Cabo da Roca, just north of Lisbon, is known for its dramatic views and scenic cliff-top walking path. The westernmost point in continental Europe and once believed by Europeans to be the edge of the world, today it is home to a defensive lighthouse that was built in the 16th century and serves as a haven for local birdlife.
In the 16th-century glory days of worldwide maritime exploration, Portugal was one of the most important countries in the world, with interests in Brazil, India, China, and Africa. With riches arriving from far and wide, the country built a series of defensive outposts to guard Lisbon, the capital city, including at Cabo da Roca. Today you can walk around (but not inside) the current lighthouse, which was built in the 18th century; see the nearby church with its blue and white azuelo tiles; and stand on the windswept headland and imagine mariners heading out to the New World, more than 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers) away.
Cabo da Roca is a popular stop on guided tours of the region, which also take in the nearby hilltop town of Sintra and typically provide round-trip transportation from Lisbon.
Things to Know Before You Go
- There’s no entrance fee to access Cabo da Roca.
- Visit at sunset for great photo opportunities.
- You’ll find a small souvenir store and café on site.
- The area around the lighthouse and church is accessible to wheelchair users.
How to Get There
Cabo da Roca is located 25 miles (40 kilometers) from Lisbon, between the towns of Cascais and Sintra. It’s accessible by car, guided tour, or public bus—403 runs from Cascais to Sintra and stops at Cabo da Roca.
When to Get There
Cabo da Roca is open year-round. It is usually windy at the cape and can be cooler than in the surrounding areas, even in mid-summer. Take extra care on the paths if you’re visiting in rainy or very windy conditions.
Visit the Palaces of Sintra
Twelve miles (20 kilometers) inland of Cabo da Roca is the enchanting town of Sintra, where colorful palaces and fairy-tale castles perch on tree-covered hills. Used by the Portuguese Royal Family as their summer residence, the red and yellow Pena Palace is straight out of a storybook. The other grand buildings, built by members of the aristocracy and other dignitaries, recall the days when the town was a magnet for Lisbon’s wealthiest residents.