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Our seven best hikes in Portugal

Our seven best hikes in Portugal

Portugal may not have the Alps or the Andes, and it only has one national park, but this small country still has some big beautiful walks. Our blog on the best hikes in Portugal also take us to the Portuguese archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores, where the mountains and UNESCO’s Laurisilva forests on the former, and volcanic terrain on the latter are all gifts to hikers. The walks listed below are all day hikes, some spreading into two days, because when a walk is that good, we like to keep you hanging on in there for a while, so you can wake up and get more of it the next day. From striding out greats such as the Fishermen’s Trail or the Camino Portugues, to hidden pockets of Sintra-Cascais Natural Park or Serra da Estrela, which translates as Mountains of the Stars, Portugal has a backpack full of gold stars for its hiking opportunities. 

Castro Laboreiro, Peneda Gerês National Park

Castro Laboreiro is the largest village in Peneda-Gerês National Park, and gateway to some stunning trails, which is why on this walking holiday, you stay there for two nights. This gives you plenty of time to absorb the region’s rich rural culture, saunter through eucalyptus and oak forests, take on ascents through steep river valleys and cool down under myriad secret waterfalls. Located at almost 1,000m, one of the best treks is straight out of your Castro Laboreiro hotel and into a landscape of rock formations, rugged hills and ancient woodland – creating just enough dirt on those shins to justify washing them in the cool waters of the river that flows through the valley. Before continuing up to a plateau through an historic landscape that evokes storybook images of shepherding and subsistence farming. 

Distance: 13km
Hiking time: 3-4h

Our seven best hikes in Portugal Uncategorized The Natural Adventure
Castro Laboreiro is the largest village in Peneda-Gerês National Park.

Viana do Castelo to Vila Praia de Âncora, Camino Portugues

The Camino Portugues or Portuguese Way’s pilgrims have carved out two separate caminos en route to Santiago over the years, one inland (the Central Way) and the other clinging to the coast, or Coastal Way. This section between Viana do Castelo and Vila Praia de Âncora is on the Coastal Way, which is the quieter of the two. This headland hike is on day five of a 15-day camino, which is the last day before your camino takes you over the border into Spain. Start off by taking a funicular from Viana do Castelo up the eucalyptus-clad hill of Monte de Santa Luzia, where you can also visit the neo-Byzantine Temple to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Leaving town, the trail takes you along wooden footbridges and promenades across beaches and dunes before heading inland through shaded eucalyptus forests, up onto cliff tops and, finally, down to the vast white strands of Vila Praia de Âncora. Your next stop the next day on the camino may be Spain but, for now, praise be for Portugal. 

Distance: 19km
Hiking time: 4-5h

The Sacred Heart of Jesus sanctuary in Viana do Castelo, Portugal, and this is just how the day begins.

Pico La Torre to Loriga, Serra da Estrela

The Serra da Estrela is Portugal’s highest mainland mountain range and this eight day, self-guided walking holiday takes you up to some spectacular heights. One of the highlights of trekking here is Torre, the range’s highest peak at 1,993m. There are two options for taking this one on although, for the summit seekers out there, you don’t actually ascend it on foot. You walk in and around it, taking in all its greatness from various aspects. Start off by being transferred to the summit, which then gives you access to the great granite massif itself, with views across an array of wide glacial valleys. Descend through high pastures and Zézere Valley, past crystal-clear glacier lakes and forest trails to the idyllic mountain village of Loriga, a famous river bathing spot. This can get busy in summer, but as you are lucky enough to stay in Loriga for the night, you can get an early morning dip before the day-dippers arrive. 

Distance: 18km 
Hiking time: 6h

The natural pools in Loriga, in the Serra da Estrela, are worth getting up early for.

Zambujeira do Mar to Odeceixe, Fishermen’s Trail

Walking from Zambujeira do Mar to Odeceixe is one of the most spectacular sections of the Fishermen’s Trail, which is part of a larger network of trails called the Rota Vicentina. This day of walking is a celebration of the sea, starting out at the beach in the Alentejo region’s Zambujeira do Mar, then climbing back up to the cliffs, where headland after headland beckons, and empty coves tempt you below. Hang in there until you get to the clifftop village of Azenha do Mars, which you enter via the aptly named Rua dos Pescadores, or fishermen’s street. 

This is a perfect place for a seafood lunch and, when that has settled, take on the last lap of this walk. This diverts briefly inland as you follow the Seixe River into Odeceixe, the first village in the Algarve region, where another beautiful beach awaits. This one is even more special thanks to its horseshoe shape, created by the Seixe winding its way through it to the sea. You can walk this route on day one of this tour, or the last day of this tour

Distance: 18km
Hiking time: 6h

Praia Grande circular walk, Sintra-Cascais Natural Park

Walking in Sintra-Cascais Natural Park is a joy, not only because of its Serra de Sintra mountains, vineyards, pine forests and dramatic seascapes, but also because it’s only an hour’s train ride from Lisbon. After a few days of exploring the glamorous palaces and grand houses of Sintra on this walking holiday, the route takes a turn onto the GR11 Costa Atlántica. This circular walk from Praia Grande, one of the beaches outside Colares, which is at the foot of the Sintra mountains, takes in one of the park’s most famous landmarks, the Cabo de Roca, which is the westernmost point of mainland Europe although you don’t have to walk all the way to its point to get the point! However, the extra 4km are worth it. Other highlights along the way include traditional whitewashed villages such as Ulgueira and Almoçageme, the latter boasting a beachfront fish restaurant that has been keeping hungry walkers and beachcombers happy for years on the sands of Praia da Adraga. 

Distance: 13.5km plus 8km to and from Cabo de Roca. 
Hiking time: 5-6h

One heavenly headland after another, on the trail to Cabo da Roca in Sintra-Cascais Natural Park.

Island of Faial, Azores

An otherworldly archipelago of four islands, both walkers and whales seek out this Atlantic wilderness haven in packs and pods. It’s clearly a magnet for magic, and one of its most enchanting hikes is on the island of Faial, which you explore on this Azores island-hopping adventure. As you spend three days on Faial on this tour, you have plenty of time to enjoy a deep dive into – well, not literally into – the Caldeira Crater, which is 2km wide and 500m deep, with a perimeter trek that feels as if you are stepping into an Attenborough film. The Caldeira has been formed over hundreds of thousands of years by gradual subsidence of the volcano, the last eruption of which was over a thousand years ago, and covered 75% of the island in pumice stone. The caldera is a snapshot of the biodiverse beauty that has been here all that time, untouched and unreal. There was once a crater lake at the bottom but, following the last volcanic eruptions on Faial in 1958, a new peak formed at the bottom of the crater and almost completely drained the lake.

Distance: 13km
Hiking time: 3.5-4h

It’s an untouched world down in the depths of the Caldeira Crater, on the island of Faial.

Levada do Furado (PR10), Madeira

Madeira is gifted with unique walking trails throughout the island, called levadas, which are man-made irrigation channels dating back to the 16th century. They still direct water but also walkers who can follow these ambrosian arteries across the island. They all have different names and numbers, as they are part of the island’s system of waymarked hiking routes. The Pequena Rota (PR) translates as ‘small route’ and there are 23 of them in Madeira, nine of which are levadas, and they are marked by yellow and red stripes. They all have their own characteristics, but the Levada do Furado (PR10) is one of our favourites, which you can walk along on this holiday. The PR10 takes you through the Laurisilva of Madeira, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and largest surviving area of primary laurel forest in the world. The walk is 16km, with a very gradual ascent, which means it opens up views across the forests below, the island’s valleys, hills and coastline. This is a day when you’ll feel as if you’ve had your Madeira cake and eaten it. Read more in our blog, Levadas are a gift to hikers

Distance: 16km
Hiking time: 5-6h

The Levada do Furado is just one of nine luscious levadas that guide you across Madeira.

If you’re keen to explore more of Portugal’s hikes, then check out all our walking holidays in Portugal. You may also enjoy our blogs on The Fishermen’s Trail, The best time to go to Portugal and The Camino de Santiago routes