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 compared to its Iberian neighbor, Portugal falls short in terms of the number 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, fantastic seafood dishes, good wines, and 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.
The abundance and variety of rock, along with some pristine landscapes and magnificent ocean cliffs, are finally putting Lisbon on the world climbing community map. 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. If you want to understand what Portugal looks like from other climbing travelers' perspectives, head to our Instagram account @mapo_tapo and check our Stories Highlights.
All the crags listed below are within 30km of Lisbon, making it possible to combine climbing with visits to this fascinating city and its cultural activities. Portugal’s mild climate means that climbing is possible year-round.
Climbing some accessible routes on the Atlantic coast of Portugal © Filipe Alves
Rock climbing in Sintra.
Sintra is an idyllic 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.
Currently, 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 weekly projects and community events that bring a unique vibe to this peculiar landscape.
Ricardo Alves is climbing a 7c in Sintra, a beautiful bouldering area not far from Lisbon © Rita Ribeiro Silva.
We 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 to find problems suitable for all levels. The granite here is softer than in other sectors, and most holds are crimps. This area is also known for famous night-sending sessions, so head here if you are looking into some bouldering under the stars!
Check out #bouldersintra for the latest news and sends, and the freshly issued ‘Sintra Bouldering Guide Book’ for all this magic mountain's croquis, access, and secrets.
Make sure to also check out the Penedo da Amizade sport climbing crag, with excellent lines on high-quality granite slabs that 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 its gorgeous forested limestone hills and pristine white beaches, but also unique crags by the ocean where apart from the climbing gear, you must check tides, swell directions, and winds.
Fojo dos Morcegos
Arrábida's climbing history started in the early 70s at the giant sea cliffs of Fojo dos Morcegos. Rock climbing was regarded as a way of training for alpine expeditions abroad. After some years of attempts, local climbers finally conquered this area's first challenging multi-pitch route in Portugal (Alampa, 6C+).
Despite being less frequented than other crags over the past two decades, Fojo dos Morcegos is slowly gaining popularity. The landscape's beauty, quality, and various routes are bringing climbers back to these walls, especially after 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 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 relatively 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.
Many local climbers consider Fenda the best training crag in Arrábida - and even in the Lisbon region - and you can find some iconic lines, including the first 8th-grade routes in Portugal! Most of the local climbers owe their progress to the development of this crag in the 90s.
The climbs are typically slightly overhanging and pumpy, full of pockets and tufas, with remarkably 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 challenging 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 literally by the sea, with a broad limestone ledge separating you from the ocean and zip-wire 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 critical factors to the success of Meio Mango. While the area does benefit from a sea breeze, the southeast orientation of the crag means that it becomes a sun trap, which may not be pleasant on sweltering 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 or 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 centers for yoga & surf that have started to embrace the climbing community.
In these accommodation options, you will probably find a hang board, crag topos for the region, and, more importantly, other climbers full of excellent tips and passion for sharing.
The biovilla - a peaceful environmentally conscious B&B for outdoor enthusiasts © Filipe Alves
Moreover, in places like Biovilla, you can practice some yoga, do some gardening or agro-forestry, go for hikes in nature, or enjoy some regenerative and yummy organic, local, seasonal food. It’s the perfect safe place to restore your power, find your mojo and tune in to 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.
You need to be aware 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 the Creio beach parking lot (2€ / day).
There are 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. You won’t regret taking one day (at least) to visit Portugal’s capital. 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.
Moreover, Portugal is known for its 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 they are also great for hanging out or swimming.
Another popular activity amongst climbers is sea kayaking in Arrábida. You can spot some crags from your kayak, like Portugal dos Pequeninos and Dente de Leão in Sesimbra, or even some iconic routes in Fenda. If you are looking for adventure, you can paddle to 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
To plan 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 learn a little about Lisbon's climbing history.
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 various rock formations on the Atlantic coast of Portugal, making for diverse and exciting climbing © Filipe Alves.
If you are a bouldering enthusiast, the brand new book “Sintra Bouldering” is essential. Published in 2021 by Ricardo “Macau” Alves - a famous local climber and photographer - each of the guide's 500 pages is an authentic 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 find a climbing partner for your holidays. Vertigo, located near the Tejo river, is the most popular gym in town. Climb Up and Crux is a little further out but more extensive and not so crowded.
All of the gyms above offer guide services and sell essential climbing gear. If you need additional gear items, 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 fantastic crags mentioned in this article, Mapo Tapo runs sport climbing trips in Portugal throughout the year. You'll spend seven 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. So that you know, 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 inner and outer landscapes through this beautiful vertical movement we call climbing. With 1.000+ sports routes all over Europe, Filipe thrills with the edge of sighting and exploring new crags. More recently, he’s been dedicating 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