The largest, main island is Berlengas Grande, the only inhabited island. Berlenga Grande is surrounded by several smaller, tiny islands. The Fort of St. John the Baptist extends from Berlenga Grande onto a smaller island and has stood since 1502. Visitors to the island can stay in the fort for an experience that is not like any other.
This is not a luxury vacation. The accommodation in the fort is that of a basic hostel, with minimal modern convenience. The rooms include a bed, toilet/sink, and a clothesline to hang your clothes on. That’s it. The rooms are apparently cold even in the summer, and showers are only available at certain times of the day because of limited water supply. You can rent double rooms or rooms for four, and breakfast is included. The rooms are also very inexpensive, only about 15 euros.
But the lack of features is the basis of the island’s appeal. The attraction is getting away from complicated, modern life for a few days, and of course enjoying the architecture and history of the fort. It’s recommended that you bring a flashlight, since the fort is dark at night, and cards, a guitar, etc. to amuse yourself since there is no modern entertainment. Staying at the fort is a lot like camping.
I think it’s fantastic. Spectacular places like this should not be kept exclusively for the wealthy – they should be available for everyone to see and experience.
Visting season is May to September, and the Fort always fills up with bookings. The only way to get to the islands is by boat, a 45 minute ride over the sea. I would definitely stay for a couple nights in the fort, but you can also just go for a day trip.
What to do? There are several beaches around the main island, but only one is usable. In a beautiful little cove with white sand and turquoise water, you can swim and lounge in the sun. You can also snorkel fairly far out, until you hit boat territory. There is also a public diving board. This beach is reached by a little walkway leading from the little cluster of buildings around the island’s main dock. This little cluster includes a few lodgings, the island’s restaurant, a little café, and a clean set of washrooms. Down at the main dock, you can take boat tours around the caves on the south side of the island for a few euros. The sailors are friendly and will give you lots of information about the island. It’s a little more expensive, but you can take the glass bottom boat for an especially cool tour. You can also explore the island on foot – the whole island is a nature reserve, and there are many trails.
What to eat? Food served at the Fort is home cooked and local. The people serving your meal are probably the people who caught it – they serve a lot of fresh fish. You can also bring your own food and cook it in the Fort’s kitchen. There is one restaurant on the island, the Sun and Sea Restaurante. The restaurant apparently has good atmosphere and serves seafood dishes with fresh, local catch. You can also try the café, which is good for snacks, delicious pastries, coffee and beer.
Overall, the Berlengas are a fantastic experience if you want to relax, get away from busy every day life and enjoy some gorgeous nature.