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 reason 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 somewhere else), breathtaking landscapes and centennial castles.
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 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).
- You can visit the convent on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays but you must first schedule your visit by phone or send an email (check here).
- The tickets cost 5€ per person or 3€ when in groups of 15 or more people.
- 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, Galapos, 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 Galapos 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 “Galapos“.
Information: during summer and because there are many people coming to these beaches, this road becomes a one way road between Figueirinha and Creiro beaches between 9h and 19h. Between these hours you can only drive from Figueirinha beach to Creiro beach.
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 one of the places you can’t miss while visiting 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 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 entirely true: actually the footprints that can be seen on the rocks belong 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
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