The Best Adventure Activities in Portugal

Portugal and its islands are the ideal place to seek out new thrills and revel in unique experiences
Portugal and its islands are the ideal place to seek out new thrills and revel in unique experiences | © Eduardo Barrento / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Nina Santos
4 September 2021

Thrillseekers may fall in love with Portugal, as there are plenty of activities to keep the adrenaline pumping. From hiking in Madeira to canyoning in the Azores and skydiving in the Alentejo region, here are some of the best adventure activities available in mainland Portugal and the islands.

Hike ‘levadas’ and mountains in Madeira

Madeira is an excellent destination for hikers, full of jaw-dropping summits, some peeking above the clouds. The levadas – centuries-old canals originally created for irrigation – run up the mountains of this subtropical island and through some truly spectacular sights. The more popular routes lead to the 1,818m-high (5,964ft) Pico do Arieiro and the highest peak, Pico Ruivo at 1,862m (6,108ft), while a few more casual paths wind past traditional villages and farmland.

All hikers should stop in Madeira to test themselves against the spectacular peaks | © Westend61 GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Zip-line between two countries

Who wouldn’t want to travel between two countries on a zip-line? Límite Zero may actually be the only company in the world that offers this type of experience. The 720m-long (2,362ft) ride departs from Sanlúcar de Guadiana, Spain, and ends in Alcoutim, Portugal – travelling across the Guadiana River. Once in Portugal, there is a ferry service – included in the cost – that will return you to Spain.

Skydive in the Alentejo

A unique way to see the rugged and rural Alentejo region is by taking a tandem skydive from 4,115m (13,500ft) in the air – free-falling for about a minute before gliding over the regional capital, Évora. Considering the Alentejo is one of the more peaceful retreats in Portugal, skydiving is an exciting way to shake things up, and there is always the possibility of relaxing afterwards with a glass of wine at a local vineyard.

Take a tandem skydive over the Alentejo region for a thrilling way to see this chilled part of Portugal | © Graiki / Getty Images

Surf (or spot) epic waves in Nazaré

One of the more popular adrenaline-pumping activities in Portugal is surfing, and there are plenty of amazing spots along the coast in which to enjoy it. From the monster waves at Nazaré and Peniche to the dramatic cliff-rimmed shoreline of the Algarve, the possibilities really do seem endless.

Nazaré is home to some of the biggest surfing waves in the world | © R.M. Nunes / Alamy Stock Photo

Ski in the Serra da Estrela

Sure, there are better countries for skiing, but how often can you go surfing in the morning and skiing in the afternoon? The Serra da Estrela takes just under two hours to reach from the closest beach – an easy trek for anyone with a car – and the Vodafone Ski Resort is surrounded by amazing sights, traditional villages and wonderful family-run restaurants.

Serra da Estrela is just two hours from the nearest beach | © Luis C. Carvalho / Alamy Stock Photo

Bungee jump in Albufeira

There are a few places in Portugal where you can bungee, but Albufeira is the only Portuguese town that offers water-touch jumps. Just head to the marina, and you can leap from 40m (131ft) high and can opt to have your fingers – or more – dipped into the cool water before bouncing back up. The only thing that makes this experience more incredible is the knowledge that this is one of only five water-touch jumps in the world.

Go canyoning in the Azores

How about jumping into a fast-moving stream of water and letting it carry you down a mountain? Varying levels of canyoning can be enjoyed in the Azores archipelago – but the best and most extreme spots may be found in Flores, in the farthest and most remote group of European islands. São Miguel and São Jorge are two other islands that offer canyoning and introductory courses.

Head to the Azores if you fancy trying your hand at canyoning | © Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo

Scuba dive in Lagos

There are many scuba diving opportunities waiting in Portugal. A few of the best destinations to visit include Lagos in the Algarve, Peniche in central Portugal and Ponta Delgada in the Azores.

Expect to see some spectacular marine life when snorkelling or scuba diving in Portugal | © Wolfgang Pölzer / Alamy Stock Photo

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