Author Mary Mc Carthy once wrote in a letter about Portugal: “Any Portuguese town looks like bride’s finery: something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” Located in the Iberian peninsula, with the Atlantic lapping over its shores, it is one of the oldest states in Europe and boasts many layers of history and a unique cultural and architectural identity. With its stunning bejeweled landscapes, it’s easy to imagine riding off into its sunsets with the sea and the mountains as backdrops for some version of a happily ever after with friends, family, significant other or alone.
Furthermore, Portugal has warm to mild climate year round, which makes it an ideal location for outdoor adventures. Some of the best adventure activities in Portugal include hiking, rock climbing, bouldering, kayaking, trail running, camping and more. They are all great choices to discover the heart-stopping Portuguese landscapes, the quaint and cozy towns, and the amazing culture and food that make this beautiful country a European favorite.
With so much to discover, it might be difficult to choose the best things to do in Portugal, which is why we have put together a list of our picks of top outdoor adventures in Portugal led by the guides at Explore-Share.com. Read on to find out more about what you can do in this stunning country and see all our guided programs in Portugal to start planning your adventure!
1. Fall in love with Madeira on a unique hike
Located to the southwest of Portugal, Madeirais an autonomous Portuguese archipelago. The main island of the archipelago is also called Madeira and has an area 741 km2. The mountain ridge that runs along the center of the island, its beautiful ravines, cliffs and laurel forest make up some of its breathtaking landscapes. The flora and fauna are also stunning. Additionally, this region of Portugal is famous for its local wine, delicious food, and unique culture and history.
With so much to offer, Madeira is the ideal spot for a hiking adventure. Whether its along its crests and cliffs, beaches, laurel forest, cultural landmarks or levadas –historic irrigation channels that serve as walking paths-it is the perfect place to discover by foot. And with a good guide, you will make sure to go to all the right corners of the island to discover its charm!
2. Take a chance on a bouldering & rock climbing adventure in the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, near Lisbon
Located on the Portuguese Riviera, the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park is one of thirteen natural parks in Portugal, and a great spot for bouldering and rock climbing. The Cabo de Roca, to the west, is famous for its amazing rocky cliff promontories of gabbro-diorite, volcanic breccia, and granite rock. Furthermore, it has the advantage of being close to Lisbon, so if you’re short on time, it’s an easy squeeze into the schedule.
The Sintra-Cascais Natural Park also features more than30 bouldering areas with different types of rocks. Bouldering allows you to practice climbing on small rock formations without harnesses or ropes. Additionally, the park also has spots to practice sports and trad climbing with routes of up to 6 pitches and more than 20 crags!
3. Wish upon the stars from the top of “Montanha do Pico” in the Azores.
The Azores is a Portuguese archipelago to the west of Portugal that is composed of nine volcanic islands. One of them is the Pico Island, where the highest mountain in Portugal, Montanha do Pico, or Mount Pico, lies at an altitude of 2,341 m.a.s.l. This island is also famous for its historical vineyards, and for its black volcanic earth. Definitely a unique place well worth visiting!
Mount Pico is actually a volcano. At its crater, it has a little peak, which is where it gets its name from. Climbing this mountain is one of the island’s top attractions. It is especially beautiful to start climbing at sunset and spend the night camping at the summit where you can watch the stars from up high and the sunrise too!
4. Skip a beat on a multi-adventure week in Peneda-Geres National Park
Located to the north of Portugal, near the Spanish border, the Peneda-Geres National Park is an awe-inspiring spot with Roman ruins, waterways and unique flora and fauna. This colorful and magical location is home to deer, wolves, and eagles, as well as to a 19th-century shrine. Once you get there, you will understand why you will want to stay for more than a few days.
Options to explore this dreamy place include canoeing, hiking, horseback riding through its woods and mountains and more. You can also try a combined program where you can practice all of these activities on different days. However you decide to enjoy the Peneda-Geres National Park, you will take back home an unforgettable memory of one of the most stunning spots in Europe!
5. Dream big on a kayaking & hiking adventure in Douro International Natural Park
To the north of Portugal, on the border between Portugal and Spain, the breathtaking Duoro International Natural Park spans along the Duoro River. Lined by cliffs, oaks, and junipers, and overflown by rupicolous birds, the landscapes in this stunning natural park are intense and dramatic.
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The best way to explore this secluded wilderness spot is both by land and water. Kayaking, hiking, and climbing are all possible in the Douro International Natural Park. On a multi-day trip, you have the chance to try a variety of activities, while you enjoy many different landscapes, as well as discover the small towns that line the river and learn about their history.
6. Feel your heart pound on a trail running tour in Madeira
Madeira is famous for its variety of colorful trails that are perfect for hiking as well as for trail running. What this sport entails is running on unpaved surfaces in the wilderness. Compared to road running, trail running reduces the impact stress and is a great way to get in touch with nature. In a place as stunning as Madeira, it is the perfect activity to explore its nooks and crannies.
Some of the landscapes you will come across on a trail running tour in Madeira include forests, volcanic paths, waterfalls, and stony ascents. It is also possible to join a multi-day adventure to explore many different terrains and get a unique feel of the island. Going with a certified guide will ensure that you run through the best trails and catch sight of Madeira’s most beautiful places!
7. Give it all on the Rota Vicentina trek in the Algarve Region
Located to the very south of Portugal, the Algarve Region is famous for its fruit, amazing seafood, and beautiful beaches. It also boasts a rich history and a coast famous for its limestone caves and grottoes. The Rota Vicentina is a network of hiking trails in the region and is the perfect way to discover this stunning shoreline.
The Rota Vicentina Trail has been certified as one of the best in Europe. It spans a distance of 450km and offers two main paths: the Historical Way and the Fishermen’s Way. On the Historical Way, you will discover the route traditionally used by local pilgrims, on the Fishermen’s Way, you will discover what the local fishing industry is like. Whichever way you choose to go, get ready for an unforgettable trekking experience with the Atlantic and idyllic sunsets on one side, and beautiful valleys, forests, rivers and towns on the other!
8. Go all the way on the Portuguese Way to Santiago de Compostela
The Portuguese Way is a famous pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. It has two possible starting points, Lisbon and Porto. If starting from Lisbon, the route is 610km to Santiago, from Porto, it is 214km. What both options have in common are the stunning landscapes on the way, as well as the unique experience of traversing the history and culture of the land.
So, how long does a trek like this take? This, of course, depends on whether you are setting off from Lisbon or Porto, on one hand, also on your walking pace, and how long you stop for. At a moderate 20-30km/day pace (which is perfectly doable), you can get from Porto to Santiago in approximately 7 to 8 days while enjoying leisurely stops on the way, both to rest and to take in the stunning sights.
Adventure activities in Portugal abound. Going with a certified local guide to visit its stunning natural parks, beaches, and towns is the best way to make the most out of your time in this heart-stopping, breathtaking location.