Arrábida: A perfect day hiking in the mountains

The Serra da Arrábida Natural Park, just south of Lisbon, is home to several fine walking tracks that criss-cross the small mountain range known for its beautiful Mediterranean flora. PDV provides you with two suggestions that will reveal the full splendour of the region.
by Célia Pedroso

Tours What's New — 02 September 2011 by PDV
Arrábida: A perfect day hiking in the mountains

Both the Moinhos and the Terras do Risco tracks are paths that will take you into the very heart of nature in Arrábida Natural Park. (Photograph: Vitor Oliveira/Portuguese_eye)

Only a 30-minute drive from Lisbon, the town of Palmela is the starting point to a great hike that will take you through the mountains that stretch across the Arrábida Natural Park. This 13-kilometre-long trail is circular and starts near the main square in Palmela, which is best known for its medieval castle, housing a Pousada (a good option if you want to stay overnight).

The Moinhos Track (Windmills Track) owes its name to the several traditional windmills you will find there. While some of these have been turned into houses, others are still in use. There’s even a bakery (closed on weekends), making delicious bread. After an easy climb you’ll find yourself at the top of this wonderful region, with stunning views of the Arrábida mountain range and valleys to the left. The estuaries of the Tagus and Sado rivers, as well as the busy cities of the south can be seen to the right.

On a clear day you’ll be able to see Lisbon, the Cristo-Rei statue and even all the way to the Sintra mountains. The path is not difficult but it is a bit rocky and you should always keep to the track so as to prevent damage to the vegetation, which is protected.

There is a map at the beginning of the track and it is signposted along the way, but bear in mind that some of the signs are missing or may be covered by vegetation. Lately this path has received a lot of attention from MTB fans, especially during the weekends, so if you intend on walking here, it may be better to avoid busy Saturdays and Sundays. On the other hand, if you’re into mountain biking, you’ll love all the rush and frantic bikes.

This a usually very quiet track, which also displays important historical remains due to its strategic location: Castro de Chibanes is a former village that dates back to the Copper Age. It was also inhabited by the Romans, and later was settled by the Moors, who turned into a prosperous place until the 11th century.

If you appreciate good traditional fare you should make a detour to the nearby village of Quinta do Anjo – either leaving the track and walking there, or making it afterwards by car – and taste some of the famous Azeitão soft cheese and Setúbal wines, namely the famous Moscatel (muscatel) sweet wine. Alternatively, you can always sample them in Pamela.

Terras do Risco

This a good trail if don’t have much time and would still like to experience a short hike in Arrábida, among the garrigue and the maquis, the Mediterranean native flora. The track is around 4 kilometres long, taking some 2 hours to complete (return trip). On the road from Azeitão to Arrábida take the right-hand turn in Casais da Serra, opposite the café. There is a sign for the Natural Park at the beginning of this dirt road.

After driving for 3 kilometres, you’ll see Quinta da Calhariz on the right-hand side. Turn left, park the car and follow the track, which is easy going and surrounded by beautiful oak trees, pine trees, juniper, dog roses and plenty of other magnificent trees and bushes. At the first fork in the track, take the left trail and when you come to the next fork just keep going straight ahead. A little while later you’ll arrive at the beautiful meadows of the Terras do Risco.

After an easy climb, you’ll come across the main road that goes down to Portinho da Arrábida beach. If you have the time, make a detour before heading back, and take the track on the right. After a crossroads, keep to the road to Portinho beach and you will come to an area known as Alto do Jaspe, which is also signposted. Follow the path into a conservation protected area and after a short walk you’ll come to a stunning natural viewpoint, overlooking the sea, the Tróia peninsula and the Arrábida mountains.

Once back on the main road, Portinho da Arrábida is not far. Enjoy a swim or visit the small but interesting Oceanographic Museum, in the Santa Maria Fortress, before making your way back. After all this walking, you’ll certainly deserve a sweet reward: the torta de Azeitão, an egg custard pastry roll, is a good reason to stop in the village of Vila Nogueira de Azeitão, where you can find several good bakeries and cafés. If you still have the energy, visit the Casa-Museu José Maria da Fonseca as well, and discover the secrets of the Moscatel de Setúbal or the story of Piriquita, the oldest table wine in Portugal. The wine cellars and museum are right next to the Chafariz dos Pasmados, a baroque fountain from the 18th century.

How to get to Arrábida:
From Lisbon to Palmela, take a bus (the stop is close to where the tracks start), the Fertagus train (bikes allowed) or rent a car.
From Lisbon to Azeitão: cross the 25 de Abril Bridge, get off the A2 highway in the Azeitão/Sesimbra exit and then follow the N10 to Azeitão.


More information:

Arrábida Natural Park website:

Photos by Célia Pedroso; Tiago Pinhas; Vitor Oliveira

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