Lisbon is famous for its historic attractions and beautiful beaches, but the city is surrounded by glorious wild spaces that provide a wealth of activities for adventurous travellers. Visit Lisboa pick out some of the more extreme ways of exploring the region.
Arrábida Nature Park for hiking, cycling, caving and diving
Just 30 minutes south of the city centre and across the River Tagus is Arrábida Nature Park, often hailed as one of Lisbon’s most beautiful destinations. The mountainous area offers a tapestry of landscapes, from tree-lined paths winding down to secret coves and idyllic beaches, to the towering Serra do Rosco, the highest point on the Portuguese coast.
There are waymarked trails for hiking and cycling, with some of the remotest routes only accessible with an official guide. The area is also known for the large network of caves that cut through the limestone beneath the slopes and can be explored with expert tours.
Adventurers who want to get away from the usual tourist spots can hire kayaks and canoes to glide along the coast in search of secluded beaches and sea caves sculpted by Atlantic waves crashing against the cliffs.
Divers can discover an oasis of marine life in the Professor Luiz Saldanha Marine Park, which has been created to protect and restore habitats off the Arrábida coastline or head down to the wreck of the River Gurara cargo ship off the coast of the town of Sesimbra.
Ericeira for world-class surfing
Surfers looking to experience a new challenge can tackle the waves of Ericeira, Europe’s first World Surfing Reserve. With spectacular ocean vistas and beaches flanked by towering sandstone cliffs, it’s just 30 minutes from Lisbon.
In the south, Foz do Lizandro and Praia dos Pescadores offer calmer swells for beginners, while experienced surfers head for the perfect wave conditions at world-famous beaches including Pedra Branca, Coxos and Ribeira d’Ilhas.
There are numerous surf schools for improving skills, and the town offers a cool surf scene and boutique shops selling specialist kits.
Monsanto Forest Park for mountain biking
Cycling is a popular way of touring Lisbon, but just 15 15-minute ride from the city’s historic centre is a hilly green space that offers miles of off-road trails for more adventurous bikers.
Monsanto Forest Park, known as the ‘Lungs of Lisbon’, provides varied terrain that gives mountain bike riders the chance to tackle technical climbs and exhilarating descents, tight switchbacks and rocky patches challenging a range of skill levels.
There are waymarked trails that are also used by hikers and joggers, plus biking routes that have been carved out by local riders. The reward for any ride includes picnic areas where bikers can relax and refuel, and the most incredible views of the city can be seen from the Panorâmico de Monsanto viewpoint.
Sintra-Cascais Nature Park for hiking, jeep safaris and rock climbing
Stretching from the peaks of the Sintra Mountains to the dramatic cliffs of Cape Roca, continental Europe’s westernmost point, Sintra-Cascais Nature Park is the perfect playground for hikers who have their pick of steady coastal paths to steep and strenuous mountain trails.
Favourite routes include the easy-going Rota do Cabo da Roca that leads to the end of Europe, a circuit of the Sintra mountains that takes hikers past the famous Moorish Castle and Pena Palace, and challenging trails that reach into the heart of the park’s forested areas.
Explorers looking to cover more miles can choose mountain bike and e-bike tours to the coast, or jeep safaris that tackle trails away from the usual waymarked routes.
Those with a head for heights will find the park’s steep sea cliffs are perfect for rock climbing, with short and tall options for bouldering, traditional climbing and sport climbing of all abilities.
Tapada Nacional de Mafra for horseback tours and treetop adventures
Located next to Mafra’s grandiose palace, the Tapada Nacional de Mafra Nature Park is steeped in regal history. Established in the 18th century by King João V, this once-royal hunting ground now sprawls across over 800 hectares of pristine wilderness that is home to deer and wild boar.
Explorers can hike or bike around the park, or take a guided tour in an electric buggy or by horse-drawn carriage. Harking back to the area’s royal past, visitors can test their aim at archery and enjoy incredible falconry displays, and there’s also an Adventure Park with rope bridges and zip lines.
Sado Estuary Nature Reserve dolphin spotting
Just a short distance to the south of the city centre is the Sado Estuary Nature Reserve, where the Sado River meets the Atlantic to create a unique marshland habitat.
Thrill-seekers can kayak through the waters for up-close experiences with nature, while specialist dolphin-watching tours are the best way to view the reserve’s most famous marine life, and the area’s cultural richness is preserved through traditional salt farming and fishing methods.
For more information, ideas and inspiration on visiting Lisbon, please go to www.visitlisboa.com.