Hiking in Portugal – The Best Destinations for Your Hiking Trip
Beautiful trails, diverse flora and fauna, numerous fishing villages, and nothing but nature are what you’ll experience when hiking in Portugal. This country in southwestern Europe, which borders Spain to the east and north, has a lot to offer. Because of the various levels of difficulty, it’s heaven on earth for both beginners and experienced hikers.
In this article, we’d like to show you some of the most beautiful and best hiking paths in Portugal. Whether it’s the stunning national park in the north, the different nature parks around the country, the breathtaking coastal paths in the south, or the numerous hiking routes near Lisbon, there’s something for everyone.
Peneda-Gerês National Park
Portugal has 13 nature parks, countless reserves, and endless protected landscapes. That said, there is still only one national park – the Peneda-Gerês National Park in the north of the country. With beautiful forests, waterfalls, mountain villages, river valleys, and massive rocks, this 702-square-kilometer park has tons to offer. It’s also home to a diverse range of plant species found in various locations within the park. UNESCO designated it as a biosphere reserve in 2009, and it has since been under protection.
The waterfalls in the mountains of Soajo, Amarela, Gerês, and Serra da Peneda, are accessible thanks to numerous hiking trails. If you have a lot of patience, you may even see the park’s wildlife. Deer, mountain goats, wolves, golden eagles, Garrano ponies, and Barrosã and Cachena cattle all take up residence here. They are, however, usually quite timid and rarely emerge from their hiding spots when they see or hear people. If you’d like, you can also climb to the ruins of Vilarinho das Furnas, a village that was flooded in 1970 as a result of the dam’s construction.
Serra da Estrela
Serra da Estrela, which translates to “Star Mountain Range,” is a 1,100-square-kilometer nature park in eastern Portugal and is home to a mountain range of the same name. There are two possible explanations as to why the nature park is known as the Star Mountain Range. First, in the spring, bright yellow daffodils blossom here, creating an illusion of a sea of stars. Another reason is that mainland Portugal’s highest peak, the 1,993-meter-high Torre, is found here. At this altitude, you’d be pretty close to the stars.
The various hiking paths through the gorgeous terrain of the Serra da Estrela will give you a new perspective on the north of Portugal. You’ll learn about a whole different side of the country. You’ll encounter mountains, wild animals, and rare plants far from the white sand beaches and the water. On your excursion through the Serra da Estrela, you’ll see rivers like the Mondego, Zêzere, and Alva. You may also run into otters, foxes, and wild rabbits. If you’re lucky you might even spot genets. The visitor centers provide a wealth of information about the various animal and plant species in the region. If you want to learn more about the various animal and plant species found here, stop by one of the visitor centers.
Alentejo is a 31,550-square-kilometer region in the south that accounts for over a third of the country’s total land area. It’s a nature lover’s paradise, with various hiking paths along the Atlantic coast’s forests, fishing villages, and nature reserves. This is one of the most popular hiking destinations in Portugal thanks to its 3,000 hours of sunshine per year.
We recommend the hiking route that begins in Vila Nova de Milfontes, in the heart of Alentejo, on the southwest Portuguese coast. You’ll drive through small fishing villages, dense forests, and towering cliffs. On your way, stop by the beaches of Alteirinhos, Carvalhals, Machados, and Amálias for a refreshing break. During your hike to the small town of So Teotónio, almost 30 kilometers away, you’ll get a beautiful view of the sea and Odeceixe from the top of the hill.
From there, you can travel to the small settlements of Odemira and São Luís before returning to Vila Nova de Milfontes (if you’d like). Because this is a somewhat longer hike (about 75 kilometers), we suggest breaking it up over several days. The magnificent scenery and lovely villages, however, are well worth the trip!
The Algarve is Portugal’s southernmost region with year-round hiking opportunities. A new flower blooms here every month since the sun is virtually always shining. However, beach goers aren’t the only ones having a good time. The Algarve has numerous hiking paths flanked by aromatic almond and orange orchards. Here, you can climb rocky beaches and get panoramic views of the entire ocean. This will make for an unforgettable experience.
We recommend starting your hike in Vila Real de Santo António, a former fishing town. From there, continue to the hilltop settlement of Cacela Velha and then travel about 5 kilometers to Cabanas de Tavira, a former fishing community. Ilha de Tavira is 11 kilometers away. This is a paradise island with a white sandy beach where you can relax and enjoy the sun and the sky-blue sea. The hike’s final destination is Fuseta, a fishing community with a little old town and a beautiful harbor around the market hall. You can join guided boat tours there if you’ve always wanted to see dolphins or whales. They’ll take you out to the ocean, where you’ll be able to see all kinds of sea life up close. Overall, Fuseta is an excellent place to visit.
If you’re staying in Lisbon for your Portugal vacation but want to get away from the city’s hustle and bustle, there are many hiking opportunities just outside the capital. The Sintra-Cascais Nature Park has 11 hiking routes and is located just a short drive or train trip from Lisbon.
Another hike we recommend is the nearly 10-kilometer trail from Sintra-Cascais to the 140-meter-high Cabo da Roca, mainland Europe’s westernmost tip. There are several souvenir shops, restaurants, and cafés to relax in. Cabo da Roca is also a great place to start and end a hike along the cliffs. For example, around two kilometers away is Praia da Ursa, which translates to “beach of the she-bear” and makes for a beautiful sunset backdrop.
The approximately 13-kilometer long, moderate circular hiking trail, PR7 Cabo da Roca-Praia da Adraga, is ideal if you prefer to travel through villages inland. The path leads from Cabo da Roca and through pine tree forests to the settlements of Ulgueira and Almoçageme. It then leads to Praia Grande’s famous dinosaur footprints and eventually to Praia da Adraga’s North Atlantic beach. The Garden of Lisbon in Ribatejo near Santarém, and the Arrábida Natural Park near Setúbal all have breathtaking pathways.
The Douro Valley
The Douro River, the third-longest river on the Iberian Peninsula, starts in the Spanish province of Soria before flowing into the Atlantic Ocean in Porto, Portugal. Along the river, in the northwest of the country, you’ll find towns and villages, as well as historical landmarks and breathtaking landscapes. Alto Douro is another popular tourist destination in the valley. It’s a well-known wine-growing region in Portugal and the world’s oldest. Furthermore, the Alto Douro has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001.
Beautiful hiking routes lead to the views mentioned above, such as the Casal de Loivos in Pinho. The Episcopal town of Lamego, with its famed sanctuary, is not far from the Douro. If you’re looking for a multi-day hiking adventure, take the 200-kilometer GR36 – Grande Rota do Douro Internacional ao Douro Vinhateiro. It begins in Miranda do Douro, in northeastern Portugal, passes through the towns of Mogadouro, Freixo de Espada à Cinta, and ends in Torre de Moncorvo.
For most people, Portugal’s reputation as a beach vacation getaway outweighs its popularity as a hiking destination. However, if you take a closer look at the country’s hiking trails, you’ll quickly realize that it has different sides – national and nature parks, the Atlantic Ocean, dense forests, massive mountains, vast rivers, and heavenly beaches as far as the eye can see.
If you’ve always wanted to go hiking in Portugal, if this article has whetted your appetite for it, or if Portugal is even on your hiking bucket list, we recommend taking the leap. There are numerous trekking opportunities in this country and each location, village, and spot is distinct. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the northern national park or the southern Algarve, Portugal has something for everyone.