Is there rock climbing in Portugal?
Portugal’s potential as a climbing destination is often overshadowed by its proximity to Spain—yet this small country is home to some excellent coastal climbing crags! It’s true that when compared to its Iberian neighbour, Portugal falls short in terms of quantity of routes. But if you’re looking for something a little more laid-back, a little more off-the-beaten track, a climbing holiday with the emphasis on ‘holiday’, then why not head here? In addition to boasting 800km of stunning coastline, peaceful beaches and world-class surfing spots, Portugal is the place to come for great weather, amazing seafood dishes, good wines, and a rich culture.
The beautiful Atlantic coast of Portugal © Filipe Alves
Capital and one of Europe’s oldest cities, Lisbon has the largest concentration of climbing routes in the country. About one third of all existing climbing routes in Portugal are located in the region.
From iconic sport climbing crags in Arrabida Natural Park to Sintra’s mystic forests — a boulder enthusiasts’ paradise — passing through a rich and adventurous trad climbing in Cabo da Roca, Lisbon has a lot to offer. The abundance and variety of rock along with some pristine landscapes and, of course, magnificent ocean cliffs are finally putting Lisbon on the world climbing community map.
All the crags listed below are within 30km from Lisbon, making it possible to combine climbing with visits to this fascinating city and the cultural activities it offers. Portugal’s mild climate means that climbing is possible year round.
Climbing some easy routes on the Atlantic coast of Portugal © Filipe Alves
Rock climbing in Sintra
Sintra is an idyllic town and UNESCO world heritage site situated at the edge of the Parque Natural de Sintra-Cascais, about a 30 minute drive west of Lisbon. Walking through the pine forests and mountains surrounding the town, you’ll encounter extravagant manors, medieval castles, gardens, palaces and some of the best bouldering in the country.
At present, there are around 1200 established problems between 4 and 8b on top-quality granite, making for some powerful climbing on sharp rock. The bouldering community here is thriving, powered by super strong climbers ticking off projects every week and community events that really bring a special vibe to this peculiar landscape.
Ricardo Alves climbing a 7c in Sintra, a beautiful bouldering area not far from Lisbon © Rita Ribeiro Silva
We especially recommend visiting the Albarrasintra sector which is densely developed and home to some of the best quality rock, offering all kinds of shapes and holds.
Malveira is another popular place where you can find problems suitable for all levels. The granite here is softer than in other sectors and the majority of the holds are crimps. This area is also known for some famous night sending sessions, so head here if you are looking into some bouldering under the stars!
Checkout #bouldersintra for the latest news and sends, and the freshly issued ‘Sintra Bouldering Guide Book’ for all the croquis, access and secrets of this magic mountain.
Make sure to also check out the Penedo da Amizade sport climbing crag, with excellent lines on high quality granite slabs that literally climb up to the walls of the Moors Castle.
Miguel Osório on Mito (7c) in the Albarrasintra sector, Sintra © Ricardo Alves
Rock Climbing in the Arrábida Natural Park
About an hour’s drive southeast of Lisbon, you’ll find the Arrábida Natural Park with it’s gorgeous forested limestone hills and pristine white beaches, but also unique crags by the ocean where apart from climbing gear you must check tides, swell directions and winds.
The Arrábida Natural Park is where we'll be basing our Atlantic Cliffs sport climbing trips.
Fojo dos Morcegos
Arrábida climbing history started in the early 70s at the big sea cliffs of Fojo dos Morcegos. At that time rock climbing was regarded as a way of training for alpine expeditions abroad. After some years of attempts, local climbers finally conquered the first truly hard multi-pitch route in Portugal (Alampa, 6C+) in this very area.
Despite being less frequented than other crags over the past two decades, Fojo dos Morcegos is slowly regaining its popularity. The beauty of the landscape and quality and variety of routes are bringing climbers back to these walls, especially following some recent rebolting work.
You’ll find a large selection (from IV till 8th grade) of routes on slabs, vertical and overhanging walls in a valley close to the ocean.
Carlos Simes on the route "Quáquá Come Kiki" (8b) in Fenda © Ricardo Alves
Fenda, the most popular crag in the area, lies not too far from Fojo dos Morcegos. The sector is situated on a long fissure of overhanging limestone rock overlooking the heavenly Portinho da Arrábida beach. Seen from afar, Fenda appears quite small as a lot of the climbing is hidden in a deep chasm…but don’t be fooled, the area is home to 100 single pitch sport routes between 4 and 8b.
Fenda is considered by many local climbers to be the best training crag in Arrábida - and even in the entire Lisbon region - and you can find some iconic lines, including the first 8th grade routes in Portugal! In fact, most of the local climbers owe their progress to the development of this crag in the 90’s.
The climbs are typically slightly overhanging and pumpy, full of pockets and tufas, with particularly world class routes in the 7b/c range. The beach is merely a stone’s throw away, perfect for a post-send beer in the evening sun.
Sunshine, sea, good climbing - what more could you want? © Filipe Alves
Heading west from Fenda, on the edge of Cabo Espichel, you will find Meio Mango, one of the best spots for hard routes in the Lisbon region. Bolting began in this area in 2009, and the crag quickly became the main attraction for more adventurous climbers from Lisbon.
The climbing is quite literally by the sea, with just a broad limestone ledge separating you from the ocean and zipwire crossings between sectors.
You’ll find over 100 single-pitch sport routes between 5 and 8c+ at Meio Mango, on weathered, shattered-looking limestone rock. The quality of the rock and the uniqueness of its type of climbing — dynamic, athletic and creative moves — are key factors to the success of Meio Mango. While the area does benefit from a sea breeze, the south-east orientation of the crag means that it becomes a sun-trap, which may not be pleasant on particularly hot days!
André Neres on the route "Humildade Relativa" (8b+), Santa Linha sector, Meio Mango © Ricardo Alves
Rock climbing in Portugal Logistics
Where should I stay?
Continental Portugal does not have any official mountain refuges nor climber-specific guesthouses. However, in recent years new safe havens for climbers have been popping up all over the country: either B&Bs managed by climbers or retreat centres for yoga & surf that have started to embrace the climbing community as well.
In these accommodation options, you will probably find a hangboard, crag topos for the region, and more importantly other climbers full of cool tips and passion to share.
The biovilla - a peaceful environmentally conscious B&B for outdoor enthusiasts © Filipe Alves
Moreover, in places like Biovilla, you will be able to practice some yoga, do some gardening or agro-forestry, go for hikes in nature or just enjoy some regenerative and yummy organic, local, seasonal food. It’s the perfect safe place for you to restore your power, find your mojo and tune in into your body and soul.
Biovilla: kick back, relax and enjoy a restorative yoga session after a good day at the crag © Biovilla
You should definitely rent a car!
It is possible to catch a train from Lisbon (Rossio station) to Sintra, but once you get to the town you will realize that having a car to move around between sectors is the best option. It is, however, quite impossible to get to the Arrábida National Park climbing crags by public transport.
One thing you need to be aware of is that most of the crags are relatively remote places and that in the past climbers’ cars have been robbed. It may be worth leaving the car in paid parking lots. For example, in Arrábida you can park at Creio beach parking lot (2€ / day).
There's plenty of rest day activities in the Lisbon area, from watersports to sightseeing in the city © Filipe Alves
Rest day activities
Lisbon is bursting with culture and great places to eat, stay and party. A wide glittering river, limpid skies, steep cobbled streets, palaces, churches, a castle and cheap, fresh, grilled sardines to eat outside a tasca (traditional restaurant) in the sun. You won’t regret taking one day (at least) to visit Portugal’s capital.
Moreover, Portugal is known for peaceful beaches and world-class surfing spots. Head to Ericeira (30 minutes drive from Lisbon) and ride some of the best waves in Europe. Ribeira d’Ilhas, Coxos or Foz do Lizandro are some of the best surfing spots in the area, but also great for hanging out or going for a swim.
Another popular activity amongst climbers is sea kayaking in Arrábida. From your kayak you can actually spot some crags like Portugal dos Pequeninos and Dente de Leão, in Sesimbra or even some iconic routes in Fenda. If you are looking for some adventure you can actually paddle to some secret caves and challenge yourself on a scenic deep water solo route.
Carlos Simes on the route "Pooh Corner" (6a), Sagres © Ricardo Alves
Where to find out more about rock climbing in Portugal
If you are planning an independent rock climbing trip to Lisbon you must get the recently published “Lisbon Climbing Guidebook”. This extraordinary book written by Rui Rosado - a local legend - is the perfect tool to get familiar with the crags and learning a little about the climbing history of Lisbon.
You can buy the book at the local climbing gyms, at Yupik (a local climbing shop) or if you go straight to Arrábida you can buy it at Espigas (a local coffee shop in Azóia village).
You'll find a huge variety of different rock formations on the Atlantic coast of Portugal, making for diverse and interesting climbing © Filipe Alves
If you are a bouldering enthusiast, the brand new book “Sintra Bouldering” is an essential. Published in 2021 by Ricardo “Macau” Alves - a famous local climber and photographer - each of the guide's 500 pages are a truly piece of art. You can buy it at Lisbon’s climbing gyms as well.
Finally, local climbing gyms are a great place to get to know the climbing community, meet new friends and maybe a climbing partner for your holidays. Vertigo, located near the Tejo river, is the most popular gym in town. Climb Up and Crux are a little further out, but they are bigger and not so crowded.
All of the gyms above offer guide services and sell basic climbing gear. If you need to buy any additional items of gear you should head to Yupik Outdoor Store - not far from Vertigo.
Enjoy your holiday!
Scrambling around the crag © Filipe Alves
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If you'd like to visit some of the amazing crags mentioned in this article, Mapo Tapo are running sport climbing trips in Portugal throughout the year. You'll spend 7 days with a group of international climbers in the beautiful Arrabida Natural Park, climbing (a lot!), exploring the area, participating in yoga sessions and movie nights, and enjoying the relaxing atmosphere at Biovilla. Please note that this trip is for autonomous climbers only.
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A huge thank you to Filipe Alves and Eduardo Gomes Madeira for their help with this article.
Filipe is a passionate and avid Portuguese rock climber who continues to explore and find new landscapes, both inner and outer, through this beautiful vertical movement we call climbing. With 1.000+ sport routes all over Europe, Filipe thrills with the edge of onsighting and exploring new crags. More recently he’s been dedicating increasing time to creating new lines in Portugal.
Eduardo is a former journalist who couldn’t resist the call for adventure and became a mountain guide. Himalayas and Patagonia are just two of the many adventures he’s had across the world.
Filipe and Eduardo are the guides for our Atlantic Cliffs climbing trip.
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Cover photo: Carlos Simes on the route "Pooh Corner" (6a), Sagres © Ricardo Alves