From mesmerizing sunsets to freshly caught fish, to world-class surfing beneath the imposing cliffs, Sagres is a rugged corner of the world where the forces of nature leave an everlasting impression. Located right smack in the middle of the Costa Vicentina Natural Park, Sagres is a fishing village and surf town, dating back to the early 14th century with foundations laid by Henry the Navigator in the century prior.

Most people visit Sagres on a day trip by bus with a rushed visit to the fortress and the lighthouse. As with any place, if you are willing to dive deeper, there’s a lot more to it. And that’s exactly my intention with this article: to show different sides of Sagres and hopefully convince you to take your time when visiting.

Things to do when you visit Sagres

Here are the main reasons to visit Sagres:

  • Watch the sunset at the lighthouse
  • Surf at one of the many beaches
  • Walk the high cliffs and enjoy the ocean vistas
  • Visit the daily fish auction
  • A quick visit to the fortresses

Relive the End of the World

Fortaleza de Sagres
This is by far the best story of Sagres and shows its significance in the Age of Discovery. For hundreds of years, people thought this was literally the end of the world. When you stand on top of the cliffs at one of the many viewpoints, the ocean seems massive and endless. This is where the great explorers, including Henry the Navigator (responsible for the trade route to India around the Cape of Good Hope), stood and planned their travels.

It is fun to try and imagine yourself in their shoes while looking out towards this huge ocean in front of you. How bold you must be to say: “There is more out there, I don’t know how far I have to travel and if I ever come back, but I am going where no man has gone before.” Keep in mind, that back then, most people still believed the earth was flat and you would fall off at the end of the horizon! Let alone, the terrifying sea monsters they thought would devour them.

Interesting fact: Sagres is actually the twin city of Cape Canaveral (Florida, USA). Cape Canaveral has huge importance to space exploration and is kind of the ‘new’ Sagres. It’s a shame this connection is not used more in marketing activities. There is a small memorial but not really worth a visit.

Famous Sagres sunsets at the lighthouse

Sunset in Sagres at the end of the world
Just to the Northwest of Sagres, at Cabo de São Vicente. you find the lighthouse. This is just about the best place in all of Europe to watch the sunset. Why? Well, because the Algarve has the most days with sun in Europe (over 300!), the cliffs provide a great vantage point, and the lighthouse makes for a gorgeous backdrop.

In August, the crowds grow into the hundreds, but usually, you can find a nice and relaxing spot with an unobstructed view. The absolute best sunsets are in the wintertime when the sky colors are just insane (orange, pink, purples, blues).

Some practical tips:

  • It is often very windy in Sagres, so it can be quite chilly, also in the summer. Bring a sweater and/ or jacket
  • There are rocks on the ground and they are pointy. Bring something to sit on
  • During the summer months, the sun sets on the right side of the lighthouse. You don’t want to be all ready and find out you are in the wrong spot
  • Be extremely careful when venturing on the cliffs. People have fallen off!!!

Pro tip: the sun ‘hits the water’ almost every time because of the clear skies. But for the best sunsets, you actually need some clouds to make it a lot more dramatic with different colors and crepuscular rays.

Winter storm extravaganza

The western side of Sagres faces the Atlantic ocean and gets hit by huge waves caused by winter swells. The town is protected by 50-100 meter cliffs and because of the plateaus on top of the cliffs, it is fairly easy to watch and admire the power of nature.

There are waves year-round and it’s always a spectacle to watch the ocean crash onto the shore, but the winter storms are something else. Watching waves create 100+ meter high splashes is just mind-blowing. The size of the waves in the video is not something that happens often and some say this only happens once every couple of years. But if you time your visit right, this is just WOW. The swell on the video was 6-7 meters with 20+ second intervals so now you know what to look for when checking the weather forecast.

The best spots to check out the waves are to the right of Tonel beach, towards Beliche. You can park alongside the road. The lighthouse can also be a good spot if the waves are big enough.

Sagres beer from Sagres?

One of the national beers in Portugal is called Sagres. A question I have been asking myself for a long time is if this is in any way connected to the town Sagres. Unfortunately, nobody seems to know the answer. I contacted the beer brewer but they can’t give me an answer. If you read this and know something about it, let me know so I can update this article.

My best guess is that the beer is not connected directly to the town. The word ‘sagres’ comes from the meaning ‘holy’ (sagrada). This is a commonly used word in Portugal so the idea behind it could be ‘beer for the gods’ or something like that. But, it is also likely the town is the inspiration as it is a symbol in the history of Portuguese discoveries. Anyway, the name of Sagres itself originates from the area being a place for religious rituals. For example, the sailors would request the gods for a safe journey.

But, hey, it doesn’t really matter where it comes from, it’s just fun to drink a Sagres beer in Sagres. Cheers!

Fishing village and surf town combined

Praia da Mareta in Sagres Portugal
Fishing is part of life in Sagres. Probably since the dawn of time, there were fishermen in this area. The bay at Praia Baleeira, where you can also find the harbor, provides easy access to the ocean and sufficient shelter for the ships. At the docks, you find the daily fish auction at 3.30 pm.

Over the last few decades, surfing has become popular worldwide and Portugal is a frontrunner in acknowledging and facilitating the positive impact of surfing on tourism. Sagres is quite special as there is easy access to numerous surfing beaches both on the west and south side. 2 surfing beaches are within walking distance from the center of town. Traveling surfers and locals have noticed this unique surfing area, started to settle down and numerous surf schools, surf shops, and surf accommodations popped up.

As both surfers and fishermen have a deep appreciation for the ocean and the life that surrounds it, the 2 worlds go really well together. You also see this trend in other places in Portugal like Ericeira, Peniche, and Nazaré.

Popular beaches to (watch the) surf are Tonel and Beliche. Praia da Mareta usually only has waves when the waves on the west side get big and they curl around the point.

Sagres fortresses

Fortaleza doo Beliche in Sagres
There are actually 2 fortresses in Sagres. One is on the Sagres point: Fortaleza de Sagres (15th century), which makes for a short cultural visit. Again, the historical significance and raw nature are what make it special, not the structures itself. The view towards the lighthouse with Praia do Tonel to the right is beautiful. Surrounding the fortress on both sides are some really nice walking areas.

When driving towards the lighthouse, a little further then Praia do Beliche, on the left side, you find a small fort, Fortaleza do Beliche. Because there is danger due to erosion, this fort is closed to the public. As you can see in the photo, they built the fort a little bit too close to the edge but looks very dramatic when viewed from the sky.


Lighthouse in Sagres at Cabo São Vicente

People often either love or hate Sagres. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Sagres many times and I do understand where this love-hate relationship is coming from. Sagres can feel daunting and desolate, but it can easily feel the opposite: impressive, with relaxed small-town vibes.

A long-time resident of Sagres described it to me in more detail: ”It is difficult to explain. When you come to Sagres you catch the ‘Sagres Virus’ or not. If yes, you always come back. If not, you don’t like it. I think there is a special energy. If I show somebody the lighthouse and he needs less than a minute to explore the location, then I know he has not understood.”

Because it is so personal if you like Sagres or not, I can only give you my opinion. The rawness sometimes scares me, but that is exactly what makes it so beautiful and exciting for me. Sagres doesn’t have a nice historic center with cute cobbled streets and nice buildings. But partly because of the surfing influence, there are several trendy bars and restaurants.

I have seen my fair share of sunsets in Sagres and they never disappoint. This is the absolute highlight of Sagres and a true experience. I hope they start making t-shirts: ‘I’ve seen the sunset at the End of the World’.

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