Overlooking some of the Algarve’s most dramatic scenery, the tiny village of Sagres has an end-of-the-world feel with its sea-carved cliffs and empty, windwhipped 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 access to fine beaches and its laid-back vibe, with simple cheery, cafés and bars long popular with the surfing crowd. Outside of town, the striking cliffs of Cabo de São Vicente make for an enchanting visit.
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 after the earthquake of 1755, which had left little of verifiable antiquity standing.
Sagres has milder temperatures than other parts of the Algarve, with Atlantic winds keeping the summers cool.
Last updated: Feb 17, 2009
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