In the Sintra hills between Sintra and Cascais lies the wild cape of Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of Europe and one of Portugal’s most iconic sights. The dramatic landscape feels relatively remote, despite the many visitors who come to view “the point where the land ends and the sea begins”, in the words of the famous Portuguese 16th-century poet Luís Vaz de Camões, inscribed here on a plaque.
The drive through the winding roads of Sintra climbing up to the cape provides one of the most beautiful sceneries in the region, where one is rewarded with the pure sea air and spectacular views across the Serra de Sintra and the Atlantic coast from the top of Cabo da Roca’s 140-metre high cliffs, overlooking the raging ocean waves
The only building on this site is an 18th century lighthouse, one of the oldest in Portugal, along with a cafe-restaurant and tourist office selling souvenir certificates to officially confirm that you’ve stood on Europe’s most western point. The 1772 lighthouse still remains an important point of navigation for ships that are sailing across the Portuguese coast. Historically, there also existed a fort here in the 19th century to defend the coast as an entry point to Lisbon, particularly during the Peninsular War, of which only small traces remain.
Cabo de Roca was believed to be the end of the known world up until the late 14th century, making it a legendary and sacred place. Close to the lighthouse stands a symbolic cross inscribed with Luís de Camões’ words: “Right here, almost at the head’s summit, Of all Europe, the Lusitano Kingdom, Where the earth ends and the sea begins, And where Apollo settles into the Ocean” (The Lusíadas, Luís de Camões).
Nearby Attractions to Cabo da Roca
As part of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, there are some stunning but challenging walking routes along the coastal paths through the extraordinary, desolate scenery, with impressive views across the jagged cliffs to the roaring waves of the Atlantic Ocean below.
The rugged coastline also features some extraordinary, wild beaches in dramatic natural surroundings.
Just down the road from Cabo da Roca is the Praia da Ursa, one of Portugal’s most stunning beaches and a breathtaking nature spot overlooking an array of huge sea stacks rising out from the ocean. The beach is accessed via a steep trail down the cliff, not for the faint hearted but you will enjoy a wild and almost deserted beach of white golden sand below, and a beautiful waterfall cascading down a rocky crevice, depending on the time of year you visit.
The name translates as “Bear Beach ”, named after the “rocha da ursa”, or “bear rock”, one of the massive rocks close the shore, due to its shape resembling a bear holding its cub when viewed from a certain angle.
From here hikers can walk further north along the coast to Adraga, another wild and beautiful beach between the cliffs with dramatic rock formations and a series of caves you can explore at low tide. There is a restaurant at the entrance to the beach where you can stop for lunch overlooking the ocean.
Visiting Cabo da Roca – Practical Tips
- As Sintra’s beaches face west there the water is quite cold and it can get windy. The waves are also quite strong around Praia da Ursa and Adraga beaches with no lifeguards, so it is not advisable for swimming, but great for sunbathing and taking photos.
- This is truly a wild spot, so take care of falling rocks near the cliffs and you may want to bring water and something to eat if you spend the day at Praia da Ursa, as there are no restaurants or bars here and very little shade.
- Praia da Ursa is a challenging hike and may not be not ideal for families with children or older people, but otherwise the stunning landscape trekking down to the beach is a fine reward and really worth the adventure.