It was in the Algarve, at Cape St Vincent, off the coast of Vila do Bispo, that Portugal’s first ever lighthouse entered service in 1515. The tower of the Convent of St Vincent was used by the monks to shine a light that guided seafarers.
The current Cape St Vincent Lighthouse, built in 1846, rises to a height of 28 metres. Today, the arches of the cloisters and the water tanks still remain from the old convent, as does the wall of the fortress that protected it. From here, you can see one of the finest landscapes in Europe, with whimsical cliffs and the infinite blue of the Atlantic Ocean.
At 51 metres above sea level, the cliffs at Ponta da Piedade are the highest on the south coast and atop them stands a lighthouse. Its construction was controversial, since it required the demolition of the centuries-old Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Piedade (Our Lady of Sorrows), a pilgrimage site for seafarers.
The lighthouse at Ponta do Altar stands on the promontory next to the picturesque hamlet of Ferragudo (Lagoa) and affords a view of the mouth of the River Arade and the city of Portimão from the sea.
Similarly, the Alfazina, or Carvoeiro, Lighthouse (Lagoa), as it is called by the fishermen, stands on a rocky promontory, where it rises to a height of 23 metres above the Atlantic Ocean. The whimsical shape of the coastline and its caves are used as nesting and resting places by numerous birds that fly or glide with infinite elegance before plunging into the sea in search of food.
An 18-metre-high orange lighthouse at Vilamoura Marina’s control tower assists with the coming and going of pleasure boats to this cosmopolitan harbour for yachts and sailing boats.
At 46 metres high, the Cape Santa Maria Lighthouse, standing opposite the cities of Faro and Olhão, dominates the landscape of soft, light-golden sands on the barrier island of Culatra, part of the Ria Formosa’s dune system.
Watching over the mouth of the River Guadiana stands the Vila Real Santo António Lighthouse. Cylindrical in shape, the tower is white with black bands and is topped by a red lantern. It is a marvellous viewpoint from which you can look out over the bay of Monte Gordo and across the border to Spain.
More information on visits to the lighthouses please go here.