The best independent guide to the Algarve
The best independent guide to the Algarve
Sagres sits at the extreme western tip of the Algarve and is like no other destination in southern Portugal. This is one of the most remote regions of Portugal, an area of barren, windswept landscapes, towering cliffs and raging seas.
It is a region for the adventurous, the intrepid and those who seek to pit themselves against the wild environments. Be that surfing in the turbulent seas, hiking along cliffside trails, cycling deserted roads, or simply basking under the glorious sun.
Sagres is primarily a surfing destination, but there are sheltered pristine beaches for relaxing on, and an unassuming cool vibe about the town. Day-trippers are drawn to Sagres by the Cabo de Sao Vicente, a remote and bleak headland, aptly fitting for the most south-westerly point of mainland Europe.
The town may not be for all, having a laid-back ambience and an outpost’s rugged and unkempt appearance, but for others, Sagres will be the finest location in the entire Algarve.
This article will provide an introduction to Sagres, a truly unique town of the Algarve.
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The beautiful beaches of Sagres - the Praia da Mareta
During your trip to Sagres, you will discover beautiful beaches, a unique fort and some of the most challenging surfing found in Portugal. The town has a low-key and personable atmosphere, where many of the visitors have been drawn for the same passions; the outdoors and the love of the sea.
Surfing is often the main reason why visitors head to Sagres. The town has been blessed with multiple beaches facing differing directions, which ensures that there is always at least one beach suitable for surfing, no matter your ability. Within Sagres surf equipment can be hired, and there are also surf schools to hone your skills
Found in the region are challenging hiking trails, quiet roads for cycling and deep-sea fishing trips departing from Sagres harbour. For those tourists with a rental car, Sagres can be used as a base to explore the southwestern side of the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina, an area of remote beaches and stunning wild beauty.
The sheltered fishing harbour of Sagres
Sagres makes for an enjoyable day trip if you are based in the western Algarve (such as Lagos, Praia da Luz or Burgau).
A typical day trip to Sagres visits the Cabo de Sao Vicente, the Fortaleza de Sagres, the fishing harbour and the Praia da Mareta, along with having lunch in the town centre. Sagres can easily be visited as an independent day trip from Lagos as there are regular and inexpensive bus services.
If you have a car, the day trip could include driving along through the deserted Parque Natural do Costa Vicentina up to the Praia da Bordeira.
Below is an interactive map of a day trip to Sagres. The green line is a suggested tour of Sagres, while the yellow markers show the sights of the region.
Note: zoom out to see the yellow points
Sights of Sagres: 1) Sagres Fort 2) Sagres lighthouse 3) Praia do Tone (beach) 4) Praia da Mareta (beach) 5) Porto de Pesca (fishing harbour) 6) Praia do Martinhal (beach)
Sights of Sagres region: 7) Cabo de São Vicente 8) Praia do Beliche (beach) 9) Fortaleza do Beliche (fort)
Note: Zoom out to see the regional yellow markers
The light from the Cabo de São Vincente lighthouse can be seen for up to 45km away and is one of the brightest in Europe
A holiday to Sagres will appeal to two main groups of tourists; surfers (kite, surf or bodyboarding) and visitors who enjoy the outdoors and wish to escape the crowds and mayhem of the central Algarve. Part of the allure of Sagres is the remote setting, but this may (and should) deter tourists wanting a conventional holiday as, apart from the beach and surfing, there is not actually much else to do in Sagres.
Sagres is popular with visitors who are touring southern Portugal, and the town does offer a range of modern hotels and family-run restaurants. Sagres, along with the whole of southern Portugal, is extremely popular in the summer, so if you are seriously considering the region for your holidays, we strongly suggest you book your accommodation now, as it will sell out during the peak months.
The map below shows the location of hotels and rental rooms in Sagres, and by altering the date to your holiday, the map will display current prices.
Sagres has some of the best surfing waves in Portugal, with massive and powerful swells that roll in unimpeded from the Atlantic Ocean. As Sagres is on a southern extending headland, the beaches of the town face three different directions and some are more sheltered from the waves than others. For surfing, this means that the beaches are suitable for beginners through to highly experienced surfers.
Sagres has many excellent surf schools (with lessons in a range of languages) and is an inexpensive place to learn to surf. Surf equipment can be hired in Sagres, and this avoids the hassle of transporting items.
After spending the day in waters, the bars are filled with like-minded people, and there is a distinct surfer's vibe in Sagres, especially outside of the tourist season.
The Praia da Mareta is popular year-round with surfers
Sagres is a region for adventures and outdoor activities, and there are many unique experiences. We have worked with GetYourGuide for the last 6 years and some of their best activities include:
The beaches of Sagres are simply stunning. There are four beaches within walking distance of the town: the Praia da Mareta, the Praia do Tonel, the Praia da Baleeira and the Praia do Martinhal.
The Praia da Mareta is the most popular beach, offering medium surfing waves, a large sandy beach and is semi-sheltered from the powerful sea-breezes. If you want a relaxing day on the beach, then head to the Praia do Martinhal on the eastern side of Sagres, which provides soft sands, calm waters and is completely sheltered from the prevailing winds.
The Praia do Tonel faces a westerly direction and is pounded by some of the largest waves of the region; these massive waves combined with the strong currents make it only suitable for expert surfers.
One of the most popular surfing beaches of the Sagres region is the Praia do Beliche, 2km to the north of the town. Beliche beach has powerful waves, but the surrounding cliffs provide shelter from the winds and currents.
Related article: Sagres beaches
The Praia do Tonel’s waves sometimes can be too strong
The peak of the summer season is from June until the end of September, while the best surfing is in late autumn and early winter. Sagres is fortunate that there is decent surfing almost all year round.
For a touring holiday, the spring months are the best season to visit Sagres, when the weather is warm and bright but without the intense summer sun. Winters are mild but unpredictable and Sagres will feel very quiet during this time, except for the few experienced surfers.
There is only one main tourist attraction in Sagres, the Fortaleza de Sagres. This fort is unique because it has only one defensive wall spanning the southern edge, as the other three are guarded by the immense and sheer cliffs of the headland.
Inside the fort, there is a pleasant 1.5km cliffside walk, a lighthouse, a grotto and a large wind compass. Some visitors may be slightly disappointed by the sparseness of the fort, but as with everything in Sagres, the main attraction is the setting and scenery. The entrance fee is €4, and a typical visit lasts 40 minutes.
The wind compass inside the fort
The Cabo de Sao Vicente is one of the finest natural features of the Algarve, it is not picturesque or scenic but immense and dramatic, perfectly reflecting the natural westerly point of Europe. The ferocious waves of the Atlantic Ocean pound the massive cliffs, while high above the immensely bright lighthouse guards the treacherous cliffs.
Up until the 13th century the Cabo de Sao Vicente headland was believed to be the end of the known world, and no visit to Sagres is complete without visiting this bleak and wind-torn headland.
The constant winds prevent any substantial plant growth, while the whole barren appearance is in keeping with the once belief that it was the end of the world. There are two bus services Monday to Friday from Sagres to Cabo de São Vicente. The bus is convenient as it waits approximately 30 minutes at Cabo São Vicente before departing, which is usually enough time to see the entire area.
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The 75m high cliffs of Cabo de Sao Vicente Portugal
There are numerous hiking trails around the town, which is also the starting location for two long-distance routes: the Rota Vicentina and the Via Algarviana. The Rota Vicentina heads north along the Alentejo coastline, while the Via Algarviana crosses the interior of the Algarve; more information on both routes can be found here:
There is almost no public transport in the Sagres region, there is a regular bus service to Lagos but not much else. The nearest train station is in Lagos and this is also the location for the main regional bus station.
To get the most from a holiday to Sagres a rental car is needed. A pre-booked taxi transfer from Faro airport to Sagres will cost almost the same as three days car hire, so collect the car from the airport before visiting Sagres.
Sagres makes for a good base from which to explore the southern edge of the Parque Natural Costa Vicentina. This protected coastal landscape incorporates Sagres and extends for 100km along the western coast of the Alentejo up to the major port of Sines and contains some of Portugal’s finest and remotest beaches.