The Top Things to Do in Sagres, Portugal

Beach, Sagres

Tim White / Photolibrary / GettyImages 

Portugal's southern coast is renowned for its hot weather and long sandy beaches. As a result, the Algarve has become one of the most popular summer vacation destinations in Europe. Head there between late June and early September, and you'll find most towns and villages crammed full of fellow tourists. Prices skyrocket, service levels drop, and finding a square inch of sand to yourself is hard.

Unless you head to Sagres, that is. This small, somewhat-ramshackle town lies close to the southwestern tip of Portugal, its remote location making it a very different proposition from the popular holiday resorts of the central Algarve.

Even in high season, the beaches are quieter and the streets less crowded than further along the coast. With a laid-back surfer vibe and mostly simple accommodation and dining options, Sagres won't appeal to everyone. If you're looking for a local experience or a good base for exploring the rugged countryside nearby, however, it's well worth checking out. Day trips to Sagres are possible, ideally by car, although there is also a reasonable bus service to and from Lagos. 

Wondering what to do while you're in town? These are the top things to do in Sagres.

01 of 05

Relax on the Beach

Sagres Beach

TripSavvy / Jamie Ditaranto

Praia da Mareta, Portugal

As with the rest of the Algarve, the beaches in Sagres are one of the town's biggest drawcards.

Most popular is Praia da Mareta, its long stretch of golden sand somewhat sheltered from the strong breeze. Here's where you'll find most of the popular bars and restaurants, ideal spots to relax with a drink after working on your tan for a while.

If the wind is really blowing and you need as much protection as possible from it, head to the small Praia da Baleeira, next to the harbor used by the local fishermen.

For those rare occasions when the main beaches get a little crowded, walking slightly out of town to Praia do Martinhal will almost certainly yield a stretch of sand to call your own. 

Praia do Tonel faces west, right into the prevailing wind, so it's best left to the surfers unless you like giant waves and plenty of sand in your face.

02 of 05

Hang Ten

Surfing in Sagres
Michael Reusse (alt) / Westend61 / GettyImages

The relentless Atlantic waves draw surfers to Sagres like moths to a flame. The angle of the headlands means some beaches are much more sheltered than others, making surfing appropriate for a wide range of skill levels. 

If the surf isn't much good on one of Sagres's four main beaches, it's worth looking at the others—conditions vary significantly between them, depending on the wind and tides. You can also head to Praia do Beliche, another popular surfing spot slightly northwest of town.

There are several surf shops in Sagres, and lessons are relatively inexpensive. It's also possible to hire whatever gear you need from the stores, avoiding the hassle of transporting it.

If being dumped by waves all day isn't your idea of a good time, kitesurfing is another good option. It's probably best left to those with prior experience, as the wind can be strong and very gusty.

03 of 05

See the End of the World at Cabo de Sao Vicente

Cabo Sao Vicente

TripSavvy / Jamie Ditaranto

Cabo de São Vicente, 8650 Sagres, Portugal

In medieval times, Cabo de São Vicente (Cape of Saint Vincent) was believed to be the end of the world. We know better these days, of course, but when you're standing there on the rugged cliff top, being buffeted by the Atlantic winds and gazing out at nothing but the ocean, it's easy to understand why.

The westernmost point of mainland Europe, Cabo São Vicente, lies around four miles from Sagres. A barren, desolate place, there's little in the way of manmade structures atop the 250-foot cliffs except for the lighthouse, the beam from which can be seen 35 miles out to sea.

It's also the starting point for at least two long-distance hikes, the Via Algarviana GR13 route east across the country, and the Rota Vicentina, which heads north for 280 miles to Santiago do Cacem.

If you're planning a visit, take good footwear and warm clothes, as the ever-present wind usually means a big temperature drop compared to even a short distance inland.

Visiting Cabo São Vicente is best done by taxi or in a rental car, but you can also take the bus that runs twice a day from Sagres (although not at weekends or on public holidays). A single ticket costs two euros, and the bus waits half an hour at the lighthouse before returning to town. Don't miss it unless you want a long wait​ or a long walk back!​

04 of 05

Visit Fortaleza de Sagres

Fortaleza Sagres over the ocean

TripSavvy / Jamie Ditaranto

8650-360 Sagres, Portugal
Phone +351 282 620 140

The only real tourist attraction in town, Fortaleza de Sagres, sits atop a rugged headland south of Praia da Mareta. This fort dates from the 15th century and is unique in that it only contains one exterior wall. The rest of the fortress's defenses were provided by the towering 200-foot cliffs considered impossible for attackers to scale.

Built to deter attacks by pirates from North Africa, the fortress was enhanced over time but significantly damaged by the tidal wave from the massive 1755 earthquake that flattened Lisbon and much of the Algarve.

These days, the setting is the biggest drawcard, rather than the remains of the fort itself. The three-euro entry fee gives access to a lighthouse, a small church, and a huge stone maritime compass that's over 100 feet in diameter, likely from the 16th century.

There's also a mile-long clifftop walking path with great views. Allow up to an hour for your visit.

Continue to 5 of 5 below.
05 of 05

Enjoy a Slice of Local Life

A cobblestone alleyway in Sagres

TripSavvy / Jamie Ditaranto

Once you're done with the small number of attractions in and around Sagres, it's time to kick back and enjoy the relaxed ambiance and low prices that make ​the town so appealing to certain types of visitors.

Rather than expensive resorts and high-end restaurants, you're more likely to find simple hotels and small, family-run eateries specializing in local fare—which, in this case, usually means whatever the fishermen have caught that day.

Speaking of fishermen, it's worth spending a few minutes checking out the working harbor in the east of town. It's not tidied up for tourists, instead giving visitors a glimpse into what it's really like to make a living from the ocean in this part of the world.

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The Top Things to Do in Sagres, Portugal