On my birthday this year my wish was to travel to Sagres. A summer town situated within a few Km of Europe’s most southwestern point, Cape St. Vincent, the town has a rather windswept, remote feel about it. It is however the history, location and surrounding features that makes Sagres well worth a visit.
It was in the 15th century that Prince Henry the Navigator chose Sagres as his home and location of his school of navigation. The school boasts alumni such as Fernao de Maglhaes (Magellan), Pedro Alvares Cabral and Vasco da Gama whose impact on the World is still felt today. It was from nearby Belixe that the first caravels were launched; the same ships that brought about Portugal’s age of The Discoveries and helped define the nation’s identity.
On Cape St. Vicent itself, the barren south-western extremity of Europe, is a ruined 16 th-century monastery and lighthouse, far below which heaves the Atlantic. The Roman Promontories Sacrum takes its present name from the legend that in the 8th century the relics of the martyred St Vincent were brought here, from which, guided by a pair of ravens, they were miraculously translated to Lisbon in 1173. Off the rockbound headland several naval battles took place in 1693, when Rooke defeated Tourville in 1780; when Rodney attacked a Spanish fleet, another of which was scattered by Jervis and Nelson in 1797; and in 1833, when a small Miguelito squadron was routed by Sir Charles Napier.
Today the hulking walls of the 17th century fort only remain on one side with the impressive entrance arch the only access. Here they have constructed a long walk along the dramatic coastline. We brought with us a sweater and that was useful here on the walk. The wind was very strong and the temperature difference was more than 10 degrees between Vila Real de Santo António and Sagres.
From the tip of Ponta de Sagres there are great views up the coast to Cabo Sao Vincente (Cape St. Vincent), Europe’s most southwesterly point. Today the cape is better known for its lighthouse. Built over the ruins of a sixteenth-century Franciscan convent in 1846 to guard one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, it is the second most powerful in Europe. Its two 1000-watt lamps can be seen up to 60 kilometers away.
Today Sagres is better known for its fine beaches, popular with both sunbathers and surfers. In fact the shape of the coast here means you can find a sheltered beach, and/or good surf most of the year. This was also one of the reasons why I wanted to go here. I had seen lovely pictures from stand up paddle tours. How you could paddle into caves along the coastline. We contacted Algarve SUP Tours before we went and did our booking so we could be sure that we were able to do this when we were there. But this wonderful tour we described in a separate posting under Paddling in West Algarve
We booked a hotel through booking.com We booked hotel Grilo a family owned small pension hotel. The location of the hotel was good, in 10 minutes you walked to the center. There were different standards on the room. We had a very simple room with a bathroom, no view but it was clean and nice. We had free Wi-Fi and television. You could also get a small breakfast. But since I don´t eat gluten or cow milk it was a little complicated so we brought our own breakfast. In our room there was a small refrigerator so that was very helpful.
The next day was the highlight of our trip the stand-up-paddle tours that we describe separate.
We can really recommend a visit to Sagres specially at the season of May until October. But don´t forget to bring a jacket, you really need that in the evening because of the wind!
We enjoyed some good food too but we describe that under Wine and dine in Sagres.