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Around Lisbon / Portugal

Cabo da Roca – a walk at the end of the world

I stand at the end of the world. In any case, the place that the Romans once thought was the end of the world. In front of me to the west there is only the wind and the great sea. Somewhere far away on the horizon lies the United States. Cabo da Roca (also called Cape Roca) outside Sintra in Portugal is Europe's most westerly point, a dramatic 140-meter-high cliff that cockily faces the high ocean waves and strong winds. Since the 18th century, a lighthouse has stood here to guide ships to avoid running aground against the sharp rocks. However, we are not here for the lighthouse, but to walk along the hiking trail that leads us north towards the beautiful beach Ursa Beach.

Cabo Da Roca - Portugal
It is not difficult to find the path

Cabo da Roca is in Sintra-Cascais Natural Park in western Portugal, in the middle of a UNESCO-protected cultural landscape of beaches, forests and cliffs. I had read about the beauty of this area before we got here and was really looking forward to hiking here. The path starts at the edge of the road a little before the car park. The hiking trail isn't great, but it's not hard to figure out where it goes. The entire ground, except where the path goes, is covered by the succulent Yellow midday flower.

Yellow midday flower is a very beautiful succulent, but it is not particularly pleasant in this context. The flower actually originates from South Africa, but has spread here from nearby gardens and has completely taken over the plant life on the rocks. The thick leaves and yellow and pink flowers are good for keeping erosion at bay, but there aren't many native plants left anymore.

Cabo Da Roca - Portugal
Yellow midday flower from South Africa
Cabo Da Roca - Portugal

The path winds along the edge of the cliff with steep drops an arm's length away. It is so windy that the daughter starts to freeze and get goosebumps. Lucky we had a thin windbreaker with us, even if it was adult size! We had simply underestimated the impact of the Atlantic on the climate and did not realize that 18 degrees and strong winds are quite normal on a high summer day at Cabo da Roca. Although we have hiked in many mountains and forests, it has probably never been so windy.

We pass the first steep section and stop to admire the view of the rocky beach below. I get a bit of California's Highway 1 feeling when I see the turquoise sea meet the cliffs and lighthouse. Weren't there any similar succulents growing there? However, what separates Portugal from California is the distance to major roads, the number of cars and the amount of tourists. We are almost alone here on the hiking trail, even though the parking lot is now full.

Cabo Da Roca - Portugal
Cabo Da Roca - Portugal
Steep drop next to the hiking trail

It starts to blow even more the further we get from the lighthouse. We pass by Praia da Aroeira, which is another beach dramatically framed by red cliffs and reefs. There are probably many boats that have sunk here in storms and fog. By the time the captain saw the rocks, it was already too late to turn the schooner.

It is becoming difficult to walk upright along the path. Gusts of wind throw us aside when we least expect it. Even if the winds blow us towards land, it does not feel safe to continue the hike. We see Praia da Ursa a little way ahead of us, but we took the safe bet and turned around. It was still high tide, so we wouldn't have been able to get down to the beach.

Cabo Da Roca - Portugal
Cabo Da Roca - Portugal

A little sad that we couldn't continue, but still very happy to have hiked the longest part of the hiking trail, we turn back.

If we had been alone on the trail, we certainly weren't alone when we got back to the lighthouse. South of the lighthouse there is a lookout where most visitors hang out in the breeze. It is forbidden to go outside the fence because of the risk of race, but there are a lot of people who defy the ban to get a perfect selfie at the edge of the cliff. We mostly watched the folly from a distance. It is said that several tourists fall off the cliffs every year, down to certain death. In my eyes, a selfie can never be worth risking your life for. (Then again, I'm totally useless at selfies, so not even a pretty rock could save that picture…)

Cabo Da Roca - Portugal

There is a constant haze in the air, as if all the waves are splashing a bit teasingly in our faces up here on the cliff. There's not much to do up here except to suck in the cool sea air and enjoy the view, so we make our way through the viewpoints of the southern ridge pretty quickly. Time to say goodbye to the end of the world and turn around and go back to the car and warm up.

Cabo Da Roca - Portugal

Where is Cabo da Roca?

Cabo da Roca is located 18 km west of Sintra in Portugal, a drive that takes about 30 minutes. There is a free car park with a few spaces, but most visitors don't stay longer than half an hour looking at the view. The rotation of cars is great. We were lucky to find a parking spot right away.

(There is also supposed to be a local bus (403) that leaves here from the train station in Sintra or the bus station in Cascais, but it doesn't run often enough that it was an option for us.)

Cabo Da Roca - Portugal

Does it cost anything to visit Cabo da Roca?

No, there is no entrance fee to visit the rock, but it costs 50 cents to go to the toilet. Which everyone is guaranteed to have to do after a hike in a chilly and damp wind.

Cabo Da Roca - Portugal

What time of day should I go here?

It is said that the sunsets are magical over the rocks, but to avoid queuing for a parking space, it is best to go here before lunch.

Cabo Da Roca - Portugal

Is there any Swedish coffee on the cliff?

No - thank God for that! But there is a small restaurant, a tourist information and a souvenir shop.

Cabo da Roca
Cabo Da Roca - Portugal
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About the blogger

Travel blogger, gastronaut, photographer and family adventurer with over 55 countries in his luggage. Eva loves trips that include beautiful nature, hiking boots and well-cooked food. On the travel blog Rucksack she takes you to all corners of the world with the help of her inspiring pictures and texts.

9 Comments

  • Cathinka - On the fly!
    18 August, 2018 at 9: 57

    Really beautiful areas around there. Too bad about the wind, but that's how it is sometimes. Nice to read about the plant I've been wondering what it is.

    Reply
    • Eve on rucksack.see
      18 August, 2018 at 10: 04

      So beautiful with the pink and yellow flowers, it really fits in with the rocks. Can't help but like it, even though it's invasive! 🙂 Was it as windy on the hiking trails south for you this year? Wonder if there's ever a season when it's not blowing half a gale along the Atlantic coast?

  • Ann-Louise
    19 August, 2018 at 20: 51

    So beautiful! Love the nice guy! I agree with you that it is reminiscent of Highway 1 in California.

    Reply
    • Eve on rucksack.see
      19 August, 2018 at 21: 13

      The lighthouse is really nice! There is something special about nature at a lighthouse - it is always a little more dramatic and spectacular! Surely there is some flowering succulent like that growing along Highway 1 too? I've been trying to look at my old pictures, but I don't seem to have taken any pictures close enough to see what kind of flowers they are...

  • Åsa
    20 August, 2018 at 12: 03

    I live next door to Cabo da Roca!

    Reply
    • Eve on rucksack.see
      20 August, 2018 at 22: 01

      But HOW delicious you must live Åsa! I didn't realize that's where you live! I was on your blog several times before we went to Portugal, read among other things about Serra da Estrela! But a little less snow now that we're there 🙂

  • Maria's Memoirs
    20 August, 2018 at 12: 27

    oh looks like a great hike with gorgeous views! 🙂

    Reply
    • Eve on rucksack.see
      20 August, 2018 at 21: 58

      Loved the hike – so damn dramatic! Would have liked to have had a little less wind though :S, but I see that as a reason to go back! 😀

  • Ann-Louise
    20 August, 2018 at 18: 59

    Yes, there is definitely a similar succulent growing by Highway 1, it looks very familiar. 🙂

    Reply

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