The lighthouse at the southwest tip of Portugal is special in so many ways. Sure, it’s the south-westernmost part of mainland Europe; and that’s why most people visit. But those who have visited know that it’s special for far more than just geographical reasons.
There’s an atmosphere to Cabo de São Vicente (Cape St. Vicent in English). It’s where the cold Atlantic Ocean air collides into the warm arid air from the Algarve. It means for some pretty epic moments. You might have calm weather and blue skies just 5 minutes down the road in Sagres, but here at the lighthouse you might be socked into fog and battered by high winds. It’s wild.
Historically, this was a land of myth. During the age of the Roman Empire, Greek geographer Strabo believed this was the end of the world. People believed that this is where the sun sunk into the sea. And, honestly, it’s not hard to believe the myths as you stand on the jagged cliffs starring off into the mass of the Atlantic Ocean. Cabo de São Vicente is extraordinary.
The name Cabo de São Vicente apparently comes from the 4th century when a martyed deacon St. Vincente was brought and buried here.
Photographing Cabo de São Vicente
Ok, let’s get into the photography side of this beautiful location. And, let me start of by saying that when the conditions are right, the photos make themselves. But, the conditions can switch on a flip. And, what’s worse, there’s very little way of being able to figure out if the conditions are going to be good. The weather readings come from Sagres (about 10 minutes away) and the weather can be totally different there.
It’s one of those places that you kind of just need to just wish for the best.
Time of Day?
Honestly, you can photograph Cabo de São Vicente any time. At sunrise it’s definitely quieter. But, even at sunset packed with visiting tourists, it’s easy enough to avoid them in your photos.
I’ve never tried astro photography here, but I think it would work – as long as the weather cooperates.
- Wide angle lens: Ideally at least 21mm wide.
- Tripod: Don’t mess around with a flimsy tripod here. The winds are heavy, gusty, and will knock over weaker tripods.
- Filters: I think you’ll want a grad filter, if you’re not blending exposures.
The lighthouse is in the national park, so general park rules apply. That said, it’s fairly easy going here. Stay on the paths and you’ll be ok.
You can fly drones here with the usual proper permission held in Portugal.
Be careful! The cliffs can be deadly if you’re not careful.
Getting to Cabo de São Vicente
“Go west, young man”
It’s not exactly hard to find Cabo de São Vicente. It’s the southwest corner of the country. So, head that way.
If you’re coming from Lagos, you’ll be heading west on the N125 and then turning south on the N268 at Vila do Bisbo. You pass through Sagres which is a good place to spend the night, stock up on groceries, or grab dinner.
To the right I’ve included a google map of the location.
There’s plenty of free parking at the lighthouse. But, it does sometimes fill up, at which point most people just park along the road leading to it.
Where to Stay near Cabo de São Vicente
When if comes to accommodation, most people choose to stay in either Sagres, Lagos, or Vila do Bisbo. But, honestly, it’s not a stretch to visit the lighthouse from as far as Albufeira (1h15min) or even Faro (1 1/2 hours). And, to the north you might also find yourself near somewhere like Aljezur (50min).
You’ll have options of guesthouses, hostels, camping, and hotels nearly everywhere. Here are my favourites.
The town of Sagres is getting really popular among the younger crowd. It’s close to surfing, and a lot of nice budget options are springing up. It’s a nice base for way out west.
- Hotel: Mareta Beach is right on the water, and a really cool hotel.
- Hostel: Sagres Sun Stay is the hostel of choice for most in Sagres. They have dorms and private rooms.
- Camping: Orbitur has a campsite just north of Sagres. Tents, RVs, etc are all accepted.
- Guesthouse: Yes, the best guesthouse in Sagres is actually called “Local Guesthouse”.
The Epic Portugal HQ is in Lagos, so we’re partial to it. It’s got a great vibe, lots of really good food, and accommodation for all budgets. Come visit us!
- Hotel: I like the Tivoli Hotel in Lagos. It’s right in the heart of town, but still feels quiet.
- Hostel: Cloud 9 Hostel is the top hostel in town, and it’s right across from our Gallery/Cafe!
- Camping: Camping Trindade is right in town. It’s not great, though. Outside of town Camping Turiscampo Yelloh! is very popular.
- Guesthouse: AirBnb definitely rules guesthouse life in Lagos. It’s likely the best place to get a deal.
Vila do Bispo
If you’re looking for quiet, Vila do Bispo is just that. It’s got a chill vibe and feels quintessentially Portuguese. Fewer hotel and food options, but still nice!
- Hotel: Hotel Mira is one of the only hotels in Vila do Bispo.
- Hostel: Just outside of town check out “Hostel on the Hill”.
- Camping: Nothing in/near town.
- Guesthouse: Pure Fonte Velha B&B is really beautiful.
Best Time of Year to Visit This Part of Portugal
There’s no wrong time for the Algarve.
But, I’d personally recommend the shoulder season. In July and August not only can it get quite busy, but it can be hot. Daytime temperatures get to around 30 all summer. In June and September it’s a little bit better, and also quieter. May and October are pretty perfect, in my opinion. In the winter months of November to March the weather can be more temperamental, but the skies for photography can me much more appealing.
Like I said, there’s really no bad time to visit the Algarve.
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