SAGRES and its wild and windswept cape, Cabo de São Vicente, were considered by the Portuguese as the far limit of the world. It was on these headlands in the fifteenth century that Prince Henry the Navigator made his residence and it was here, too, that he set up a school of navigation, gathering together the greatest astronomers, cartographers and adventurers of his age. Fernão de Magalhães (Magellan), Pedro Álvares Cabral and Vasco da Gama all studied at Sagres, and from the beach at Belixe – midway between Sagres and São Vicente – the first long caravels were launched, revolutionizing shipping with their adaptable sails and ability to sail close to the wind. Each year new expeditions were dispatched to penetrate a little further than their predecessors, and to resolve the great navigational enigma presented by the west coast of Africa, thereby laying the foundations of the country’s overseas empire.
After Henry’s death here in 1460, the centre of maritime studies was moved to Lisbon and Sagres slipped back into obscurity. These days, Sagres attracts a growing number of families, backpackers, divers and surfers, drawn by warm waters, surf schools and the string of magnificent local beaches. It’s not a handsome town, but it can still be a great place to stay, with an ever-growing array of rooms, restaurants and bars. Its liveliest day is August 15 when celebrations and fireworks celebrate the local saint’s day.Read More
The Algarve has gained a reputation as one of Europe’s best surfing destinations, with Sagres as its surfing capital. Its position at the bottom corner of Portugal means that there are nearly always excellent surfing conditions, whatever the weather. The swell “wraps” round Cabo de São Vicente, producing relatively gentle waves in the bays between Sagres and Lagos, ideal for the less experienced. With swell sizes of up to 5m, the beaches north of Cabo de São Vicente face the full brunt of the Atlantic so are ideal for experienced surfers – legs of the World Surfing Championships are held at nearby Praia do Amado. Indeed, it can be decidedly dangerous and inexperienced surfers are best off going with a surf school or a surf camp, which throws in accommodation and transport to the best beaches. Top surf camps in the region include wwww.freeridesurfcamp.com, wwww.algarvesurfschool.com, wwww.surferdream.com/Algarve, wwww.internationalsurfschool.com and wwww.surf-experience.com.