Our base in Portimao was an excellent spot for exploring the south coast of Portugal. In the spirit of adventure, we decided to go all the way to Sagres. Drive west from Lagos and you’ll find yourself at Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina, a national park in Sagres. It’s not the kind of park where you need to pay to enter. In fact, you won’t even know you’ve entered a national park at Vila do Bispo on the N268. This part of Portugal juts out into the Atlantic. The tall cliffs look out over the dark blue horizon while shrubs and small plants grow low, attempting to hide from the wind.
Fortaleza de Sagres & Cabo de Sao Vicente
In this corner of Portugal are 2 notable capes: Fortaleza de Sagres and Cabo de Sao Vicente. The former is a popular attraction because of the 15-th century fort built there. The latter is the most south-westerly point in mainland Europe. It quite reminds me of Cape Point in South Africa.
On the way to the fort, we stopped for a picnic breakfast at Praia da Mareta. This a long sandy beach has interesting rocks. If you’re lucky you might spot a fossil.
When you first approach the Fortaleza de Sagres by car, you’ll be greeted with views of the sea on either side. Even though campers park in this area, it is quiet (or it was, at least when we visited the Fort at midday). Entering the fort will cost you a small free. Inside you can see the old wind compass (made with pebbles) that was once buried beneath a church. The entrance fee also gives you access to walk around the cliffs at the tip of the point.
Drive further west to see the bright lighthouse of Cabo de Sao Vicente.
How to get to Sagres
Hiring a car to visit Sagres is very useful since there is only limited bus service and the area feels somewhat remote. A car will also allow you to explore the area more extensively and see one or more of the lovely surrounding beaches. Fortaleza de Sagres is a 35min drive from Lagos, and a 1 hour drive from Portimão. We decided to get going really early and were rewarded with a sunrise palette. Enjoying our sunrise breakfast picnic on the beach was definitely worth the early morning.
What to see in Sagres
Much of this area was ruined in the massive 8.5–9.0 Mw earthquake of 1755. However, there are lovely beaches to explore in the area and there’s even a fishing port to check out.
- Praia do Martinhal, a quiet beach with sand dunes (before entering the main town)
- Praia da Baleeira, a beach close to the harbour (close to the town)
- Praia do Tonel, a good surfing spot (west of the fort)
- Praia do Beliche, a small beach (between the fort and Cabo)
To explore the rest of SW Portugal further, check out this beautiful website & map of local accommodation options. Here is another selection of walks for the south of Portugal (the Via Algarviana starts in the west and goes east, but can probably be walked in either direction).