This Hidden Cave in Portugal Has a Skylight and a Beach — and You Can Only Get There by Boat
Portugal's Algarve region draws thousands of vacationers every summer with its sun-drenched, golden-sand beaches, idyllic fishing villages, ancient forts and fairy-tale castles, delicious local food (and award-winning red wine), and breathtaking natural landscapes. The rugged coastline of the country's southernmost area is defined by steep limestone cliffs and rock formations dotted by hidden beaches and mysterious caves, the most spectacular of which is Benagil.
Located between the towns of Portimao and Albufeira, right around the corner from a small beach and village of the same name, Benagil was formed by erosion over the course of 20 million years. And while caves conjure up images of dark and gloomy spaces, this one is anything but. That's probably why, on any given day during the warmer months, you'll find a line of boats with tourists waiting to go in. What makes it so popular (and Instagram-worthy) is the natural skylight, created by rainfall, which pierces its top, letting plenty of sunlight in. Another very distinct feature of Benagil that attracts a steady stream of visitors is its sandy beach, best enjoyed at low tide.
The sea cave, often compared to a cathedral because of its impressive size and dome-like interior, has two entrances formed by the constant crashing of the waves against the limestone cliffs.
Benagil is also part of Algarve's most famous and scenic hiking trail, the Seven Hanging Valleys, which takes you on a 7.4-mile journey along the coast and its stunning views. For safety reasons, the area around the skylight is fenced, but you can still take a peek inside from the trail. If you'd like to experience this natural wonder, your only chance is to get there by boat, kayak, or paddleboard. While, technically, you could swim to the cave, it's not recommended because the rocky shoreline, swells, and rough seas can make the swim dangerous.
And lastly, since the Benagil cave is a popular sightseeing stop in Algarve, if you'd like to beat the crowds, plan to get there early in the morning or late in the evening. You could also visit the region outside of the peak summer season. Algarve is one of Europe's sunniest destinations, so you could enjoy everything it has to offer in the spring and fall, too.