Getting to Know Vila do Bispo Municipality
One of the places in the southwestern Algarve where Prince Henry the Navigator lived. Tradition says he stayed in a house which has now lost its original character and of which all that has been identified is the lintel of a 16th century door.
Of the original church, founded in the 16th century, all that remains are the Manueline doorways at the front and side, the bell-tower which culminates in an octagonal pyramid, the arch of the main altar and, at the back, an interesting corbel with a human face.
The lateral altarpieces are carved and gilded, with statues. There is an altarpiece depicting São Miguel (St. Michael) crushing the demon, as well as religious artefacts (16th/18th centuries)
Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Guadalupe (Our Lady o f Guadalupe)
According to local tradition this was a place of prayer for Prince Henry the Navigator. Romano-gothic (possibly from the 13th century), it has a plain façade with an ogival portal and rosette. The chancel has lateral columns with sculpted capitals and a vault. Also visible are lateral buttresses with gargoyles. Surrounded by countryside, it was part of the Quinta da Raposeira, where there are ruins of a 15th century manor house.
A village with picturesque streets, with an old fountain and tank for washing clothes. Nearby stand abandoned windmills and a typical limekiln.
A country church (18th century). Interesting effigy of Nossa Senhora do Rosário (Our Lady of the Rosary) (17th century).
Chapel of São António (St. A nthony)
18th century edifice. Panoramic views from the churchyard.
Chapel of São Lourenço (St. Lawrence)
Built in the 17th century. The front of the altar is decorated with 18th century tiles.
Barão de São Miguel
A typical village surrounded by rolling hills covered with cistus.
16th century in origin. Baroque altarpiece with an effigy of the Arcanjo São Miguel (Archangel Michael) (18th century).
Sagres dates back to before the Roman conquest. The frequent presence here of Prince Henry the Navigator during the early days of Atlantic navigation and the discovery of the African coast as far as the Gulf of Guinea has forever linked this picturesque fishing port with the Discoveries. Vila do Infante and its fortress, which were founded by Prince Henry, were sacked and destroyed by Sir Francis Drake in 1587, after his attack on Cadiz, as part of a privateering campaign.
On the Ponta de Sagres, a giant finger of rock pointing out to the ocean, stand buildings that evoke the past of a place that is part of the history of the world.
Dating back to the 15th century, and successively rebuilt and repaired in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Adjoined by former batteries that defended the beaches of Tonel and Mareta.
Church of Nossa Senhora da Graça (Our Lady o f Grace)
Tradition has it that this church was founded by Prince Henry the Navigator. Built in the 16th century, with a Renaissance doorway. On the altar there is an interesting statue of São Vicente (St. Vincent) holding a ship (17th century). Headstones from the 16th and 17th centuries.
A vast circle with radiating points, 43 metres in diameter, marked out in stone on the ground. Possibly dating back to the 15th century.
An interesting vestige of the old buildings. Now incorporated into a modern complex.
One of the charms of Ponta de Sagres are the varied views of the coast provided by the paths cut along the cliffs, from which the sea has gouged huge caverns and hollows.
Cabo de São Vicente (Cape St. Vincent)
Its status as a sacred place since Neolithic times is confirmed by the presence of important groups of menhirs and by an account written by classical writers in the 4th century B.C. describing religious ceremonies involving libations and stating that it was forbidden for humans to go there after dark, because at night it was inhabited by gods. In the period when the Phoenicians had trading-posts in the Algarve, it is thought certain that there was a sanctuary dedicated to the Greek hero Hercules and the Phoenician god Melcart, while in Sagres there was another under the invocation of Chronos-Saturn-Baal.
For the Romans the whole area was part of the Promontorium Sacrum (from which the name Sagres is derived), the most westerly point in the world, where the setting sun made the waters of the ocean boil. The transportation, after the Arab invasion, of the body of São Vicente (St. Vincent) to the cape that was named after him turned it into a place of pilgrimage for centuries. In 1173 the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, gave orders for the holy remains to be brought to Lisbon.
An obligatory landmark for any ship travelling to the Mediterranean, Cabo de São Vicente was the scene of many major sea battles. In 1693 the French admiral Tourville defeated an Anglo-Dutch squadron. A Spanish fleet suffered a similar fate in 1780 at the hands of the English admiral Rodney. Nelson and Jarvis defeated another Spanish fleet in 1797. The squadron in the service of the absolutist King Miguel was captured here in 1833 by the squadron on the Liberal side flying the flag of his niece, Queen Maria II.
The fortress was built in the 16th century and rebuilt in the 17th and 18th centuries. The arms of king D. Joao III are visible on the main gate. Inside can be found the former monastery of Hieronymite friars, founded in the 16th century.
The interesting lighthouse at the extremity of the Cape is an updated version of the beacon that the Bishop of the Algarve D. Fernando Coutinho had built for the safety of shipping in 1515.
The Music of the Waves
In the fortress, there are deep fissures in the rock, and when the sea is rough the pounding waves transform these into vast natural organ-pipes.
The Coastal Defence Fortresses
The strategic importance of Cabo de São Vicente and the need to protect the local population from marauding pirates led to the heavy fortification of the whole coast. In addition to the forts at Sagres and Cabo de São Vicente, which were key to the defence of the area, many others were built, all offering magnificent views to anyone who travels along the coastline.
Torre de Aspa
Ruins of a watchtower on a hill overlooking the sea (elevation 156 metres), and affording a panoramic vista of the coast as far as Cabo de São Vicente and Sagres.
Fortification built in the reign of King João IV (17th century).
Boca do Rio
Ruins of a fort built on the orders of King Filipe III (17th century), nowadays in ruins. Some distance away are the remains of a medieval chapel and a watchtower.
Remains of a 17th century fortification. Access difficult.
Ruins of a 17th century fortification. The ruins of a large masonry tower are visible at Ponte da Torre.
Remains of a fortification and a lookout tower.
Fortress dating from the 16th century. Coat of arms of King Filipe III on the entrance gate. Chapel of Santa Catarina (St. Catherine), cubic in shape, reminiscent of a marabout (a mosque of a Muslim ascetic).
An Archaeological Treasure
The existence of veins of flint in the Vila do Bispo area, along with the opportunities for finding food among the rich marine fauna, as attested by the presence of shell mounds, must have been one of the reasons for the first human settlements.
The most interesting testimony to the past is, however, the large number of menhirs (4,000 to 3,000 B.C.). Hewn out of white limestone, usually conical in shape, and sometimes bearing decoration carved in relief, they are reminders of ancient cults linked to fertility and the dead. The Romans too left important remains of the fish-salting industry and of the manufacture of amphorae for transporting the finished product.
Vila do Bispo
Vale de Gato de Cima
Three scattered menhirs.
Three decorated menhirs and a collective grave with corridor and chamber.
Casa do Francês
Six small menhirs and a slab decorated with dimples and furrows.
A large group of menhirs, which were part of two cromlechs
Three menhirs which are thought to have been part of a cromlech.
Burial sites consisting of chambers made of sandstone slabs (Bronze Age).
Praia da Salema
Remains of a Roman villa and a fish preserve factory.
Boca do Rio
An important Roman villa with frescoes and mosaics, bathhouse, warehouses and a fish salting and conserving factory. It was possibly part of a port. Nearby are two burial sites.
Group of 21 menhirs, some decorated. Nearby, two slabs decorated with dimples.
Group of 15 menhirs, some with decoration.
Burial site consisting of chambers made of limestone slabs. Nearby, three menhirs.
Praia do Martinhal
A major Roman pottery centre, with three kilns for the production of amphorae. On the small islands off the beach are remains of tanks used for salting fish.
The Pleasures of Sun and Sea
The coast, which extends to the north and east of Cabo de São Vicente (Cape St. Vincent), is dotted with more than 20 beaches. Some are sandy coves hidden at the foot of cliffs, others broad expanses of sand that stretch away to the horizon. Each has its own particular charm, waiting to be discovered along with peace and solitude.
A small beach with a broad stretch of sand.
Barriga and Cordoama
A series of broad beaches separated by cliffs but with access between them. Very quiet.
A beach surrounded by rock formations. Tourist facilities.
Stretches of sand at the foot of steep escarpments.
Pleasant, sheltered beach.
Sandy beach in a small bay scooped out of the cliff. Calm.
A sheltered beach with good views of the Ponta de Sagres and Cabo de São Vicente. Support facilities.
Long beach. Tourist facilities. Starting point for discovering the underwater delights of a coast dotted with caves and hollows.
Martinhal and Rebolinhos
Long beaches in a broad bay. Wonderful views of the small islands off the beaches. Tourist facilities.
Barranco, Ingrina and Zavial
Sandy coves in small bays. Calm. Tourist facilities.
Small isolated beach.
Located in a picturesque fishing village. Pleasant beach. Tourist facilities.
Boca do Rio
Stretch of sand along the bottom of a valley crossed by two gentle streams. Peaceful.
Cabanas Velhas (Almádena)
Small and seldom-visited beach.
A typical fishing port looking out to sea. Calm and family-oriented. Tourist facilities.
A Paradise for Fishermen, Surfers and Divers
The whole of the coast to the north of São Vicente is a huge fishing ground, teeming with the fish that legends are made of, from fighting croaker to tasty sea bass. Every rock, every cove has its own particular fans, fishermen who return to the same spot time and again. After that it’s skill and good luck that determine the size of the catch…
Surfers too, appreciate the regular waves of the coast to the north, the safety of its broad beaches and the total freedom of the ocean.
The wide bay defined by Ponta de Sagres and Cabo de São Vicente is an excellent place for scuba divers to appreciate the colourful diversity of fish and the dream-like landscapes of caves and hollows carved from beneath the cliffs.
Near Budens, a golf course set among rolling hills with views to the sea is an invitation to spend a few pleasant hours enjoying the delights of the game.
Costa Vicentina Protected Landscape Area
To protect the beauty of the landscape and the wealth of flora and fauna to be found there, a protected landscape area has been created along a stretch of coastline extending from Belixe to Odeceixe. Here it is possible to see dozens of species of wild flower, and to observe animals like the wild boar and the eagle in their natural habitat. There is also an opportunity for an endless variety of enjoyable walks, along cliffs and beaches, across hills and valleys.