Sagres, Portugal

Sagres, Portugal

Spring, 2017

At the tip of southwest Portugal, we find Sagres. It is awash in pastel colors — flesh colored tones of earth, a moody green-gray ocean and a blue sky that is trying its hardest to transition to summer … unsuccessfully.

Pousada Sagres

Pousada Sagres

We spend the night in a pousada at the literal edge of the country. Portugal’s pousadas are old buildings — convents, castles and palaces — renovated and run as hotels by the government. They’re authentic, fairly affordable and, in some cases, stunning places to stay. I highly recommend checking them out if you’re traveling to Portugal.

Sagres, Portugal

Sagres, Portugal

From Pousada Sagres we have a westerly view to the lighthouse at Fortaleza Sagres. Beyond the fort and peninsula, there is nothing but the vast Atlantic Ocean, whipped up into a cold, churning bath on windy day like today. We bundle up and head to the fort, stopping first for a short hike down to Tonel Beach.

Except for the Mediterranean color palette, the dramatic coastline resembles Northern California’s Big Sur and Bolinas.

We enter Fortaleza Sagres, the departure point of Prince Henry the Navigator who sought a maritime route to Asia around the southern tip of Africa. The single column at the start of the path is a “replica of the marker stone (Padrão) used by the Portuguese navigators in the fifteenth century to mark newly discovered territories. It displays the coat-of-arms of Prince Henry, the Navigator.” I wonder … how many padrãos did he take with him?

The stark walls of the church, Nossa Senhora de Graça, support a cross silhouetted against the sky.

Sagres Fortress, Portugal

Sagres Fortress, Portugal

The most astonishing thing about the fortress is that the original was severely damaged by the earthquake of 1755. The resulting tsunami washed over this peninsula and everything on it. Can you imagine seeing a tidal wave coming toward you that’s higher than these cliffs?

We walk for an hour in the wind, following the road past the lighthouse to the farthest point of the peninsula. It feels like we’re in a never-ending journey of one-point perspective as the road leads eternally to the horizon.

A  circular maze invites us in at the end of the peninsula. Something about architecture in the middle of nowhere is hard to resist.

The churning Atlantic

The churning Atlantic

We return to the edge of the cliff. Although it’s a pretty color, the churning Atlantic does not look welcoming today. I’m happy to have my feet on the ground.

The path vanishes behind us as we head back to the entrance and find the mysterious Rose Compass interlaced with yellow wildflowers. Sundial or navigational tool? I’m not sure, but it’s time to go. Where to next? Let’s try the Algarve and Carvoeiro.

The Rose Compass, Sagres Fortress

The Rose Compass, Sagres Fortress

26 comments

  1. Like what Alison said, I can feel the cold wind and the waves of the Atlantic through your words. The circular maze particularly intrigues me. Was it built purely for fun or it actually served a purpose in the past?

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    1. Hey Bama! The circular maze led to a small blow hole where you could hear the ocean coming up through the rocks. I suppose if it was stormy or if the tide was high it might spout water, but the purpose was mainly for sound. Hope you had a great weekend!

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  2. That area of Portugal is gorgeous. We were there in colder months too and loved it (very few tourists). The pastel colors are so lovely and soothing.

    Portugal has incredible “hostels”. Thry call them hostels but in reality they were charming B and Bs, at low prices!
    Peta

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    1. Hey Peta! So cool that you’ve been to Sagres! And I’ll take cold weather over lots of tourists any day. 🙂 Didn’t know about the “hostels.” Thanks for sharing. We’ll definitely be going back to Portugal at some point so we’ll check it out. Hope you had a lovely weekend! ~K.

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  3. Although you probably wished for a real transition to summer, I found the muted colors especially appealing. At first glance, I thought the old church was a modern building of some type; I love its clean lines and the stone against the whitewash. We loved the paradores in Spain, similar to the pousadas – now I want to go back to Portugal and try these, too! Finally, great photo of you two!

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  4. Beautiful scenery! One of the things I miss from our Mediterranean deployments in the Navy. On the way the way there, Spain and/or Portugal were regulars on the port of call list. 🙂 Thanks for sharing these photos with us!

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