Cabo de São Vicente

Landmark in Sagres

Image by Dmitry Samsonov Five Hundred Pixels

Five kilometres from Sagres, Europe’s southwesternmost point is a barren headland, the last piece of home that Portuguese sailors once saw as they launched into the unknown. It's a spectacular spot: at sunset you can almost hear the hissing as the sun hits the sea. A red lighthouse houses the small but excellent Museu dos Faróis, showcasing Sagres' role in Portugal’s maritime history.

The cape – a revered place even in the time of the Phoenicians and known to the Romans as Promontorium Sacrum – takes its present name from a Spanish priest martyred by the Romans. The old fortifications, trashed by Sir Francis Drake in 1587, were later pulverised by the 1755 earthquake.

A kilometre before reaching the lighthouse, you'll pass the Fortaleza do Beliche, built in 1632 on the site of an older fortress. The interior, once a hotel, is off-limits, but you can descend a pretty pathway down to near the water. The sheltering walls here make for a more appealing picnic spot than the wind-whipped cape.