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Cabo Espichel

Cabo Espichel: stunning views, a lighthouse, the sanctuary and ancient dinosaur tracks!

Cabo Espichel is located just south of Lisbon, and the cape is the spot to discover the lighthouse, sanctuary, and dinosaur footprints! Whether you drive along the Portuguese coast or book a day trip to Arrabida Nature Park, the cliffs are a stunning place to see!

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Discover the best sights

A quick overview

What to see? Cabo Espichel is a cape on the west coast of Portugal, which offers excellent views over the Atlantic Ocean.

Costs? It is free, but you´ll need transport to get there.

Where? Lisbon is located north of Cabo Espichel. By car, it takes around one hour to reach.

Worth it? Yes! The views are mesmerising, and there are several things to see and do!

What is Cabo Espichel?

Cabo Espichel is a cape close to the town of Sesimbra on the Setubal peninsula. The area is known for its rugged landscape and beautiful views over the Atlantic. On top is a lighthouse and a church on the cliffs. Archaeology lovers shouldn’t miss the dinosaur footprints that can be found here! A visit is well worth it if you like nature and history! Let’s take a closer look at the things to do at Cabo Espichel and how to get there.

Cabo Espichel 

Cabo Espichel things to do 

Visiting the Portuguese cliffs is excellent if you need some fresh air! But at Cabo Espichel, there are many sights to see and things to do. Discover all the attractions on-site with the help of the below map and the info on this page.

Cabo Espichel Lighthouse 

One of the two structures at the cliffs is Farol do Cabo Espichel or Cabo Espichel Lighthouse. Cabo Espichel is located in the Portuguese municipality of Sesimbra, which is part of the district of Setúbal. The tower has an altitude of 168 meters above sea level, and the Cabo Espichel Lighthouse protects the south western tip of the Setubal Peninsula from ships getting stranded on these treacherous cliffs along the coast.

The coast used to be known as the ‘black coast’, and Portugal’s lighthouses were built to help with navigation. At sea, the luminous range of the light is a whopping 48 kilometres, which is around 26 miles. Farol do Cabo Espichel was built in 1790 and is one of the oldest in Portugal.

It’s still operational but is open to the public once a week! During the tour, you’ll learn more about the work of the keepers and the historical heritage. Inside, you can still see the oil burner from back in the day, which is noways replaced with a modern light. Be sure to visit the Cabo Espichel Lighthouse on Wednesday afternoons when it’s open between 2 PM and 5.30 PM.

Santuario de Nossa Senhora do Cabo Espichel

The second famous building at Cabo Espichel is the pilgrimage sanctuary. Santuário de Nossa Senhora do Cabo Espichel was built in 1701. The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Espichel Cape is a religious complex that consists of a church, the Ermida da Memória, Hortas dos Peregrinos (vegetable gardens), Casa da Água (the water house) and even an opera house (Casa da Ópera).

Legend tells that the image of the Virgin Mary riding a giant mule appeared along the shores of Lagosteiros Bay in 1410. You will find Ermida da Memória (the memory hermitage) at this location. Because of this appearance in the Middle Ages, Our Lady of the Espichel Cape became a well-known pilgrimage, and Santuário de Nossa Senhora, including the church and chapel, was built.

Discover the entire complex

The complex grew with more and more visitors coming to Santuario de Nossa Senhora do Cabo Espichel. Construction of the Our Lady of Espichel Cape occurred between 1701 and 1770. The church at Santuario de Nossa Senhora was constructed by orders of King Dom Pedro II and was completed in 1707. Take a look inside to admire the beautifully painted ceiling and religious artwork. Several times a year, there are special religious ceremonies at Santuario de Nossa Senhora do Cabo Espichel that you can attend. Most pilgrimage church celebrations occur in March and April, August and September.

In front of the church, you will see the pilgrim’s accommodation, Casa dos Círios, or simply hostels. The accommodation on the site is no longer open to visit, unfortunately. The water from the aqueduct was collected at Casa de Agua. It is close to the accommodation, and the courtyard in front of the Nossa Senhora do Cabo church.

Ermida da Memória Chapel

Besides the church, you can visit the tiny chapel Ermida da Memória. Legend tells the Virgin Mary riding a giant mule made an appearance along the dramatic coastline. Both the Virgin Mary and the mule rose from the sea and climbed the cape’s cliffs, where you will find the small chapel Ermida da Memória today. Once they arrived at the chapel, Mary disappeared, but the footsteps of the giant mule remained! They are no part of the Pedra da Mua dinosaur footprints.

Dinosaur footprints

One of the most incredible attractions is the ancient dinosaur footprints! They date back to the Cretaceous period, around 65 to 145 million years ago! During the coastal walks along the cape, you can discover the dinosaur tracks yourself! Just the footprints are worth a visit to Nossa Senhora do Cabo!

There are two rows of tracks to find. The Pedra da Mua tracks are located on the rocks below the Ermida da Memorial Chapel. These are difficult to see, so that binoculars will come in handy. The best viewpoint is from the opposite ridge, and these tracks are believed to be from the Jurassic period.

The Lagosteiros dinosaur footprints are about a 20-minute round trip from the Nossa Senhora do Cabo church and are a little further away than the Pedra da Mua tracks. Theropods, a two-legged upright meat-eating dinosaur, leave these smaller Jazida tracks! The tracks can be hard to find if you don’t know what you’re looking for. If you’ve booked an excursion, a guide can tell you much about the history and the trails. The route along the cliffs is, however, easy to follow.

Cabo Espichel Beach

You will see Praia dos Lagosteiros down below from the cliffs at the cape. It is a rocky beach that you can reach after a cliff walk. Swimming is possible, but there are no facilities or lifeguards at this beach. If you want to spend some time on paradise beaches nearby, Praia do Ribeiro do Cavalo is recommended. Or visit the Parque Natural da Arrábida and its stunning beaches, Praia da Figueirinha, Praia dos Coelhos, and Praia de Galapinhos.

How to reach Cabo Espichel?

From the Portuguese capital, there are several ways to reach this unique area.

By car

Lisbon is north of Cabo Espichel, and the easiest way to travel is by car. The journey will take around one hour, and renting a car will allow you to explore nearby places. Once you’ve crossed the famous Ponte 25 de Abril bridge, you can discover Costa da Caparica, for example. Costa da Caparica is a fantastic place with many beaches where you can swim. There is a large car park at Cabo Espichel, which is entirely free. From here you can discover all the sights easily.

Nature lovers might enjoy exploring the rest of the peninsula and its beautiful landscape. Discover hiking trails and activities in Arrábida Nature Park or the nearby Sado Estuary. Sesimbra en Setúbal are not to miss towns where you’re visiting! Do you still need to make your reservations for car rental in Portugal? Check out the best deals on the DiscoverCars website below!

By train and bus

To reach Cabo Espichel by public transport is more challenging. There is a way, but you’ll need to switch several times, and the services are limited. You can take a train from Sete-Rios towards Setúbal and exit at Foros de Amora station. From there, you can take line 3545 to Sesimbra and disembark at Santana-Jardim. Line 3205 will take you for the remainder of the trip, and for the last part, you’ll have to walk. Travel time can be around 2 hours or more! Please note that the walk from the church to the lighthouse takes around 15 minutes one way. Check the Carris website for the latest timetables and routes.

With an organised tour

If you don’t want to rent a car or travel hours by public transport, organised tours will stop at Cabo Espichel. You will discover the sanctuary, the Farol landmark, and often nearby towns! So, a tour will be unique and convenient if you plan to go to Sesimbra Castle, Arrabida Natural Park or Azeitão! Below are some of the most popular tours that often depart daily. Private tours are available, but you can also join a group tour!

Cabo Espichel restaurants 

If you plan a cliff walk and want to spend some time here, bringing something to eat and drink is a great idea! But if you happen to get thirsty or hungry, you can also enjoy a bite to eat at the cafe I Love Espichel’. They are located next to Nossa Senhora do Cabo and are open daily apart from Wednesdays. Few other restaurants are nearby, but Sesimbra is a great spot to enjoy lunch or dinner. 

Things to do near Cabo Espichel

When you plan your trip to the cape, you can also add other places of interest nearby. Tips are the beach at Lagoa de Albufeira, the towns Setúbal and Sesimbra, Arrabida Natural Park with stunning landscapes and the wine town Azeitão.

Staying at the Setúbal Peninsula

If you want to stay in the area for a few days, you can rent an accommodation nearby. The area is quiet and perfect for nature lovers. If you prefer a bit more hustle and bustle around you, stay in towns like Sesimbra and Setúbal. The map below will show you all available accommodations on the peninsula.

Booking.com

FAQ

The easiest way to travel from Lisbon to Cabo Espichel is by car. This journey south will take around one hour. Bus Line 3205 is also available, taking 2 hours and 45 minutes, with several stops in between.

It sure is! There are many things to see, such as the sanctuary, Farol do Cabo Espichel and dinosaur footprints!

Conclusion

Cabo Espichel is a great day out from the Portuguese capital! The cape is known for the Farol lighthouse, the sanctuary with church and historical dinosaur footprints. If you happen to go to nearby places such as Sesimbra and Arrabida Natural Park, be sure to add the cape to your wish list. You can reach the area easily by car, but several tour operators also organise excursions.

Tip: do you want to see another famous place along the ocean? Head over to Cabo da Roca, just an hour west of the capital!

Written by Marga

Written by Marga

Content creator, travel writer and photographer

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I’m Marga, the blogger and photographer behind this site! I live in Lisbon, and I’m a cat-mum to 13-year-old Savage. I love coffee, cheese, a good book and exploring this beautiful country. I write about Lisbon and the rest of Portugal, and I hope this website will help as an inspiration for your holiday.

20 Responses

  1. What a great article! It made me want to visit, especially reading about the dinosaur footprints! What an incredible site to see!

  2. Wow Cabo Espichel Lighthouse is such a beautiful one. I love lighthouses and always try to visit a few during my trip to any coastal area. Definitely adding this to my Portugal itinerary, thanks for sharing.

  3. Cabo Espichel looks stunning. Those cliffs look gorgeous and you had me sold at dinosaur footprints!! Will definitely save this post for my Portugal trip.

  4. What a unique-looking lighthouse! And who knew this gorgeously unspoiled little place was hiding just an hour from Lisbon?! Sounds like it’s definitely worth the trip.

  5. Cabo Espichel is definitely my kind of place. I love lighthouses and coastlines. Portugal is very much in my bucket list and when I go there, I will definitely visit this place. Great images.

  6. As always you deliver such gorgeous photos and invaluable recommendations for Portugal! I love how picturesque Cabo Espichel is and I’d love to visit someday. I’ll be saving this post for a future visit to Portugal. Thanks for sharing this!

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