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Cabo Espichel and Pedra da Mua are a fantastic day trip destination from Lisbon, or an excellent part of a longer stay in the nearby fishing village of Sesimbra. The famous Cabo Espichel is located on the westernmost tip of the Setúbal district, about a 15 km drive from the center of Sesimbra. Here, the steep rock walls meet swirling waves and the flamboyant coastal landscape shines in the mind for a long time to come.
We drove by car with Johanna M. of the Muu maa Mandariini -blog to Cabo Espichel’s spacious parking lot at just the same time as a busload of seniors had arrived into the area for a day trip, so we decided to start our own tour of exploration from the opposite direction, although there is enough space for everyone anyway. A strong wind blew against our faces as we approached closer to the edges, but luckily the hot sun and the summer heat of Portugal made sure that not too cold could strike, even in the wind.
HISTORIC CABO ESPICHEL
The Santuario de Nossa Senhora do Cabo Espichel, or in English the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Cape Espichel, has been a popular destination among both pilgrims and scientists. The story goes that this 17th-century site has attracted pilgrims because the Virgin Mary has been seen riding a giant mule along the cliffs in the area. These visions attracted so many pilgrims that long sleeping wings were built on either side of the church. In addition to the church and accommodation wings, only short walk away is Casa da Agua, where they grew vegetables to feed the pilgrims and their guests. Also a short distance away from the church rises the Lighthouse of Cabo Espichel, which is still in operation and also receiving visitors.
Behind the church is the white Chapel of Ermida da Memória, built to mark the place where, according to the story of the Virgin Mary, she appeared. According to the story, the Virgin Mary has ridden this giant mule along a steep rock wall and disappeared just after reaching up, leaving only the large footprints of the mule behind. Scientists and paleontologists, on the other hand, say that the traces are footprints of dinosaurs, which is also supported by the fact that these traces of dinosaurs are found more around the area.
PEDRA DA MUA AND THE DINOSAUR TRACKS
Pedra da Mua is right next to the church area of Cabo Espichel and if you are interested in prehistoric dinosaurs, this is a must see place. Pedra da Mua is famous for its cliffs where dinosaur footprints have been found. Some of these tracks are very easy to detect, some require slightly more accurate observation. The traces are believed to be from the late Jurassic period and about 145-200 million years old. The rocks have been covered with water until they later emerged and traces revealed from them have been found.
Many of the traces are the footprints of Sauropods, some of which are clearly smaller traces from young dinosaurs. The most well-known Sauropod species include Brontosaurus and Brachiosaurus, which many will surely remember from Jurassic Park I as a long-necked vegetarian eater who came to greet Alan Grant and the children next to the tree branch.
Other traces found are the dinosaur traces of Lagosteiros and these traces date from a slightly later era, the Cretaceous, about 65-145 million years ago. These footprints are the footsteps of the Theropods, to whom you would definitely not want to run into during your evening walk. The most well-known Theropod species include Tyrannosaurus Rex and the raptor species.
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HAVE YOU BEEN TO CABO ESPICHEL OR PEDRA DA MUA? ARE YOU INTERESTED IN DINOSAURS AND THEIR HISTORY? HAVE YOU VISITED A PLACE SIMILAR TO THIS? SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCES IN THE COMMENTS BELOW! 🙂
<3: Tiina Johanna
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Cascais is the sunny gem of the Portuguese Riviera. This atmospheric and beautiful old fisherman’s village and stylish beach resort is located under an hour train ride away from the Portugal‘s capital city Lisbon. Cascais is a perfect spot on the Portuguese Riviera and you can soak in all the wonderful ocean views along the way during the train ride from Lisbon to Cascais, while the train follows the scenic coast line the whole journey.
Cascais is full of pretty boutiques and shops, different type of cafés, restaurants and beach bars. Cascais is touristic, but also very enjoyable at the same time and I have already spent many great days off here on the beach or roaming around the village streets and checking the restaurants. Cascais may be popular among the wealthier people as a holiday destination, but personally I still like its swimable beaches (not windy surf beaches) and its casual vibes, even if luxurious lifestyle isn’t really for me. Cascais also has one of Portugal’s best vegan/vegetarian restaurants, so that alone is already a great reason to visit this town!
HOW TO GET THERE?
You can reach Cascais easily with the train from the Cais do Sodre train station in the center of Lisbon. The return ticket is approximately 5-6 euros and the train goes every 20 minutes. The train ride takes only under one hour and the sceneries during this ride are really fantastic. During the summer months the trains can get pretty full and sometimes you can not trust the air conditioning either. Sometimes you might even have to stand the whole way there, so be prepared with water and maybe take only light packing with you.
OLD FISHERMAN’S VILLAGE AND HOLIDAY RESORT FOR THE ROYALTY
The reputation of Cascais as a famous holiday destination goes all the way back to the 1870s, when King Luis I of Portugal and the Royal family started to spend their summer days in Cascais, which attracted the nobility to the area as well. Also the royalty of other countries around have spent time in this sunny beach town and for the delight of many Bond fans the Casino Estoril* next to Cascais has been an inspiration source for Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale novel.
Before all this popularity and glory Cascais has originally been only a humble but lively fisherman’s village and an important port for the ships and boats heading to Lisbon because of its excellent location.
WHAT TO DO AND WHERE TO GO?
Cascais is perfect for a daytrip or for a longer visit. The beaches of Cascais are great for a nice day on the sand and the town is full of nice shops and boutiques to look around. For a day on the beach you should prepare to go early, because they might get crowded during the high season. There is always room for everyone, but if you wish to get a good spot close to the water or a sun chair with an umbrella, (20-25€ for 1 umbrella + 2 chairs) you should start your day early. These beaches are perfect for swimming for their calm waters, but if you are more interested in surfing, you can head out to Carcavelos beach or Guincho beach, that are better for riding on the waves.
For sightseeing you should check out the Cascais Citadel*, a fortress that consists of three different buildings and parts that were used to defend the city of Lisbon from enemies and attacks in the 15th until the 17th centuries. These three parts of the Citadel are: The Tower of Santo António de Cascais, the Fortress of Our Lady of Light, and the former Royal Palace area.
SANTA MARTA LIGHTHOUSE & Museu Condes de Castro Guimarães
The beautiful Santa Marta Lighthouse of Cascais was built in 1867 to guide ships and boats along the rocky shores in the dark and in still functions automatically. The lighthouse works also as a museum and as a popular attraction and it wouldn’t be a miracle if you have seen once or twice a photo taken from lighthouse and small swimming area in front of it. Museu Condes de Castro Guimarães is a former palace next to the lighthouse that also works as a museum for hungry history- and culture lovers.
BOCA DO INFERNO
Boca do Inferno means “the mouth of Hell” and that it surely looks like. Boca do Inferno is rocky gap on a large rocky wall by the sea, where the waves hit hard and the water runs all the way to the end of the gap. This is a famous sight and it’s free of charge just under a little journey from the center of Cascais.
DELICIOUS FOOD AND DRINKS
After relaxing on the beach, walking around the sights and the town, you might feel a bit hungry and thirsty. You should definitely head to the House of Wonders, which is one of the best vegan/vegetarian restaurants I have ever been to! House of Wonders is a fantastic restaurant that offers foods and drinks for vegans and vegetarians and their desserts are amazing. The service is always kind and helpful and you can choose your spot either on the garden terrace downstairs or on the lovely rooftop terrace upstairs with great views all around. Animal friends are also welcome to the garden terrace. You can always go for a cooling cocktail or a delicious natural juice (or just a coffee or beer) even if you are not hungry.
There are of course also many other restaurants, bars and cafés to choose from, so just pick yours from the options around the streets of Cascais. The places on the beach boulevard are pretty touristic and the quality may vary, but you will find good options in the village for sure.
WHERE TO STAY
You can find accommodation from budget hostels to luxury hotels and everything in great locations around the city center and/or beach areas. If you look for more peace and quiet, you can also find a nice place to stay a bit further from the village and enjoy these nice views from a distance. Check out the best places to stay at Hotels.com*.
HAVE YOU BEEN TO CASCAIS? SHARE YOUR PERSONAL TIPS AND EXPERIENCES IN THE COMMENTS BELOW! 🙂
<3: Tiina Johanna