In summer, this small harbour town overflows with youngsters armed with surfboards and a joie de vivre. Crammed with welcoming pensões, it is an excellent base from which to explore the fine beaches spread along the Algarve’s untamed west coast. Sagres is the most southwesterly community in continental Europe, and its laid-back atmosphere is infectious.
Visitor information: located about 1 km (half a mile) from the fishing harbour at Rua Comandante Matoso; (282) 624 873 • Open Mon–Fri
Fortaleza de Sagres: open Nov–Mar: 9am–5:30pm; May, Jun & Sep: 9:30am–8pm (Apr–Oct: to 6:30pm; Jul & Aug: to 8:30pm); adm
Perched on a pinnacle overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, this 17th-century fortification also contains a small chapel, which in turn marks the site of an even earlier ruined church.
Starting near Hortas do Tabual, this 2 km (1 mile) circular walk passes a series of menhirs, or megaliths – monumental stones that date back to 3000 BC.
The foundations of this graceful 16th-century chapel, facing Cabo de São Vicente, are said to have been laid by Prince Henry the Navigator.
The forbidding look of this windblown cape is quite awe-inspiring (see Cabo de São Vicente). Greek historian Strabo, writing at the time of Christ, believed it to be the end “of all the inhabited earth“.
This wild and beautiful park covers nearly all of the western coast of the Algarve (see Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina). It protects a complex ecosystem and lies under a busy migratory flight path for birds.
Ominous, stark and, in its time, virtually impregnable, two solid bastions and massive front walls are the impressive hallmarks of this 18th-century fort (see Fortaleza de Sagres). Little else resembles a defensive structure today, except perhaps the mighty cliffs themselves.
The tidy buildings around this lighthouse (farol) incorporate a small museum, snack bar and gift shop. The tower is closed to the public but the fortifications offer majestic views of the coastline.
A crumbling wall and arch are virtually all that remain of the harbour fortification, but the coastal view from the headland is superb.
The extraordinary giant wind rose, or wind compass – a device used for measuring the direction of the wind – is said to have been built for Prince Henry the Navigator, although it may actually date from the 16th century. It is an impressive 43 m (141 ft) in diameter. The intriguing circle and its radiating points have been marked by pebbles.
A bracing walk can be enjoyed around the edge of the promontory. Next to the lighthouse is a vast blowhole where you can hear the pounding of the ocean as it crashes into the rocks far below.
A scholarly and devout man, Prince Henry is said to have brought together the most learned of astronomers and astrologers, skilled cartographers and geographers, and the very best boat designers, to create a school of navigation known as Vila do Infante. Although he didn’t sail himself, he laid the foundation of Portugal’s maritime expansion. He oversaw and sponsored many expeditions, mapping the way for Portugal’s Golden Age of Discoveries.