Walking The Cliffs At The End Of The World in Sagres, Portugal

I’m standing at the edge of the world.

From this high vantage point, the endless ocean looks dark and deadly. It seems to go on forever. I imagine a primitive group of explorers reaching this rocky point and looking out with wonder as they believe they have finally found the fabled end of the world. It’s easy to see why.

With a 200 foot drop only inches from my toes, a near gale force wind quickly wakes me from my reveries and reminds me of where I’m standing.

Cliffside at Sagres Point. A long way down

A long, long way down

Just as suddenly, the sun breaks through the clouds, the wind slows down and my son and I look with delight at a little sailboat gliding along the waves. We watch as the tail of a passing whale breaks the rolling surface in the distance and a small pod of dolphins race onward.

A view of the rocky Cliffs at Sagres Point

The cliffs at Sagres Point

Nearby, a group of fearless fishermen drop a very, very long net down the side of the cliff to pull up that evenings supper. Their precarious positions scattered along the tall ragged cliffs would make a mountain goat blanch yet here they return, day after day. I stand in awe of their tenacity, while Cole is just happy searching for the huge snails that line the pathways.

Fishermen straddling the cliffside bringing in their meal

Fishermen bringing in their meal

 

A snail on the path at Sagres Point

A snail on the path at Sagres Point

If you haven’t guessed where we are, we’re in famed Sagres. This area of the beautiful Algarve region in southern Portugal has a special past, however we fell in love with the place for our own reasons. After over a month of near constant travel, it was the first place we really settled in and relaxed since we had arrived in Europe. Not only was Sagres quiet and nearly empty of tourists, it was also a cheap and comfortable place to stay.

Since flying into Madrid the previous month, we’d rented a place near the center of every major town. Madrid, Avila, Salamanca, Porto and Lisbon were all beautiful cities, but being close to the center meant we had to give up precious living space.

For half the cost of a tiny apartment in Madrid or Lisbon we had a brand new, generously sized three bedroom condo with two full bathrooms all to ourselves and the place we were staying at was nearly deserted. After weeks in cramped places, it was awesome just to stretch out and let everyone relax.

That morning, feeling more refreshed than usual, we had decided to check out the sights in Sagres. A few miles out of town we found Sagres Point. Here, Henry The Navigator, a famed figure during the Age of Discoveries, walked these same cliffs in the 15th century and built a church and his home. Famed explorers were said to have trained in Sagres before setting off discovering new worlds. Even Christopher Columbus is said to have spent time in Sagres after a ship he was on sunk off Sagres cliffs.

Today, the Sagres Point promontory is an open museum including a large squat fortress built in the 1600s.

Archway into Sagres Point

Archway into Sagres Point

Squat fort at Sagres Point

The fort at Sagres Point

Sagres Point Cannon

Sagres Point cannon

Yellow flowers near the battlements

Flowers near the battlements

A lovely little semi-restored chapel from that same time period and a large 43 metre in diameter compass rose sit across from each other. Once past the squat barracks, there’s a long circular walkway that will let you see the fisherman and the famous cliffs up close. The views on the little peninsula overlooking both the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean are breathtaking.

Huge Compass Rose at Sagres Point

Compass Rose at Sagres Point

Sagres Point Chapel

Sagres Point’s lonely chapel

Inside Chapel at Sagres Point

Inside the chapel at Sagres Point

It was a long walk and quite a cool and windy day when were there, so Micki and Jordan decided to seek the warmth in the little onsite cafeteria while Cole and I enjoyed the peninsulas sights and explored the cliffs.

Sagres Point Pathway with clouds and cliffs

Pathway at Sagres Point

Fishermen on the cliffside

Fishermen on the cliffside. How on earth did they get down there?

Windy shot at Sagres Point

It sure is windy at Sagres Point

Only a few kilometers away lies Cape St. Vincent, our next destination. It’s the most south-westernmost point in all of continental Europe and is another great place to check out the views. With one of the most powerful lighthouses in Europe lighting up the waters where ocean meets sea, it sits on an imposing rock of land.

Cliffs at Cape St. Vincent

Cliffs at Cape St. Vincent

Inside the gates, there’s a little museum and snack bar, however to our chagrin we weren’t allowed to see the lighthouse up close as we hoped. The kids did find an oversized seat that they quickly claimed for themselves as Micki and I checked out the views. There’s also a great viewing area as you walk up to the gate before getting in to watch more fisherman brave the heights and sit precariously as they wait for their next bite.

On the giant chair at Cape St. Vincent

On the giant chair at Cape St. Vincent

Cape St. Vincent Cliffs

Cape St. Vincent Cliffs

As we left Cape St. Vincent, we stopped at the nearby deserted ruins of Fortaleza de Belixe. We couldn’t find any information about the place and we weren’t even sure the land wasn’t private, however we still got out and looked around.

Fortaleza de Belixe Views with cliff, sea and clouds

Fortaleza de Belixe Views

The fort had a gorgeous view and a twisting, steep path leading right down to the water from the battlements. By the time we got to the bottom there were already three other groups following us down so we knew it was probably okay to be there. We found out afterward that the place was supposedly closed due to safety concerns (the cliff is eroding away), but judging from the amount of people arriving there as we left, most tourists were disregarding the warnings.

Pathway Down at Fortaleza de Belixe

Pathway down at Fortaleza de Belixe

Fortaleza de Belixe from path

Fortaleza de Belixe from path

Another interesting thing about the Sagres region is that it’s been populated since the Neolithic age. We had heard there were a few menhirs scattered around the nearby village of Vila do Bispo so we set off trying to find one. As a big fan of Asterix and Obelix comics growing up (they were the only comics in our school’s French library), it was a treat to finally see one of these huge sculpted standing stones in person.

Standing Menhir near Sagres 2

Standing Menhir near Sagres

There’s a menhir stone right in town, however to see a nice one it’s best to stop at the tourist booth in Bispo to get local directions. The only one we found that was still standing is a few kilometres outside of town on a lonely back stretch of road heading towards Sagres. Just when you think it can’t possibly be there, round the bend and drive another kilometer. It’s on the right.

On the hunt for a Menhir

On the hunt for a menhir

Standing Menhir near Sagres

Different view of the standing menhir near Sagres

Snail on Menhir near Sagres

Snail on menhir near Sagres

To cap off the day, we decided to visit the marina in Sagres town proper. We were told you can see the fresh fish being unloaded in classic Portuguese fashion, however they weren’t unloading when we got there. Instead, we decided to take a long walk along the boardwalk along the beach before heading to one of the local restaurants for supper.

To say that Sagres’ quiet, deserted, windy, end of the world stay left an impression on us would be an understatement. With so many popular and busy beaches in the Algarve crammed with tourists during the summer we were glad to be able to have the place to ourselves. Based on the number of surf schools, windsurfer rental shops and kiteboarding outfits in town I’m glad we got to see Sagres during the off season.

If you ever get the chance, I definitely recommend checking out Sagres for yourself. Its cliffs may no longer mark the end of the known world,but when you’re stranding there it’s easy to believe they still do.

Fallen Menhir near Sagres

Fallen menhir near Sagres

28 Responses

  1. Koh Samui

    I would really love to good here and see a different places love this place… i hope i can afford to go here and save money before end of the year… see you all :)

    Reply
    • Charles Kosman

      Hi Nancy. No, unfortunately we never got the chance to check out the islands. They’re quite the distance from the mainland however we really enjoyed Portugal so who knows. We might get the chance another day. :)

      Reply
    • Charles Kosman

      Natalie, nothing like standing on the edge of the cliff and looking into the abyss once in a while to get the heart a pounding and realize how happy you are to be alive.

      Actually, that first pic was me standing on the edge trying to figure out how those fisherman got down the cliffside. That was as far as I was wiling to go without a rope and a harness. I couldn’t imagine doing it everyday with a rod, tackle and maybe a few fish as well.

      There’s brave and then there’s, well, them. :)

      Reply
  2. gokhan

    I am so regretful for not visiting Portugal. Did it almost in everywhere in Europe and now I am feeling bad again for that. But it is definitely gonna be this time!

    Reply
    • Charles Kosman

      Dale, there’s nothing so inspiring as standing on the edge of a precipice staring into an endless ocean of water. It’s a dangerous place to get lost. Not only in thought but also in step. ;)

      Reply
    • Charles Kosman

      Thanks Elena! Sagres had a great atmosphere to it. I have no idea why but there are tons of huge snails all over the place. My kids were in heaven!

      Reply
    • Charles Kosman

      Heidi, you know too well the realities of traveling with a family on a budget. Sometimes you need a little space and quiet is often a rare luxury with young kids. Luckily, Sagres had both in spades.

      I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wish we were back your way as well. Stay safe guys!

      Reply
    • Charles Kosman

      Every country has a few quiet places tucked away that somehow stay off most people’s radar. Sagres felt like that. Not sure I would go to Portugal just to see it but if you’re in the country for a bit and need to get away from the craziness of Lisbon or the hordes scattered throughout the Algarve region then I think you’d enjoy Sagres. Nice quiet place to chill and the cliffs are definitely beautiful.

      Reply
  3. Melimeli

    I really enjoyed your article! I’m american and actually live in Portugal and find it to be an amazing country from south to north. The scenery, culture and food are amazing. Let me know when you stop by again if you would like some really cool must do pointers from me!

    Reply
  4. Gary Rose

    Just returned from a week in the Algarve, which includes Cape St. Vincent/Sagres. Given its rich history in the exploration of the new world (Prince Henry’s school of navigation located there or nearby, etc.) in one sense, I expected much more than we found-no museum, no monuments, etc.

    What I didn’t expect was how beautiful, atmospheric and wonderful that patch of ground proved to be, with its ancient little chapel, the remnants of the castle, the native landscape and stunning views. And knowing a bit of its history only added to the wonder–how Sir Francis could have stormed the castle in the 1580s, how a tidal wave following the 1755 earthquake of could have washed over those 200 foot high cliffs, and more.

    We also enjoyed our visits to hill-top town of Monchique–the town and the spa, and would like to go back to hike the area, the old town in Lagos, the Olhao fish market, Vilamoura for its flash, the lovely village of Tavira near the Spanish border.

    And the food–OMG, how they do fish–have it simply grilled, or go with more elaborate preparations. And for a bit of a splurge try the Infante Restaurant on the beach at Praia Verde, for amazing food, atmosphere and views.

    Reply
    • Charles Kosman

      Hey Gary. Great comment and thanks for the extra tips!

      We traveled all around the Algarve region and saw some great sites. We’ll be posting more of our travels in the Algarve area in the coming months. It’s definitely a gorgeous area of the world and has so much history it’s almost impossible not to find yourself reading about it all as you check out the sites.

      Reply
  5. Terry Searle

    Enjoyed your pictures and write-up of your time in Sagres Charles but in one respect it was a pity you weren’t there a week later to see the waves whipped up by the storm ‘Hercules’. Those fishermen would NOT have been down the cliff-face then, lol!
    For the benefit of anyone who hasn’t already seen them there are two videos on YouTube that are particularly worth having a look at. They are titled ‘Huge Waves in Sagres, Portugal’ and
    ‘Hercules Storm in Sagres, Portugal’.

    Reply
    • Charles Kosman

      Wow, those are definitely some massive waves Terry! It would have been neat to see. Weird part is that it looks so sunny and calm out.

      Reply
  6. Alexander

    Thanks a lot for sharing this great post!
    I love the Algarve – and I love to read articles about the Algarve when not being there.
    If you have enjoyed Sagres so much, you shed travel to the small island of Culatra when you come to the Algarve the next time.
    It seems to be out of this world even though it is just about 4 miles away from the Algarve coast south of Olhão. Just take the ferry or a taxi boat!
    Have fun and see you soon at the Algarve!
    Alexander recently posted..Der Zauber Portugals oder ein Abend mit Annegret HeinoldMy Profile

    Reply
    • Charles Kosman

      Thanks Alexander. Hopefully next time we’re in the Algarve region it’ll be summer so we can truly enjoy the beaches and the area’s many activities. We would definitely love to check out Culatra as well.

      Reply

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