Hiking to Praia da Ursa was hands down one of our favourite hikes we’ve done in Portugal so far. Obviously, because it is SO beautiful, but also because we had no idea what to expect from this hike.
We stayed overnight in our van by the lighthouse at Cabo da Roca and from there we just embarked onto the trails that started a few hundred meters down the road.
The hike starts with the most beautiful view of the Portuguese coastline almost instantly. We had such an amazing experience hiking the Praia da Ursa trail so we’re extra excited to share this hike with you.
Let’s get to it!
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What to expect when hiking the Praia da Ursa trail
As you get onto this trail (even before starting the trail actually), you will be met by the most beautiful view of the Cabo de Roca Lighthouse, the ocean, and Portuguese coastal nature.
Later on, you will be met by the coolest rock formation down on the beach of Praia da Aroeira and later Praia da Ursa which is also known as Ursa Beach. And how cool is it that this is the most Western beach in the mainland of Europe!?
We’re not kidding when we say these views are one of the reasons why this was one of our favourite hikes in all of Portugal. We don’t mean that lightly because hiking up to the Castle of Moors was magical. But the Portuguese coastline is something else. Plus the viewpoints along this hike to Praia da Ursa are just out of this world.
Practical information about hiking to Praia da Ursa
Distance: 3.9 km return / 2.4 miles return
Elevation: Roughly 250 m / 820 ft. elevation gain
Type: In-and-out trail
Length: 1.5 to 2 hours return (depending on how many photos you take)
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Here’s a picture of the beginning of the Praia da Ursa trail:
Starting near Cabo da Roca Lighthouse
The hike starts from the Cabo de Roca Lighthouse tourist information center. From there, you head away from the viewpoint with the cross (where everyone goes to watch the famous Cabo da Roca sunset).
Walk through the parking lot and towards the grassy area. You will find a signpost (see the image above) that shows the starting point of this beautiful hike.
Once you’re on the trail, you’ll walk for a few minutes and you’ll notice that the path splits in two. One is going to continue straight and over the hill, and one will take you left around the hill towards the coast. Continue to the left to head out to the viewpoint of Praia da Aroeira.
If you’re going downhill, you’re headed down to the beach (Praia da Aroeira, not Praia da Ursa). You can do this too, but for the purpose of this post, we’re just taking you to the viewpoint.
Hiking along the coast down to the rope
Once you’ve taken in the view and captured about a million photos, it’s time to continue the hike. Head back on the trail you came from and back to where the trail initially split in two.
This time, you head onto the other part of the trail which is over the hill. Continue on this trail by following the signposts and markers on the rocks. There are multiple trails and they should all take you in the same direction.
After a short walk, you’ll arrive at a warning sign. This tells you that you’re entering an erosion zone. Please continue at your own risk but steer away from the cliffs. The view is pretty near the cliff but we stayed away and still captured the view!
After this signpost, you’ll continue for a little bit longer until the trail starts descending. It won’t be long until you catch a first glimpse of the amazing rock formations down at Praia da Ursa. We stopped here and took a bunch of photos and just enjoyed the view.
Down the rope and to Praia da Ursa Beach
Soon enough, you’ll get to a part with a rope. This section isn’t super steep but it can be slippery both in dry and wet weather conditions.
The ground was really dry when we went so all the sand was super loose which made it a bit slippery. Luckily the rope was there to make the little descent easy though!, But it wasn’t scary!
After the Spiderman rope descent, you’ll continue down and soon enough you’ll be down at the beach! Take in the views of Praia da Ursa and enjoy the splashing waves.
It was low tide when we went, so we continued out past the big rocks and crawled around on them. It was quite fun but be careful with the tide. The waves here are very powerful.
Once you’re ready to head back, simply just follow the trail back up. It’s as easy as that!
More information on the Praia da Ursa trail
You can follow this map on AllTrails if you need a little extra guidance with the directions. Just note that this trail actually takes you up to a viewpoint of Praia da Ursa instead of down to the beach.
If you follow this map, there will be a point where it is asking you to continue up and over a hill when you can clearly see a path to the left that takes you down to the beach. From there on out you can ignore the map and just follow the trail to the beach.
It’s pretty straight forward though. You’ll basically want to stay on the trails that are along the coast and not go back inland. Once you find the rope and the trail down to the beach you’ll be there in no time.
What to bring on the trail
Since the Praia da Ursa trail is relatively short, you don’t have to bring a ton of stuff. However, there are a few things we can recommend.
Portugal can get super hot, even in winter, so we’d always recommend bringing water, sunscreen, and a hat to protect you from the sun!
Even if it isn’t a sunny day, you should at least bring some water to stay hydrated. And the way back up is pretty steep, so you might get your sweat on!
Another thing we’d highly recommend is bringing hiking poles. Not because of the trail itself, but because you might run into a snake. Hiking poles can be a good protector in case that happens.
We luckily didn’t see any snakes while doing this hike, but we have seen them twice in Ericeira. The ones we’ve seen were just garden snakes, so nothing dangerous, but still not fun! Don’t be scared, just be aware.
- Water! There is nowhere on this hike to refill your bottle so bring plenty. We always fill up our LifeStraw bottles before starting a hike.
- Sunscreen is highly recommended when hiking in Portugal. Even if you go early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
- Bring some food so you can enjoy along the trail. Maybe a nice PB & J, trail mix, or whatever you like to snack on while hiking!
- Hiking poles are also a good idea in case you see a snake.
You can check out this great list of hiking gear to get some more inspiration!
Before you hike the Praia da Ursa trail
Check the weather
No matter where you hike, you should always check the weather before you go. This is the best way to prepare for the hike ahead of you. You can check the weather for Cabo da Roca here.
Be snake prepared
Every now and then, people encounter snakes on this trail. From what we’ve been told it doesn’t happen often and when it does, it is just a gardener snake. However, we do recommend bringing hiking poles just to be prepared.
You can read more about the snakes you may encounter in Portugal here.
Wear hiking shoes
We did this hike in our regular runners, and it was definitely doable, but there were a few times where we wished we had our regular hiking shoes on.
Jo had a small fall once and there were a few steep sections with loose sand on the way down where a better grip under our feet would’ve been nice.
Don’t go swimming but suntan naked
Praia da Ursa is a beautiful beach and the waves look awesome, but it is NOT recommended to go swimming here. There are no lifeguards and the waves are quite powerful. Plus there are tons of other amazing beaches and areas to swim in Portugal. This one is better to just admire from the distance!
You can, however, enjoy the views from the beach while suntanning in your bikini or naked. This is a naturist beach so you can do whatever you want!
How the beach got its name
There’s a very interesting story behind the rocks which are known as the “bear rocks”. Legend has it that back before the ice age a momma bear lived here with her cubs.
One day, the Gods told her to leave the beach but she wouldn’t obey. For that reason, they punished her and her cubs and turned them into stone. You can read the legend on Lisbon Beaches Guide here.
Best time to hike to Praia da Ursa
In our opinion, there isn’t really a bad time to go hiking in Portugal. This hike can generally be done any time of the year, as long as the weather is on your side.
Spring and fall might be the best time to do this hike though since it won’t be scorching hot or the days won’t be too short to really enjoy the hike. During spring you’ll see beautiful flowers on the ground along the coast, and during fall you’ll have some really nice warm days that aren’t too hot.
As for when the best time of day to go is, we’d recommend you either go early in the morning or a few hours before sunset.
If you go in the morning, you’ll beat the crowds and you’ll have the beach all to yourself. Although it never gets too busy there, there’s something special about having a remote beach all to yourself! We went around 8.30 and were the second people down there only beat by a few climbers.
If you go in the afternoon or evening time depending on the season, you can catch the sunset at Praia da Ursa. We can only imagine how incredible this must be!
How to get to the start of the Praia da Ursa trail
Here are the distances and timeframes to Cabo da Roca where the hike starts from some of the more common cities nearby:
From Sintra to Cabo da Roca: 30-minute drive (20 kilometres)
- You can follow the directions from Sintra to Cabo da Roca here.
From Lisbon to Cabo da Roca: 45-minute drive (40 kilometres) via toll roads or 50-minute drive (46 kilometres) on free roads.
- You can follow the directions from Lisbon to Cabo da Roca here. If you want to avoid toll roads, you can simply just turn it off under “route options”.
From Cascais to Cabo da Roca: 25-minute drive (15 kilometres)
- You can follow the directions from Cascais to Cabo da Roca here.
Other things to do nearby Praia da Ursa and Cabo da Roca
Watch the sunset at Cabo da Roca
This is the most Western point in all of mainland Europe. Catching the sunset at Cabo da Roca is something you must do at least once in your life! It’s definitely one of the best and most famous sunset spots in Portugal.
Explore castles in Sintra
Sintra is famous for its many beautiful castles and it’s no surprise that they’re all a part of the UNESCO heritage list. You can visit the castles on your own like we did when we explored Pena Palace and Castle of Moors, or you can go on a guided tour.
The pros of doing it by yourself are that you are in charge of your trip. You can decide which of the castles you want to see and how much time you want to spend at each one. It’s also cheaper doing it on your own since it will cost you around €35-40 for everything from the castle fees and the train from Lisbon to Sintra and back.
If you go on a tour (like this one) it will cost you around €65. This tour includes pickup in Lisbon, all entrance tickets are included, you have a local guide with you, and you can skip the line at all entrances. On this specific tour, you also have free time at each location + some time for lunch.
If you aren’t on a tight budget, we’d recommend a guided tour so you can just sit back, relax, and enjoy the trip. There are a ton of different options on both GetYourGuide and Tripadvisor so you can check those out and see if anything sparks your interest.
Hike up to the Castle of Moors
This is up the same alley as the suggested activity above, but we wanted to include this one separately… If you decide to tour around Sintra on your own, one thing you should try out is hiking to the Castle of Moors!
The Castle of Moors is the coolest fortress located up in the Sintra hills. The hike is really fun because you get away from taking the touristy way to all the iconic castles.
It’s no crazy hike but you’re walking off-the-beaten path through the city and into the Sintra forest which is super beautiful. So yeah, we can highly recommend it!
Visit the beautiful beach town of Cascais
If you haven’t had enough of beautiful beaches yet, you might wanna check out Cascais! It’s a beautiful beach town located south of Cabo da Roca and west of Lisbon. It’s a very popular spot so be prepared for tourists, but it’s popular for a reason.
If you’re curious to learn more about Cascais, then check out this post: Is Cascais the Best Day Trip From Lisbon?
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We hope you enjoy this beautiful hike from Cabo da Roca to Praia da Ursa. There are so many amazing places to visit and hike in Portugal but this was by far one of our favourites.
It’s a combination of the Portuguese coast, the perfect sandy beaches, and the rocky cliffs that have formed over thousands of years that make this place so special.
Coastal hikes aren’t something we get to experience too often but when we do we absolutely love it!
Dom & Jo
Red White Adventures