Exploring Berlenga Island

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Located just an (epic) twenty minute speedboat ride away from the Portuguese town of Peniche lies the Berlenga Islands. Berlenga Grande is the only island that can be visited by tourists and as a UNESCO heritage site and protected nature reserve, only a set number of visitors are allowed on the island each day, which makes it an even more memorable trip.

How to get there

There are numerous boat companies leaving from Peniche each day from around 11 o’clock in the morning until early evening. We were staying with Deck Lodge (an awesome hostel in the centre of Peniche) and they kindly arranged the speedboat for us with ‘Berlenga Live’. It’s advisable to book in advance due to the limited numbers allowed on the island. We’d also recommend wrapping up or even taking a light weight waterproof jacket as on the way back I was in the ‘hot seat’, i.e. every wave splashed directly onto me, much to the amusement of everyone else. It gets quite choppy but it’s a thrilling ride if you like that kind of thing. The alternative option is to take a ferry ride instead which takes around forty minutes, and we heard that wine is also provided!

Where to eat and drink on the island

It was our original intention to take a little picnic with us but we lost track of time so arrived at the port without even a bottle of water (which we’d recommend taking especially in the hot summer months). At the moment, the island’s only restaurant is closed but there’s a café next door offering drinks (including large bottles of water and beer), as well as snacks and ice cream. The café is located up a slope to your right as you disembark the boat. There’s also a café/bar within the Fort, again selling drinks and snacks.

What to do

As you approach the island, you’ll spot the island’s only (but beautiful) beach directly ahead. The water is crystal clear and the sand is golden brown, making it a stunning spot to sunbathe or swim for an hour or two. It’s also a hot spot for the island’s resident seagulls so keep an eye out above!

Around a twenty to thirty minute walk along the trails from this point is the Fort of John the Baptist, which tends to feature as the cover photo for the island.

There are a lot of steps down and then an open walkway across the water to get to the Fort itself but it’s well worth any jelly legs. You can even walk around the open terrace of the Fort and a few people were swimming in the ocean surrounding here.

If you have time, or have managed to make arrangements in advance, we were aware that you could go on a boat trip around the island’s many caves. This is something we wish we had done as the caves looked so mysterious and beautiful.

Our top tips

  • Wear appropriate footwear to walk around the island – flip flops aren’t the easiest for negotiating some of the crumbling steps.
  • Stay on the marked trails – there is a lot of birdlife on the island and it is often nesting season. Anyone spotted walking off trail will be fined.
  • Bring a snorkel (and swimsuit) – we forgot the former but the water looked unreal and there is plenty of sea life to discover.

You can reach Peniche via a 1 hour 35 minute bus ride from Lisbon. Prices start from 7 euros for a one-way ticket.

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