Things to Do in Setubal District
Golden beaches, steep cliff sides, tall pine trees, and hillsides of Mediterranean greenery characterize Arrabida National Park, a stretch of land along the Portuguese coast between the seaside towns of Setúmbal and Sesimbra. From the summit of Serra da Arrabida, the highest point of the park, to the beaches of Portinho da Arrábida, this area is full of natural beauty. Praia do Figueirinha and the Praia do Creiro are two notable beaches. Small coastal villages with centuries old monasteries and stone forts are present throughout.
Hiking trails are a great way to explore the park; many have sweeping views of the sea and are surrounded by the area’s indigenous plants and animals. The Rota Moinho (Windmills Track) has several traditional windmills to see en route. The town of Pamela is a great place to begin many of the available hikes. On a clear day, it is possible to see all the way to Lisbon.
Along the winding Portuguese coast lies Sesimbra, a small fishing village with a 17th-century fort overlooking the sea. Its 12th-century Moorish stone castle is perched up on jagged cliffs that drop down into calm Setúbal Bay. There is a small historic monastery within the castle walls, and the best mountain and sea views can be seen from a climb to the top.
Sesimbra is famous for its deep sea fishing and fresh seafood. There are several waterfront restaurants serving fresh fish, and fisherman will often auction off their catches from the harbor. The clear, protected waters of the bay create ideal swimming and scuba diving conditions. In addition to active water sports, there are excellent hiking trails, beaches, and natural parks in and just outside of town. With local beaches and an old town to stroll through, it’s easy to enjoy a quieter pace.
Known for its wild, untamed landscape, Cape Espichel is a southwestern headland in the Setúbal District. The cape meets the rough waters of the Atlantic Ocean with dramatic, high-rising cliffs and a wind-blown, barren landscape. Atop the cliffs lies raw, isolated countryside, and many visitors describe the area as mysterious and spiritual.
Beyond the incredible scenery, the cape is home to ruins, fossils and other sights. At the water’s edge there’s a lighthouse, offering great views of the seascape. Also perched at the edge of a cliff is a small, simple white chapel, with the deep blue ocean as its backdrop. There’s also the Santuário de Nossa Senhora, a baroque-style church, built in 1707. The main structure has been well maintained, with original tiles and stonework, and the surrounding area has ruins to explore.
One of the largest wine-producers in Portugal, Bacalhôa Wines is set in a 15th-century castle previously owned by the Portuguese Royal Family. Bacalhôa has a long tradition of winemaking—a family-owned company founded in the 1920s, their wines are made from grapes from seven different wine-regions in Portugal.
Bacalhôa offers tours, tastings, a museum and gardens for visitors to explore. The surrounding grounds include carefully manicured hedges among flowing fountains and reflecting pools. The museum houses the family’s private art collection, which contains pieces from Africa, South America, and Asia as well as stunning examples of Portugal’s traditional azuleijo tiles. A highlight of a visit to the estate is the atmospheric storeroom – where antique wine casks lay in a dark room, adorned with ancient Portuguese tiles.
While in southwest Portugal, travel to what feels like the heart of Africa by heading to Badoca Safari Park. Situated about an hour and a half south of Lisbon, the wildlife park features animals that are native to Africa and that live in surroundings similar to their natural habitat. To get the full experience, you’ll have the opportunity to explore the critter-filled landscape during a 45-minute safari ride. While on the excursion, you’ll spy wild animals such as giraffes, zebras, camels and more. Other park activities include the lemur experience, during which you can interact with the endangered animals; and a children’s petting zoo, complete with goats, donkeys, lambs, ponies and more. And if you’re keen for more adventure, even go — and get soaked — on the African rafting ride.
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