The Berlengas Archipelago is a rocky archipelago of three granite islands and a string of reefs around 11 km (seven miles) off the rugged Cape Carvoeiro on the Atlantic coast of Portugal near Peniche. Only one island is inhabited: Berlenga Grande has as its star manmade attraction the 17th-century Forte de São João Baptista (Fort of John the Baptist), which is connected to the island by a narrow bridge across a rocky causeway and was used to defend the area from pirate attacks. It was built on the remnants of a monastery that was abandoned in the early 16th century thanks to repeated raids from England, France and North Africa.
However, Berlenga Grande is chiefly known as a hiking, swimming, snorkeling and diving paradise – the island is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve – and has a number of pocket-sized beaches in tiny coves backed by clear blue waters. Soaring cliffs and sea caves pockmark the indented coastline and can be explored by kayak or glass-bottomed boat. Thanks to the island being a nesting site for seabirds such as the rare purple swamphen, puffins and cormorants, access is strictly controlled as attempts are being made to conserve the pristine pink granite environment.
Ferry leave Peniche for the Beringas between May and September. The trip to Praia do Carreiro do Mosteiro on Berlenga Grande takes about 30 minutes.