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Visiting Berlenga Grande Island in Portugal
If you are looking for a wonderful place to visit during your trip to Portugal, you have come to the right post..!
Berlenga Grande Island is one of the places that are most worth visiting in Portugal.
The island is located 10 km from the shores of the city Peniche ,which is between the cities Lisbon and Porto.
A short ferry ride will bring you to a magical island that is hardly inhabited by people but full of clear blue water.
A visit to the island is suitable even for a half-day/full-day visit, so it is definitely worth including it in your itinerary in Portugal.
In this post I will write all the details you need to know in order to get to Berlenga Grande Island, what to do there, where to eat on the island and which places are worth visiting.
About Berlanga Grande Island
The Berlengas Islands is an archipelago that belongs to Portugal and has about 3 small islands in the Atlantic Ocean.
Berlenga Grande is the largest island among them and the only island that allows visitors to enter.
The islands are considered a natural reserve and their territory consists mostly of granite rocks.
Entry to the other islands is only possible if you come to explore the area as a scientist.
Berlenga Grande island is uninhabited, except for a handful of locals and visitors who stay there overnight.
Since 2011, the place has been considered a nature reserve by UNESCO.
How do you get to Berlenga Grande Island?
The only way to get to the island is by ferry from the city of Peniche.
Peniche is a small city on the coast of Portugal, located about an hour and a half drive from Lisbon or about two and a half hours from Porto.
Peniche is known as THE place for surfers, but even if you're not a surfer and around the area, it's worth stopping by to visit the island.
When you arrive to Peniche you need to go to the marina area, Marina de Peniche, the place where the cruises to the island depart.
There is a regular ferry that goes to and from the island every day, from which you can purchase the ferry ticket only, but there are also tours to the island that include certain activities as part of the cruise.
How do you book tickets for a cruise to Berlenga Grande Island?
If you are only interested in a round trip to the island (meaning no additional tours), you can go with the Viamar Berlenga ferry located in Peniche's marina.
(You can write Viamar Berlenga on Google Maps and it will show you the exact location of the ferry).
The cost of the cruise as of July 2023 is about 17 euros for a round trip ticket.
The tickets can be ordered online in advance (preferably, especially during peak season) at the following link, or at the docks of the marina (there are signs everywhere so don't worry).
The departure and return times of the ferry are fixed, but sometimes the exact time changes depending on the different months.
The ferry leaves every day, once in the morning during one of these times - 10:00/11:00/12:00, and returns at 16:00/17:00/18:00.
(The exact time may change depending on the season, so you have to pay attention to when the ferry leaves, while ordering your ticket).
The duration of the ride is about 45 minutes, and you should arrive at least fifteen minutes before the ferry leaves with the tickets ready for presentation.
Things to do on Berlenga Grande Island
Visit Saint John Fortress
One of the iconic symbols of the island is undoubtedly the Fortress of St. John the Baptist.
The fortress can be reached by boat with one of the tours, or by a short 45 minutes (if you walk really slow) hike from the ferry's drop-off point.
Inside the fortress there is not much to do except stop there for a little rest, eat something in the food stand inside, or go up to the roof and look at the view from above.
Resting and swimming at the beach
On Berlenga Grande Island, close to the ferry's drop-off point, you can find a small but very cute beach where you can rest, sunbathe or wade in the cool water.
The water is beautifully clear and you can even try snorkeling around the beach.
Berlenga Island offers a variety of tours, and one of the most popular ones is the recommended cave tour.
The tour departs from the island's small marina on small boats with a transparent floor so you can watch the fish swimming below.
The duration of the tour is about half an hour at most, during which you will pass through the various caves around the island.
When we took this tour, the guide offered to drop us off at the fortress before heading back to the marina, which saved us some walking.
In my opinion, the tour is really worth it, and the colors of the caves are going to surprise you.
It is not necessary to book the tour in advance and you can join one of the groups that go on a tour while you're on the island.
Diving and snorkeling
I didn't get to dive on the island itself but we did snorkel around.
We received snorkeling equipment from a friend in Peniche, but you can also book a snorkel and cave tour and they will provide you with the necessary equipment.
These tours usually include the sailing from Penish to the island and back, a passage between the surrounding caves and a stop for a snorkel.
I recommend getting or asking about a diving suit because the water is very cold..!
Another nice option you can do on the island is to go on an organized kayak cruise and explore the area from the sea.
Small boat rental and independent wandering around the island
To be honest, this seemed to me like the coolest option to do on the island, and you should find out about it.
We saw quite a few couples or groups of people there who just sailed with a small boat independently.
You should find out when you get to the island or even in advance where you can rent a boat.
This way allows you to explore the surrounding caves on your own and at your own pace, stop to snorkel wherever you want and simply enjoy the surrounding nature.
A visit to the lighthouse
On the way to the fortress you can stop at the Duque de Bragança Lighthouse located at the top of the hill.
When we passed there the entrance was closed. I don't know if it's always closed or if we missed the opportunity, but you can still see the lighthouse from the outside.
To book a full tour that departs from Lisbon to the island and includes transportation to Peniche, a cruise to the island and back, a cave tour, snorkels (including equipment) and a visit to the fortress, click here >>
Traveling Portugal soon? Don't forget to get travel insurance
Where to eat on Berlenga Grande Island?
There is only one restaurant in Berlenga, which does not offer too many options to eat in the area.
The active restaurant on the island as of July 2023 is Ocean and Sun Restaurant, about which opinions are divided among visitors, but you are definitely welcome to try it yourself.
Another place where you can eat something small and sit with a beer is the Restaurante de São João Baptista , which is located right inside the fort.
In addition there is another small place that offers coffee and cold drinks and beers called O Castelinho.
Since there is no spectacular offer on the island, it is advisable to come equipped with food for the day.
I highly recommend stopping in Peniche after visiting the island, walking around their restaurant area which is right next to the marina and choosing a nice restaurant to end a fascinating day on the island.
Where do you sleep on Berlenga Grande Island?
There aren't that many accommodation options on the island itself, but if you still want to spend a night there and have your own (nearly) private island, there are the following options:
Berlenga Bed & Breakfast
The only hotel on the island that also provides a place to open a tent facing the open view of the surrounding sea.
It is advisable to book accommodation in advance because the place is not big and the rooms are occupied relatively quickly (especially during the tourist season).
Breakfast is included in the price.
The most amazing thing about staying on the island, is that after the afternoon ferry leaves the island, and with it all the visitors, you have a whole island to yourself until the next morning :)
Fort S. João Baptista
A small hostel is hidden inside the Saint John fort, allowing you to have a completely different accommodation experience on the island.
The only way I found to book a room in the hostel is by contacting them directly by phone or email.
Let me know how it was if you managed to get a place :)
Accommodations in Peniche
If you arrive in Berlenga and cannot find a place to stay on the island itself, there are also good accommodation options in the city of Peniche.
You can spend the night before or after visiting the island in the city of Peniche, which is considered one of the cutest cities with the scent of fish that Portugal has to offer :)
Sea Garden, Residencia
A cute and recommended hotel in the center of Peniche, located right in the main area of the city, walking distance from the marina.
Breakfast is included in the price, clean rooms and at a really, really good price..!
Saudade Peniche Apartment
A complete apartment in the center of Peniche, within walking distance of everything you need, an excellent option for those who want complete privacy and at a price worth every penny.
The apartment includes a bedroom, a kitchen, a place for a barbecue, and even a bicycle.
Another good option for a whole apartment in the city.
Suitable for up to 4 people, fully equipped kitchen, walking distance from the sea.
What should you take on a day trip to Berlenga Grande Island?
In general, I highly recommend arriving without too much equipment if you visit the island, mainly because there is really nowhere to store the equipment if you want to travel on foot.
However, we did take a lot of equipment with us simply because we wanted to travel there independently.
I will mention here some of the things you can consider bringing with you depending on the desired activities:
Regardless of what you do - sunscreen is something you should take with you.
The truth is that anything that can protect you from the sun is good. We also brought a beach umbrella with us, which provided us with shade when we rested there.
If you want to go independent snorkeling, you should get equipment for that. But as I mentioned before - you can also go on a snorkeling tour of the island and save on carrying the equipment.
From a bathing suit or wetsuit to a towel, you should bring with you the necessary equipment for an ideal rest on the beach.
Light walking shoes
You don't need anything crazy, it's just that if you want to do walks around the island or to the fort, it's a bit embarrassing to walk in flip flops.
It is very useful to stock up on sandwiches and fruit, and maybe something sweet on the side for a whole day of stay on the island.
I did not find a place to fill with drinking water, so I recommend bringing a full water bottle for each person.
The temperatures on the island can be relatively high in the summer and there is really no shade around so you should have enough water for a whole day.
Berlenga Grande Island is definitely a place worth visiting during your trip to Portugal.
If you have more questions about the island, feel free to write in the comments and I'll be happy to answer.
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