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Our top seven scenic kayaking tours and adventures in Portugal

Are you looking forward to your upcoming family travels? Are you planning an adventure break in the Mediterranean? What about a holiday to Portugal? Portugal's landscape is diverse and invites you to plenty of adventure and outdoor activities, including kayaking. Portugal offers beautiful opportunities to paddle along the country's stunning coastline and explore its rivers and lakes inland. So, here we share our 7 favorite locations to kayak in Portugal.

1. The Douro Valley

View over the Douro Valley, Portugal, The Small Adventure Company - Adventure and Family Holidays in Europe

The Douro Valley is a wine region in northern Portugal, known for producing Port wine. It is located along the Douro River and is characterized by steep hillsides and terraced vineyards that were built by hand over many centuries. The river Douro is an important highlight of the area allowing you to soak up the natural surroundings from the water, whether via river cruises or from your kayak. Besides, you can stop at local wineries and restaurants along the way, to sample the region's famous wines and cuisine.

2. Arrabida Natural Park

Kayaking in the Arrabida Nature Park, Portugal, The Small Adventure Company - Adventure and Family Adventures in Europe, credit @vertente natural

The protected Arrabida Natural Park is located in the Setubal district of Portugal, approximately 50 kilometers south of Lisbon. The park is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, as well as stunning landscapes from lush green fields, and vineyards, to limestone hills. But probably one of its main attractions is its dramatic and rugged coastline with stunning cliffs, hidden coves, and crystal-clear waters inviting for a range of water sports activities, such as kayaking, SUP, and snorkeling. On a kayak tour, you peddle around the breathtaking rock formations and past secluded beaches but can also observe marine life such as dolphins and sea birds. After an active morning, you can relax on the gorgeous beaches of the park, such as Galapinhos Beach and Portinho da Arrabida.

3. Kayaking on the Mondego River

The Mondego River is the longest river that flows entirely within Portugal, stretching over 200 kilometers from the Serra da Estrela mountain range to the Atlantic Ocean. The combination of its beautiful surroundings – with high cliffs, extensive forests, and river beaches – and the yearlong stable water level made the Mondego the preferred river for canoeing and kayaking in Portugal.

Kayaking on the Mondego river, Portugal, The Small Adventure Company  - Adventure and Family Holidays in Europe credit @ Visit Portugal

Kayaking can be done in several sections, depending on your level of experience and preferences. One is the stretch between Penacova and Coimbra, where the river flows through steep granite cliffs and forests of oak and pine trees. It is known for its calm waters and therefore suitable for all levels of kayakers. The stretch between Figueira da Foz and the river mouth, where the river meets the Atlantic Ocean is a more challenging experience, with faster currents and some rapids! It is recommended for more experienced kayakers. Apart from kayaking you can also enjoy hiking and cycling along the river's banks, and you cannot miss a visit to the historic city of Coimbra, which is known for its medieval architecture, museums, and old University (founded in 1290), with impressive historic campuses and libraries.

4. Peneda Gerês National Park

Peneda-Gerês National Park is a beautiful nature park located in the North of Portugal, near the Spanish border. It is known for its stunning landscapes, hidden waterfalls, rugged mountains, and numerous rivers and lakes that provide excellent opportunities for outdoor activities such as kayaking.

There are several spots within the park where you can start your kayaking adventures, such as the river Rio Lima and the Caniçada Reservoir. The Rio Lima is a slow-moving river that meanders through the park's forests, offering a peaceful and scenic kayaking experience. The Caniçada Reservoir, on the other hand, is a larger body of water that offers more challenging kayaking conditions, with stronger currents and winds. Kayaking in Peneda-Gerês National Park is a great way to explore the park's natural beauty and enjoy an adventurous activity in the great outdoors.

Peneda-Geres National Park, Portugal, The Small Adventure Company - Adventure and Family Holidays in Europe

5. Sea kayaking in the Algarve

Sea kayaking at Lagos, Algarve, Portugal, The Small Adventure Company - Adventure and Family Holidays in Europe

Lagos is a historical coastal city located in the Algarve, in southern Portugal. Lagos is not only known for its picturesque old town and ancient walls, but also for its stunning coastline, with rocky cliffs, hidden coves, and crystal-clear waters, making it an ideal location for kayakers of all skill levels. Departing from Lagos beach you’ll have the chance to see some amazing rock formations that rise from the sea - like Ponta da Piedade - up close, observe local wildlife, discover some amazing secluded beaches - including Praia da Batata and Praia Dona Ana - and take impressive photographs. You might also want to put the Benagil Cave on your kayaking list. It is a beautiful sea cave famous for its stunning natural beauty and unique rock formations.

6. Alqueva Lake night kayaking

Night canoeing at Alqueva, Alentejo, Portugal, The Small Adventure Company - Adventure and Family Holidays in Europe, credit @ Herances do Alentejo

The Alqueva Lake is the largest artificial lake in Europe, created by the construction of the Alqueva Dam on the Guadiana River, located in the Alentejo region in southern Portugal. The Alqueva Lake area has been designated as a Dark Sky Reserve for its exceptionally clear night skies that are free from light pollution. For this it is one of the best places in the world for stargazing, and what about doing this from your kayak? Night kayaking on Alqueva Lake provides a unique opportunity to experience the stillness and tranquility of the lake under the stars. The darkness allows you to fully appreciate the natural beauty of the area and the silence is only interrupted by the sound of your paddles in the water.

7. Douro International Natural Park

Kayaking at Douro Internacional Nature Park, Portugal, The Small Adventure Company - Adventure and Family Holidays in Europe

The Douro Internacional Nature Park is located in the northeastern part of the country, where the Douro River serves as the natural border between Portugal and Spain. The river flows in a deep valley of about 130 km long surrounded by steep cliffs and mountains, for which it earned the title of the “Grand Canyon” of the Iberian Peninsula. Kayaking is a popular activity in the Douro Internacional Nature Park. From your kayak, you can absorb the stunning views of the surrounding landscape and might even spot local fauna while you paddle through the river.

Contact us and discover more hidden gems of Portugal and find some inspiration for your next Portugal holiday in our Portugal Adventure Weeks, Portugal Family Adventures and Portugal Adventure Getaways.


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