The stunning European country of Portugal is appealing to quite a lot of people, whether you’re looking to explore the big cities, lounge on the beach, hike for ages or sample every local wine they have to offer. And the country is particularly popular with hikers, due to the sheer amount of magnificent trails worth exploring.
From quick palace loops to some of the best long distance trails on the continent – here are the best hikes in Portugal!
Bring sunscreen! You’ll be exposed to a lot of sun when hiking in Portugal, and unless you want to deal with sunburns or sun damage, a high SPF sunscreen is a must.
Don’t stray off the marked hiking trails – although this is normally a given, a lot of times when you’re hiking through forests and meadows, you can go off an explore vast areas. But this will rarely happen in Portugal, especially when you’re doing those coastal hikes on high cliffs. Additionally, staying on the marked path will ensure you’re not endangering the surrounding ecosystem, and will help you hike through this magnificent country responsibly.
We’ve included hiking trails that are on Portugal’s most popular islands like Madeira and the Azores islands. If you aren’t staying in mainland Portugal, you should definitely think about renting a car. Public transportation is seriously lacking on the islands, and driving places is one of very few options you have of getting around the islands.
Long distance hiking is very popular in Portugal – there are over 90 different long-distance trails that you could attempt to hike. Because of that, they are all usually named just GR (Grande Rota) follower by a number or a letter that indicates the exact trail. So, don’t be surprised to see many GRs in the rest of the guide, since they really are the best this wonderful country has to offer!
The GRZ is one of Portugal’s best known and most popular long distance hikes. The 370-kilometer hiking trail passes through 13 different municipalities, and it usually divided into 12 or 13 stages. A fun fact about the GRZ is that it can be experienced several different ways – hiking it is just one of the options. You could also do the trail by mountain biking and even canoeing!
Also, the trail is intermodal, meaning that you could constantly switch means of transport while doing the different stages. If you’re brave (and experienced) enough to do the trail alternating between hiking, canoeing and mountain biking, you’re in for one of the best adventures you could hope for!
This spectacular trail will wow you with the Zêzere River Valley, which happens to be one of the most environmentally diverse areas in Portugal. And you will see all of Portugal’s most famous spots along the way – the Estrela mountain, river Tagus, Castelo de Bode and the Aldeias do Xisto. The GRZ is constantly alternating between wonderful nature with diverse fauna and spectacular man-made structures, so by the time you reach its end you will be equally familiar with both Portugal’s nature and historic sites.
The GR22 is a long distance loop trail that’s recently gotten the certificate of excellence from the European Ramblers’ Association. The 550-kilometer trail is very challenging, but rewarding enough that you will enjoy every second of the wild adventure it poses.
This hiking trail is normally split into 12 sections, and each of those starts and finishes in one of the 12 historic villages. The stages actually follow ancestral trails and they really allow you to explore Portugal’s history. From stunning nature to magnificent castles and spectacular viewpoints – the GR22 leaves very little to be desired. You will walk through some of Portugal’s most beautiful nature parks, as well as several UNESCO World Heritage sites.
However, bear in mind that the days on the trail will be excruciatingly long. If you cover 25 kilometers every single day, it will still take you about 22 days to complete the entire loop – be prepared and make sure you are fit enough to embark upon this adventure. Because the GR22 is only suitable for people who are extremely fit, it’s rated as a very difficult trail – the path itself is not that technically demanding.
There are lots of refreshment stops along the way as well as places where you can spend the night, but you should still make sure you have lots of water. You’re hiking under the Portuguese sun for 8-10 hours every day – staying properly hydrated is as important as applying ample sunscreen.
If you’re not really into the long-distance trails, then you will love this one. The Seven Handing Valleys hike is an easy trail on the Algarve coast. It takes about 6 hours to reach the end of the trail and go back to the beginning, and the trail is suitable for everyone, including beginners. The only requirement is that you are able to walk for six hours.
The total elevation gain is just some 165 meters, which gives you a good idea on just how easy this trail is. And it’s just as rewarding as some of those Grande Rotas – with natural pools, arches, spectacular beaches and Portugal’s most famous cave (Benagil Cave), the beauty of the nature will just continue to wow you with every step.
The trail begins in Carvoeiro and stretches all the way to the Marina beach. All the while you’re walking on the cliffs above, so be sure to bring ample water, sunscreen and to remember to stop every now and then to take in the breathtaking scenery.
The Fishermen’s Trail is one of many different Rota Vicentina hikes you can do. The area boasts a total of 750 kilometers of hiking trails, and this route is only a little over 200 kilometers long, so it’s just a small slice of what the region has to offer.
Condé Nest Traveler actually rated this trail as one of the best coastal hikes in the entire world – if you’ve never done a long distance hike before but are fit enough to try one, this is the perfect opportunity.
This trail is always done by the sea, with lots of sandy terrain to cover and because of that it is rated as a moderately difficult trail. It’s important to note that it’s crucial you always stick to the marked path because of how sensitive the ecosystem here. No vehicles are allowed on the sandy dunes, and not even trail running is allowed. On top of that, you will have to look for accommodation along the way, since camping out in the wilderness is not allowed either.
Also, there are quite a few variants of the Fishermen’s trail that are much shorter than the one we have in mind here, so be sure to explore other options if 200 kilometres is a bit much for you. The particular route we have in mind is the exact one recommend by relevant authorities in Portugal, which begins in S. Torpes and takes you all the way to the beautiful city of Lagos.
One thing worth noting is that a lot of the shorter versions of the hike go only to Odeceixe (which is only halfway) and then take a bus to Lagos.
Ponta de São Lourenço is a fairly easy loop on Portugal’s Madeira island. It’s only possible to do the hike in summer months, since during winter the area is overgrown with moss and not walkable
You can enjoy some spectacular vistas along the trail, as well as unique flora and fauna, and some interesting rock formations. One part of the trail even goes by the sea – feel free to stop for a swim, especially if it’s a really hot day on the island.
This loop trail starts near a large lot in Madeira Natural Park and it takes you all the way to the far eastern point of the island. The majority of the trail is very easy and suitable even for the beginners – the very end is the steepest part. But you’re just climbing up stairs and if you put your mind to it there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to climb to the end of the trail. Especially if you use the stunning views from the top as the motivation to make it to the end!
If you’re by any chance staying in the Azores Islands, you have a unique opportunity to climb Portugal’s highest peak – Mount Pico. Even though it’s a rather short trail, it tends to be difficult to follow because there’s cold lava everywhere. It is recommended that you bring walking poles if you want to make the climb a bit easier.
Other than that, no technical equipment is really required – all you need are good hiking shoes and breathable clothes and you’re set. Obviously bring lots of food and water since there’s nowhere to stop for refreshments, and it’s not a bad idea to also bring a waterproof jacket and backpack cover, since there’s always a possibility of rain.
Mount Pico is 2351 meters tall, which makes it the tallest peak of all Portugal. It is also the third largest volcano in the Atlantic Ocean and climbing it is without a doubt a unique experience. For the best experience possible, we’d recommend doing a guided hike with atiPico, since they won’t let you miss anything worth seeing on the mountain.
The many mountains of Portugal’s Madeira island are like a playground for hikers. And this hike will take you to the island’s three tallest peaks in one go – Pico do Arieiro, Pico das Torres and Pico Ruivo. Because of the big elevation difference and the fact that you are basically climbing three different summits, this out and back trail is rated as hard and suitable only for skilled hikers with good physical fitness.
The trail begins near Arieiro peak – the good news is that there’s actually a road that takes you to this summit, as well as a parking lot where you can leave the car. A gift shop and a cafe are also on the site, allowing you to stock up on any necessities you might have forgotten. From there, you can begin hiking towards Pico das Torres – it’s about halfway along the trail, and along the way you get to enjoy some truly wonderful landscapes and wild flowers.
Pico Ruivo is Madeira’s tallest peak, and it’s the final point of the hike. There’s actually a restaurant at the top, which is quite cool – it allows you to take a breather and regain some energy, before you start going back to the parking lot near Pico do Arieiro.
Sintra Palace is the best preserved medieval palace in Portugal and it’s absolutely stunning. Close to it there’s also the Pena Palace that’s actually within the Pena Park, as well as Castelo dos Mouros – a hilltop fortress hat offers spectacular scenic views. The loop around the Pena park covers all three of the palaces, guaranteeing a fun day filled with panoramic vistas and new experiences.
The trail begins in the town of Sintra and the first stop on the way is the Sintra Palace. It doesn’t take too long to explore the palace, so we’d definitely recommend going inside and checking it out. From there, you will walk for a while around the park – consider heading to Cruz Alta first, before you stop by the Pena Palace. The hilltop monument offers spectacular palace views, and it’s worth a detour.
But even before you reach the High Cross, there are a couple other detours you can take – the Valley of the Lakes is worth a visit, as is the Chalet of the Countess of Edla that boasts a spectacular garden. Then hit the National Palace of Pena for more awesome views and then it’s a walk along the walls of the Moorish castle, after which you can slowly head back to Sintra.
At the very beginning of this hike you’re faced with a rather steep climb over some rocks and wooden stairs. But from there on, it’s just easy hiking – that’s why we recommend that you hike to Ponta Delgada and not use it as a starting point, although a lot of other guides suggest doing it vice versa. Having a steep descent at the very end of your hike is not enjoyable, and if the rocks are wet it could just ruin your day.
You will get to see a lot of different endemic flowers and trees along the way, as well as spectacular ocean views on your left. The trail practically hugs the ocean and when the weather is clear the views just get better and better. We wouldn’t recommend doing this trail if it’s rainy outside – the rocks are pretty difficult to climb, and parts of the trail can be really slippery. Plus, you don’t get any good views if it’s raining, so it’s not really worth it.
Near the end of the trail you will reach the Albernaz Lighthouse, which is another detour worth taking. In fact, unless you’re really set on seeing Ponta Delgada, you could even end your hike here since it’s just walking on the road to the end of the trail. Especially if you have the option of a car picking you up to take you home.
Central Portuguese Way is one of the most popular long distance hikes in the country. It’s actually a pilgrim path, and nearly 20% of all pilgrims walk the Portuguese Camino. That’s one reason we recommend you do the hike in the fall – there aren’t as many pilgrims on the trail, so it will be pretty easy to find a free bed where you can rest for the night.
Also, fall is the prefect season for this long distance hike because it’s neither too hot nor too cold outside. The temperature is basically perfect for walking long days, and you’re less likely to spontaneously combust under the scorching Portuguese sun.
The trail begins near Porto Cathedral in Porto and takes you all the way to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. It’s about 240 kilometers long, and you should be able to do in under 2 weeks if you hike approximately 20 kilometers every day. Obviously, this long distance hike is only suitable for people who are both physically fit and mentally strong, since it pretty much required you to give up on normal life for two weeks, in favor of walking to a different country.
But, all those sacrifices are 100% worth it – you will encounter stunning landscapes, pass through historic cities, see spectacular flora and fauna and just have one of the most memorable experiences of your life. Camino Portuguese is particularly thrilling for spiritual people, due to the actual spiritual significance of the trial.