Grottoes and Golden Arches – Ponta da Piedade
For 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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
By Anita Oliver and Richard Nash