Sacred Sagres – Surf & Sanctuary in the Algarve

If you are looking to unwind, relax, and recharge head to Sagres, a wild and wonderful escape for nature-lovers and outdoor adventurers. Here’s what one solo traveller experienced on her mission to cultivate peace and wellbeing on a retreat in the Algarve.

mareta beach sagres Image

Image by 43kcreative CC0

Where did you stay in Sagres and why?

I headed to the Memmo Baleeira Hotel, a gorgeous contemporary 4-star spa hotel overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Why? This was to be my home for a week while on a wellness retreat.

What did you do in Sagres?

As soon as I arrived I explored my surroundings. Armed with a cute little map from the hotel I hiked the cliffs,  explored the village, relaxed on the beaches, and soaked up the beautiful views of the ocean. There was plenty of time to explore Sagres, which is set in a Nature Park, between classes and dining with fellow guests on the retreat.

Hit the beaches – There are four easy-to-reach and absolutely glorious golden sandy beaches in Sagres.

  • Praia de Baleeira sits at the base of some steps a couple of minutes walk from the hotel – it is small, quiet, and the perfect spot for watching the sun rise.
  • Praia do Martinhal a little further up on the coast (a 5 minute walk) is much more spacious, has some dunes, a couple of beach bar/restaurants and a lifeguard. Lots of families were here playing in the gentle surf, and it was the gateway to an excellent cliff-top hike along the coast towards Faro.
  • Praia da Mareta takes approx 15 minutes to walk to from the hotel (unless you take the long route round the headland – which is definitely worth it!). It is a great place for surfing and gentle enough for swimming, has a lifeguard, beach chairs with parasols, and a couple of options for sea-view dining. This was my favourite of the beaches in Sagres, sheltered by the cliffs and with plenty of space.
  • Praia do Tonel is THE place to head for some serious surf action. It is smaller than the other beaches, but does have a beach bar for refreshments.
sagres map image

Image by 43kcreative CC0

Filled my cup with yoga and breathwork – Michael Bjiker of Yogalap holds Yoga and Breathwork retreats at the Memmo Baleeira Hotel. There were two gentle, accessible and deeply nourishing sessions a day held in the hotel yoga studio, which had the most memorable sea-views and sunrises. All food was included in our stay, and there was plenty of opportunity to take time for yourself as well as connect with other people on the retreat.

Watched the surfers – when the surf was small, folks were out on their body boards and enjoying the waves; and when the windier weather came in plenty of surfers were out and riding the big ones. The views of surfers at Tonel beach from Fortaliza de Sagres were stunning.

Explored the village – Sagres is small, and has a relaxing low-key vibe. In the village you’ll find plenty of colourful houses, accommodation for those who come to surf, hike and bike, a smattering of shops and a few places to eat and drink.

  • What to eat: The fruit! It tastes of sunshine! Açaí berry smoothie bowls are a big hit here. Pastel de Nata (Portuguese custard tart) are hailed as the best pastries in Portugal, and one I wish I could overcome my gluten intolerance to enjoy – I am told they are AMAZING. Savoury foods in Portugal? It’s all about the seafood and peri peri.
  • Where to eat: Sagres “high street” has a few choices – Dromedario, Agua Salgada, and Pau de Pita are all serving up wholesome treats and have a lovely welcome vibe.
  • What to drink: As I was on a wellness retreat, water was my go-to (bottled not tap – see why in the top tips below!) but really everyone should try a beer called Sagres. Just like everything else about this place the beer is wholesome – made using traditional techniques with no preservatives or additives.
  • Where to shop: There are a few surf shops that stock the usual surf brands, plus Surf Sagres which has customised apparel and local gifts. Ceramica Mo has traditional ceramics and cheap n cheerful beach clothes and accessories. Shaz Boutique was my favourite place to buy a treat – ethically sourced clothes and accessories and a very welcoming vibe!

Learned about the sacred space of Sagres – This village has a very special feel. It is tranquil, calm, it is remote and you feel very close to nature. People come here to surf, to hike, and to get out on their bike, and as Sagres sits in a protected Natural Park you can really take time to connect with your surroundings. Sagres has long been regarded as a special place – its name translates as holy or sacred and at one point it was known as “the end of the world” because no-one knew what could possibly be beyond the vast expanse of ocean.

Sagres chapel Image by IdaT CC0

Image by IdaT CC0

Visited the fortress Fortaleza de Sagres was built in the 15th Century to protect the town from invaders. There isn’t a huge amount to see here, but it is definitely worth the short walk from the village and the 3€ entry for the dramatic views, a chance to enter the chapel, and to experience the Chamber of Sound – an amazing structure that amplifies the sound of the waves in the caves below and even creates a updraft if you stand on the safety grill.

Hiked the headlands – Go in any direction and you will end up in a remote and wonderful wilderness, and always with amazing views.

Indulged in swimming pools and spa treatments – Memmo Baleeira Hotel has a heated outdoor pool with sea views and sun loungers, as well as an indoor pool, sauna, and hammam. Massages and treatments are available but I chose to have a massage from a local lady called Julia who came to the hotel and hands on heart it was the best massage I have ever had!

What did you love (and not love)

I loved the peace, the fresh air, the birds, the wind, the sunrises, the sun sets, the people I met, the beaches, the swimming, the food… I think I loved everything! Açaí berry smoothie bowls, my wonderful massage, the way the light dances on the sea and the cliffs, and the amazing moments with the group will forever be in my heart.

I guess anyone looking for a party vibe or vibrant night-life would probably not love the remoteness of this wild haven.

Image by 43kcreative CC0

Top tips for visiting Sagres

Fly into Faro and get a taxi transfer. The transfer took 1 hour 20 minutes and cost around 120€. There is the option to take a train and then a bus to get to Sagres, which works out a lot cheaper, but will take longer.

Buy bottled water! The water is safe to drink in Portugal but… well, I’d like to say it’s an acquired taste but I’m not sure it is – it seems like everyone drinks bottled water here!

Take good outdoor clothing! The weather here is very weathery. It can be very windy, it can be hot and sunny, if rain is coming it comes down hard and then just as suddenly makes way for clear blue skies. The hikes require good trainers or walking boots. For maximum enjoyment take clothes that stand up to all the elements and a decent daypack.

Would you go again?

In a heartbeat! I went solo this time, and it felt super safe to do so, but I really want to soak it all up again and next time with my family. Sagres is super kid-friendly and a great place to go if you like outdoor adventures, good food, and nice people.

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