Sagres, often referred to as “The End of the World,” holds a mystical allure that has drawn explorers, surfers, and tourists alike to its rugged coastlines. Located at the southwesternmost tip of Portugal and Europe, this town is steeped in maritime history and legends. Perched atop towering cliffs with the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean stretching out before it, Sagres offers a sense of remoteness and a connection to the age of discoveries.
The town’s legacy is intrinsically tied to the Age of Exploration. It was here that the renowned Prince Henry the Navigator established his navigation school in the 15th century, at least according to legend, ushering in an era of maritime discoveries and pioneering voyages that mapped unknown parts of the world. The wild landscapes, characterised by wind-sculpted rocks, dramatic sea cliffs, and secluded beaches, mirror the untamed spirit of the explorers of old.
Modern-day Sagres has evolved into a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and, in particular, surfers. Its powerful swells attract surfers from around the globe, while its pristine landscapes appeal to hikers, bird-watchers, and those simply seeking solitude amidst nature. The town itself doesn’t quite have the same charm that many of the other towns on the Algarve have, but it isn’t overcrowded in summer and serves as a perfect base for surfing, delving into the town’s rich maritime past, or exploring this part of the Algarve.
Useful Resources for Your Trip to Sagres
Here’s our top tips and tricks for getting the best deals for your trip to Sagres.
- Accommodation: Booking.com and Airbnb are the two most comprehensive websites for finding hotels, hostels, apartments, and other types of accommodation in Sagres.
- Car Rental: Discover Cars and Rental Cars are the two most useful sites for booking local car rental.
- Airport transfers: There are taxis and Ubers at Faro Airport, but you can also pre-book an airport transfer with Welcome Pickups.
- Tours & Things to Do: Both Get Your Guide and Viator list lots of local tours and activities in Sagres.
- Luggage Storage: Luggage Hero and Bounce are two great sites for finding places to store your luggage in Portugal. Be sure to read out article on luggage storage options in the Algarve for a full list of options.
- Public Transport: Cp.pt is the main website for trains in Portugal. For longer distance buses, see Rede Expressos. Flixbus.pt often has cheap tickets between cities in Portugal.
- Flights: Skyscanner and Google Flights are the two most useful websites for finding flights to Portugal. The nearest airport to Sagres is Faro Airport.
What to See & Do
There are a few historical attractions in Sagres, but they can be seen in a day or half-day. Most people that come to Sagres come to use it as a base for surfing or hiking.
Cabo de São Vicente
Jutting out dramatically into the Atlantic, Cabo de São Vicente, or Cape St. Vincent, is often affectionately dubbed ‘Europe’s End’ — and for good reason. This iconic headland marks the most south-westerly point of mainland Europe. Here, sheer cliffs rise majestically from the ocean, facing the vast horizon with an aura of defiance and timelessness. For many travellers, standing at this sentinel of the continent, with the relentless waves crashing below and the infinite horizon ahead, is a profoundly humbling experience.
The cape’s significance isn’t solely geographical. Over the centuries, it has witnessed countless naval battles and has been the focal point of myriad maritime tales. The ancient Romans referred to it as the ‘Sacred Promontory’, believing it to be the meeting point of the setting sun and the underworld. Adding to its mystique is the iconic lighthouse, Farol do Cabo de São Vicente. This beacon, one of the most powerful in Europe, continues the age-old tradition of guiding sailors safely through the treacherous waters. As the evening sun bathes the cape in warm hues, it’s not hard to fathom why this place has long been a source of inspiration and reverence.
Today, Cabo de São Vicente remains an unmissable attraction for anyone visiting the Algarve. Beyond its breathtaking views and dramatic sunsets, it offers a poignant reminder of the enduring spirit of exploration and the timeless connection between land, sea, and sky.
Fortaleza de Sagres
Perched on a rugged plateau and overlooking the azure waters of the Atlantic, the Fortaleza de Sagres stands as an imposing testament to Portugal’s Age of Discovery. This fortress, with its distinctive bulwarks and expansive walls, has guarded the Algarve’s coastline for centuries, playing a pivotal role in the region’s rich maritime history. Originally believed to have been constructed during the times of the Moors, its most notable epoch came under the aegis of the revered Prince Henry the Navigator in the 15th century. It was here that he established a renowned school of navigation, drawing together the brightest minds of the age to push the boundaries of exploration.
Walking through the fort’s arched gateways and along its storied ramparts, visitors are treated to panoramic views of the surrounding cliffs, beaches, and the ever-stretching horizon. But it’s not just the views that captivate. Within the fortress grounds lies the enigmatic ‘Rosa dos Ventos’, a giant pebble compass rose, the origins and purpose of which continue to be the subject of debate among historians. Was it a navigation tool, a decorative element, or perhaps something more esoteric?
Nestled at the southwestern tip of the Algarve, Sagres is a magnet for ardent surfers, lured by the promise of unspoilt beaches and the rhythmic pulse of the Atlantic waves. Unlike some of its more commercialised neighbours, this serene town remains authentically immersed in the raw beauty of the coast, making it the preferred haven for those serious about their surf. While places like Lagos offer a harmonious blend of surf and vibrant nightlife, Sagres is the unequivocal choice for those whose main desire is to be as close to the waves as dawn breaks.
For surf aficionados, Sagres boasts a selection of stunning beaches. Praia do Beliche and Praia do Tonel are among the most popular, offering challenging waves for both the experienced and the daring novices. They are relatively accessible, with Praia do Beliche benefiting from a nearby parking area. However, to explore some of the more secluded spots, it’s advisable to have a car. That said, for those without wheels, joining a surf school might be the best bet. Not only do they transport you to the best surf spots depending on the day’s conditions, but they also provide invaluable local knowledge. Renowned surf schools in the area include Surf Seixe Academy and Sagres Natura Surf Camp, both of which cater to a range of skill levels.
Accommodation in Sagres is finely attuned to the surfing community. Numerous surf hostels and lodges have sprung up to cater to those riding the waves. Sagres Sun Stay is a favourite, boasting modern facilities with a laid-back vibe, while The Surf Lodge offers a more intimate setting for those looking to bond over shared surf tales. For surfers, these accommodations aren’t just a place to rest; they’re a part of the entire experience – a place to meet like-minded souls, exchange tips, and perhaps plan the next wave-chasing adventure. In Sagres, the surf culture isn’t just a sport; it’s a way of life.
The Fishermen’s Trail
The allure of the Algarve isn’t just confined to its sun-soaked beaches or charming towns. For those with a penchant for exploration on foot, the extended Fishermen’s Trail offers an unrivalled experience. Now embracing Sagres, this trail unfurls a rich tapestry of coastal landscapes, dunes, and historical vestiges. Starting in Sagres, a trekker can trace the path northward, embracing a series of picturesque locations that seem plucked straight from a postcard.
Choosing to embark north from Sagres promises an undeniably rewarding journey. The initial stretch to Vila do Bispo meanders through dramatic cliffs and untouched beauty. From there, the trail towards Carrapeteira is punctuated with spots that seem untouched by time. Continuing onwards to Arrifana, every step introduces you to the raw, rugged splendour of the Algarve’s coastline. Finally, the leg from Arrifana to Aljezur is highly recommended, not just for its own inherent beauty, but also for the practicality it offers – Aljezur is well-connected with public transport, making it a logical endpoint. However, for the truly intrepid, the trail doesn’t stop there. The Fishermen’s Trail continues its serpentine journey, culminating in Porto Covo for those with the passion and stamina. Whether you opt for just a few days of trekking or embrace the trail in its entirety, the journey promises memories that will linger long after the footprints have faded.
Sagres is bordered by a medley of sandy stretches, each with its own unique allure. While some, like Praia da Mareta and Praia do Martinhal, offer easy accessibility and are ideal for those keen on a spontaneous dip or sunbathing session, others such as Praia do Beliche and Praia do Tonel often top the charts for their untouched beauty and the seclusion they offer.
Praia da Mareta
Located just a short stroll from Sagres’ centre, Praia da Mareta is a convenient choice for beach lovers. Its vast sandy expanse is flanked by imposing cliffs, offering a picturesque backdrop for visitors and protection from some of the wind. The beach is well-equipped with facilities, boasting cafes and restaurants in close proximity, making it perfect for a full-day outing. There’s ample parking nearby, but its central location also makes it easily accessible on foot for those staying in town. As the wind is less strong here, it’s a popular beach for paddle boarding and learning the basics of surfing.
Praia do Martinhal
Set to the east of Sagres, Praia do Martinhal is a popular choice for families and water sports enthusiasts. Its calm waters make it suitable for swimming and windsurfing, although it is a little more exposed to the wind than Praia da Mareta. There are several beach bars and restaurants lining its shores, providing refreshments and shade for those spending the day, and during the summer there are lifeguards monitoring the beach. The beach can be reached by car with ample parking spaces, or if you’re based in Sagres, a leisurely walk or bike ride can get you there in no time.
Praia da Baleeira
Situated to the east of Sagres’ harbour, Praia da Baleeira isn’t as popular as the other beaches, particularly for sunbathing or water sports. However, it’s a nice spot for a stroll and if you time your walk right, you will get to see the fishermen coming into the harbour and selling their fish to local restaurant owners and other buyers.
Praia do Tonel
Praia do Tonel, situated to the west of Sagres Fort, is particularly popular with surf schools due to the large swells and strong, so you will often see large groups of surfers here. Although there is a small bar and cafe here, there aren’t many other facilities. While it is a popular spot for sunbathing as well as surfing, the strong winds and limited facilities mean it isn’t as popular as some of the other beaches mentioned.
Praia do Beliche
This secluded beach is a true testament to the raw beauty of Sagres. Nestled between high-rising cliffs, Praia do Beliche offers a serene escape from the usual tourist buzz. The beach is particularly favoured by surfers due to its consistent wave conditions, making it a popular spot during the surfing season. Getting to the sandy shores requires navigating a steep set of steps, which might be challenging for some, but the reward is an almost untouched paradise with golden sands and azure waters. While facilities are limited, the sheer tranquillity and natural beauty of Beliche make it a must-visit for those in search of an authentic Algarvian beach experience.
- Flying: The nearest airport to Sagres is Faro Airport, which is roughly 80 minutes by car away. You can get taxis or airport transfers from the airport to Sagres or rent a car from one of the many car rental companies. If you wish to take public transport, you will need to take a bus or taxi into Faro city centre and then take a bus from Faro to Sagres.
- Train: There is no train in Sagres and the nearest station is in Lagos, roughly 40 minutes’ drive from Sagres. While you can get a bus or taxi from Lagos to Sagres, if you’re coming from further afield (e.g. Lisbon or Faro) it’s probably easier to just take a bus the entire way. For train tickets and timetables, see cp.pt.
- Bus: There are buses to Sagres from nearby towns, such as Lagos. Tickets and timetables can be found on vamus.pt. For longer distance coaches, for example from Lisbon, see Rede Expressos or Flixbus.pt.
- Car: Unless you’re going to a surf school where all of your transportation will be taken care, it’s recommended that you rent a car. There are lots of car rental companies at Faro Airport and you can compare prices through sites like discovercars.com and rentalcars.com.