Located in the scenic Berlengas Archipelago in Portugal, the Fort of the Berlengas—otherwise known as the Fort of São João Baptista—has been an area of interest since the Romans declared that the Berlengas Archipelago was under the watchful eye of the god Saturn. The Fort of the Berlengas started out as a monastery but morphed into a fort when the isolated monks, who lived in the Berlengas, had to abandon their posts due to relentless stormy weather, constant pirate incursions, and craggy terrain that was not conducive to growing crops.
In 1502, King Manuel of Portugal decided that the remote island of Berlengas Grande was situated in a location of great strategic importance. King Manuel ordered the construction of the Fort of the Berlengas from the remnants of the abandoned Monastery of Misericórdia da Berlengas. By the 1600s, the former monastery had been razed completely and replaced by a solid military fort, which was able to fend off a fierce attack by a Spanish fleet in 1666.
The Fort of the Berlengas served as an invaluable Portuguese military stronghold until the mid-1800s when the balance of power shifted. In the mid-20th century, preservationists decided that the rugged, windswept Fort of the Berlengas was worth renovating. In the wake of a massive restoration project, the Fort of the Berlengas is open to the public every summer. Visitors can take a guided tour of the fort’s grounds and walk up nearly 300 stone steps to experience a stunning view of the Berlengas Archipelago.
Visitors can reach the Fort of the Berlengas by ferry. Be advised that if there is a steady wind blowing, you may be in for a rough ride. Basking in the splendor of the Fort of the Berlengas’ dramatic stone walls, winding steps, and sweeping views of the sea is certainly worth braving a bit of choppy water.