Last Updated on September 18, 2020 by Anisa
Portugal is an underrated destination especially when it comes to hiking. It has dramatic cliffs, a stunning coastline, and some of the best weather in Europe. A perfect combination for exploring on foot.
The question isn’t whether or not you should do a hike when you visit Portugal, but which hike you should do. Let’s take a look at some of the best hikes in Portugal as recommended by my fellow travel bloggers. There are plenty of options to choose from including hikes for all fitness levels.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. Please see disclosure for more information.
The 13 best hikes in Portugal
You can find amazing hiking trails all over the country so it’s easy to fit one in your Portugal road trip itinerary. Most will take a few hours but there are some that require a day or more. The effort will all be worth it! When you have finished your hike, you can sit down and relax with a glass of port.
This table provides an overview of the Portugal hiking trails covered in this post.
|Ponta de São Lourenço||Moderate||8 km||Madeira|
|Levada do Rei||Easy||10 km||Madeira|
|Levada do Risco||Easy||7 km||Madeira|
|Pico de Ruivo||Moderate||5 km||Madeira|
|Seven Hanging Valleys||Easy||12 km||Algarve|
|Monte de Foia||Easy||16 km||Algarve|
|Fisherman’s Trail||Moderate||76 km||Southern Portugal|
|Costa da Caparica||Easy||18 km (flexible)||Central Portugal|
|Cascais to Guincho Beach||Easy||10 km||Central Portugal|
|Sintra Palaces and Monument Loop||Moderate||5.2 km||Central Portugal|
|Trilho dos Currais in Geres National Park||Challenging||10 km||Northern Portugal|
|Paiva Walkways||Moderate - Challenging||8.7 km||Northern Portugal|
|Ecovia do Vez (Sistelo village to Vilela)||Easy||9.8 km||Northern Portugal|
Best Hikes in Madeira
Madeira is an archipelago in the North Atlantic Ocean just under 400 km to the north of the Canary Islands and 520 km west of Morocco. While it is an autonomous region of Portugal with its own government, there are requirements to maintain democratic principles, promote regional interests, and retain a national connection.
The island of Madeira lies on the top of a shield volcano that rises about 6 km from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean on the Tore underwater mountain range which has created some striking landscapes. While the terrain may look rough, not all hikes in Madeira are difficult.
Ponta de São Lourenço
Recommended by Marco from Travel Boo
The stunning island of Madeira, located a short two hours by air from mainland Portugal, is known for its incredible natural beauty and dramatic scenery. As such, we were excited to spend two weeks on the island, exploring the various walks, viewpoints, and beaches on offer.
Undoubtedly our all-time favorite hike was the Ponta de São Lourenço hike, set on the most easterly tip of the island and a 30-minute drive from the capital, Funchal. We found the roughly 8 km circular hike to be fairly moderate and absolutely breathtaking as you look out over the rugged cliff edges and out into the Atlantic.
We did opt to go early in the morning and upon arriving around 8 am, we were the only hikers there. Upon our return from the eastern tip by midday the hike was noticeably busier, so it is best to head out early.
It is also worth noting that there are no trees on this walk and you will have full sun exposure on sunny days. Be sure to pack enough sunscreen, a hat, and take lots of water too. Serious hikers could probably complete the walk in under 3 hours, but because we stopped regularly to admire the gorgeous views, it took us around 4 – 5 hours in total. If you’re visiting Madeira make sure to add this unforgettable hike to your list of top things to do on the island!
Levada do Rei
Recommended by Roshni from The Wanderlust Within
The best way to explore the small Portuguese island of Madeira is by hiking the unique Levada trails. These trails date back to the 16th century and are a complex network of man-made water channels used to irrigate the mountain slopes. The levadas carried water across the island which in turn fed the banana groves, vineyards, and tropical gardens.
Now the levadas are used as hiking trails, especially for those who want to get off the beaten track. One of the best levada trails is Levada do Rei (PR 18), an easy hike through one of the world’s best-preserved Laurissilva forests, a UNESCO World Nature Heritage site. The 10km round trip takes around 3 and a half hours and transports you from the trailhead (ETAR de São Jorge) to a remote waterfall, Ribeiro Bonito.
The hike follows a path along the waterway through Jurassic Park-like scenery, and at one point you even have to walk THROUGH a waterfall to continue the trek! For this reason, it is advised to wear waterproof gear and a backpack cover if possible.
Levada do Risco
Recommended by Sinead from Map Made Memories
Madeira is famous for its levadas and for the 1,350 miles of hiking trails that run alongside them. The Levada do Risco is a fantastic hike offering a variety of scenery and terrain and is suitable for all ages and abilities, particularly if you are visiting Madeira with kids. The linear, 7 km round trip hike is technically easy and takes around 2-3 hours.
Hikers must follow the road signs from nearby Calheta to reach the starting point of the trail. The hike begins through an aromatic Eucalyptus forest before emerging onto an open hillside path lined with wild Agapanthus in Spring.
The path then enters a 1 km long tunnel – don’t forget to pack a flashlight! The pitch-black tunnel is head-height with uneven ground beneath and emerges into a dense, shaded forest path. From here, hikers follow a narrow levada, joining another path that starts from Rabacal, to reach the Risco waterfall.
The first sight of this waterfall, plunging over a sheer cliff nestled amongst the forest is like surveying a scene from the Jurassic era. Hikers can get close to the falls to feel its thundering power before returning via the same route or enjoying a further 2km detour to visit the 25 Fontes Levada.
Pico de Ruivo
Recommended by Elisa from World in Paris
The island of Madeira is a great place for hiking in Portugal thanks to its many volcanoes, caldeiras, and beautiful walks by the levadas.
Pico Ruivo is the highest peak on the island (1861m) and it is located near the pretty village of Santana. To walk up Pico Ruivo there’s a beautiful 2.35 km hike (one way) starting at Achada do Teixeira (1589m). The hike has vertical gains and drops of +300m, and it is considered easy-moderate as long as you are fit and used to walking.
Although this is a day hike that can be done in 5 hours, the sunset and sunrise from Pico Ruivo are very beautiful to see so it is recommended to spend the night on the top. If you wish to do this, it is necessary to carry all the equipment to eat and sleep because there’s nothing on the top apart from a small shelter.
After the sunrise, be sure to explore the surrounding caldeiras before going back to the village.
To reach the starting point of the hike you can take a taxi from Santana and then arrange the pick up the day after.
Best Hikes in the Algarve and Southern Portugal
The Algarve may be my favorite area in Portugal (of those that I have visited so far). The coastline is breathtaking with so many pristine beaches and there is so much to do! In addition to hiking, be sure to also take a boat tour to see some of the natural caves. We also enjoyed a wine tasting tour.
If you would like to stay in the area, check out the Holiday Inn Algarve in Armação de Pêra.
Seven Hanging Valleys Hike
Recommended by Anisa
This hike gets its name from the hanging valleys that you will pass along the way. A hanging valley is formed by glaciation, leading to a river that is above the floor of another valley (or coastline). This creates the appearance of a valley left hanging halfway up a cliff.
The Seven Hanging Valleys hike goes along the coast from Praia do Marinha to Praia de Vale Centeanes. It’s a distance of about 6 km making it 12 km roundtrip. For the most part, the hike is not too difficult (which is why many people just refer to it as a walk) although there are a few short sections that are steep or have some stairs. I did the hike in tennis shoes, so don’t worry about any special equipment. The views are definitely worth it though.
If you want to do this hike, you can park by the trailhead at Marinha Beach for free. There are lots of points to stop and enjoy the scenery or relax at the beach so allow a full day if possible. The walk also passes through Benagil where you can take a break for a tour to see the famous caves.
Monte de Foia
Recommended by Izzy from the Gap Decaders
Hiking to Monte de Foia in the unspoiled Serra Monchique will reward you with amazing views of the Algarve coast but without the crowds. It’s a must-do if you’re touring Portugal and love hiking. This easy, 16km hike with an elevation gain of 470m will take around 4-5 hours to complete.
From Monchique, look for signage to Foia on the via Algarviana (Algarve hiking route) from the main square. The route will take you through the town and up a clearly marked trail, the first part of which is a dirt road and so easy underfoot.
Once you reach the summit at 902m, you’ll find a variety of services including bathrooms. It’s not the prettiest summit, with lots of pylons and an ugly building, but on a clear day, the views are stupendous. From the summit, you can hike back down using the same route, or venture off the beaten path using an app like View Ranger to pick out one of the many paths.
The surrounding countryside is thick with eucalyptus and scrub, interspersed with enormous boulders that seem to have fallen out of the sky and you’ll find lots of viewpoints along the way. From the summit, the via Algarviana heads on to the pretty whitewashed village of Marmalete, the next stop on this pan-Portugal route.
Recommended by Campbell & Alya from Stingy Nomads
The Fisherman’s Trail of the Rota Vicentina in the Alentejo is one of the most scenic hiking routes we’ve ever done. This stunning 76-kilometer trail takes hikers 4 days to complete. It starts in Porto Covo, a small beach town 176 km from Lisbon, and finishes in Odeceixe. It’s easy to get to the trailhead by public buses from Sete Rios Bus Station in Lisbon.
The trail follows the stunning coastline of Southern Portugal for the entire 76 km. The scenery along the route is truly amazing; rugged cliffs, unspoiled sandy beaches, dramatic drops, charming fishermen’s villages, hidden caves, and breathtaking lookouts.
The trail is easy to moderate and doesn’t require any experience or a good level of fitness. The average daily walking distance is 20 km. Expect a lot of walking over sand dunes on the first day.
Spring months are the best and the most beautiful time for hiking the Fisherman’s Trail. The weather is pleasant for hiking, it’s warm and sunny but not too hot like in summer. Between April and May, the fields along the coast are covered in wildflowers, and the rocky cliffs host hundreds of storks that come here every year for nesting.
Best Hikes in Central Portugal
Central Portugal includes the area around the country’s capital, Lisbon. You can spend a few days exploring Lisbon and some of its eclectic neighborhoods like Belem and take day trips to do these hikes. Alternatively, if you want to spend your time in some of the smaller cities, you can do that too.
Costa da Caparica
Recommended by Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan
Costa da Caparica is a long stretch of pristine sandy beach backed by eroding red cliffs. It’s popular with locals but pretty unknown among foreign visitors. A great way to see this spectacular landscape from two different angles is by hiking along the top of the cliffs in one direction and then climbing down and walking along the beach on the way back.
The starting point for this hike is the forest right behind a small beach town called Fonte da Telha. To get here from Lisbon, take the ferry from the Cais do Sodré terminal to Cacilhas, and from there take the No. 127 bus to Fonte da Telha.
The distance and time to complete the hike are flexible, as you can turn around at any point where you’re able to scramble down the cliffs to the beach. It’s not a particularly difficult walk, although wayfinding on top of the cliffs is sometimes tricky. Be sure to bring plenty of water and some snacks. At the end of your hike, you can fuel up at Bambu, a beach restaurant in Fonte da Telha that even offers veggie burgers that rival those served in the best vegan restaurants in Lisbon.
Cascais to Guincho Beach Hike
Recommended by Ellie from Soul Travel Blog
During our latest trip to Portugal, we fell in love with the riviera seaside town of Cascais, just 1 hour north of Lisbon and easy to reach by train or car. The Portuguese Royal family has been vacationing here for over a hundred years, but before that Cascais was a simple fishing village. It’s still where most of the fish for Lisbon and the surrounding area comes from each day. Meaning your guaranteed great seafood.
One of the highlights of our time in Cascais was the coastal road from Cascais to Guincho beach. 10km to the north from Cascais is the wide-sweeping Guincho beach – popular with surfers and adventure sports enthusiasts – where you’ll feel the true power of the waves along the Estoril Coast.
The coastal road has plenty of space for walking alongside it, and if you get fed up with the walk, you can simply hop on a bus or take a bus for the return journey. The coastal road takes you past the Boca D’inferno and the Cabo Raso lighthouse.
To find the start of the trail from Cascais town, head towards Santa Marta lighthouse, and continue along the coast road. We stopped for lunch in the town of Guia for lunch for more amazing seafood. The road is flat and the hiking time to Praia do Guincho is between 2-2.5 hours one way. Another option is to rent a bike to do this trip as there’s a great cycle path that runs alongside the road too.
Sintra Palaces and Monuments Loop
Recommended by Anisa
You need to make time for at least a day trip to Sintra when you visit Lisbon if you enjoy visiting castles (who doesn’t?). If you like hiking, you can walk to the different attractions rather than take the crowded tourist bus.
From the Sintra train staion, it’s a short walk to the Church of São Martinho where this trail starts. Then you will head to the lavish mansion and gardens of Quinta da Regaleira. The next stop, after an uphill stroll through woodland, is the magical Pena Palace, which is famous for its bold colors.
Finally, it’s time to head back down. Be sure to stop off at the Castelo dos Mouros (Moorish Castle), before returning to the historical town center. If you have any energy left, take some time to explore the area and maybe even visit the National Palace of Sintra before heading back to Lisbon.
While this hike is not long (5.2 km), it’s best to allocate a full day if you want to stop and see the attractions along the way. Realistically, you should probably prioritize your top two, otherwise it could be a very long day. Get more details for this hike here.
Best Hikes in Northern Portugal
These hikes cover the area around the city of Porto to the country’s northern border. While I did spend time in Porto (which is definitely worth visiting), we didn’t get to explore the rural areas to the north. It is on the list for my next trip!
Trilho dos Currais in Geres National Park
Recommended by Alexandrina from Earthosea
Peneda-Gerês National Park is the only national park in Portugal and is known for its beautiful lush pine forest. If you are an avid hiker, the park as it offers more than 20 unique hiking trails. Most of the trails require lots of climbing, which makes most of them quite challenging.
One of the most famous hiking trails in the Gerês park is the Trilho dos Currais, which leads to the top of the mountain and overlooks the village of the same name. The trail starts at the camping of the Vidoeiro village and climbs up to a road surrounded by huge pine trees. It’s 10 km long and takes about 4-5 hours to complete.
You should grab a map and follow the signs and the marker on the trail. Be sure to wear sunscreen, as the sun is quite harsh. Bring plenty of water, food, and additional clothing, as you might want to change after you are done. Eventually, after climbing to the top of the hiking trail you will enjoy a couple of viewpoints of the whole national park.
The endpoint of this hike is the Miradouro da Pedra Bela, which is another spot to take in the beautiful landscape. If you have the time, you can hike to Cascata do Arado, which will take you to a very beautiful waterfall. You can simply follow the signs and after an hour you will be there.
Going down the Trilho dos Currais trail is a bit easier, compared to the climbing and in less than an hour, you can be back in the city. At the end of the trail you will end up at the Termas do Gerês, which is a very nice spa complex with pools and hot springs. The perfect way to relax after a long and sweaty hike.
Recommended by Ruma from The Holiday Story
The Paiva Walkways are an 8.7km long wooden path situated in a private sanctuary on the bank of the Paiva River. It’s a unique experience where you get spectacular views, a suspension bridge, waterfalls, river beaches, and maybe even some rare European species.
You have the option to start hiking from either Areinho or Espinaca. The easier alternative is to start hiking from Areinho, which will take about 2 hours 30 minutes. Taxis are available at the end of the walkway to take you back to Areinho for about 14€.
If you are up for a bigger challenge, start from Espinaca. Depending on your fitness level, it could take 3-5 hours to get to Areinho. Then depending on your energy level you could hike or take a taxi to get back to Espinaca.
You need to wear proper footwear and attire for this hike and bring along some food, water, and sun protection. There are bathrooms and beach areas at each end of the walkways and at the mid-way point.
It’s best to drive to the Paiva Walkways as the public transportation options are lacking. The closest big city is Porto which is a little more than an hour away. If you don’t have a car or prefer not to drive, it might be best to join an organized tour like this one. Alternatively, you could take a taxi.
Be sure to get your ticket for the Paiva Walkways in advance as they limit the number of people each day. It costs €2 per person (under 10 years old is free) to hike, but parking is free. Hours vary depending on the season, so check here. Unfortunately, the Paiva Walkways are not suitable for people with reduced mobility.
Ecovia do Vez
Recommended by Jorge from Portugal Things
Ecovia do Vez is a linear trail of 32 km, that starts or ends in Sistelo village. Don’t worry, you don’t need to do the 32 km, it is divided into three stages. If you don’t have time or legs we recommend just walking the stage from Sistelo village to Vilela, which is only 9.8 km but it includes the Sistelo walkways sections.
Sistelo walkways are one of the best walkways in the country, we think they are even more beautiful than the Paiva walkways, and those are stunning. The trail is very easy to do and family-friendly, it will take you 2 or 3 hours until Vilela. Though, if you want to do the whole trail you will need the whole day.
The trail is simply breathtaking, as you will follow the pristine Vez River and the luxurious green forest. Though, one of the most satisfying parts of the trail is the Village of Sistelo, known as the Portuguese Tibet. The village is famous for its characteristic terraces, that dominate the scenery. Along the trail, you will have several opportunities to admire the view of the terraces in the mountains.
If you plan on doing the Ecovia do Vez, it’s best to drive. It is located about an hour and a half north of the city Porto. You might also enjoy this Sistelo Hiking Trail tour.
What to Pack for Hiking in Portugal
Anytime you are hiking, it’s smart to be prepared. If you plan on hiking in Portugal, I recommend that you bring along:
- Sun protection including sunglasses, sunscreen (this one is sweat-resistant), and possibly a hat. These are a must, especially for coastal hikes.
- Proper footwear. This will vary depending on the intensity of the hike that you choose to do.
- Reuseable water bottle. It’s important to stay hydrated and be environmentally responsible. If you plan on doing one of the longer hikes, you might want to consider getting one of these hydration packs from CamelBak.
- Snacks. It is always a good idea to have a few snacks with you just in case you get hungry. I like to bring a few granola bars or some trail mix.
- Some hikes in Portugal pass by some enticing beaches, so you might want to bring along a swimsuit and towel too.
- Something to take pictures with! These days a phone will work fine. If you are going on a hike where there might be a lot of water, a GoPro is a fun waterproof option.
When is the best time to go hiking in Portugal?
For the most part, you can go hiking year-round in Portugal. The best time is going to depend on the part of Portugal where you plan on hiking.
In the southern parts of the country, the heat in the summer months can be brutal. If you do want to go hiking in Portugal in the summer, it’s best to try to beat the heat and do your hike early in the morning.
Most areas have a relatively mild winter. We did our hike in the Algarve in January and we couldn’t have asked for better weather. You won’t have to worry about snow except for some of the mountains in Northern Portugal.
More Hikes in Europe
If you enjoy hiking, you might also be interested in some of our other posts about hikes in Europe:
- The Best Hikes in Switzerland
- Old Man of Storr Hike in Isle of Skye, Scotland
- Monte Urgull in San Sebastian, Spain
The Best Places to Hike in Portugal
As you can see there are fabulous hiking trails scattered all around Portugal. No matter which part of the country you plan on visiting, there is a hike waiting for you!
Have you done any hiking in Portugal?
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