The Berlengas Marine Reserve is located approximately 10 kilometres off the Portuguese coast, west of Peniche, a small town famously known for excellent sandy beaches and home to some of Europe’s best surfing spots.
The marine reserve spans the entire Berlengas Archipelago; the small rock islands and shallow reefs are divided into three groups: the Berlenga Island (Berlenga Grande) and its associated reefs, the Farilhões Islands and the Estelas Islands. From the total area of 9560 hectares, the landmass is just a bit over 1%, the rest of the reserve is in the waters surrounding the archipelago.
The Berlengas Marine Reserve is a multi-use area divided into three partially protected zones.
Why is it important?
The Berlengas Archipelago is an important island ecosystem, as it is serves many different species.
The waters are biologically rich and the islands serve as nesting grounds for marine bird species: e.g. Common murres (Uria aalge), different species of shearwaters and petrels, the European shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) and the yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis). Other migratory birds use the islands as winter habitat: e.g. Black redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros) and Purple sandpiper (Calidris maritima).
Further, the Archipelago is home to three flowering plants that only exist here (Pulicaria microcephala, Herniaria lusitanica subsp. berlengiana and Armeria berlengensis).
A visit to Berlenga Island is rated the number one thing to do in Peniche, so if you are in the area don’t miss out! There are also group trips directly from Lisbon.
Boats go from Peniche to Berlenga Island from the end of May until the middle of September. In the peak season (July and August) you can hire stand up paddle boards and kayaks, these are great ways to explore the hidden caves around the island.
If you don’t want to get wet there are two walking tracks around the island. Visit the Forte de S. João Baptista, which is a 17th century fort built on an islet that is connected to Berlenga Island via a small bridge. Go on and visit the lighthouse in the center of Berlenga Island that was built in 1841 and raises about 112 meters above sea level. Its beam is projected over 80 kilometres.
For the beach lovers, praia do Carreiro do Mosteiro it’s the only beach in the marine reserve that is suitable for swimming. Here you can soak up the sun on a sandy beach while enjoying the view of the cliffs. The beach lies in a sheltered bay with crystal clear waters.
The Berlengas Archipelago is a heaven for tech and cave divers. But there are suitable dive sites for all levels of divers. Around the Farilhões there are dozens of shipwrecks at different depths, making it one of the best mainland diving spot for adventurous dives.