Portugal’s Forgotten Islands

Written By Zé Eduardo Penedo

Exploring the hidden corners of a country is like discovering lost pages from an old book. In the vast Atlantic Ocean, where the horizon blends with the sky in an infinite blue embrace, there are unknown treasures waiting to be revealed. Welcome to Portugal’s Forgotten Islands – a collection of remote destinations that have long since been forgotten by the maps, but which hold an incomparable charm and beauty.

Far from conventional tourist routes, these islands are a well-kept secret, hidden oases untouched by modernity. Imagine yourself sailing through crystal blue waters towards these forgotten destinations, where nature is the only one in charge. Their names may not be familiar – Ilhas Selvagens, Ilhas Desertas, Ilhas da Ria Formosa and Ilhas Berlengas – but what they offer is nothing short of spectacular.

Each group of islands has its own history, its own character and its own surprises. From the Selvagens Islands, where wildlife reigns supreme, to the mystery of the Desertas Islands, where solitude is part of the beauty, and the serene islands of the Ria Formosa, where Portuguese authenticity is preserved, to the Berlengas, a natural sanctuary of stunning landscapes and exuberant marine life.

For the adventurous at heart, these islands offer a range of exciting activities, from epic hikes to thrilling dives. But they are also places for reflection and contemplation, where you can connect with the pure essence of nature and witness the majesty of the natural world without human interference.

A visit to Portugal’s forgotten islands is not just a trip, it’s a journey of discovery and wonder. It’s an opportunity to explore the unknown, to be captivated by unspoiled beauty and to connect with the heart of nature. So if you’re ready for a truly unforgettable adventure, come and discover the hidden treasures that await in these remote Portuguese destinations.

Selvagens Islands

Discovering the Natural Treasure

In a remote corner of the Atlantic Ocean, where the horizon stretches beyond imagination and the sea dances in deep blue hues, the Selvagens Islands await, secluded natural treasures that challenge the mind and enchant the soul. These islands, located some 280 miles off the coast of Madeira, are a haven for wildlife and a sanctuary for intrepid explorers.

A Mosaic of Untouched Nature

Imagine yourself in a setting where nature reigns supreme. The Selvagens Islands consist of two main groups: Selvagem Grande and Selvagem Pequena, along with several smaller rocky outcrops. This archipelago is a true paradise for ornithologists, marine biologists and nature enthusiasts, with a biodiversity that rivals the most diverse ecosystems in the world.

Selvagem Grande, Ilhas Selvagens, Madeira, Portugal, bcmng, Flickr

Here, the cliffs soar above the crystal-clear waters, sheltering a myriad of seabirds, from the majestic albatross to the graceful shearwater. Beneath the waves, vibrant coral reefs are home to a plethora of marine life from colorful schools of fish to sea turtles gliding gently through the water.

A Protected Refuge

The Selvagens Islands were designated as a nature reserve in 1971 and have been protected with fervent dedication ever since. Access to these precious islands is restricted. In order to visit, special authorization from the Madeira Natural Park is required.

Some of the world’s last truly wild areas, where creatures live without the interference of modern civilization, can be seen here. It’s a powerful reminder of the importance of conservation and the role each of us plays in protecting our planet.

Berthelot’s Pipit at Selvagem Grande,
Yeray Seminario, Flickr

Exploring the Unknown

For the adventurous at heart, the Selvagens Islands offer countless opportunities to explore the unknown. From epic hikes along the coastal trails to thrilling dives in the crystal-clear waters, there is something to satisfy every appetite for adventure.

Prepare to be captivated by the wild beauty of this place, where every bend in the road reveals a new wonder of nature. If you’re willing to venture out of the ordinary, you may even discover secret places and untouched landscapes that few eyes have ever seen.

An Unforgettable Experience

A visit to the Selvagens Islands is a journey into the wild heart of nature and an opportunity to reconnect with the natural world. Here, you can witness the spectacle of life in its purest form and feel the energy of the earth beneath your feet.

So if you’re craving a truly unforgettable adventure, pack your bags and embark on a journey to the Savage Islands. Discover the beauty that awaits amidst the glistening waves and along the craggy cliffs. But remember, when exploring this unspoiled paradise, treat nature with the respect it deserves, so that future generations can also enjoy its incomparable beauty.

Desertas Islands

Unraveling the Mystery

In the vast Atlantic Ocean, where the sky merges with the sea in a palette of infinite blues, we have another enigmatic archipelago waiting to be discovered: the Desertas Islands. Far from the crowds and hustle and bustle of modern life, these islands reveal their essence right in their name, quiet, unspoiled refuges where serenity reigns amidst the pristine surroundings.

The Charm of Solitude

The Desertas Islands, comprising three main islands – Deserta Grande, Bugio, and Ilhéu Chão – are true oases of tranquillity in the middle of the ocean. Here, time seems to slow down and the worries of the everyday world disappear in the gentle breeze that blows across the arid hills and golden sandy beaches.

By exploring these remote islands, visitors have the opportunity to reconnect with nature in its purest form. With little or no human intervention, the Desertas Islands offer a glimpse into an unspoiled world, where life moves naturally along on its own without haste or interference.

Moon over Desertas Islands, seen from Ponta da Atalaia, Caniço-de-Baixo, Madeira Island,
Virgilio Silva. Flickr

A Paradise for Wildlife

Despite their name, the Desertas Islands are far from devoid of life. On the contrary, these islands are a vital refuge for an impressive variety of flora and fauna. Here, among the scrubland and arid hills, you can find unique endemic plants, adapted to the harsh conditions of this isolated environment.

But it’s the wildlife that really brings these islands to life. From the majestic peregrine falcons that hover in the sky to the rare endemic lizards that crawl among the rocks, every corner of the Desertas Islands is filled with natural beauty. And under the crystal-clear waters that surround these islands, divers are treated to a spectacle of corals, tropical fish, and even occasional visits from playful dolphins.

Exploring Solitude

For those seeking adventure and escapism, the Desertas Islands offer countless opportunities for exploration. From hiking along scenic trails to diving in untouched reefs, every moment spent on these islands is an opportunity to marvel at the raw, untamed beauty of nature.

When you explore the Desertas Islands, you can witness the magic of a preserved ecosystem. But, as with the Savage Islands, it is essential to remember the importance of conservation and respect for the wildlife that inhabits these unique islands. Here, between the vast sky and the endless sea, you can find peace and inspiration, while marveling at the natural wonders these islands have to offer.

Miradouro da Deserta Grande, Santa Cruz, ilha da Madeira by Marco Camacho 4,
Rota dos Miradouros Madeira, Flickr

Ria Formosa Islands

Exploring the Hidden Treasures of Ria Formosa

In the warmth of the Algarve sun, where the blue of the sky blends with the blue of the sea, a group of incredible islands is waiting to be discovered: Tavira, Armona, and Culatra. These enchanted islands, located along the southern coast of Portugal, are true refuges of natural beauty and authenticity, offering visitors an idyllic escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life.

These stunning islands, accessible by boat from the picturesque town of Tavira, each have their own unique personality, from the unspoiled golden sandy beaches to the charming fishing villages, providing an unforgettable experience for anyone who visits.

Maçarico-galego (Numenius phaeopus),
José Prego, Flickr

Tavira: A Tale of Charm and History

Let’s start with the majestic island of Tavira, where time seems to have stood still. Here, visitors can explore cobbled streets lined with whitewashed houses, while absorbing the rich historical heritage of this charming town. Be sure to visit Tavira Castle and the Roman Bridge, which offer breathtaking views over the River Gilão.

Armona: A Serene Seaside Refuge

To the south of Tavira lies the island of Armona, an unspoiled paradise of soft sand and crystal-clear waters. Here, you can spend your days relaxing on the beach, exploring the hiking trails or savoring fresh delicacies in one of the seaside restaurants. Don’t forget to take a walk to the Armona Lighthouse for stunning panoramic views.

Culatra: The Spirit of Authenticity

Finally, the island of Culatra captivates visitors with its authentic, laid-back charm. This island offers a unique insight into Portuguese coastal life, with its colorful houses and delicious fresh seafood. Explore the quiet coves and discover the true essence of Algarvian hospitality.

A Journey of Discovery and Adventure

You’ll find peace and serenity with a visit to the islands of Tavira, Armona and Culatra. Here, among the birdsong and the sound of the waves breaking on the shore, you can marvel at all of the natural beauty that these islands have to offer. Discover the splendor of these overlooked isles that await you along the Algarve coast and let yourself be charmed by these truly magical destinations.

Manhã na ria, Ria Formosa, Olhão, Portugal,
José Prego, Flickr

Berlengas Islands

Discovering the Natural Paradise of the Berlengas

In the blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Peniche, an archipelago of indescribable beauty is waiting to be explored: the Berlengas. Made up of three main islands – Berlenga Grande, Estelas and Farilhões – these natural wildlife havens captivate the hearts and minds of those lucky enough to discover them.

Island Berlengas Portugal
Berlenga Island, Photo by Sir Simo (Unsplash)

A Wildlife Sanctuary

The Berlengas Nature Reserve was established in 1981 and protects a variety of species, making it a destination of choice for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts. Under the crystal-clear waters surrounding the islands, the coral reefs are home to a rich diversity of marine life from colorful tropical fish to majestic sea turtles. On the rugged cliffs and white sandy beaches, seabirds such as cormorants and seagulls find refuge, which creates a vibrant spectacle of life.

Berlengas. Photo by Sophie Laurent (Unsplash)

Incomparable Natural Beauty

Every corner of the Berlengas is a worthy of a postcard. Berlenga Grande, the largest of the islands, is dominated by the majestic Fortaleza de São João Baptista, an ancient fortress built in the 16th century to defend the Portuguese coast from pirate attacks.

As you explore the winding trails that wind around the island, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the ocean and secluded coves. In the Estelas and Farilhões, you’ll find wild, rocky landscapes, dotted with lonely lighthouses and formidable cliffs.

Berlengas. Photo by
Andras Kovacs (Unsplash)

The Adventure of a Lifetime

For the intrepid adventurer at heart, the Berlengas offer a plethora of exciting activities to explore. From thrilling dives in the waters teeming with marine life to kayaking trips around the islands, there is something to satisfy every appetite for adventure.

The opportunity to explore the sea caves that dot the Berlengas coast is not to be missed, where the sea has carved out surreal landscapes of stalactites and stalagmites. And for the bravest adventurers, a dip in the cold waters can bring exciting encounters with marine creatures, such as the friendly sea lions that inhabit these waters.

So if you’re ready to embark on an unforgettable adventure, venture to the natural paradise of the Berlengas that awaits off the coast of Peniche. Escape the hectic city life and reconnect with nature with the beauty of these unique islands.

Berlengas. Photo by Miguel Mendes (Unsplash)

Over and Out

To explore Portugal’s forgotten islands is to immerse yourself in unforgettable natural wonders. Each of these islands – Selvagens, Desertas, Ria Formosa, and Berlengas – offers unique and unforgettable experiences, from the wild majesty of the Selvagens to the untouched wilderness of the Desertas, the wildlife sanctuary of Berlengas, or the southern charms of Ria Formosa.

Whether hiking along scenic trails, snorkeling vibrant reefs or simply contemplating the vastness of the ocean, a visit to Portugal’s Forgotten Islands is a chance to discover the purest part of Portugal’s nature and create memories that will last forever.

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