Forte de Sao Joao Baptiste

Little known places are some of my favorite things to research and explore.  When I was younger, I used to dream about all these places that I wanted to see.  I would keep a black and white composition notebook (remember those things) of all the crazy places I had heard of and I would rip out pictures from magazines and tape them into my notebook and write down any facts I knew about it next to it.  Basically the pre-pinterest days.  Its so amazing to me to think now that I have seen or have plans to see so many of those places that were on that list.  I am constantly looking for new places to add to my list since I have crossed off so many.  While I am scrolling through pinterest the places that excite me the most are the ones that I can't believe exist.  Either because they are so incredibly beautiful or because I have never seen them before.  

Recently I found this amazing place: "Forte de Sao Joao Baptiste" which is in Berlengas Islands in Portugal.

I saw that picture and literally gasped.  After years of just mindlessly scrolling through pinterest travel and constantly buying travel magazines it's pretty rare I see a picture I have never seen before.

I am used to this day and age of typing a location into google and getting every bit of information I could possibly need to plan a trip all on the first page.  For this place I had to do quite a bit of research because there is not a ton of information out there about it.  I read reviews on trip advisor and found old articles to decipher the where what and how of this amazing place. 

First the history.  You can jump over to trusty Wikipedia or read my TD;DR version: King Manuel of Portugal ordered the construction of a fortress on Berlenga Grande in 1502.  It didn't actually start getting built until the 17th century.  In 1666 the fort was instrumental in stopping the attack by a Spanish fleet which was sent to kidnap Queen Maria Francisca of Savoy who had been sent to Portugal to marry King Afonso VI.  The fort was finally completed in 1678.  In 1821 João VI of Portugal ordered a remodeling of the forts chapel which had been burned down.  In 1953 the fort was repaired and remodelled as an attempt to make the structure into an inn - it was never finished.  In 1981 the Directorate-General of buildings and national monuments restored the structure and in 1986-87 made it secure for visitors. 

Here's what I found out in regards to visiting this unique place.  Apparently it can only be reached by a 45 minute boat ride out of Peniche which is an hour and half north of Lisbon (the red pin). Boats only run from May - September.  There is a variety of hiking and a beautiful beach on the island so its up to you if you do a day trip or stay the night.  

There are a couple of accommodations on the island.  But by far the coolest is that you can actually stay in the fort for the night.  It's definitely not a 5 star hotel quality, it's actually more like camping. You are encouraged to bring warm clothes because even in the dead of summer it's very cold in the fort.  There is also very little running water and you can only take showers at certain times of the day.  Also bring a flashlight because it gets really dark in the fort at night.  But all of this makes it worth it because it is only 15 euros a night to stay there.

There is just one beach on the island that has a nice cove with beautiful white sand and crystal clear water.  

This beach also has a diving board for public use. It is suggested that you bring most of your own food to the island since there is only one restaurant on the island. Its called the Sun and Sea Restaurante but just like the rest of the island I couldn't find much on it.  (I did find one link to a website for the restaurant but it was broken so I am not sure if it is even still open.)

this is the only picture I could find of the lodging and restaurant area.  It was from an article back in 2010 so who knows how much has changed.

this is the only picture I could find of the lodging and restaurant area.  It was from an article back in 2010 so who knows how much has changed.

The whole island is also apart of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.  Which basically means that the hiking will be beautiful and untouched.  It was only declared apart of it in 2011 which makes me think its only a matter or time before this secret island gets some exposure and tourism on the island increases.  

I want to go to this little island paradise so badly.  The pictures of this place make me salivate with adventure.  (Don't know if that's a real phrase, if not I just made it one.)

I did manage to find a guided tour out of Peniche for around $90. 

Sources: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5