Things to do in Sagres

If you head toward the most southwestern point in mainland Europe, you will inevitably pass through the town of Sagres. With an incredible link to Portuguese history, glorious beaches, cliffs, and ocean views, Sagres is a must-see location during your Algarve holiday. With the wind hitting from the south and west, it is also a prime spot for surfing, and there are plenty of surf schools dotted along the coast.

Like Tavira in the east, Sagres and the Algarve’s west coast aren’t as popular with tourists as more central locations like Portimão or Faro. But at less than a four-hour drive from Lisbon and just over an hour from the Faro airport, it is an easy and accessible location with plenty of things to explore.

Here, we’ve created a visitor’s guide to Sagres so you can make the most of your visit to the area!

Day 1

Morning: Sagres Beaches

Sagres has some of the best beaches in Portugal! Whether you want to ride a wave or relax on the shore and ponder the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean, these beaches have you covered.

Praia do Martinhal

Located to the east of Sagres, Praia do Martinhal is a relatively large beach. It has several islets located offshore that can be visited by boat. These limestone islets are known for their caves and underwater grottos. It is possible to arrange a diving trip or to catch a boat from the beach or from Sagres harbor. While fairly sheltered, there is still a strong wind along the water, so it is actually quite perfect for windsurfing. The water here can be cold, even in the summer, so you may want to consider wearing a wetsuit if venturing out. The sand at Praia do Martinhal is soft and fine, making it ideal for building sandcastles. Rarely does this beach get crowded, so feel free to let your inner architect get to work! Winds from the north can sometimes make the beach feel chilly, so if that’s the case, take shelter in one of the nearby restaurants and simply enjoy the spectacular view while dining on some fresh seafood. Restaurante Martinhal is located on the east end of the beach, and there are a few other places not too far away.

Praia da Mareta

Praia da Mareta is the beach located most closely to Sagres. It tends to get busy, but with 800 metres of golden sands, it is likely you will be able to find a little space to relax. This region of the Algarve tends to be battered by strong winds and large waves, but Praia da Mareta is in a bay and protected by a large, rocky headland that keeps things a little calmer. You will see lots of windsurfing, kayaking, and diving. If you don’t want to get in the water, you can take advantage of the fact that the beach is south facing, giving you sun all day long! There are three restaurants located near the beach and ample parking, so it is easy to make a full day of it!

Praia do Tonel

If surfing is your thing, Praia do Tonel is the place to be. This uncrowded, relatively small beach offers some of the best waves in Europe! If you are a beginner surfer and looking to give it a try, there is a surf school located right on the beach. At high tide, the beach is rather small with few places to sit out and relax, but at low tide, there is plenty of space. The waters are cold here, especially in the winter, and the currents can be quite strong. Swimming at Praia do Tonel is not recommended unless you are an experienced, strong swimmer. The beach itself is surrounded by high cliffs that give it a secluded and sheltered feel. There are several amazing rock formations that line the beach, and just offshore, you will see the massive “lion rock.” Depending on your angle, this formation looks like a lion lying in the water or a submarine. But be careful near the cliffs as falling rocks can present a safety hazard. Even if you don’t want to surf, the views here are incredible. To the left of the beach, you can see the Fortaleza de Sagres or Fortress of Sagres. And in the evening, the sunsets are truly spectacular.

Afternoon: Fortaleza de Sagres

Fortaleza de Sagres is a fortification that dates back to the Portuguese expansion in the 15th century. By order of Prince Henry the Navigator, the fortress was constructed in 1453 to protect Sagres from Moorish pirates. The fort has some incredible views of the coastline, and on a clear day, you can see all the way to the headlands of Cabo de São Vicente. Once you enter the fort, you can see a large, 43 metres wide, circular pattern on the ground. This is believed to have been a wind compass, once used as a navigation tool. Interestingly enough, this compass wasn’t discovered until the 18th century and wasn’t fully excavated until 1919. Inside the fort, you can see the cannons that would have been used as protection and a chapel known as Nossa Senhora da Graça. The chapel was erected in 1579, and inside you can see depictions of St. Vincent, the martyred 4th-century deacon whom the cape is named for. There is a path that goes from the fort to the cape and back. A leisurely walk along the path is a great way to take in your surroundings!

Fortaleza do Beliche

Just before you reach the cape, you’ll pass by the Fortaleza de Beliche. While the interior of the fortress is off-limits, you can walk around it and enjoy the view over the sheer cliffs.

Cabo de São Vicente

About 6km outside of Sagres is Cabo de São Vicente or Cape Saint Vincent. This location is the most southwesterly point in continental Europe, and the Romans once believed it to be the literal end of the world. And with cliffs that rise 75 metres above the sea, it isn’t hard to see why! The views from the cape are unbelievable. You can get a real sense of magnitude and vastness of the ocean. It is truly awe-inspiring. Cabo de São Vicente is home to one of the most powerful lighthouses in Europe. It was first constructed in 1846 and has a beam that can be seen from 60km away. Because the lighthouse is still in operation, you cannot tour it, but there is a museum, gift shop, and cafe onsite. The winds can be really strong here, so be sure to bring an extra layer to keep yourself warm. And be sure to stay a safe distance from the edges of the cliffs. Between the winds and loose rocks, it can be dangerous to get too close. If you can time it properly, stay to watch the sunset. You’ll be glad you did!

Day 1 - Sagres Tour Map

Other things to do in Sagres

  • Surfing: Praia do Tonel has the biggest and best waves, serving as a bit of a surfing mecca. But there are other beaches in the area, like Praia do Beliche and Praia do Zavial, that also draw a large number of surfers. Even if you don’t want to ride the waves, it is easy to spend hours sitting on the beach, or the cliffs above it, watching the many surfers who flock to these locations every day. The best time of year for new or inexperienced surfers is in the summer months when waves are relatively small. In the winter, waves are large, rough, and better suited to advanced or experienced surfers. If you are visiting in the winter, you can take surfing lessons at Praia da Mareta. Should you need to take surf lessons, Sagres is home to several schools that offer both single lessons and surfing bootcamps that will cover all the basics over the course of several days.

  • Birdwatching: Between Fortaleza de Sagres and the Cabo São Vicente is the Reserva Biogenética de Sagres, a protected nature reserve that is home to a number of unique and biodiverse species. The area has a range of coastal habitats like marshes, cliffs, dunes, and lagoons. These habitats promote rare plant life, including the biscutella vicentina, diplotaxis vicentina, and hyacinthoides vicentina. Birdwatchers from all over the world “flock” here to catch a glimpse of the 25 bird species that nest in the reserve. In fact, the Reserva Biogenética de Sagres is one of the only places in the world where the white stork builds its nest on rocky sea cliffs. In the fall, this is a great place to view the migration of several glider birds or birds of prey, including booted eagles, short-toed eagles, sparrow hawks, honey buzzards, griffon vultures and Egyptian vultures. During your visit, if you’re lucky, you’ll see the local raft of otters playing in the sea and hunting for food!

Day Trips from Sagres

  • Vila do Bispo: Sagres belongs to the Vila do Bispo municipality, which includes many more coastal villages and beaches. Luz, Burgau and Salema are among the most picturesque spots on this stretch.

  • Lagos: A 40-minute drive from Sagres is the much bigger town of Lagos. Its cobblestone streets are full of lively bars and cafés. There are a handful of monuments in the centre. However, the main attractions are the paradisiacal beaches like Praia Dona Ana and the caves and rock formations such as Ponta da Piedade and the Benagil cave.

  • Aljezur: If you drive north along the coast, you’ll soon reach Aljezur. This small town sits within the Costa Vicentina National Park. It's known for its stunning natural surroundings and laid-back atmosphere. It’s worth visiting the Aljezur Castle and touring the museums and churches in the old town. Nature lovers will also enjoy hiking along the Rota Vicentina coastal trails that cross Aljezur.

  • Portimão: About an hour east from Sagres is the vibrant city of Portimão. It’s a popular resort town, with most hotels based around the large beach of Praia da Rocha. It’s worth spending some time in the historic centre before venturing to the beach. With a bit more time, you can extend your visit to the Ria de Alvor Nature Reserve.

Top things to do with kids in Sagres

Sagres may be a small town, but it offers plenty of family-friendly sights. Kids will enjoy wandering around the Fortaleza de Sagres and taking in the ocean views from every corner.

The whole area is lined with sandy beaches and surf schools that offer lessons for the whole family. You can also join a dolphin-watching tour from the harbour.

At Cabo de São Vicente, you can visit the small museum which offers exhibits on the region’s maritime history.

Where to eat in Sagres

Given its prime location on the coast, Sagres has plenty of fresh seafood and traditional Portuguese food available to try! Here’s a list of some of our favourite places to eat in Sagres:

  • Restaurante Carlos: This is one of the places where you can taste some truly incredible seafood. Try the goose barnacles as a starter, and anywhere you go from there is just a bonus. Try some octopus rice and cuttlefish or a nice tuna steak. The prawns here are spectacular! Service is welcoming and friendly in a cosy atmosphere. It can get a little busy here, so do call ahead and try to book a table.

  • Three Little Birds: Open since 2016, this quiet café was named after a Bob Marley song and serves mostly burgers and salads. Try the Portobello burger, which comes with tomato, caramelised onion, vegan cheese and chipotle mayo.

  • Vila Velha: If you’re looking for a bit more fine dining, head to Vila Velha in the heart of town. This place has been welcoming guests since 1995. It serves a mix of meat and seafood dishes like lamb chops and curry shrimp.

Where to stay in Sagres

  • Memmo Baleeira: Memmo Baleeira has everything you’d want for a perfect stay. On the hotel grounds, you will find a restaurant, bar, lounge, spa, gym, outdoor swimming pool, and a heated indoor pool. The rooms are bright and clean. Try to book one with a balcony so you can take advantage of the views. There are a number of activities available for guests to enjoy. Take classes at the Memmo Baleeira surf school, rent a bicycle, book a Jeep trip, or schedule a round at one of the nearby golf courses. With the cliffs of the coast within walking distance, you can pack a lunch and set off to explore the area! This is a great region to explore.

  • Martinhal Sagres Beach Family Resort Hotel: For a little bit of luxury, look no further than Martinhal Sagres. Set within a protected natural park and overlooking Martinhal Beach, expect comfortable, relaxing rooms and spacious villas. There are a number of restaurants on the resort grounds that will appeal to everyone as well as a shop available to those who want to do some meal prep on their own. With a spa, gym, tennis court, sightseeing tours, and 5 swimming pools available, it would be hard to get bored. If you are travelling with children, Martinhal Sagres also has a number of activities catered to little ones.

  • Sagres Time Apartamentos: If you’re on a budget, this aparthotel is an excellent choice. It offers spacious apartments for up to six people with fully equipped kitchens, living areas, and private balconies. The complex also includes an outdoor heated pool and private parking.

Best golf courses near Sagres

While there are no golf courses in Sagres itself, there are a few within a short driving distance. The closest one is the Parque da Floresta in Budens (15 minutes away), which has an 18-hole course set amidst the countryside. Another option is the Espiche Golf, which features a few water hazards and undulating fairways.

A bit further is the Palmares Golf Course, a relatively challenging 27-hole course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. and the 18-hole Boavista Golf Course, which also offers a driving range.

Best time to visit Sagres

While you can visit Sagres any time of year, the busiest season is in the summer, when temperatures range between 20ºC to 30ºC. This is the ideal time for swimming and boat trips along the coast. If you’re planning to hike, it’s best to come in early spring or autumn when the temperatures are a bit milder. Be sure to keep an eye out for the birds, as they tend to migrate here around this time. Surfers, on the other hand, may prefer autumn or winter, since the swells tend to be a little larger then.

Sagres Festivals

  • Festa da Nossa Senhora da Graça: Held in honour of the patron saint of Nossa Senhora da Graça, this festival takes place in mid August and includes a procession of boats to the Cabo São Vicente.

  • Festival de Observação de Aves: Every year in October, Sagres hosts the Festival Mundial de Observação de Aves, a birdwatching festival, where you can enjoy guided walks with experts and learn more about the birds in the region.

Once believed to be the mystical place, Sagres still holds much of its magic. Whether you’re planning a surf trip, looking for an historic destination, or both, you will find it here.

To fully explore the region, you can book a spot on our 6-night vacation package that will take you from Lagos or Carvoeiro to Sagres. If you have something else in mind, reach out to us and we’ll help you plan the perfect Sagres holiday!

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