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How to Visit Ponta da Piedade, The Algarve

Last Updated on 1st February 2023 by Sophie Nadeau

Sun-kissed limestone cliffs are reflected back by a dazzling turquoise sea: one of the most beautiful and fascinating places to visit in the entirety of the Algarve is the Ponta da Piedade, which lies on the fringes of the town of Lagos and is a must-see for anyone wishing to visit the region.

In English, the Portuguese phrase Ponta da Piedade is translated into Point of Mercy. Here’s your ultimate guide on how to visit Ponta da Piedade, as well as what to know before you go!

How to Visit Ponta da Piedade, The Algarve

Stretches of ocher red, limestone grey, burnt umber and canary yellow lie in stratified slices, forming the multi-coloured jagged cliffs of one of the most defining natural wonders of Portugal, Ponta da Piedade.

The dramatic limestone coastline has been hewn out by the sea, storm, and salty sea breeze over millennia and today visitors can discover a unique headland which can only be explored on foot or by boat.

Local fishermen have fondly nicknamed a number of the unique shaped rocks. Some of the most famous ones include Belas-Artes (fine arts), the Sphinx, Museu (museum), Chaminé (chimney), Catedral (cathedral), Submarino (submarine), Camelo (camel), and Gruta do Amor (grotto of love).

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After all, those following the dusty trail from nearby Lagos can’t see the hidden sea coves, grottoes, rock pillars jutting out into the sea which lay obscured until you’re almost at the end of the headland, in the spot where you’re close enough to be hit with sea spit.

Where is Ponta da Piedade?

Ponta da Piedade is in the Algarve on the Southern Coast of Portugal. Located in the region of Lagos, and 3km south of the town of Lagos itself, these cliff formations stand at around 20 metres in height.

The formations can either be accessed by foot on land or by boat on the sea (more on boat tours in a bit). The highest cliff stands at a staggering 40 metres above sea level.

rock formations ponta da piedade

Things to do at Ponta da Piedade

See the lighthouse

One of the defining landmarks of Ponta da Piedade is the looming lighthouse, which stands as a beacon to warn passing ships of the dangerous rocks which jut out to sea. The lighthouse was originally known as Farol da Piedade and was constructed at the beginning of the 20th-century.

Built on the ruins of the former site of the important 16th-century sea hermitage, Hermitage of Nossa Senhora da Piedade, the area was then used as a military base during the 17th and 18th-centuries. Since the 1980s, the lighthouse has been self-automated.

Farol da Piedade

Ponta da Piedade boat tour

Undoubtedly, one of the best ways to marvel at the magical geographical phenomenons is to take a boat tour. The boats make use of former fishing boats which now zip between the sea pillars and allow visitors to marvel at the geological formations from sea level.

Most boat tours depart from Lagos and cost between €20- €25. Boat tours will allow you to see the beaches of Ana Beach and Camilo Beach, as well as see Ponta da Piedade itself, and all the while you’ll hear a commentary describing the history and geography of the region. Find boat tour details here.

ponta da piedade boat tours

Go sea kayaking

Yet another way to enjoy the sea surrounding Ponta da Piedade for the more adventurous out there is to go sea kayaking. Sea tours depart from Lagos. Included in the price of your ticket is the kayak rental, a support boat, a guide, and, of course, your paddle! Check kayaking prices here.

Stand up paddleboarding

Departing from Lagos, paddle along the picturesque coastline and enjoy fantastic views of the dramatic coastline. Included in the price is the use of a board, leash, wetsuit, guide, etc. Check prices here.

Via Sacra

Like many beautiful natural sites across Europe, a sacred way (known as Via Sacra in Portuguese) has been erected along the path which leads from the old gates of Lagos to the headland itself.

These little religious outposts often consist of a series of small stone slabs which contain a religious icon or statue. The entire walk is around 2km in length.

via sacra ponta da piedade

How to get to Ponta da Piedade

As one of the most photographed, not to mention one of the most popular, places to visit in Portugal, Ponta da Piedade is well signposted and easy to reach.

There is no public transportation from Lagos so you can walk directly from the town, take a taxi, or rent your own car (renting your own car is the best way to get around the Algarve). In the summer there’s a tourist train that will take you from Lagos to Ponta da Piedade.

You can either follow the trail from Lagos or drive up to the car park, which is huge (though may well fill up if you don’t arrive early enough during the summer) and is free to park in. No overnight parking or camping is permitted in the car park.

Once you’ve parked up, you’ll have to follow the well-marked trail (it’s worn down by the main thousands of feet who visit the picturesque spot each year) to reach the end of the headland and the stunning sea vistas, stone archways, sea pillars, and the like will reveal themselves to you.

ponta da piedade boardwalk

Just outside the car park itself, there’s a small group of cafés and shops selling light refreshments and drinks. In order to get to the most interesting part of the headland, you’ll want to head on the trail towards the sea that passes through the two shops.

shops ponta da piedade portugal

There are steps which lead down to the beach. The staircase itself is known locally as the stairway to heaven and consists of 182 steps.

We personally didn’t climb down the steps to reach the beach but instead walked along the headland, admiring the amazing cliff faces and the postcard-worthy views of the sea. There are no barriers here, so be careful of the cliffs and watch children carefully.

stairway to heaven ponta da piedade

A final note

We personally spent around an hour visiting the headland, though you will obviously need to set aside more time if you’re planning on doing a boat ride, visiting a nearby beach, or hiking further down the coastline.

ponta da piedade view

However long you set aside to visit Ponta da Piedade, you certainly won’t regret it. Just be sure to bring a camera along and some comfortable shoes! Afterwards, some nearby beaches of interest include Praia dos Pinheiros, head into Lagos to grab a bite to eat, or visit Praia do Camilo. For more inspiration, be sure to check out our top Portugal travel tips and the best hidden gems of Portugal.

ponta da piedade

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Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, travel, pizza, and history. A fan of all things France related, she runs when she’s not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming something sweet. She currently splits her time between Paris and London. Subscribe to Sophie’s YouTube Channel.

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