Exploring Ponta da Piedade in Lagos: a Guide
Having immersed myself in the beauty of Ponta da Piedade over the past five years, I find this rocky cape in Lagos to be a true gem. The name, Ponta da Piedade, translates to a point of mercy, echoing the historical days when fishermen ventured into the open sea from a small pier, while their anxious wives awaited their return at the cliff’s summit, guided only by distant lights in the darkness.
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Today, the peninsula is renowned for its captivating rock formations, caves, and natural arches visible from both the cliffside trails and boat tours. The rugged cliffs, standing at approximately 20 meters, offer breathtaking panoramic views. In your Algarve adventure, make sure not to miss Ponta da Piedade and the famous Benagil Cave.
Another must-visit location in the Algarve is Cape St. Vincent in Sagres, the southwesternmost point of Portugal and mainland Europe. Including it in your Algarve itinerary promises a glimpse of dramatic scenery that will stay with you.
Finding Ponta da Piedade: Where is Ponta da Piedade?
Situated just 2.5 km from the Old Town of Lagos in southern Algarve, Portugal, Ponta da Piedade beckons as an essential stop in your Lagos exploration. The cape is easily accessible and promises an unforgettable experience.
When is the best time to visit?
The prime time to experience Ponta da Piedade is during the peak season from June to September, especially on weekdays. Early mornings, preferably around 8 am, offer the best moments for a tranquil walk on boardwalks and the chance to capture stunning photos without the crowds. Be mindful of the often intense Algarve heat; starting early ensures a more comfortable exploration.
Consider the wind conditions, as Lagos can be quite windy throughout the year. Mornings typically have less wind, with breezes picking up in the afternoon. Evenings are also delightful for cooler temperatures and fewer tourists.
If your visit aligns with the off-season (October to March), you’ll enjoy Ponta da Piedade with fewer crowds and milder temperatures. Simply pick the best weather day and time to make the most of your experience.
How to get there?
Driving from Lagos is the quickest way to reach Ponta da Piedade, taking approximately 10-15 minutes, depending on your location in Lagos. A parking spot at the Lighthouse is available, but it’s advisable to arrive early, especially during summer when it tends to fill up by 10 am. Renting a car is a convenient option for exploring multiple Algarve destinations; you can easily rent one at Faro Airport.
No public buses go directly to the cape, but a tourist train operates during the season, connecting Lagos to Ponta da Piedade. The train stops at Meia Praia, Lagos Marina, Dona Ana Beach, and Ponta de Piedade. If you prefer walking, it’s a pleasant 30-minute stroll along the road or a scenic 1-hour route along the cliffs, passing beautiful beaches like Praia Dona Ana and Camilo Beach.
Exploring with Tours: Different tours to Ponta da Piedade
To truly appreciate the beauty of Ponta da Piedade, experiencing it from the sea is a must. Boat tours and kayaking provide a different perspective, showcasing the cape’s wonders in a unique way.
- Batata Beach
- Praia dos Estudantes
- Dona Ana Beach
- Ponte Romano (the Roman Bridge), best viewed from the water as it’s on private land.
- The Elephant rock, a cliff resembling an elephant’s head.
- The Kiss rock, two rocks forming a kiss.
- The Titanic rock, two cliffs resembling a ship and an iceberg.
- Praia do Pinheiros, a beach visible at low tide with challenging access.
- Praia da Balança, a small beach that disappears at high tide.
- Various natural arches and caves.
- Ponta da Piedade Lighthouse, one of Portugal’s oldest, best viewed from the water.
- Porto de Mos Beach.
Kayak tours offer the advantage of getting closer to the beaches, allowing stops at some of them. You can either kayak from Batata Beach, a 3-hour round trip covering about 4 km, or opt for a combined boat and kayak trip from Marina de Lagos. The latter, taking approximately 2 hours, involves a boat ride, kayaking, and the opportunity to swim or snorkel at grottos.
Experiencing Boat Tours
Embarking on a boat tour to Ponta da Piedade is a top-rated aquatic adventure and one of the highlights when exploring Lagos. Opt for a smaller boat to get up close to the cliffs and venture into captivating caves. These tours are family-friendly, providing life jackets even for young children. I personally took my 8-month-old daughter on the tour, and she had a peaceful nap during the trip. While newborns might find it less suitable, infants from 5-6 months onward can enjoy the experience.
Boat tours navigate through caves and natural arches, but they don’t make stops at beaches due to regulations. Weather plays a crucial role; extremely windy conditions or large swells may affect the tour’s itinerary. Capture photos on the way to Ponta da Piedade, as the return trip tends to be faster without stops.
If you seek a unique approach, consider a sailing excursion lasting two hours along the cliffs on a traditional Portuguese sailboat. Though sailboats remain anchored at the cape, smaller boats transport visitors into the caves for an unforgettable experience.
For those craving an entertaining boat trip, there’s a 3-hour fun catamaran cruise from Lagos to Praia da Luz. This lively excursion includes paddle boards, a water trampoline, and refreshing cocktails for a memorable journey.
Hiking at Ponta da Piedade
Our numerous hikes around Ponta da Piedade have revealed a stunning landscape—rugged limestone cliffs, sandy beaches, turquoise waters, peculiar rock formations, and captivating viewpoints. Begin the hike from Praia do Pinhao, covering approximately 3.5 km to the Lighthouse at Ponta da Piedade. The journey takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes, depending on your pace and how many beaches you explore along the way.
Extend the hike from Dona Ana to Ponta da Piedade by following a sidewalk along the road. You can reach Camilo Beach and eventually the Ponta da Piedade Lighthouse via a combination of footpaths and boardwalks. The total length of the boardwalks at Ponta da Piedade is around 2 km, offering a wheelchair and stroller-friendly route with benches at various lookout points.
At the lighthouse, a footpath leads to breathtaking viewpoints and a staircase descending to a historic pier once used by fishermen. Only four families retain the right to launch their boats from this pier, a tradition passed down through generations.
You can also walk from Ponta da Piedade to Porto de Mos Beach, covering 2.5 km via a mix of boardwalks, footpaths, and sidewalks. Additionally, part of the Rota Vicentina multi-day route—the Fishermen’s Trail—circles around Ponta da Piedade.
For more scenic walks, consider exploring the Carvoeiro boardwalk, a short 600 m wooden walkway along the cliffs. If you’re up for a more extended stroll, the Alvor boardwalk offers a 6-kilometer route between Alvor beach and the river.
Choosing Accommodation in Lagos
Lagos is a sought-after summer destination with a plethora of hotels, guesthouses, and hostels. Booking accommodations in advance, especially during the peak season from July to September, is highly advisable. This ensures securing well-reviewed and reasonably priced options before they fill up.
Amenities at Ponta da Piedade
Located at Ponta da Piedade Lighthouse, facilities include toilets, a restaurant with a small shop, a parking lot, and a stop for the tourist train.
Insider Tips for Your Visit
- Bring an ample water supply for your exploration around the area.
- Wear a cap and apply sunscreen, as there is minimal shade along the route.
- Stick to established trails and boardwalks; avoid climbing over rails and getting too close to cliff edges, as limestone cliffs are fragile.
- Make the most of the morning and evening light for optimal photo opportunities.