The highest 12 pure wonders in Portugal

Residence to cliff-backed seashores, dramatic river valleys and wildlife-filled wetlands, Portugal is full of distinctive locations to go to. Whether or not you’re after otherworldly views on the sting of Europe or a mountain wilderness filled with historical past and pure magnificence, you’ll discover it in Portugal. 

Portugal’s comparatively small dimension means you possibly can see rather a lot on even a brief journey. If time permits, it’s price tacking on a go to to the Azores or Madeira. These Atlantic islands have hovering peaks, volcanic landscapes and gorgeous coastlines. The problem is just deciding the place to start. Listed here are a number of the pure wonders in Portugal you received’t wish to miss. 

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Head to Cabo de São Vicente for some improbable cliff views © Alexander Spatari / Getty Pictures

Cabo de São Vicente 

There’s one thing thrilling about standing at Europe’s most southwestern edge, a headland of barren cliffs to which Portuguese sailors bid a nervous farewell as they sailed previous and ventured into the unknown throughout Portugal’s golden years of exploration. The windswept cape is redolent of historical past – in case you squint arduous (actually arduous), you would possibly see the ghost of the explorer Vasco da Gama crusing previous. After taking within the view, go to the close by Fortaleza de Sagres, which has a Sixteenth-century chapel, imposing fortress partitions and but extra breathtaking views from its clifftop perch.

Parque Nacional da Peneda-Gerês

Tucked away in a northern nook of Portugal, the Parque Nacional da Peneda-Gerês is a wilderness wonderland of craggy peaks, riverside woodlands and hidden waterfalls. Climbing right here isn’t nearly taking within the putting landscapes of Portugal’s solely nationwide park. The reserve additionally encompasses stone villages the place you possibly can stroll cobblestone lanes previous the ruins of previous mills and as soon as mighty castles. Sparsely inhabited settlements (like scenic Peneda) make nice bases for exploring distant corners of the park.

A river snakes through a green valley of terraced vineyards
Wine lovers ought to add the terraced vineyards of the enchanting Douro Valley to their bucket record © Shaun Egan / Getty Pictures

Douro Valley 

Simply east of Porto, the meandering Douro River winds its well beyond towering hillsides with steep terraces coated by vineyards. This Unesco World Heritage web site presents dramatic views at each bend, whether or not considered from the water on a ship tour or a vineyard property overlooking the expansive river valley. Most individuals simply make a brief tour into the world from Porto, although you may simply spend a couple of days within the area – particularly in case you tack on a go to to the Parque Arqueológico do Vale do Côa, a protected space close to the river with probably the most in depth assortment of prehistoric rock artwork within the Iberian peninsula.

Parque Pure da Ria Formosa 

Enclosing an unlimited space of sapais (marshes), salinas (salt pans), creeks and dune islands, this protected lagoon system stretches for 60km (37 miles) and encompasses 18,000 hectares within the jap Algarve. It is a scorching spot for birdwatchers, as it is a key stopover on the migration between Europe and Africa. And it’s all accessible from varied cities – take a ship over to an undeveloped island or amble alongside one of many totally different nature trails by means of the world. It’s also possible to take a guided kayaking journey (like these provided by Formosamar), which is without doubt one of the finest methods to expertise the wetlands.  

Crowds in Benagil cave
You may nonetheless get a tan beneath the pure skylight within the Benagil Cave © Mystockimages / iStockphoto / Getty Pictures

Benagil Cave

One of many Algarve’s – and Portugal’s – most emblematic sights, this monumental pure seaside cave has a gap in its ceiling by means of which streaming daylight illuminates the sandstone and seaside under. The one method to entry the inside is by way of the water. Quite a few firms alongside the coast, comparable to Taruga Tours, run boat journeys, and you may rent kayaks and SUPs (stand-up paddleboards) to paddle right here your self. Swimming to the caves is discouraged attributable to robust tides and currents and excessive watercraft visitors.

Costa Vicentina 

Verdant highlands overlook hidden seashores alongside the Costa Vicentina, a dramatic swath of shoreline stretching alongside the western fringe of the Algarve. You may come to admire the views whereas digging your heels into the sand or surf a few of southern Portugal’s most dependable waves. There are additionally some excellent trails by means of this protected area. For example, you possibly can hike all or part of the 227km (141 miles) Fisherman’s Trail that takes you alongside cliffs and previous superb seashores like Arrifana, Monte Clerigo and Adegas.

View from a boat on narrow blue waters between the cliffs of the Ponta da Piedade
It does not get extra picturesque than exploring the cliffs of the Ponta da Piedade © D.Bond / Shutterstock

Ponta da Piedade

Protruding 2.5km (1.6 miles) south of Lagos, Ponta da Piedade is a dramatic wedge of headland with contorted, polychrome sandstone cliffs and towers, full with a lighthouse overlooking the crystal-clear turquoise water under. Within the spring, you would possibly hear the sounds of nesting egrets and see the blaze of blooming wild orchids within the surrounding space. On a transparent day, you possibly can see east to Carvoeiro and west to Sagres. The one method to attain it’s by automobile or on foot.

Ilha de Tavira 

Ilha de Tavira has the lot for sunseekers, seaside bums, nature lovers and naturists: mile after mile of golden seaside (assume sand, sand, sand, so far as the attention can see), a delegated nudist space, busy eating places and a campground. To prime it off, it’s a part of the protected Parque Pure da Ria Formosa. Outdoors excessive season (July and August), the island feels splendidly distant and empty, however be warned: throughout excessive season, the hordes descend. You may get there by mini-train or on foot by way of Pedras d’El Rei. It’s also possible to catch a ferry to the island from Quatro Águas or Tavira.  

Sete Cidades 

The Azores are filled with locations that cease guests lifeless of their tracks and trigger a pointy, involuntary consumption of breath. However the first glimpse of this monumental caldera with its glowing twin lakes is likely to be probably the most eye-popping of all of them. Sete Cidades is crisscrossed by excellent strolling trails, together with a 12km (7.5 miles) circuit of the hydrangea-fringed rim and a number of other routes main all the way down to the water’s edge.

Surrounded by thickly forested cliffs, this panorama has a fairy-tale high quality, so it comes as no shock that Sete Cidades is the supply of an Azorean legend. In line with the legend, the lakes – one blue, one inexperienced – shaped from the tears of a shepherd and princess who shared a forbidden love. You would possibly properly shed a couple of tears (of pleasure) on the surroundings.

Woman tourist photographing with smartphone at Pico do Arieiro at sunset, Madeira Island, Portugal.
Climbers of Mt Pico get bragging rights for climbing the best mountain in Portugal © Marco Bottigelli / Getty Pictures

Mt Pico 

The best mountain in Portugal rears out of the Atlantic Ocean to a top of 2351m (7713ft). A near-perfect cone, Mt Pico is greater than postcard materials: an ascent of this slumbering stratovolcano is the Azores’ final climbing expertise.

Climbers ought to register with the guests middle on the trailhead at Cabeço das Cabras. From there, it’s a signposted slog to the crater, adopted by a brief, steep climb to the summit, which presents staggering views of neighboring islands.

The climb to the highest takes two to 4 hours, relying in your health degree and expertise. You may conquer Mt Pico unaccompanied, however hiring a information is really helpful – significantly if you wish to start in darkness to catch the dawn.

Grutas e Centro do Vulcanismo 

High billing on Madeira’s north coast goes to this two-for-one attraction simply south of São Vicente. The primary a part of the expertise is a guided tour of the native caves – 900,000-year-old lava tubes studied by English geologist James Johnson within the 1850s. The second half is the Centro do Vulcanismo – a 3D, interactive have a look at Madeira’s volcanic delivery and volcanoes basically. It is an actual hit with the youngsters and an incredible wet-weather exercise.

Porto Santo Seashore

Porto Santo’s 7.5km (4.6 miles) lengthy sandy seaside is the explanation most individuals head to Madeira’s little sister. The sand is definitely tiny items of coral that shelve gently into the cool Atlantic waves. The seaside has nearly no improvement and has a wild really feel, particularly throughout the winter when you possibly can have your entire place to your self.