The Ilha da Berlenga, 10km offshore and just visible from Cabo Carvoeiro, is the largest island of a tiny archipelago, with a jagged coastline of grottoes, miniature fjords and extraordinary rock formations. It’s just two-and-a-half square kilometres in extent and the only people permitted to live here are a couple of dozen fishermen because the island has been declared a natural reserve, home to thousands of sea birds, including gulls, puffins and cormorants. These perch in every conceivable cranny and seem intent on leaving their mark on every possible victim. Makeshift paths on the island are marked out with stones, and guardians watch out for visitors straying into the prohibited areas and disturbing the birds.
At the main landing dock, with its small fleet of fishing boats, there’s a tiny sandy beach that’s a mere golden notch in the cliffs. The only buildings are a cluster of huts and concrete houses above the harbour, a lighthouse on the heights and – across one shoulder of the island, reached by the only track – the highly romantic seventeenth-century Forte de São João Baptista, on a rocky islet reached by a stone bridge. Despite the daily limit on visitor numbers the harbour area bustles in the summer months, but you can escape by striding out across the marked paths – there’s no shade, though, and the ever-present screeching, swooping birds make a restful picnic unlikely.Read More