Sagres: Europe’s Most Southwesterly Cape

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Sagres is one of quieter holiday resorts which are spread along the Algarve coast of south Portugal. It has somehow managed to retain its own historic identity with its hotch-potch of cottages and has escaped the over-developed resort feel of some other towns further east. Perhaps it is the location, close to Cape St Vincent and Europe’s most southwesterly point, which gives it a more rugged, windswept air. The sheer cliffs at the Cape and the lighthouse are an impressive sight worth visiting. When the sea is rough, the waves boom through the blowhole of a natural cave at the foot of the cliffs.

Sagres is set around a bustling harbour and has a lovely sandy beach. The Romans called the town “Promontorium Sacrum – the end of the world where the waters boil at sunset” which conjures up a pretty accurate picture of the restless seas around the Sagres promontory.

Historically Sagres was put on the map by Henry the Navigator, one of Portugal’s most successful patrons of exploration, in the 15th century. Not only was Sagres his home for a time, but he also founded a School of Navigation around 1420. His name lingers on more almost 600 years later at the Henry the Navigator Fort on the headland overlooking the town. Henry also established a shipbuilding yard and supervised the development of the “caravela” ships which proved so well-suited to long distance exploration. Close to the fortress at Sagres is the tiny historic chapel of Nossa Senhora da Graca and the giant pebble wind compass, the Rosas dos Ventos.

The area around Sagres is very dry with its own microclimate. There is very little vegetation on the headland but to the north of Sagres is an area where 25 varieties of wild orchids flourish. The area generally appeals to retired tourists and outdoor enthusiasts. Those looking for a lively social scene will prefer the more developed resorts further east.

Things to Do in Sagres

The local beaches are the main source of things to do in Sagres and are particularly beautiful, nestled at the foot of the dramatic cliffs. They are ideal for long walks, sunbathing and other beach activities. Many of the beaches have been awarded the coveted Blue Flag for clean safe waters. Martinhal Beach is particularly popular with surfers and the coves at Ingrina and Zavial are beautifully unspoilt. Small wayside altars, forgotten villages, whitewashed chapels and magnificent coastal views make this a delightful area to explore on foot or by car.

Sagres has plenty of local activities and things to do. After exhausting the museums and local places of interest, trips can be booked for deep sea fishing. There is a tennis club, lawn bowling and an 18-hole Parque da Floresta Golf Course which has a golf school and a driving range. The Algarve is very popular with golfers with its combination of a warm sunny climate and beautiful scenery, although most golf courses are in the more developed resorts further east.

The local market at Sagres is held on the first Friday in the month and sells local produce and handicrafts. The small town of Vila do Bispo nearby makes a pleasant day out and has some excellent fish restaurants.

Local Food and Drink

Not surprisingly, most of the authentic local restaurants focus on fresh fish and shellfish. Enthusiastic local fishermen can be seen risking their lives as they perch perilously on ledges on the cliff faces with long fishing rods to get a good catch. Fresh sardines, red mullet, swordfish and squid are used in tasty local dishes such as seafood risottos. Locally produced wines, beer and port are all very reasonably priced at local restaurants in Sagres.

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