishing harbour. The options are quite limited so we recommend packing a lunch for the day.
  • Are there bathrooms on Berlenga Grande?
    There are public toilets located at the fishing harbour. There is also a single public bathroom located in the Sao Joao Baptista Fort.

Thanks For Reading

Thank you for reading our blog post, we hope it gave you that little motivation to book your next adventure! If you are looking for more details on Portugal, including the best road trip route, then feel free to have a look at our blog ‘Portugal Roadtrip – Our Complete Guide to the Coastline‘.

Any questions then let us know in the comments below or contact us via the contact page. Want to keep up with our adventures? Then follow us on our Instagram.