Hiking is an excellent choice for those who want to immerse themselves in a destination’s culture and natural beauty at the same time
In truth, Portugal boasts some of the most scenic routes in Europe, with excellent directions and suitable for travelers of all fitness levels. Take a look at some of the best hikes in Portugal!
Despite its modest size, Portugal is endowed with a diverse range of landscapes. And, in my opinion, the best way (and the most sustainable) to uncover a country’s secrets than by walking its trails and walks.
Our list of the best hikes in Portugal includes everything from modest walking trails that can be completed in a day to extensive routes that can be completed over many days.
For most of these great hikesyou can rent a car (depending on the route you choose, right?) or organize excursions on your own if you have a large group or through agencies, of course.
The 13 best hikes in Portugal
Best Hikes in Madeira
1. Pico Ruivo
The highest point on the main island of Madeira, Pico Ruivo is located in the Santana council and is Portugal’s third highest mountain.
The view from the summit is truly breathtaking! You have two alternatives with a high degree of difficulty because it includes very steep climbs: start and end at Achada do Teixeira (3.5 miles) or start and finish at Pico do Areeiro (7 miles).
So, be prepared for 3 or 4 hours of climbing to the summit. It might seem like a lot but one thing is certain: reaching the pinnacle of the island and witnessing the grandeur that exists there will be worth every blister on your foot!
Although the difference in height between the highest and lowest points reached throughout this beautiful walk is just 1050 ft, the combined gradient is substantially higher since the hike from Pico do Areeiro to Pico Ruivo is usually up and down multiple times on very steep slopes.
Along the route, you’ll see some beautiful sights including Ninho da Manta and Pico das Torres.
2. Caldeirão Verde
One of the must-do activities on the Island of Madeira is the Levada do Caldeirão Verde.
The 4-mile route has a medium/low difficulty rating and begins in Queimadas Forest Park. The trail is linear, so you return along the same route.
This trail may be extended to the Caldeirão do Inferno, which adds about 2 hours to the climb and provides vertiginous and spectacular views of the interior of the island.
The most unique aspect of this route is that it makes you feel like Dora, the Explorer discovering Madeira’s woodlands, as it is nearly entirely in the Laurissilva Forest and is shaded from the sun.
The path also includes multiple tunnels, and it is critical to wear strong, water-resistant shoes because the terrain might be damp and slippery.
Also, the hike crosses rocky cliffs along the route, however on the more vertical sections, there are always steel railings for added safety.
Although it is largely through deep forest, there are wonderful vistas of the mountains and the interior of the island, when the greenery and the trees are more spread.
Best Hikes in the Azores Islands
3. Pico Mountain, Pico Island
Piquinho, the highest peak in Portugal, is located on Pico Mountain on Pico Island in the Azores, at the height of over 7000 ft. Pico Mountain requires permission, excellent physical condition, enthusiasm, and, ideally, favorable weather.
Otherwise, the already challenging ascent becomes even more difficult.
In fact, both the ascent and descent are extremely physically demanding, making it the most challenging non-climbing climb in Portugal.
It’s important to remember that the whole path is upward, with no level areas and always high gradients.
As you may guess, the descent is the inverse, and we walk down the entire time, which can be quite tough on the knees.
There are also a lot of loose rocks, which might cause your feet to slip and require you to pay close attention and descend gently.
Believe me when I tell you that, despite its difficulty, this is one of the most spectacular trails you will ever do, precisely because it is a volcano right in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, with a magnificent view.
You’ll understand why when you reach the top and witness the vastness of blue all around you. From the summit, you can view all of the center group’s islands.
Observing this little world is like standing in a lighthouse.
Another way to hike Piquinho is to climb to the summit of Pico Mountain and camp overnight in the volcano’s caldera. Just imagine how the sunset is from up there!
Ah, and when you get to the Mountain House, where the path begins, you must register, pay a fee, and pick up a GPS, which you should have with you at all times during your hike, in case of an emergency.
4. Caldeira de Santo Cristo, São Jorge Island
São Jorge Island is crossed by a large set of volcanic mountains, but all around it, by the sea, there are many fajãs.
These small flat plots of land, fertile and protected from the action of strong winds were formed by the lavas of ancient volcanoes and falling rocks.
This is also where part of the population settled down over the centuries. With over 70 fajãs in all, visiting one is nearly a must when traveling to the island.
And what better way to get up close and personal with a fajã than to go down to one of the most distinctive ones out there?
You may either walk or ride a quadricycle there. However, I strongly advise you to take the trail down.
Getting your first glance of the lagoon from the viewpoint, then going down the coast with the fajã gradually revealing itself until the first buildings, the church, and the lagoon appear…
This is a feeling impossible to describe.
The route is around 6 miles long and takes 4 to 5 hours to reach the end of the trail in a leisurely manner.
You can make the round journey in one day but it is also a good option to stay overnight in the fajã to make the most of your trip.
However, it is crucial to mention that the Fajã de Santo Cristo is exceedingly remote and lacking in comfort, making a stay there unsuitable for everyone.
For some, though, the calm and tranquility that comes with it may only add to the attractiveness of the area becoming a great place to unwind.
Best Hikes in the Algarve and Southern Portugal
5. Guadiana Valley National Park
The Guadiana Valley National Park is located immediately above the Algarve in the Alentejo area, at the Spanish border.
This used to be a true mining district, but owing to mine closures, many locals have departed, leaving the park with large plains, sheep, and abandoned structures.
If you go during winter, you will encounter very green scenery surrounding the Guadiana River. Perfect conditions for walks and bike rides.
There are ten approved trails in the park. Maps of the paths are available at the tourist office in Mértola, the park’s base.
The different trails offer different difficulty levels and also points of interest. For example, Route 4 (8 miles) circles a huge freshwater lake and passes through cork plantations.
On the other hand, Route 6 (7 miles) passes across large green plains and historic mines, while Route 9 (3 miles) passes beside the Pulo do Lobo waterfall.
It all depends on how much effort you want to make and what type of scenery you would like to explore.
6. Fisherman’s Trail
Part of the famous Rota Vicentina, the Trilha dos Pescadores is one of the most beautiful coastal hikes in Portugal.
The path takes you along sandy beaches and high cliffs in an area that still has a lot of natural resources, including indigenous plants and a lot of migrating birds and marine creatures.
It is not an easy journey since you will be walking on sand most of the time, which is extremely different from walking on more firm terrain.
It is physically demanding at an intermediate level and demands a certain degree of physical fitness to carry out; consider that you will walk an average of 12 miles every day.
Yes, the Rota Vicentina Fisherman’s Trail is a longer trek than most on this list. There are five parts totaling 78 miles that encompass four complementing circuits that explore the rural life and nature of the Natural Park of Southwest Alentejo and the Costa Vicentina. It will most likely take you at least four days to travel the entire path.
The Trilha dos Pescadores stretches south from Porto Covo to Odeceixe. It is designed to be done in both directions, and this is entirely up to you.
7. Seven Hanging Valleys Trail
The Sete Vales Suspensos Route provides breathtaking views of the Algarve region from every angle. And this includes the golden beaches, the local culture, the food, the temperature, and the wine, of course.
Do you still need more reasons? Well, the Percurso dos Sete Vales Suspensos was named after the seven valleys which you will be crossing.
All of these sea caves and rock formations were generated by the power of the water. It is a scenic path that passes through cliffs, beaches, lighthouses, caves, and other natural structures while providing panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean.
The track is easy to follow, well-marked has guardrails and safety, and you will nearly always walk on level terrain on top of the cliffs.
The walk from Praia da Marinha to the Carvoeiro boardwalk is around 4 miles round trip and passes by Benagil Beach.
Because the path follows the most popular beaches in Lagoa, you will constantly see other visitors regardless of the time of year, making this a highly safe track for solitary travelers.
Also, you do not need a guide because the path is clearly defined and there are several signs along the way, not to mention that for part of it you just need to follow the wooden walkways.
But when in doubt, search for a sign with two yellow and red tracks.
The entire walk should take around 3 hours there and back, but the greatest thing is that you may opt to continue down to some of the most beautiful beaches in Portugal along the way or simply turn around and head back whenever you are tired.
To avoid having to return along the same road, one alternative is to leave the car at one end and take a taxi (or a ride) to the other.
Best Hikes in Central Portugal
8. Parque Nacional Arrábida
The Arrábida Natural Park, located approximately 25 miles from Lisbon, is unquestionably one of Portugal’s most stunning natural sanctuaries, making it a true paradise for nature lovers and hikers.
It is reasonable to assume that Mother Nature went to great lengths to create this small bit of Portugal!
The difficult part is to choose which of the several trails and walks to pursue in this beautiful nature reserve.
On top of that, if there is one thing that Arrábida is known for, it is its beautiful beaches. The water is crystal-clear (to put it mildly), but the contrast of the fine white sand with the clear seas of the Atlantic Ocean and the green of the mountains is enough to make anyone fall in love with it.
As a result, the route chosen to symbolize Arrábida had to follow the coastline.
The Arrábida Beaches Trail begins at Portinho da Arrábida with a visit to the Lapa de Santa Margarida, a natural cave nestled by the sea with an incredible church inside.
Following that, the pedestrian path runs parallel to the beach until you reach Praia do Creiro. Truly, a sight to see.
9. Caminho de Santiago no Alentejo
The Alentejo region has a significant link with the Order of Santiago, whose role was to guard pilgrims on their route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
As a result, there are pathways in the region that go to the famed Spanish city.
There are over 870 miles of paths that lead north, allowing visitors to see the most stunning vistas, customs, and legacy of Portugal’s biggest and most genuine area.
There are still support areas and opportunities to get the Pilgrim’s Credential and stamps along the journey, which can take up to 30 days of walking.
There are three routes to follow: the Caminho Central, the Caminho Nascente, and the Caminho da Raia.
The 355-mile Central Way path leads pilgrims to the western side of the Alentejo and its lovely communities.
The course, which consists of 19 stages, begins in Santa Cruz and goes via Almodôvar.
The Rising Path is 250 miles long and it is also divided into 19 segments. It begins in Mesquita and runs to Mértola, a strange settlement that was once a Roman city as well as the capital of an Arab kingdom.
Finally, the Caminho da Raia will is a 190-mile road traveling through historic Alentejo places near the Spanish border.
With its starting point at Mértola, the road continues through Serpa, Moura, and Mouro until it reaches Reguengos de Monsaraz, the Alentejo wine Mecca, which is home to various wineries.
10. Rota Vicentina
The Rota Vicentina, or St. Vincent’s Coastal Route, was originally another Compostela pilgrimage route. It is presently regarded as one of Europe’s top coastline pathways.
The rustic Vicentine Route in the Alentejo Natural Park region frames the picture with wildflowers, isolated beaches, and Atlantic waves.
There are hundreds of miles of protected coastline where flowers reign over the sand dunes, cliffs blend into the blue-green waves, beaches stand out for their pristine sand, and the temperature is moderate and sunny almost all year.
The route, which opened in 2012, presently spans around 250 miles between Santiago do Cacém and Cabo de São Vicente. In other words, it passes the Alentejo coast and then continues into the Algarve.
In reality, there are two routes along the Vincentian Route: one along the coast and one inland. The first is the previously mentioned Fishermen’s Trail, and the second is the Historical Way.
Although the Fisherman’s Trail is far more known as it follows along the shore, the other stretch of the Rota Vicentina deserves attention as well.
The Historical Trail is a rural path that passes through the principal towns and historical villages on a route that was traditionally frequented by residents and pilgrims, some of whom were traveling from Cape St. Vincent to Santiago de Compostela.
Best Hikes in Northern Portugal
11. Rota dos Túneis
The Tunnels Route is a route that follows the historic railroad line that connected Barca d’Alva to La Frenegeda, on the line that linked Porto and Salamanca.
The original Linha do Douro railway line terminated in Barca d’Alva, although the railway line continues to Spain.
The portion in question, the Rota dos Túneis, was completed in 1887 and was one of the Iberian Peninsula’s outstanding achievements of railway engineering, operating for almost a century, before closing in 1985.
The Rota dos Túneis has a length of 10 miles of track, always along the abandoned railway line, traversing 8 bridges, 4 platforms, and 20 tunnels.
In other words, it should take you around 8 hours to finish everything, including stops for lunch and photos along the route.
Just remember, you must be especially cautious when crossing bridges. Also, because the travel through the 20 tunnels is done in the dark and there are several holes, a flashlight or headlamp is required.
12. Parque Nacional da Peneda Gerês
The Peneda-Gerês National Park lies in the far northwest of Portugal, between Alto Minho and Trás-os-Montes, on the Portuguese side, and Galicia on the Spanish side.
Serra da Peneda and Serra do Gerês are the two protected areas in Portugal designated as Natural Parks.
The national park preserves a section of this historic Roman road, as well as the odd milestones that may be found along the preserved path.
The castles of Castro Laboreiro and Lindoso are both great megalithic structures and Roman relics.
Although the Gerês and Peneda Mountains are not as well known by visitors as the Serra da Estrela, they have the advantage of being around 62 miles from Porto, making it an ideal vacation for those who just want to visit the mountains and spend more time in nature.
There are numerous trekking alternatives and beautiful hikes around the park’s paths and itineraries ranging from a few hours to several days, from easy hikes to longer treks going through the park’s communities, housing, and dining facilities.
👉 Great Rota Peneda Geres – A well-marked route that spans the entire park, with short walks being accessible.
👉 Preguiça Trail and Cascata da Laja (circular trail of 3 miles – easy)
👉 Footpath of Sistelo (1.2-mile circular path – easy)
👉 Misarela Bridge Pathway (7 miles circular path – moderate)
👉 The 7 Lagoas Trail (7 miles circular path – moderate)
👉 Castrejo Pathway (17 km circular trail – moderate)
👉 Trail Fenda da Calcedonia (5 miles circular path – difficult)
👉 Brandas do Sistelo Pathway (5 miles circular path – difficult)
👉 Trail Miradouros dos Gerês (10.5 miles circular trail – difficult)
👉 Rota da Garganta de Loriga – Estrela Mountain Range
13. Serra da Estrela Natural Park
The Serra da Estrela Natural Park is one of Portugal’s most well-known natural attractions. After all, we’re talking about the highest peak in mainland Portugal and a winter sports destination.
True, there are certain (very) difficult high mountain paths that should only be attempted by people with greater expertise.
The good news is that Serra da Estrela has a variety of hiking paths that do not require advanced technical skills and can even be done with children.
But the route I’ve chosen to tell you about is unquestionably one of the first types. This 5.6-mile trail connects the top plateau of the Serra da Estrela to the village of Loriga through pathways primarily frequented by shepherds.
Natural surroundings are more than ensured.
The Vale Glaciar de Loriga, the Coves of Boleiro, Meio, Nave, and Areia, the Covo de Meio dam, and the Eira da Pedra are among the trail’s most iconic locations.
However, while the route might seem short for some attractions, it is extremely difficult and may be covered in snow in the winter.
As a result, unless you have extensive experience hiking in high mountains, you should avoid this path between November and April.
What to Pack for Hiking in Portugal
Even if you have years of experience, there is no assurance that you will remember every detail when packing for the best hiking trails in Portugal.
If you’ve never hiked before, your odds of forgetting something are higher. As a result, it is critical to have a checklist on hand so that you know what to bring on your hiking adventure.
Check out the list below for the main items you should arrange and pack before going on a day hike:
✅ A backpack with water and high-protein or high-energy snacks
✅ A raincoat and sneakers or hiking boots
✅ Hiking-specific socks
✅ Goggles and a hat
✅ A headlamp, sunscreen, and mosquito repellent
✅ A pocketknife and a garbage bag
✅ A small first-aid kit
A photo ID and your health insurance card are possibly the most important items to have with you everywhere you go. It is always better to be safe than sorry!
And, while you should be prepared, keep in mind that you should not carry more than 10% of your body weight.
When is the best time to go hiking in Portugal?
Those who believe that the greatest time to hike in Portugal is during the summer months are extremely wrong.
Contrary to popular belief, I feel it is the least recommended. Aside from the fact that Portugal is packed with tourists and that this is the most expensive time of year, you must remember that due to its position, Portugal is extremely hot and dry in the summer.
Although this means that it is the ideal season to see the waterfalls, lakes, and river beaches, the heat can be a challenge for those planning more challenging hikes. In addition, in hotter and drier weather, Portugal suffers from terrible forest fires which must be avoided at all costs.
When there is a fire warning, some paths are usually blocked.
Spring and fall months have warmer temperatures than winter, particularly closer to summer (June and September).
As a result, this is a fantastic time to go hiking. Furthermore, the colors of these seasons enhance the beauty of the landscapes: the vibrant flowers in spring, or the golden and red tones of the trees in the fall.
On the other hand, temperatures drop dramatically in the winter, and in certain areas, particularly in the north, ice, snow, and negative temperatures could occur.
Prices are substantially lower during this time, and there are many fewer people but if your idea is to go hiking, it might not be the best time to go.
Tips for responsible hiking in Portugal
Although many of these hikes are not very strenuous for visitors, it is always a good idea to be prepared for extended hikes.
Wear proper attire and bring a backpack with a few basics. But what else should you think of before going on one of the best hikes in Portugal?
Here are the top eight hiking recommendations you must remember.
✔ Take home whatever you brought with you. Other than footprints, leave no indications of your existence.
✔ Always walk in the trail’s designated zones. Off-trail exploration may be appealing but it is very dangerous.
✔ Inform someone of your plans. What you’re planning to do when you anticipate returning, and so forth.
✔ Check the weather prediction and prepare accordingly. It goes without saying that if heavy rain is predicted, you should avoid going to a waterfall or climbing a particularly high mountain, for example.
✔ Only camp in places designated for this purpose.
✔ When hiking, use adequate clothing and equipment. Proper footwear, hiking sticks, a wind jacket, a hat… Anything you require to make this trip more fun and safer, you should invest in it.
✔ Understand your limitations and don’t push yourself beyond your capacities and skills.
✔ Hire travel insurance. Whether you’re going on a hike or not, travel insurance is one of those things you hope you never need, but if you do, you’ll be glad you have it.