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The Serra da Arrabida National Park
The Serra da Arrabida is the stunning national park that covers the rolling hills, beautiful beaches and massive cliffs between Sesimbra and Setubal. The region is less than a 30-minute drive from central Lisbon but is far from the common tourist routes and is virtually unknown by foreign visitors.
For visitors who travel to the Serra da Arrabida will discover some of the best natural scenery of the Lisbon region along with challenging hiking trails, scenic drives and glorious beaches. This guide will provide an introduction to this wonderful region.
Highlights of the Serra da Arrábida
The beautiful beaches of Praia do Creiro and Praia da Figueirinha
The hiking trails through the lush forest with sea views
The scenic drive along the Estrada de Escarpa (see later on for a map of this stunning route)
The 300m cliffs of the Serra do Risco
Parque Natural da Arrabida Overview
The Serra da Arrabida national park covers 110 square kilometers and extends from Setubal in the east to the Cabo Espichel in the west. The park is characterised by steep hills cover in dense evergreen shrubs (Ceratonia silique and Kermes Oaks), which provides a year round green appearance of the region.
Along the coastline the hills have been eroded to form shear drops and massive cliffs, the best example being the uniquely weathered Serra do Risco (Risk Point). The beaches of the Serra da Arrabida are beautiful and are sheltered from the strong waves or currents found on many of the beaches around Lisbon. The entire Serra da Arrabida overlooks the calm Sado estuary, which is famed for its large pod of dolphins.
Why as a Tourist visit the Serra da Arrabida?
The Serra da Arrabida is the best national park which is within the vicinity of Lisbon. Unlike the Serra da Sintra, few visitors know of Arrabida and even at the height of the summer there will only be a handful of tourists hiking through the lush hills. For the less active there is a stunning drive along the Estrada de Escarpa (the N379) as it climbs the hills and provides amazing views both north and south. The beaches are regarded as some of the best in Portugal but they can get busy during the summer.
The Serra da Arrabida is the place to visit to escape the crowds of tourists; it is peaceful, tranquil and one of the most scenic areas close to Lisbon. The own downside is that there is almost no public transport and a rental car is essential.
The beaches of the Serra da Arrabida
The coastline of the Serra da Arrabida is considered as having some of Portugal’s finest beaches and as the coastline is protected by the national park there is almost no tourist development. All of the beaches have soft golden sands, crystal clear waters and are surrounded by the huge cliffs of tree covered hills of the region.
The stunning Praia da Figueirinha
The largest beach of the Serra da Arrabida national park is the Praia da Figueirinha, and is the closest beach to Setubal. This beautiful beach is great for families due to the calm and very clean sea waters but it does get busy in the summer.
The Praia dos Galapinhos is one of Portugal’s most photographed beaches due to the idyllic setting and turquoise coloured sea. Just as beautiful and slightly larger is the Praia do Creiro, which also has some of the best fish restaurants of the region.
The Estrada de Escarpa
The Estrada de Escarpa (N379-1) is one of the most scenic roads in Portugal. The 15km route enters the Serra da Arrabida from the north and loops round to the port town of Setubal. The road is spectacular as it first provides stunning views over the rolling hills and sheer drop of Serra do Risco cliffs. The route then climbs into the steep hills and passes the Convento da Arrabida before following the natural ridge with wonderful views north (Lisbon) and south (Sado estuary).
There is a return route which follows the coast and passes the Praia da Figueirinha. This entire loop takes around an hour but there are many great places to stop and admire the view. For a detailed map of the circuit please see the map below. The connection to the lower road is around the ugly (but luckily hidden) cement works.
Sights of the Serra da Arrabida
The 16th century Convento da Arrabida lies to the southern edge of the Parque Natural da Arrabida and is situated high in the hills above the regions two beaches. The Franciscan monastery’s brilliant white is at complete contrast to the lush greens of the pine forest while from the convent there are great views over the coastline. In the surrounding hills there are five small chapels for the monks to obtain complete isolation.
The Convento da Arrabida set in the Serra da Arrabida
Popular walking and hiking routes
There is a challenging hiking trail to the summit of Formosinho, the highest point of the Serra da Arrabida at 500m. The return hike takes around two hours and there is a path from the Convento da Arrábida. A difficult hike but stunning views at the top.
There is a popular route that follows the jagged hills and cliffs of Serra do Risco (Risk Point). The walk starts close to the stunning view point of Miradouro Mina de Brecha da Arrabida. This route is popular with mountain bikers.
A much longer 13km route is called the Rota Moinhos (windmill path) due to the number of traditional windmills. This hike starts from the village of Palmela and is comparatively well signed.
Where to have Lunch, barbecue or picnic
The Parque de Merendas da Comenda is a peasant area which has been designed for families wishing to have a picnic or family BBQ. There are tables and benches in the shade of the tall pines and there are permeant BBQ pits, for those who wish to cook their own food. The park is popular with Portuguese families and is a great place to interact with the locals. The park is to the west of the Serra da Arrabida on the N10 road just past the huge concrete factory, which luckily cannot be seen.
The pretty Figueirinha beach between Setubal and Sesimbra
Travel to the Serra da Arrábida
The Parque Natural da Arrabida can be visited as a day trip from Lisbon, for visitors with their own transport and the journey is 40km and taking around 30 minutes. There is very limited local public transport from Sesimbra or Setubal to the park and no suitable options from Lisbon.