Located 40 km from Lisbon‘s historic centre, you’ll discover Serra da Arrábida – one of the most beautiful places in Portugal. You’ll find out some of the reasons why I consider this place a real Portuguese paradise.
In this article I’ll show you all the amazing places Serra da Arrábida Natural Park and its surroundings have to offer. You’ll discover wonderful beaches (there’s no need to go elsewhere), breathtaking landscapes and centennial castles.
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Visit to Serra da Arrábida Natural Park
Serra da Arrábida is a natural park since 1976 with an area of 10 521 hectares and with an altitude going up to 501 metres. In addition to the beaches and the beautiful landscapes, this park is a safe haven for various rare animal species; you can also discover some amazing caves here.
When you visit Serra da Arrábida, start from the top side of the road N379-1 (towards Arrábida convent – see map below) so that you can admire the beautiful landscape the park has to offer.
During your journey, don’t miss the opportunity to stop on both sides of the road to admire the view over the sea and the mountain. You can miss some viewpoints but you can park your car in several places along the way.
Aside from the viewpoints, you can visit Arrábida Convent that was built by Friar Martinho de Santa Maria in the 16th century, a Spanish Franciscan to whom D. João de Lencastre (1501-1571), first duke of Aveiro, gave these lands (25 hectares).
- Site: www.foriente.pt/en
- GPS: 38°28’26.9″N 8°59’45.6″W
Once you get to the end of the road N379-1, turn right towards Setúbal and then towards the beaches in the next intersection – you’ll soon discover the wonderful beaches I told you about.
Here you’ll discover beaches of rare beauty such as Figueirinha, Galápos, Galapinhos and Creiro beaches (Portinho da Arrábida).
The most accessible beaches are: Figueirinha and Creiro beaches, where you’ll find several parking areas. When I went to Creiro beach, it cost 3 € to park my car but still it was worth it – you can leave your car and discover the amazing and quiet beaches along the coastline.
If you want to feel the sand in the beaches of Galápos and Galapinhos without having to walk 1 km, you’ll have to leave your car on the side of the road, just next to the sign “Galápos“.
According to some new information, the Police is fining drivers and, especially, towing cars that are parked in the roadsides. If you don’t want to be surprised, leave your car at the Creiro beach parking lot and then go for a small 1-km hike.
Information: during the summer (from June to September), and due to the amount of people visiting these wonderful beaches, the road between Figueirinha beach and Creiro beach is closed.
You’ll need to leave your car in the parking lot located close to Figueirinha beach and then walk for 3 km to get to Galápos and Creiro beaches or you can take a bus that connects these beaches.
You also have the possibility to take a bus at Alegro shopping centre in Setúbal that will take you to the beaches in Serra da Arrábida Natural Park.
Check below a video from these wonderful beaches:
After visiting Serra da Arrábida, take the opportunity to visit Palmela castle driving through the Parque de Merendas da Comenda (GPS: 38°30’28.8″N 8°55’44.7″W), the perfect place for picnics.
Built by the Moors in the 9th century, Palmela castle was conquered by the first king of Portugal (D. Afonso Henriques) in 1147.
Since then, the castle suffered extreme deterioration (raids, recaptures, earthquake) and was even abandoned after the extinction of the religious orders. Renovation only took place after 1940 and, in 1979, the castle became a hotel.
Even if you don’t want to spend the night here, you must visit this place and gaze at the breathtaking landscape – the sea, Serra da Arrábida, Setúbal and Tróia.
Another castle you can’t miss after your visit to Serra da Arrábida Natural Park is Sesimbra castle, located in the village with the same name.
The first fortifications were erected by the Moors and, during the Christian reconquest (1165), the castle underwent some changes so that it could protect the village from future raids.
From the castle you can admire the village, the sea and Serra da Arrábida.
- Address: Rua Nossa Senhora do Castelo 11
- GPS: 38°27’04.3″N 9°06’30.0″W
After visiting the castle, go to the historic centre to discover Santiago Fortress (Rua da Fortaleza, 39, Sesimbra) and eat a delicious fresh fish dish in one of the restaurants you’ll find in the village and then get some tan in one of the beaches.
If you fall in love (like I did) for Serra da Arrábida Natural Park and want to stay one or more nights to further enjoy this amazing place, know that Sesimbra is the perfect location to spend the night.
Cape Espichel is another place you can’t miss during your visit to this region.
Aside from the lush cliffs, you can also see the lighthouse, the Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora do Cabo Espichel (also known as Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora da Pedra da Mula), the small chapel Ermida da Memória, an aqueduct and some dinosaur footprints.
The small chapel Ermida da Memória was built next to the cliff in 1410 after Virgin Mary had appeared to two fishermen who, according to the legend, saw her going up that cliff riding on a mule.
The legend also states that the mule’s footprints were visible on the rocks but that’s not true: actually the footprints that can be seen on the rocks belong to dinosaurs.
The dinosaurs’ footprints can be seen on one of the cliffs, in Lagosteiros beach (GPS : 38°25’12.7″N 9°12’29.9″W).
Throughout the years, this place has become more and more a place of pilgrimage. King D. Pedro II has commissioned the construction of the church of Nossa Senhora do Cabo Espichel in 1701 (concluded in 1707) and, some years later, some lodges were built as well (known as Casas dos Círios) to accommodate the pilgrims.
- GPS: 38°25’12.8″N 9°12’48.4″W
Guided tours to Serra da Arrábida Natural Park
Departing from Lisbon, this activity (affiliate link) is 8 hours long and will take you across the beautiful Tagus river with the objective of showing you new landscapes, dominated by the fantastic Arrábida Natural Park, one of the most beautiful natural parks in Portugal. But the tour will become even more memorable when you visit a wine estate where you can taste the wonderful wines of this region!
For a more intimate experience, which you can do with your family and / or friends, choose one private 8-hour tour (affiliate link). Discover the south bank of Tagus river and, more specifically, the beautiful landscapes of Serra da Arrábida, including the idyllic beaches that are found there. The icing on the cake will be when you embark on a catamaran and set out in search of dolphins that inhabit the waters of Sado Estuary.
As an alternative, choose this 8-hour tour (affiliate link)! Cross the bridge and make your first stop at the beautiful town of Palmela where you can admire the castle, a presence in the landscape for several centuries. Make other stops in Serra da Arrábida like Portinho da Arrábida, some wineries where you can savour the magnificent wine from this region and take the opportunity to discover Sesimbra and its beautiful castle.
End this magnificent day (affiliate link) with a visit to the marvellous sanctuary Santuário Nacional de Cristo Rei where you can admire the breathtaking views over the Tagus river and the Portuguese capital.
If you want to discover the wonders of the coastline in the Arrábida Natural Park (affiliate link) in an original way, do this 8 hour activity. The highlight will be when you go on a boat tour and explore this place where you will discover beaches and caves only accessible by sea. Along the way, you will have the opportunity to admire the beautiful dolphins, one of the great attractions specially for children.
Are you going to visit Serra da Arrábida Natural Park? Then don’t hesitate to book your hotel room room, your car or the best activities by clicking the links below. This way you are helping me in the development of my blog and I’ll be able to offer you free tips and travel guides so that you can better prepare your visit to Portugal. Thank you!