Despite being a small country, Portugal comprises diverse landscapes which are a joy to explore hiking. Discovering our country on foot is a great option for many reasons: it's free, it's healthy, it enables you to disconnect from the online world, it provides a close contact with nature and it's a sustainable way of travelling. Plus it's a great gateway to get to know the local people, learn about the historical and cultural heritage and also taste the local gastronomy. After all, it's the sum of the parts that makes Portugal such a complete and inspiring destination.
The best seasons to hike are Spring and Autumn, not only because the landscapes are particularly pretty, but also because the temperature tends to be milder.
There are many hiking trails throughout the country, including in the archipelagos of Açores and Madeira, with different lengths, difficulty levels and duration. This means there are options for all sorts of hikers, from first timers to experienced ones. In this journal post we hand-picked 10 hiking trails that we believe are a must and below we tell you why.
Trilho das Sete Lagoas - Peneda-Gerês National Park
This walking trail had to be shortlisted, not only because it's incredibly beautiful, but also because it's located inside Peneda-Gerês National Park. Although it is a marked trail, signage isn't brilliant so it's important to keep an eye peeled and carry a GPS track. It has about 12km in length and moderate difficulty, but the effort is rewarded if you just pause for a second to acknowledge the surrounding natural scenery. As the name suggests the trail passes by seven smalls lagoons and also some waterfalls which are a delight when the weather is nice and warm. The views along the way don't fall behind, with massive rock formations and deep valleys as a background.
Fisgas do Ermelo - Alvão Natural Park
This trail can be found inside Alvão Natural Park, which is located in the northern part of the country, near the city of Vila Real.
The most spectacular sight inside the park are the famous fisgas do Ermelo, which correspond to a rock barrier that forces the bed of river Old to run across a narrow gap and fall off a cliff forming a spectacular waterfall with 200m.
The demarcated walking trail is a circular route with 12,5km that goes through forest areas and offers great views to the waterfall. It also passes by a couple of natural pools where it's possible to cool down after the steep hikes involved along the way.
After the trail you can visit a typical mountainous village and taste the local delicacies to recharge batteries.
Passadiços do Paiva - Arouca Geopark
Known as Paiva Walkways (Passadiços do Paiva), this walking route snakes along the left bank of river Paiva, connecting the riverbank beaches of Areinho and Espiunca. It's located inside Arouca Geopark, a protected area that was recognised by UNESCO as a Geological Heritage of Humanity.
The wooden walkways have 8km one way and are considered difficult because there's a steep staircase near Areinho. However, the remaining walk is easy and the views along the way are pretty special. There are various trees and plants, a couple of waterfalls and riverbank beaches which are home to many creatures, from colourful birds to otters. To add to the thrill, soon it will be possible to walk along the world's biggest suspended bridge, which hangs at 175m above the river bed. Truth and dare?
Trilho da Garganta de Loriga - Serra da Estrela Natural Park
Serra da Estrela Natural Park lies right in the heart of Portugal and is a place with an incalculable natural and historical value.
Loriga's gorge is a glacial valley with some levels, meaning there are some drops along the way, where the scenery is overwhelming. Picture massive stone walls on each side, river streams, shepherd trails, underbrush and the sound of birds humming, wild goats and herds of sheep. This mountainous trail is in fact pretty as a picture, but it is also a challenging one because of the hilly terrain.
It has 8km in total one-way, but you can add a few more if you feel like going the extra mile to reach mainland Portugal's highest peak. If you're struggling at the end just imagine that it won't take long to sit back, relax and indulge on the buttery local Serra da Estrela cheese... it always helps.
Carreiro do Cação and Carreiro do Mosteiro - Berlengas
Berlengas is a magical small island located near the Portuguese central coast, being Peniche the nearest town. Apart from the marine birds and the vibrant marine life, Berlengas also has an interest history. Proof of it is the fort built there hundreds of years ago to discourage pirate attacks against the Portuguese coastline.
There are two trails that allow exploring the island - carreiro dos Cações and carreiro do Mosteiro - and these are the only allowed paths. One has 3km and the other 1,5km and they're both linear, having the Fishermen Beach as a starting point.
To learn about the other gems of Peniche and Berlengas read this journal post.
Trilho da Portagem ao Marvão - Serra de São Mamede Natural Park
This easy trail has 7,7km in length and is circular. It starts in Portagem, where there is a medieval bridge and a tower used to guard the area. Along the way there are roman walkways, centenary oak, cork and chestnut trees and beautiful views of the mountain tops. Apart from the natural landscape, there are other interesting sights, such as a manor house, churches and an old water mill.
This trail can be found inside Serra de São Mamede Natural Park, in Alentejo , where it's worth spending some time exploring the villages and castles. To learn more about it read this journal post we wrote a while ago.
Rota Vicentina - Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina Natural Park
Rota Vicentina is a must for hiking fans. It actually is a network of hiking trails located inside Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina Natural Park.
The trails are divided into two main walks: the fishermen trail and the historical way. One snakes along the coastline and the other can be found more inland and together they highlight the best this natural park has to offer. At Rota Vicentina oficial website you can download specific info about each stage and plan according to your interests and taking into account the time you have. Read more about Rota Vicentina in this journal post.
Percurso dos Sete Vales Suspensos - Lagoa
This iconic trail in the south coast of Portugal is considered one of the best walks in Europe. The demarcated route has almost 6km in length and connects the beaches of Vale Centeanes and Marinha, passing by some viewpoints, a lighthouse and offering beautiful views over the golden cliffs, the sea, small sheltered beaches, grottoes and caves.
The 7 hanging valleys are a consequence of the erosion caused by the wind and the sea, which constantly shape the shore. The weather in Algarve is warm and dry, so going early in the morning or towards sunset is not only wiser, but also more peaceful.
Trilho da Serra do Topo à Fajã dos Cubres - São Jorge, Açores
São Jorge belongs to the central group of islands in the Açores and is a paradise for nature lovers. The green scenery and lush vegetation create an idilic panorama which is a joy to explore on foot.
This linear trail has 9,5 km and connects the hilltop of Topo and Fajã dos Cubres. The portion between serra do Topo and Fajã da Caldeira de Santo Cristo is quite steep so we advise starting the walk from the highest point and descending all the way down to the sea level. Fajã da Caldeira de Santo Cristo is one of Portugal's hidden gems and the pristine village is a treasure worth getting to know. The quietness and naive beauty are part of its charm, but there is more to it, such as the chunky clams caught in the lagoon and the great surfing break. The remaining portion of the trail leads to Fajã dos Cubres, another special spot in São Jorge.
Vereda do Pico Ruivo - Madeira
The island of Madeira is another winner when it comes to hiking. The most famous walking trails are the levadas, old irrigation canals that bring water from the mountains to the lower parts of the island, but we feel Vereda do Pico Ruivo had to be our chosen one.
This trail gives access to the island's highest peak - Pico Ruivo - and has 2,8km each way. Despite not being a long walk, it can be quite challenging as the weather tends to play up a bit exposing the hikers to the harshness of Mother Nature. With that said, being above the clouds has its perks, as the panoramic views over the island's mountain tops is astonishing.
2021 seems like a great year to plan a hiking adventure. It allows you to get immersed in nature and explore Portugal in a safe and active way. Get in touch if you'd like us to help you plan an unforgettable trip including some memorable hiking trails.