The best independent guide to Central Portugal
The best independent guide to Central Portugal
One of the regional highlights are the Berlengas islands, Portugal’s oldest nature reserve, and the location of the spectacular Sao Joao Baptista fort. The islands can be explored as a day trip from Peniche, with tour boats departing from the harbour.
The non-touristy atmosphere and unkempt appearance means that Peniche is not for all, but if you wish to experience authentic hard-working Portugal, you will adore it.
Peniche faces the immense power of the Atlantic Ocean, with huge waves rolling onto the sandy beaches. Within the Peniche region there numerous beaches facing different directions, which means that there is always one beach with decent swell or suitable for your ability.
The Berlengas are a series of barren and rocky islands 11km from the mainland. These islands are battered by raging seas and ceaseless winds, and are a haven for both bird and marine wildlife.
Berlenga Grande is the largest of the islands and offers a dramatic coastline of caves, grottos and incredibly clear sea waters which are teeming with marine life.
The Fort of São João Baptista
On the sheltered side of the island is a small fishing community, the Praia da Berlenga beach, and the 17th-century São João Baptista fort. Berlenga Grande can be visited by tour boat, and this day trip is one of the highlights of the Peniche region. Due to the rough seas, the ferries only operate between May and September.
Historical insight: A monastery was constructed on Berlenga Grande in the 15th century, to rescue sailors whose ships were wrecked on the jagged islands. The monastery was abandoned due to constant pirate attacks, but the stones were re-used to build the Forte de São João Baptista.
Related articles: A day trip to Berlenga Grande
Peniche is not a common or popular destination for a day trip. This does not mean it is devoid of tourist sights, but is undiscovered by day-trippers, and less famous than surrounding towns (Obidos, Nazaré, Fatima, Batalha or Tomar).
Below is an interactive map of a day tour and major sights of Peniche. The yellow route shows a walking tour of the historic centre and the green pins display the attractions of the region, which unfortunately need to be driven to.
Yellow pins for the walking tour: 1) Fishing Port (and boats to Berlenga Grande) 2) Peniche fort 3) Peniche museum 4) São Pedro church 5) Handicraft museum 6) City Hall 7) Misericórdia church 8) Baluarte garden 9) Peniche market 10) Gambôa beach
Green markers: 1) Praia dos Supertubos (Super Tube beach) 2) Praia do Baleal 3) Baleal village and beach 4) The Cabo Carvoeiro viewpoint 5) Santuário Nossa Senhora dos Remédios 6) Vistas viewpoint 7) Papoa Island 8) Praia da Cova da Alfarroba (best beach close to Peniche) 9) Sportágua (waterpark for families)
Note: There are many excellent fish-restaurants close to the fishing harbour
The Cabo Carvoeiro is one of the most westerly points of mainland Europe, and the powerful lighthouse indicates the danger it once played to shipping. At the tip of the bleak headland is a distractive rock outcrop, called the Nau dos Corvos.
The Cabo Carvoeiro is a popular and romantic setting to watch the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean.
Insight: The Peniche peninsula dates from the Early Jurassic period (183 million years ago) and is much older than the rest of mainland Portugal.
Peniche was originally an island and was connected to mainland Portugal over millennia by siltation and oceanic forces. This is why the peninsula appears so different from the rest of the region’s coastline.
Peniche is situated on a rocky peninsula, surround by steep craggy cliffs. The beaches of the region extend in the two sweeping bays to the north and south of the Peniche peninsula.
The seas near Peniche are very powerful, if you are holidaying with children, consider the sheltered lagoon beach at Foz do Arelho (17km to the north). An alternative destination is the unique sheltered cove at São Martinho do Porto (25km north of Peniche).
Central Portugal has many varied and fascinating destinations which could be either visited as day trips, or if you are on a touring holiday after Peniche.
The best day trips are to the walled town of Obidos, and the charming beach town of Nazaré. The Lagoa de Óbidos offers beautiful natural scenery and a great beach at Foz do Arelho. Caldas da Rainha is an authentic Portuguese town but is often overlooked by most tourists.
For a touring holiday, Tomar or Nazaré are good choices for night stops when heading north or towards Coimbra. While going south there is Ericeira and Mafra, but most of this region can be explored as day trip from Lisbon.
Related Articles: Obidos guide – Nazaré guide - Tomar guide – Day trips from Lisbon
Peniche is a popular destination with foreigners and Portuguese alike. During the summer season, the beaches will be busy, and the town will have a lively atmosphere. In the summer accommodation must be booked well in advance, as the best places do sell out.
The average weather of Peniche
The surfing swells are at their best during the autumn months, and this is when most surfers head to Peniche. Boat tours to the Berlengas islands stop in the early autumn and resume in the spring due to the rough seas. Late spring is a great time to visit when the weather is warm and bright but without the summertime crowds.
To get the most from the Peniche region, a rental car is highly recommended.
There are direct bus services from Lisbon to Peniche, served by the national coach operator Rede Expressos or the regional bus company Rodotejo. Annoyingly the two bus services depart from different bus stations in Lisbon; Rede Expressos from the Sete Rios bus station and Rodotejo from the Campo Grande bus station.
The Rede Expressos service takes 1h30min, a single ticket costs €8.60 and the latest timetable can be found from the Rede Expressos website; https://www.rede-expressos.pt/
The Rodotejo service from Lisbon to Peniche is called the “Rapida Azul”, which takes 1h25, costs €8.65 and further information can be found on the Rodotejo website: http://www.rodotejo.pt/
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