Beauty of Berlengas Islands,Portugal

Located around 10 km (6 miles) off the coast of Peniche is the rugged Berlengas Archipelago. This collection of 3 little islands, named Estelas, Farilhões and Berlenga, is virtually uninhabited, well, except for about a million seabirds! Now a nature reserve (Reserva Natural das Berlengas) these islands are home to puffins, seagulls and cormorants and they are very much in charge these days. Not only are the three square kilometres of island protected but so are the surrounding seas which make up a 985 hectare marine reserve.

The main island of the group is Berlenga with its boat landing which is served in the summer by a daily boat from Peniche. Also in this little inlet is the island's beach, a narrow strip of sand seemingly cut straight into the high cliffs. Despite being on an island that only allows 350 visitors at any one time the beach can be pretty crowded in the summer.

Along with the lighthouse, the most significant building on the island is the wonderful Forte de São João Baptista. Connected to the rest of the island by a narrow path suspended on arches as it weaves its way between rocky pinnacles towards the fort. This 17th century fort was built to prevent the strategically important islands being occupied by North African corsairs, or worse still, the Spanish.

The coastline of the Berlangas features some wonderful rock formations and natural grottoes. Perhaps the best known of these is the "Elephant rock", which does actually resemble an elephant's head, complete with eyes and trunk.


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