Grottoes and Golden Arches – Ponta da Piedade

Ponta da Piedade, Lagos, PortugalFor longtime followers of our blog it should come as no surprise that we have a passion for travel and love delving into guide books, checking out Skyscanner for good deals while dreaming of exotic places and reading our favorite travel blogs for the thrill of a virtual armchair travel experience.  And even though we’d done a lot of reading about things to do and see in our own adopted town of Lagos, Portugal, it was quite by accident earlier this year that we happened upon what has become our favorite place here while driving around, following the different roads here and there.  A two-lane road led us west of the historical old town a couple of kilometers, skirting Lagos Bay along the coast and ending in an almost deserted parking lot with a small restaurant (closed for the winter) and a souvenir shop with a few offerings. The wind gusted across the promontory as we set off on a short path towards the yellow lighthouse (circa 1912) topped with a red lantern.  A sign told us that we had arrived at Ponta da Piedade which translates forlornly, for some long-lost reason that we couldn’t find, into “Point of Pity.”Ponta da Piedade, Lagos, Portugal

Probably the most astonishing thing for us as US expats, coming from a land where everything carries a warning of imminent danger, was the fact that only a tourist sign stood at the edge of the sixty-plus foot cliffs which stretched in both directions as far as we could see. Effectively, our safety was solely in our hands. Should we wander too close to the edge of these sedimentary rock faces, feel the earth crumble from under our feet and hurtle to our deaths, well, so be it.  And perhaps that’s the meaning of the name “Point of Pity.” 

Ponta da Piedade

 

Ponta da Piedade, Lagos, Portugal

 

Ponta da Piedade, Lagos, Portugal

We followed the path alongside the cliffs for a bit, clutching our coats around us against the fierce winds, gazing at the dizzying views and watching the waves hurl themselves against the cliffs.  The chill chased us back to the stairs, all 182 of them, that wind down to the bottom of one of the most amazing natural monuments we’ve ever seen where the physical world has played its starring role as a sculptor for thousands of years.  Staring down and around and lastly up, as we descended, we kept saying “Wow” in hushed amazement and wonder at the fantastical setting of golden-hued arches, pillars and tunnels, grottoes and other huge, surreal rock formations in pyramidal shapes.  The waters’ shades varied from deep blues to turquoise and, with the gray sky and scudding clouds creating a backdrop, rivaled any cathedral we’ve seen.Pontas de Piedad Grotto boat trip

Since our initial visit we’ve made many return trips by ourselves when we’ve needed to add a bit of wonder to our lives.  We’ve also made it a point to include Ponta da Piedade as a highlight whenever we get a chance to play tour guides to old and new friends – a spoiler alert for those of you coming to visit us this summer!  But, despite several on land visits, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that we actually took one of the numerous boat tours available with friends visiting from Nicaragua and saw what Huffpost calls “The most beautiful shoreline on earth” from another perspective.

Pontas de Piedade - Grotto boat trip

 

Ponta da Piedade -Grotto boat trip

 

Pntas da Piedad grotto boat trip

Since we stumbled upon the Ponta da Piedade on a winter day we’ve learned that many regard it as one the most magnificent features along the Algarve coastline and we can enthusiastically add our opinion to this thought.  And it’s yet another reason to add to our growing ode of “Things we love about Portugal” and why Lagos could well be the perfect place for us.

Note:  Boat trips are available from numerous companies in booths and tents that can be found along the walkways near the Lagos Marina.  We booked our two-hour trip with Dolphin Seafaris and the cost (low season) was 12.5 € per person.  Kayaks and stand-up paddle boards are also available for rent.

Seafaris Grotto boat tour

By Anita Oliver and Richard Nash

 

 

 

60 comments

  • I love the photos, this is why I love cliffs and coastlines so much.

    I was on the Algarve many, many years ago on honeymoon with the first wife. I don’t remember where. But I do remember cliffs like this and almost feeling that I wanted to jump (which maybe wasn’t such a good sign at the time). It is spectacular.

    You are very right about North American “protect one from himself”. I’m of the natural selection school of thought and I figure that if people are so stupid to get close to a cliff and start jumping around with heels in the air while taking a selfie and accidentally fall off a cliff…well, maybe that’s how nature intended it. That’s why they call them the Darwin Awards (I don’t know if you know what I’m referring to but it just takes a moment to google) 🙂

    Anyway, beautiful.
    Frank (bbqboy)

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL! We know exactly what you’re referring to Frank, when you mention the Darwin awards and it never fails to amaze me how people can act so idiotically with total disregard for their safety. There was a song I remember hearing that included the phrase “the shallow end of the gene pool” that kind of sums up the same idea. Some people just can’t be saved from themselves!
      Despite the cliffs and obvious pitfalls however, Ponto da Piedade still ranks number one on our list of favorite places to go to in Lagos. In fact we were just there today (the 5th or 6th time this summer) sharing the views with Kemi and Fede. You might want to think about a revisit to this area too!

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  • This looks so lovely. I can’t wait to discover this place among others 🙂 . I’m so glad to hear that the stores stay open year round in Lagos. It sounds better and better all the time. Point of Pity should be called Point of Stupidity :-). I have seen so many people have such little disregard for their lives by getting in crazy places and positions trying to take a picture. I really can’t wait to visit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We, too are amazed at the dangerous situations people can find themselves in and the disregard they show for others’ safety who try to save them from themselves. Reminds me of the photo I saw somewhere of the guy running with the bulls in Pamplona who paused to take a selfie with the bull bearing down on him in the background! As for visits, we’ll have to talk about a get together this fall. Sounds like we both have more travel planned for the next few months! Anita

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  • You guys are living proof that “Not all who wander are lost”. Where the land meets the ocean provides some of the most spectacular scenery on earth. I realized reading your post, that we’ve managed to visit a few of these places—Big Sur in California, Neist Point on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, sea cliffs on the Ring of Kerry in Ireland, the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, ever-eroding sea cliffs on Cape Cod. Thanks for sharing your Ponta da Piedade experience. It definitely looks worthy of being added to the list of the world’s great coast lines.

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    • We feel incredibly lucky to have found a home in such a beautiful area and our wanderings gave us a lot of helpful experience in deciding what was important to us. Ireland and Scotland have long been on our traveling list, Suzanne, but your mention of their spectacular coastlines has increased our interest even more. It’s so amazing to view and compare so many rugged and wild coastlines. Golden sand beaches with gentle waves are lovely but craggy bluffs and crashing waves are exhilarating!

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  • ME BE in Panama

    That’s a definite “must see” Thanks for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

  • I read a lot up on Portugal lately as we think of visiting it in autumn. I was a bit worried though about the Algarve being a tourist trap and entirely built up. Reading your post I think I have to revise my opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If you’re planning on visiting Portugal and the Algarve, Autumn will be a wonderful time to visit the region. The high season is June, July and August (the rates triple in August) but the crowds fade away for the rest of the year and leave the townspeople and expats to themselves once again. In fact, one of the (many) reasons we picked Lagos was that the many of the town’s businesses remain open all year around. So many of the other coastal towns become almost deserted after the summer crowds leave. If you decide to come please give us a heads up – we’d love to meet you!

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  • Thanks for this incredible tour of the Point of Pity. It certainly has the WOW factor. I am sure Darrell and Amy loved it, but they don’t post many pictures about their trip.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Alain Boutefeu

    That is a beautiful area indeed! Is that Darrell in the back of the boat?

    Liked by 1 person

    • So glad you agree with our opinion, Alain. And you’re right, that’s Darrell in the back hiding behind Amy who’s going incognito! We enjoyed renewing our friendship with them during their visit to Portugal. We’ve met some awesome people during our travels and it’s fun when our paths cross again!

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  • What a picturesque discovery on an awesome coastline. We live in Western Australia on the limestone coast with its beautiful sandy beaches and pretty headlands but even our sculptured coast doesn’t compare to this 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is that delightful feeling of “discovery” that happens when you stumble upon the unexpected and it’s one of our most favorite things about travel. Makes you feel like a kid again! And we’ve seen so many amazing photos of Australia’s coastline that I know we’re going to be suitably impressed when we get a chance to visit your stunning country, Jo!

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  • Stunning landscape, I’m sure it must be an amazing experience to see this from a water viewpoint, climbing around it and just viewing from a distance. I love impressive landscapes like this.

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    • And you would have such a great time taking photographs, Noel. We’d seen it many times from the top of the cliffs looking down but the boat ride from the Lagos marina along the cliffs to Ponta de Piedade gave us even more to appreciate about the whole rugged coastline along this part of the Algarve. There’s even an ancient Roman bridge that connects a couple of the precipices which is just amazing to look up and see from the sea!

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  • Fabulous find! Although the initial height would freak me out (without railings), I love the picture of the stairway and your calm, matter-of-fact attitude about a possible “hurtle to our deaths, well, so be it.” I can see why you’d put this on a “must see” for friends who come to visit. Lovely place.

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  • Maybe it’s called Ponta de Piedade because of shipwrecks.It looks pretty treacherous from the sea, not just from above. It’s gorgeous, in any case!

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  • Gorgeous! Looking forward to seeing it first hand.
    It wasn’t a spoiler alert as much as it was a very cool heads up!!

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  • What a spectacular place. Those stairs! Like you two Don and I also would have climbed down and then up again. And taken the boat trip.
    Alison

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  • We had such a great time there the day we went! Magical. The boat trips were just beginning, but it was still a little on the nippy side. On my list to come back and see these beautiful cliffs from the water, and hopefully share the experience with both of you! 🙂

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    • We were thinking of you Nancy when we wrote this and sorted through the photos. Blustery winds (again) the day we took you but the rock formations are worth seeing at any time of the year. We’re counting on a return trip, Nancy and we’ll go out on one of the boats, even if we have to wrap up! Looking forward to it. 🙂

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  • Looks quite wonderful.You are right about safety issues in mainland Europe, we in the UK are closer to the US model!

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  • What a beautiful stairway going up the cliff, the colours of the rocks and caves are stunning. I would love to hike there, but also to be able to see it from the water gives a whole new perspective. Your translation is good, another synonymous of piedade would be compassion. How is your Portugues going?

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    • There are several fabulous cliff paths along the Algarve coast and we’ve had a great time walking a few of them. Some of them go on for miles. As a dedicated hiker Gilda, you’d love the walks. And thanks for the alternative translation – it would be interesting to find out what the story is behind the name. As for our Portuguese, we’ve suspended our lessons for the summer (a combination of travel and laziness!) but hope to start again in the fall. Google translate helps somewhat but it would be nice to acquire some of the language of our newly adopted country!

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  • Maxine Van Slyke

    Could it be translated as ‘Point of Piety’ because it invokes the feeling of reverence?

    I’m looking forward to spending September near you on the coast of Southern Spain. Unfortunately, I’ll miss Dick and Nancy’s 50th Anniversary party.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a great question Maxine, and either you know some Portuguese or you did some homework! We checked with a few of the translation programs and the majority said that Piedade meant pity although Linguatec translated it as piety. And whatever the translation, the Punta da Piedade is as beautiful as a cathedral and awe inspiring! Looks like we’ll miss you at the Nash reunion in Georgia but keep in touch with your plans. Maybe we can show you a bit of why we love Portugal!

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  • That is definitely one amazing find – and the best kind as well; those that you just happen upon. Your photos are fantastic. We got a laugh out of your ex pat observations about safety warnings as so often we get a chuckle over some open drop, unmarked cliff, or slippery slope in Greece. . .and how refreshing it is, isn’t it??!!

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    • Thanks Jackie and Joel. Coming from the “Danger, Danger, Will Robinson” generation we are often surprised that clearly treacherous areas lack all the warnings that we’re used to in the US. It would be nice if the reason were because people here had more common sense but I think the real truth is that the culture is less litigious. Plus, there are literally miles of cliffs!

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  • Looks amazing! We’re going to be in Portugal in December. We’ll have go there.

    Liked by 1 person

  • What a wonderful thing to love where you are. I’m so glad you are sharing your experience. Looks like all that paperwork was worth it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • We feel so lucky to be here in Portugal and to have the time and opportunities to roam about and find new places to fall in love with as well as share. And how fabulous to live so close to Ponta da Piedade and be able to hike the cliffs nearby. You’re right, Susan, jumping through all the paperwork hoops has been well worth it!

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  • Ponta da Piedade has an amazing coastline and rock sculptures. I too would have been saying “Wow”

    Liked by 1 person

  • Beautiful photos Anita. It looks like a fabulous sight. I’ve always been partial to iron-stained sandstone formations, and particularly when they weather like these. Your post inspired me to see where Lagos as well as Point of Pity is, and I didn’t realize it but man, you’re right out there on the point. Does the location on the south coast shield you from some of the harsh Atlantic weather? ~James

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    • Thanks for your kind words about our photos, James. The cliffs and the colors (I’m glad you mentioned the iron staining) are spectacular and many of them have a very distinct horizontal line several feet above sea level that we were told resulted from the great earthquake of 1755. The Algarve Region on the southern coast of Portugal has moderate weather and our first winter here was fairy mild with a lot of sunny days although we do have a breeze that escalates into a good wind! About an hour west of Lagos is Cabo de São Vicente (the Cape of Saint Vincent) which is Europe’s most southwestern point and the weather there is much more extreme!

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  • Thanks for the wonderful pictures and story of your local find. We especially liked the two views, from land and from sea. So many great places to see and now we know of another. The list just keeps getting longer-places to visit that is.
    Jim and Angela

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    • You’re welcome Jim and Angela and it was our pleasure to share this beautiful place. We also enjoyed seeing it from two perspectives and, since the grotto trips are fairly inexpensive, we’re looking forward to more boat excursions. And we know about travel “must see” lists – ours is a work in progress and growing rapidly!

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  • Wow and Double Wow! So grateful that you are curious and adventurous. If you are still there, I would love to be one of your Spring guests, if you will.

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    • You’re our echo, Maida! It is so fun to stumble into a place like Ponta da Piedade and be stunned by the awesome beauty of the place. Truly magical! And you let us know if and when you’re heading our way. We’ve had several friends from Nicaragua visit already and we’re looking forward to more in June. What fun!

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  • Thanks for sharing your discovery Anita and Richard. Finding places that speak to you so personally is one of the joys of travel, especially when they are discovered by chance. We love coastlines and perhaps we will be fortunate enough to experience this beauty in the fall. Best regards, Tim & Anne

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    • We love any place around water and locations near the sea are our favorites. While we still love golden sand beaches and gentle warm waters, watching the waves crash and seeing rugged shorelines in various countries has been a highlight of our travels and Portugal’s cliffs are truly awesome. Be sure to keep in touch with your plans when you come to Europe, Tim and Anne. We’d love to meet you!

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