Cape Sagres

This windswept coast was once home to a navigators’ school that readied explorers for adventures in the New World

Fisherman casts off from the cliffs of Cape Sagres. (Jose Pedro Fernandes / Alamy)

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4. The Point: Beyond the buildings, the granite point itself is windswept, eroded, and largely barren, except for hardy, coarse vegetation admired by botanists. Walk on level paths around the edge of the bluff (a 40-min round-trip walk), where locals cast lines and tourists squint into the wind. You’ll get great seascape views of Cape St. Vincent, with its modern lighthouse on the site of an old convent. At the far end of the Sagres bluff are a naval radio station, a natural cave, and a promontory called “Prince Henry’s Chair.”

Sit on the point and gaze across the “Sea of Darkness,” where monsters roam. Long before Henry’s time, Romans considered it the edge of the world, dubbing it Promontorium Sacrum--Sacred (“Sagres”) Promontory. Pilgrims who came to visit this awe-inducing place were prohibited to spend the night here--it was for the gods alone.

In Portugal’s seafaring lore, capes, promontories, and land’s ends are metaphors for the edge of the old, and the start of the unknown voyage. Sagres is the greatest of these.

Rick Steves ( writes European travel guidebooks and hosts travel shows on public television and public radio. E-mail him at, or write to him c/o P.O. Box 2009, Edmonds, WA 98020.

© 2010 Rick Steves

About Rick Steves
Rick Steves

Rick Steves is a travel writer and television personality. He coordinated with Smithsonian magazine to produce a special travel issue Travels with Rick Steves.

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