The Berlengas archipelago is a group of islands, 10 to 15 kilometers away from the Portuguese coast, west of the town of Peniche. These islands were traditionally known to British navigators as "the Burlings". The only livable island is the largest island, Berlenga Grande, although there is no continual habitation there, at present. The other islands are merged into two groups of islets, the Estelas Islets, and the Farilhões-Forcados Islets. The Berlengas can be reached with tours departing daily from Lisbon.
One of the real highlights of the Berlengas is the Archipelago of the Berlengas Nature Reserve. The islands in general are attractive for exploration, especially Berlenga Grande, the largest of the three. The landscape in general is amazing with plenty of marine life that can be seen in the clear seas; it is a snorkeler’s dream although you can take a glass-bottomed boat to see much of the same things as well as reach marine caves. The birdlife on the islands is also impressive although it is largely the gulls you will see and hear. You can hike the trails if you have the energy because the hills are steep. There is an old fort, Sao Joao Baptista to explore as well. Outside the summer months, tours are not guaranteed as the seas can start to get rough in late autumn and remain so for several months until summer beckons.
Berlenga is a popular summer destination out of Lisbon so you should try to book tickets in advance. While the harbour will be busy, it is easy to get away from any crowds to find some quiet and explore. Berlenga Grande has remote areas, a nature reserve and hiking trails. While others spend their time on the beach, those moving away to quieter parts of the Island will enjoy their time. The trails are worn so if you are not certain of your hiking ability (there are climbs as well) you may be advised to stay at the beach and harbor. Everyone who goes hiking is advised to stick to the trails to avoid causing any damage to what is a protected area. The Sao Joao Fort was built because it was recognized that Lisbon and the Portuguese Coast could be vulnerable to attack with the Islands an ideal base for the attackers. As a result, this fort was built in the 17th Century. It is not large but it is very visually impressive. The fort proved effective because a garrison of just 20 soldiers was able to withstand a siege from 2,000 Spaniards and their 16 warships in 1666. When ammunition ran out, the fort was abandoned but not before 500 Spaniards were dead as against one defender. It is now a hostel offering excellent value accommodation. The bridges that proved so effective are well-preserved but there are no handrails so take care. On the highest point on the Island, there is the 19th Century Farol Duque de Braganca, the Lighthouse, which sends a beam out from 120 meters on high using just solar power and batteries. The light can be seen from 50 kms away. The only beach that is both accessible and suitable for swimming is Praia do Carreiro do Mosteiro which overlooks the harbor between steep cliffs. Warning: the sea is cold, even at the height of summer. If you want to explore the waters the choice is to hire a kayak if the seas are gentle enough or take a glass-bottomed boat tour. It is a fairly short trip of no more than half an hour, which allows you to go further to see caves and rock formations. As a change from the culture of the City of Lisbon, this is a nice day out when the weather is good and the sea is calm.