Overlooking some of the Algarve’s most dramatic scenery, the small, elongated village of Sagres has an end-of-the-world feel with its sea-carved cliffs and empty, wind-whipped fortress high above the ocean. Despite its connection to Portugal’s rich nautical past, there isn’t much of historical interest in town. Its appeal lies mainly in its sense of isolation (refreshing after the hectic Algarve), plus access to fine beaches. It has a laid-back vibe, and simple, cheery cafes and bars. It’s especially popular, particularly in the last decade, with a surfing crowd. Outside town, the striking cliffs of Cabo de São Vicente make for an enchanting visit.
One kilometre east of the square, past holiday villas and restaurants, is the port, still a centre for boatbuilding and lobster fishing, and the marina.
Sagres is where dashing Prince Henry the Navigator built a new, fortified town and a semimonastic school of navigation that specialised in cartography, astronomy and ship design, steering Portugal on towards the Age of Discoveries.
At least, that’s according to history and myth. Henry was, among other things, governor of the Algarve and had a residence in its primary port town, Lagos, from where most expeditions set sail. He certainly did put together a kind of nautical think-tank, though how much thinking went on out at Sagres is uncertain. He definitely had a house somewhere near Sagres, where he died in November 1460.
In May 1587 the English privateer Sir Francis Drake, in the course of attacking supply lines to the Spanish Armada, captured and wrecked the fortifications around Sagres. The Ponta de Sagres was refortified following the earthquake of 1755, after which there was little of verifiable antiquity left standing.
Sagres has milder temperatures than other parts of the Algarve, with Atlantic winds keeping the summers cool. Note that there is no car rental in Sagres; it’s advisable to hire cars in Lagos instead.
Sagres destination guides
Experience the best of the western Algarve at handlebar level
Best of the Algarve
A self guided walk along sections of the 'Via Algarviana' through some of the Algarve's most stunning countryside