Imagine if you were a navigator in the Golden Age of Discovery, when the world lay at your feet and the riches of the spices, the pepper, the cloves, the cinnamon, and the gold dust were within your reach; the seas were uncharted and you were sailing a powerful ship called a caravel and mapping the shape of the world as you went. Head to Cape St. Vincent—named after the legend that says the body of the eponymous saint was washed ashore here in the 4th century—about a 75-minute drive away on the far edge of the Algarve. En route, you’ll pass the 13th-century chapel of Our Lady of Guadaloupe near Raposeira (one of the few medieval buildings which survived the earthquake of 1755), where Prince Henry the Navigator (1394–1460) prayed before sending out his explorers, and stand on the 200-foot cliffs that the Romans called Promontorium Sacrum (“Sacred Promontory”). It is all too easy to imagine how it all must have felt, as the waves crash beneath you and the horizons entice. In neighboring Sagres, Prince Henry built his School of Navigation and his center for the study of astronomy. Little is left to see, but take a look around the Fortaleza de Sagres with its strange stone pattern compass on the ground and dwell for a minute on how the men who studied here, from Vasco da Gama to Magellan, changed the world we live in. To chew on this, head to the nearby Mar a Vista, a typically Portuguese, family-run establishment with wooden interiors and a terrace with expansive sea views. It offers a delicious catch of the day often courtesy of the patron, Paulo, himself.
Although you’ll have to drive about 75 minutes, you don’t want to miss this historic Algarve experience. Take in the beautiful scenery on your drive to Cape St. Vincent, then explore on foot. Make sure you visit Sagres Fortress and look out over the cliffs. For food, head inland to Rua da Mareta for excellent fresh fish with a view.
FORTALEZA DE SAGRES: Sagres; +351-282-620-140
MAR A VISTA: Praia da Mareta; +351-282-624-247