While once considered off the beaten track, in the last 5 five years, Portugal has become a leading European travel destination, and for good reason: two very picturesque major cities, Lisboa and Porto, an extensive coastline of unspoiled beautiful beaches, delicious wines from every region, and a very approachable multilingual population. Nevertheless, it is not often thought of as a place for hiking. This pint-sized country, with a population slightly larger than London (and a great deal more sun!), is a beautiful place for outdoor activities, whether hiking, cycling, surfing, or sailing. The country has an incredible variety of landscapes within its borders, ranging from bucolic rolling countryside to wide open plains with craggy outcrops to boulder-laden mountains and dramatic ocean bluffs. And in this article we are going to cover some of the best hiking in Portugal, so keep reading.
North vs. South Portugal
The north has greater rainfall and, therefore, more lush wooded scenery, rugged mountains with waterfalls, and several towns famous for their hot springs. In some regions, in an effort to promote hiking and canyoning, comfortable scenic wooden walkways have been built alongside once less accessible rivers. Copious Camino hiking trails headed towards the pilgrimage city of Santiago de Compostela crisscross the north, some following Roman roads, passing grandiose granite manor houses as well as humble hamlets with raised corn granaries.
As you head to southern Portugal, the landscape becomes increasingly golden. Along the border with Spain, cork and olive trees dot grain fields between well-preserved medieval castle towns. On the west coast, single-track trails wind past remote beaches and fishing villages filled with white-washed houses bordered with bright blues and yellows. Finally, a mountain range brimming with hiking and mountain biking trails separates the Algarve, the Côte D’Azur of Portugal, from the rest of the country. With the sunniest climate in the country, the region also has an east-west cycling and walking path that makes it easy to explore the sheltered beaches and grottos in the orange cliffs the region is famous for.
Simply put, the vast range of scenery, traditions, and cuisines across the country means there is something for every hiker and outdoor enthusiast! So it should not come as a surprise that the best hiking in Portugal can be found across the country and its islands.
Best Time To Hike in Portugal
Set in southern Europe and sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and Spain, Portugal boasts one of Europe’s sunniest climates, offering a forgiving, pleasant coastal climate most of the year. The ideal times of year to hike and travel in the country are spring and fall shoulder seasons when temperatures range from 15-25 ºC degrees. In the winter, some inland areas can dip to freezing temperatures making the Algarve and Madeira Island great regions to hike.
Since temps can at times reach 35º in the summer, it’s best to hike in the early morning until midday. During this time the best hiking in Portugal can also be found in up north to the Camino de Santiago, the coastal regions such as the Costa Vicentina or in the Azores islands, a volcanic archipelago set in the middle of the Atlantic, almost a third of the way to New York from Lisbon, where temps remain similarly mild year-round. As a result, depending on the region, the best hiking in Portugal can be done year-round.
What You Need to Pack to Hike in Portugal
First things first, you should keep your packing to a minimum. Portugal has plenty of stores where you can pick up extra things you might have forgotten. Also, remember to choose light, versatile items that are hand washable and will line dry quickly. In this predominantly sunny climate, it’s imperative to bring good layering for protection against the strong UV rays and wind, especially on the coast. If you’re on a day hike or a multi-day hike, here is a suggested list of useful items below:
- Bandana or Buff: a light, stretchy tube that can double as a hat, scarf or headband to cover your neck or keep your hair out of your face
- Base Layer Tops and Bottoms (Lightweight)
- Casual clothes for sight-seeing: shorts & tanks
- Casual Shoes for sight-seeing and free time with good grippy rubber soles that are comfortable on cobblestone
- Cell phone with extra power bank and data service should you need assistance on the trail
- Day Pack with a rain cover (21L-35L) or large fanny pack with a place for a water bottle or bladder
- Fleece Jacket: light and easy to wash
- Hand Sanitizer: when you’re not in range of a bathroom
- Hiking Pants: convertible ones with a zip are super useful for days that start out cold but soon warm up as the sun rises
- Hiking shorts with zipper pockets & hiking socks – liners and outer
- Insect Repellent: mostly for mosquitos and ticks (in the spring)
- Bathroom Kit: Toilet Paper, Plastic sealable bags – sometimes bathrooms are few and far between
- Personal First Aid Kit: for blisters and scratches. Otherwise, Portugal has a great national health system
- Rain Jacket (lightweight, hooded and breathable)
- Sun Hat with a wide brim and neck strap so it won’t blow off on a gusty day
- Sunblock, Lip Balm, and Sunglasses
- Telescopic hiking poles
- Water Bottles (2 – 1 liter bottles a person) or Hydration System
- Waterproof hiking boots OR shoes
- Wind-Resistant Jacket/Shirt: in the summer, this may be all you need for warmth
- Dry bag for wet clothes
- Waterproof cover for cell phone
- Fleece/Wool Hat & Gloves (winter)
- Small Binoculars
- Swimwear such as bikini and board shorts & camp towel- so you’re ready to dip in the ocean or mountain pool
Best Hiking in Portugal: Our Top 10 Trails
If you’re wondering where to start, some of the best hiking in Portugal can be found in mainland Portugal as well as the islands of Madeira and Azores, which offer trails with varying lengths and fitness levels. Try a short one at first if you are a novice hiker, and work your way up to the more challenging hikes. They are all exquisite in their own way, and there is something for everyone! Here are our top spots for the best hiking in Portugal.
Serra da Arrábida – Portinho da Arrábida loop hike
The Serra da Arrábida Natural Park is a jewel of a park located only an hour’s drive south of the capital city of Lisboa. The park was created to preserve the unique Mediterranean vegetation; therefore, you can only hike in the park with a guide. This easy loop hike, however, will give you a taste of the white sand beaches and transparent water that the park is loved for. Highlights along the hike include views of the azure waters of the Atlantic, the Pedra da Anixa island zoological reserve, and the oceanographic museum, where you can learn more about the local flora and fauna.
The nearby town of Azeitão has two wineries as well as numerous restaurants where you can taste Azeitão cheese made from the milk of sheep who graze at the foothills of the mountain. This makes a wonderful day trip from Lisboa.
|Where||Serra da Arrábida – Portinho de Arrábida|
|Total Distance||5.7 km|
|Type||In a natural park by protected marine area|
|Terrain||Packed dirt | flat|
|How to get here||15 min drive or taxi ride from the town of Azeitão to the trailhead in Portinho da Arrábida|
Praia Grande Beach to Cabo da Roca
This is the perfect day hike for the reasonably fit and sure-footed hiker if you are staying in Sintra or Cascais and want to get away from the crowds. The ocean views are mind-blowing, and while not a long-distance hike, you’ll get a good workout climbing up and down the cliffs.
The trail begins at the south end of the Praia Grande beach and gives you a great view of dinosaur footprints embedded on the side of the cliffs. You will soon descend to Adraga Beach, known for its sheltered valley location and its attractive natural stone arch and caves. It also has a wonderful seafood restaurant and restrooms (always important!). Another interesting geological formation along the trail is the impressive natural sinkhole in the cliffs, known as fojo dos morcegos or “bat pit” which resonates with the sounds of the waves below. This is definitely one of the best hiking in Portugal spots that seems to have it all.
There are many interesting sites on this hike, especially the views from Cabo da Roca looking north to Ericeira, inland to Sintra Natural Park, and back to Guincho beach. After the hike, we would also recommend a quick stop to Praia da Ursa. And if you feel peckish afterward, just hike 15 minutes up the road from Cabo da Roca to the charming village of Azoia for a meal to eat at one of the many roadside establishments.
|Where||Begins at Praia Grande—a dramatic beach northwest of Sintra. Ends at Cabo da Roca—the westernmost point in continental Europe!|
|Total Distance||7 km one way – about 3 hours|
|Terrain||Mostly packed dirt, some sand, pine forest, and sections of loose rocks|
|Fitness level||Medium difficulty, a few steep sections|
|How to get here||A 20 min drive or taxi ride from Sintra or 35 min from Lisboa to the trailhead. At the end, the 403 bus stops at Cabo da Roca and can take you to Cascais, where you can catch a train back to Lisbon.|
The Rota Vicentina SW Portugal
The Rota Vicentina is, in fact, a set of trails on the west coast of the Alentejo region. There are two main trails: the Fishermen’s Trail along the cliffs and the Historic Trail that runs inland through the rural countryside. On the Fisherman’s trail, hikers will encounter empty unspoiled Atlantic coast beaches, storks nesting on cliffs, and stunning scenery that resembles a moonscape with red sand and black rocks.
This is one of the most beautiful coastal hikes in Portugal and offers the some of best hiking in Portugal. There are tide-pools and villages to explore along the way, with cafés and restaurants serving just caught ultra-fresh seafood. There are also loops available for day trips. These have become increasingly popular every year because they combine incredible natural beauty with good signage and the creature comforts of lodgings, good restaurants, and organized luggage transfer services.
|Where||Coast of the Alentejo region from Santiago de Cacém to Cabo São Vicente|
|Total Distance||Total of 273 km, divided into 13 sections with distances up to 25 km except for the trail to Odemira, which is 33 km.|
|Type||Wider tracks in the rural countryside|
|Terrain||Rocky, packed dirt, some wooden walkways|
|Fitness level||Easy to medium, depending on the day|
|How to get here||Drive to the trailhead or catch the new FlixBus from Lisboa that stops in various towns along the route, such as Vila Nova de Milfontes or Zambujeira do Mar|
Located at the southwestern tip of Portugal, this short hike in a loop is suitable for all ages and fitness levels and offers several interesting attractions to see along the way. Part of the Costa Vicentina Natural Park, some say that this headland was once the location of a 15th nautical school or center. This school is rumored to be where sailors and scientists part of Prince Henry’s exploration campaign gathered to exchange knowledge in preparation for seafaring expeditions to discover new lands. Today, this trail takes you from Fortaleza (fortress) road to a mysterious 43-meter circular rosa dos ventos or oversized compass, discovered in 1919 and thought perhaps used to aid navigation.
Other highlights include the Sagres fortress itself, a military structure once used to fend off pirates, the stark whitewashed Nossa Senhora da Graça church perched near the barren headland, and the endless breathtaking views from the 50-meter high cliffs plunging down to the unforgiving ocean below.
|Where||Sagres headland—the most southerly tip of Portugal|
|Total Distance||2.4 km – about 1 hour|
|Type||Wide, packed dirt road and trail|
|Terrain||Cobblestones, packed dirt|
|How to get here||Flat 30 min walk from the town of Sagres.|
Seven Hanging Valleys Trail
This is a popular, easily accessible trail with portions of the wooden walkway that take you through typical arid Algarve vegetation over the rocky golden beaches, cliffs and unique rock formations of the Algarve coast. Elected as one of the best hikes in Europe by European Best Destinations, this scenic route runs from Praia da Marinha in the east to Praia de Vale Centeanes in the west.
At the beginning of the hike, it’s worth exploring the cliffs where there is a natural pool. A particular highlight along the trail is Benagil cave, an amazing natural dome formed under the cliffs with a circular opening at the top. While it is only accessible by boat, kayak, or stand-up paddle, it is worth visiting if you have the chance. Praia da Marinha, a magnificent beach with emerald water emblematic of the region, is also the perfect place to stop for lunch and a beach break before returning to the trailhead. If you hike this trail in the summer, make sure to start out early and come with plenty of sun protection as it can get hot in the afternoon and the Portuguese sun is strong.
This is one of the best Algarve hikes in the region. As we’ve already mentioned, make sure to carve out some time to visit Benagil beach where you can explore some sea caves.
|Where||Coast of the Algarve region: loop from Praia da Carvoeiro with return at Marinha beach|
|Total Distance||11 km – about 6 hours, minimal ascent and descent|
|Type||Single track, and boardwalk|
|Terrain||Rocky, packed dirt, some wooden walkways|
|Fitness level||Easy hike, but not wheelchair accessible|
|How to get here||5-10 min drive or taxi ride to the trailhead from the town of Carvoeiro. From Portimão (Guanaré station), 45 min trip on 52 / 107 bus (public transportation) and a short walk to the trailhead.|
Ponta da Piedade loop from Lagos
If you’re staying in the charming western Algarve town of Lagos, you cannot miss this half-day hike! Head out from the center of town past Praia Dona Ana and Praia do Camilo along trails to the viewpoint platforms on the cliffs by Ponta Piedade lighthouse.
Take the 180 steps down to the protected cove below and consider taking a small boat tour of the many natural grottos carved out of the limestone cliffs by the never-ending erosion of the sea.
|Where||From Lagos marina to Ponta da Piedade Lighthouse and back|
|Total Distance||12 km – about 3 1/4 hours – minimal ascent and descent|
|Type||Single track with stairs|
|Terrain||Paved, packed dirt, 180 steps|
|How to get here||Walk from the center of Lagos. No need for a car if you are staying in the city.|
Serra de Gerês – Cascata do Arado – Poço Azul loop
If you’re an experienced hiker looking for a wilder hiking experience, try heading for the gorgeous Serra de Gerês National Park (Peneda-Gerês National Park) just east of Braga in northern Portugal. This is truly a special place. This scenic mountain range is bisected by the Cavado River and boasts a landscape of boulders, pines, ferns, heather, and waterfalls. This area gets cold in the winter and blazing hot in the summer, but fortunately, this hike traverses many waterfalls and natural pools that form among the granite boulders that this park is famous for. Make sure to visit the Gerês tourist office to pick up some maps before heading to the trailhead. The office located right by the parking lot.
Highlights along the route include the Cabana das Couriscadas waterfall, the clear waters of the Cascata do Arado, spectacular views from Cabana da Arrocela mountain hut, and the enticing Poço Azul water hole, where you will definitely want to take a dip. Of course, always take extra care when treading on the slippery rock surfaces around the natural pools (and if you can make sure to pack a pair of water shoes).
|Where||Serra de Gerês National Park – an approx. 2-hour drive from the city of Porto|
|Total Distance||13 km – about 4.5 hours; 650-meter ascent and descent|
|Terrain||Packed dirt, rocky trail, stairs|
|How to get here||The best way to get to this great hike is by car for the 25-minute drive to the trailhead near Cascata do Arado|
Passadiços do Paiva – Paiva River Walkway Loop from Espiunca Entrance
This set of wooden walkways and bridges allows hikers to enjoy the amazing landscape of the Paiva River, a remote tributary of the more well-known Douro River. The pathways are part of the Arouca Geopark, which encompasses numerous natural and man-made attractions such as fossil sites as well as lost schist historical villages such as Candelas, Janarde, and Paradinha.
Highlights of the hike include river rapids enjoyed by kayakers, Espiunca river beach, the Vau leisure area halfway along the trail, and the impressive Arouca suspension bridge, one of the longest suspended pedestrian bridges in Europe!
|Where||Espiunca Entrance on the Paiva River|
|Total Distance||8 km – about 2 hours; 200-meter ascent and descent|
|Terrain||Wooden walkways, steps, and suspension bridges|
|How to get here||A 25 min drive from the town of Castelo de Paiva to the starting point at 40°59’34.67″N 8°12’41.19″ W|
Madeira – PR6 Levada Loop to 25 Fontes from Prazeres
The Island of Madeira is a world away from mainland Portugal, located far south off the coast of Morocco. It is an ideal place to hike, with a mild climate all year round, rugged coastline, and enchanting forest shrouded in clouds. The island’s south side is sunny and rocky, while the north is green and wild.
This hike takes you along the famous levadas or narrow water channels that guide water from streams down the mountains to irrigate terraced fields. The route leads you along the Levada do Alecrim (“Rosemary” waterway) through a dense forest of sage green lichen-covered trees to the Rabacal picnic spot. On the way, you have breathtaking panoramic views of lush green mountains shrouded in clouds, almost like a scene from Jurassic Park.
Make sure to come prepared to climb stone and packed dirt steps to reach the magical 25 Fontes (“25 Springs”) waterhole surrounded by waterfalls. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
|Total Distance||11.5 km – about 5 hours; 500-meter ascent and descent|
|Type||Single track along terraced waterways|
|Terrain||Packed dirt, rocky trail, stone steps|
|How to get here||For this hike, you’ll need to drive 50 min from the capital city of Funchal to the PR6 25 Fontes trailhead on ER110 road|
Azores – São Miguel Island – Vista do Rei loop of Sete Cidades Lake
The Azores is a volcanic archipelago made up of 9 islands, stretching 1,360 km across the Atlantic from Flores in the west to Santa Maria in the east. With a subtropical climate, the winters are mild and summers are never very hot, with regular rainfall making for a lush environment and a stunning place for hiking. Many trails run along the rim of calderas, volcanic craters, or over the black basalt rocks on the coast. Wherever you go, you’ll be astounded by the lush flora and many geothermal hot springs that even bubble up in the ocean!
This hike, on the main island of São Miguel, takes you through a protected nature reserve to the Vista do Rei or King’s Viewpoint of the unique Lagoa de Sete Cidades, a double crater lake featuring both blue and green water. You’ll follow the edge of the lake through the small town of Lagoa, where there are places to stop for coffee or lunch, and continue on to the Lomba do Vasco viewpoint with stunning views of the rugged Atlantic coastline and the smaller Alferes crater lake. The distinctive volcanic landscape includes bamboo and cedar forests and exuberant violet blue hydrangea hedgerows lining patchwork green pastures where the famous Azorean cattle graze.
|Where||São Miguel Island, Azores Archipelago|
|Total Distance||11.7 km, 300 m ascent, and descent|
|Terrain||Easily accessible dirt paths and steps|
|How to get here||30 min drive, taxi ride, or 1-hour public bus from the capital city of Ponta Delgada on the EN9-1A.|
If you are keen to go hiking in Portugal but don’t have the time to select the most scenic routes and find the best lodgings and restaurants, Terracotta Journeys is the perfect company to help you organize your dream hiking vacation in Portugal. Having been the local supplier for the world-famous REI Adventures company in the U.S. for 11 years, Terracotta Journeys has loads of experience and offers a variety of all-inclusive hiking and cycling trips in Portugal (and in Spain) ranging from 3 to 7 days in length. Just choose a trip and come for an adventure with their super-knowledgeable, friendly multilingual Portuguese guides. They’ll not only guide you on the best trails but teach you about the history, culture, and cuisine of the country. After taking a trip, you’ll know you’ve made new friends in Portugal.
After being unable to travel for so long, seize the day now, live life to the fullest, and find your next adventure with Terracotta Journeys.
The Best Hiking in Portugal
Obviously, there are plenty more beautiful and scenic hikes that you can enjoy here in Portugal. These are just some of the spots where you’ll find the best hiking in Portugal. Did we miss anything?
Let us know in the comments below.