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Ponta da Piedade: Words Are Inadequate For This Beauty

Ponta da Piedade: Words Are Inadequate For This Beauty

The stunning country of Portugal seems to be high on the wish lists of world travelers in recent years, as it’s exploding in popularity. Along with the colorful streets of Lisbon, the sweet wine of the Douro Valley, and the rugged Azores islands, a natural wonder on the Portuguese coast will take your breath away: Ponta da Piedade.

Located in Southern Portugal in the region known as the Algarve, Ponta da Piedade is one of the most beautiful coastal destinations in the world. This stunning headland has rock formations up to 65 feet above the waves, consisting of sea caves, hidden beaches, and natural arches.

The gold-dusted limestone that juts out into the turquoise water of the Atlantic Ocean is rugged, wild, and ripe for exploration.

In the warmer months, brave tourists trek down to the quiet beaches among the hidden coves of Ponta da Piedade to cool off in the sea. But even in the other seasons, a coastal trail from above can explore the miles of craggy shoreline. Some say the best way to see Ponta da Piedade is from the sea.

Visiting Ponta da Piedade should be a part of any Algarve itinerary. I was lucky to explore this fascinating place on a recent trip and am happy to share my advice. Look below at what you need to know about visiting Ponta da Piedade!

TL;DR Ideas for Ponte da Piedade for Any Traveler

Best For Activities Accommodation
Budget Travelers Wooden Boardwalk & Trail Hiking; Lagos Sightseeing; Beaches Dona Ana Garden
Luxury Travelers Catamaran & Private Boat Tours; Sunset Cruises; Top Dining & Live Music Experiences Belmar Spa & Beach Resort
Families Boat Tours; Kayak Tours (for older children); Easily-Accessible Beaches Vila Ponta da Piedade
Solo Travelers Kayak Tours; SUP Tours; Lagos Sightseeing; Bars & Live Music Charming Residence Dom Manuel I

What is Ponta da Piedade? Some History & Background

Ponta Da Piedade Aerial Scenery

Ponta da Piedade translates to Piety Point or Point of Mercy. The name comes from a history of pilgrimage at the point, as people came here to pray, especially for the safety of those at sea. Local fishermen also used the notable landscape as a beacon of navigation in the rough ocean waters.

The sea cliffs, arches, pillars, and other rock formations were carved out by thousands of years of those rough waters battering the shoreline.

Humans have inhabited the area for over two thousand years, beginning with the Celts and later the Romans and Moors. And while it’s purely Portuguese today, much of this fascinating history is still held around Lagos and the Algarve.

People visit Ponta da Piedade in all seasons and for several activities. On land, there are opportunities for nature walks on the clifftops for all capabilities, ranging from an easy wooden boardwalk to difficult rock descents. There are many small beaches to lounge on or swim from, most surrounded by cliffs and difficult to access, making them all the more secluded and peaceful.

And while you should definitely see Ponta da Piedade from the land, you can get a whole different perspective from the sea. Small boat tours depart from the Lagos Marina frequently, revealing caves, arches, and other wonders you’d never see otherwise.

You can also choose a kayak or SUP tour to get closer. Don’t worry; we’ll cover these in-depth soon.

How to Get to Ponta da Piedade

Ponta da Piedade Boats

Ponta da Piedade is located near Lagos along Portugal’s southern coast. Faro Airport (FAO) is the closest major airport to Lagos, and it’s served by a ton of low-cost Easyjet and Ryanair flights, as well as by major European carriers.

My car rental at the Faro Airport may have been the cheapest I’ve ever found – I paid around $12 per day! To be fair, I did go in the off-season. But the Algarve is a great place to have a car, so see what you can find on RentalCars.com, and you may be surprised by prices.

The drive to Lagos and Ponta da Piedade is about an hour from Faro. Alternatively, you can take a train from Faro, although it will take about double the time. The train also runs directly from Lisbon.

Finally, if you’re not big on driving in a foreign country on vacation and don’t want to deal with trains, there are private transfer services from Faro and even from Lisbon. You’ll simply look for your name at baggage claim.

Getting Around Ponta da Piedade

Algarve, Portugal Ocean View

It’s less than a 10-minute drive from the center of Lagos to reach Ponta da Piedade, which has a large car park. At just 3 kilometers away, it’s also walkable in about 45 minutes.

Local buses can take you halfway, but you’ll still have to walk from the outskirts of town. Uber is also a cheap and convenient option.

During the high season (the busy summer months), a tourist train provides rides between Ponta da Piedade and Lagos for a small fee. It’s called Tourist Train Lagos, a fun and unique way to see the area. It doesn’t run in the shoulder seasons.

The Ponta de Piedade headland can be accessed by foot along coastal trails and stairways leading down to the beach, and this is pretty much the best part! The scenic walk along the peninsula’s west is easy, thanks to the wooden coastal path with many panoramic points. The eastern walks are a bit less defined and may involve more difficult terrain, but many are perfectly fine for inexperienced hikers.

The alternative to the trails is to take a boat trip or other excursion from Lagos Marina. This is highly recommended, as you’ll see even more beautiful scenery, but I’d still recommend visiting the topside. Even if you only have time for a short stroll on the main walking trail, it’s worth it – the views from above are just incredible.

Attractions and Activities of Ponta da Piedade

There are many things to do in Ponta da Piedade itself, as well as even more in and around Lagos – we’ll get to those later. But first, choose one or more awesome ways to enjoy this beautiful coastline.

Wander the Ponta da Piedade Boardwalk & Hiking Trails

Skyline view from Ponta da Piedade Boardwalk
Woodrow Matthews / ViaTravelers

The Ponta da Piedade Boardwalk is the simplest way to see the beautiful sights, and it’s also free. This hiking trail leads you along the western side of the headland and is wheelchair-accessible; it’s also a safe option for families with children, as it’s not near the edge of the unstable cliffs of Ponta da Piedade.

The boardwalk begins near the western side of the lighthouse and immediately offers a beautiful walk with terrific Algarve coastal and sunset views. It runs for about 2 kilometers, at which point you’ll have to come back the same way. There are plenty of places to stop for photos, and this isn’t a difficult route.

On the other side of the peninsula, there is not a boardwalk, but you will find a network of trails crisscrossing the headland – also totally free. Most of these aren’t all that difficult either, as long as you can handle some unpaved and uneven terrain, but there are opportunities to climb up and down more difficult spots. I recommend giving this a shot, even if you’re not a hiker, as the views are incredible, and you can always turn back!

Boat Trips Across the Azure Water

Ponta da Piedade Boat Ride

As stunning as exploring Ponta da Piedade on land, there’s nothing quite like seeing the golden cliffs from the sea. Taking a small boat tour from Lagos, or even from the small dock near the lighthouse, is the best way to see all the beaches, caves, and unique natural features of the area. Here are some great boat tour ideas:

  • 75-minute Small Boat Tour: A comprehensive tour that won’t take all day; the smaller boat gets you closer to the coast and inside some caves.
  • 3-hour Catamaran Excursion: A bigger catamaran that includes more of the coast and stops for swimming.
  • 1.5-hour Sunset Cruise: See the romantic cliffs under the colors of golden hour and watch the sun go down over the Atlantic.

Plus, these boat tours will get you a local guide that provides the stories, history, and science behind many of the named rock formations along the coast: the Chimney, the Kitchen, the Kissing Couple, the General de Gaulle, the Belas-Artes (fine arts), Camel Head, the Phantom, the Balance, and the Grotto of Love are some of the big ones. Don’t forget sunscreen – the Portuguese summer is hot!

Paddle Along the Cliffs on SUP or Kayak Tours

Lagos Stand Up Paddle Sunrise Caves Tour
SYGMA SUP SCHOOL / Vaitor

If you don’t mind a splash or two and some mild arm exercise, stand-up paddling tours or kayaking tours are the way to go. This is a way to get to the caves and secluded beaches of Ponta da Piedade where boat traffic cannot; plus, you’ll cool off nicely in the sea! Here are a few fun options:

  • 2-hour 15-minute Kayak Adventure: A catamaran will drop you and the equipment in a good spot before your kayak tour begins, leaving you extra time to explore inside the caves and on beaches.
  • No-Experience-Necessary Stand-Up Paddle Tour: If you’ve never tried it, SUP tours along Ponta da Piedade are a pretty cool way to learn, not to mention the unbelievable close-up views.
  • Sunrise Stand-Up Paddle: Add an element of beauty by seeing the stunning rock formations in the first light of the morning.

These tours are very safe and won’t go out if conditions are even mildly bad. However, whenever doing something even slightly sporty in a foreign country, you should have travel insurance – just in case. We like to search for plans on TravelInsurance.com and SafetyWing, as they fit a wide range of needs and budgets.

Loung & Plan on the Ponta da Piedade Beaches

Lagos Beach Ocean

There are countless beaches around Lagos and in between the cliffs of Ponta da Piedade, and I’d say some of them are among the best in Portugal. The southern location provides a mild climate, meaning beach season is even longer than most European destinations. Here are a few favorites:

  • Dona Ana Beach (Praia de Dona Ana): A large, popular sandy beach beneath tall cliffs accessed by a long, wooden stairway; one of the most picturesque of Ponta da Piedade.
  • Camilo Beach (Praia do Camilo): A bit of a smaller and more secluded spot at the bottom of 200 wooden stairs with many stunning rock formations.
  • Batata Beach (Praia da Batata): Very wide, sandy, and steps from downtown Lagos, Batata Beach is a great option for families or those who need convenience.
  • Pinhão Beach (Praia do Pinhão): Also very close to Lagos but backed by cliffs, making this a convenient hidden beach experience; there are small caves you can walk through.
  • Balança Beach (Praia da Balança): One of the most challenging beaches to reach, as it’s only accessible via a narrow footpath down the cliffs or by kayak tours – if you can handle hiking through the tight gully, you’ll enjoy a beach with far fewer tourists.
  • Pinheiros Beach (Praia dos Pinheiros): A tiny, secluded cove that’s difficult to access – this is a nudist beach!

Once again, think about searching TravelInsurance.com and VisitorsCoverage for a just-in-case plan if you’ll be hiking down the cliffside to get to your spot on the sand. Whichever you choose, you’re in for a one-of-a-kind beach day.

Ponta da Piedade Lighthouse

Farol da Ponta da
Roundtheworld / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

Made of stone, the Ponta da Piedade Lighthouse was constructed in 1913 and sits 167 feet above sea level on the clifftop at the point of the peninsula. The lighthouse has an attached keeper’s house and an automated light that were once vital to ensuring the safe return of local fishermen from the rough waters and rugged coast.

The Ponta da Piedade Lighthouse is closed to the public, but it makes for a nice Algarve photo op. Plus, it’s where you’ll be starting the walk along the wooden boardwalk, offering some great ocean and cliff views.

Other Things to See & Do Near Ponta da Piedade

Historical & Cultural Sites in Lagos

Castle of Lagos
Lacobrigo / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Lagos has a lot of history and great old-town charm, and you should at least take an hour to explore the narrow streets of the historic center. There are countless places to grab delicious Portuguese food or a local beer – more on those later. If you have the time, here are some great places to visit:

  • Igreja de Santo Antonio Church: An 18th-century church built in 1707 but destroyed and rebuilt in 1769. It features stunning Baroque gilded woodwork, classic blue and white azulejo tiles, and a wooden vaulted ceiling with intricately drawn illustrations. There’s also a statue of S. Eloi, the patron saint of goldsmiths.
  • Castle of Lagos: This medieval castle and its towering stone walls were built to protect the town of Lagos and its access to the Algarve region. You can explore what’s left of this relic from the Middle Ages.
  • Museu de Lagos Dr. José Formosinho: A museum in a Baroque church that features local and regional history through archaeological displays and art, antique coins, and mineral exhibits.

Try Authentic Portuguese Cuisine

Set of Pastel De Nata

While in Portugal, you’ll want to try local and regional cuisine like spicy Piri Piri chicken, arroz de marisco, cataplana, and arroz de pato. Don’t miss the famous pastel de nata, a sweet pastry dessert easily found all around the country! If you’re staying near the town center of Lagos, you’ll have lots of options.

Modern in design, O Camilooverlooks the beaches of Praia Camilo and offers fresh fish, tiger prawns, and other delectable seafood. Bar Quim also specializes in prawns, served hot and sizzling with garlic, olive oil, and coriander along the soft sand of Meia Praia.

Jukebox Tapas & Meals is your place for authentic tapas for Piri Piri prawns, fried chorizo, and pork cheek. Tasca Jota does modern spins on traditional Portuguese cuisine, including tapas, ceviche, pork belly, and freshly baked homemade bread.

Enjoy Live Music

Sunset view in Bahia Beach Bar
Management / TripAdvisor

For after-hours entertainment during your Ponta da Piedade vacation, be sure to check out the local music scene. Stevie Ray’s in the historic center of Lagos offers two levels of live music: jazz, blues, and rock. It’s a terrific spot to unwind with a glass of Poncha, Licor de Amendoa Amarga, or Moscatel.

Bahia Beach Bar has a covered outdoor seating area, tables on the sand, and weekend live music. Note that this is on the other side of the inlet and, therefore, a bit further to get to. Amuras Bar is next to the train station and overlooks the marina – stake out the terrace for sunset views and enjoy DJs and live music by local artists most nights of the week in the summer.

Where to Stay near Ponta da Piedade

The Lagos area has plenty of lovely accommodations to choose from, ranging from budget to luxury, and prices here are generally low, in my opinion. Luckily, Ponta da Piedade isn’t that far from anything, and you can walk there from most Lagos hotels. We have a few favorites based on location and amenities.

Best Budget Hotel: Dona Ana Garden

Dona Ana Garden Building
Dona Ana Garden / Booking.com

The pet-friendly Dona Ana Garden offers free Wi-Fi, an outdoor heated pool, tropical gardens, and a fish pond. Prices are fair, and it’s conveniently located about halfway between central Lagos and Ponta da Piedade. If you don’t mind a 20-to 30-minute walk in either direction, you can easily explore both without a car.

As the name might suggest, it’s also just minutes from Praia Dona Ana, or Dona Ana Beach. This is one of the most scenic beaches of the Ponta da Piedade area, and it’s accessible via a staircase. Just don’t waste any time when the tide starts to come in – the beach can disappear!

Best Mid-Range Hotel: Carvi Beach Hotel

Carvi Beach Hotel Building
Carvi Beach Hotel / Booking.com

Also on Dona Ana Beach is the Carvi Beach Hotel, making it another great choice for access to Lagos, Ponta da Piedade, and the beach. Bicycle rentals provide a fun way to explore the area faster than on foot. Guest rooms at this beach hotel have balconies with exceptional views, mini-fridges, and free Wi-Fi.

One of the best features of Carvi Beach Hotel is its awesome rooftop pool and terrace. You can enjoy the best sweeping views of the cliffs and sea while swimming or lounging, and the restaurant and bar are up there, too. Space is a bit limited, so try to go early if you want to spend the day up there.

Best Luxury Hotel: Belmar Spa & Beach Resort

Belmar Spa & Beach Resort pool and building
Belmar Spa & Beach Resort / Booking.com

Our choice for luxury in the Ponta da Piedade area will set you a bit outside the city center, but it will be worth it. Belmar Spa & Beach Resort is on the long and sandy Porto de Mos Beach on the western side of Ponta da Piedade. It’s just a few minutes drive to reach Lagos’s lighthouse, trail, and attractions.

The rooms and amenities here are some of the most modern and upscale in the Algarve. There are multiple beautiful swimming pools and a state-of-the-art spa. Golfers can play at one of southern Portugal’s best courses just a mile away.

Best Accommodation for Families: Vila Ponta da Piedade

Vila Ponta da Piedade Pool and building exterior
Vila Ponta da Piedade / Booking.com

Families might be happy to have some extra space during their trip – and Vila Ponta da Piedade has a lot of it. With two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a large living room, and a full kitchen, everyone can have their space and enjoy a bit of luxury.

Your backyard private pool complements modern interior furnishings perfectly. Kids will be happy to splash and play as they please! Plus, Ponta da Piedade can be reached on foot in just a few minutes.

Best Place to Stay for Solo Travelers: Charming Residence Dom Manuel I

Charming Residence Dom Manuel I pool amenity
Charming Residence Dom Manuel I / Booking.com

If you’re traveling solo, a place like Charming Residence Dom Manuel I is perfect (yes, that’s the hotel’s name). Prices are fair, and the location on the outskirts of Lagos makes it easy to walk to the major attractions. The furnishings and amenities are rather upscale, so you won’t suffer on quality.

A beautiful central swimming pool and lounging area make it easy to meet other travelers, as does the large dining room. Portuguese tiles and traditional decorations give the hotel a very authentic feel. All in all, solo travelers get a great experience with convenient touches here – and non-solo travelers might be tempted, too.

FAQ

How do I get down to Ponta da Piedade?

Ponta da Piedade is just south of the southern city of Lagos, which is accessible by road or train from other major cities. From Lagos town, you can make the 45-minute walk to the peninsula’s tip; there’s also a parking lot there if you have a car.

A wooden walkway extends along the western side of the clifftops to enjoy the panoramic views. Many beaches, especially on the eastern side, will require some trail climbing or staircases.

What is the best time of day to visit Ponta da Piedade?

Since Ponta da Piedade is a peninsula in the south of Portugal, any time of day can be great to visit. You can catch beautiful sunrises and sunsets over the water here, and mornings can be less crowded and cooler in the summer. During peak season, you may want to avoid afternoons, when most tourists are around and the sun is hottest.

How was Ponta da Piedade formed?

The dramatic limestone coastline of Ponta da Piedade was carved out by the sheer strength of the Atlantic and the storms that stir it up. Constant beatings from waves and wind over thousands of years have formed the fragile rock arches, sea pillars, and sea cliffs that make the area so beautiful.

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