All along the country’s Atlantic coast, you’ll find the cities from which the great Portuguese navigators first set sail.
The voyages made in the 15th century to the Far East and Brazil brought a period of great wealth to the people, art and buildings of these coastal cities. Standing as reminders of this golden period are the Convento de Cristo in Tomar, and the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos and Torre de Belém in Lisbon.
Visit these world heritage sites and you will see the symbols of these voyages of exploration, known in Portugal as the ‘Discoveries’. The symbols are the armillary sphere; the cross of the Order of Christ; branches and foliage; twisted ropes and strange shapes from the sea.
In the Algarve visit Lagos where Prince Henry the Navigator, the great mentor of all the ‘Discoverers’, once lived. He was born in Porto, in the far north of Portugal, but it was here that he founded his now mythical School of Navigation. And be sure to take a trip to Sagres. On its jutting headland, known as the ‘sacred promontory’, you’ll get a sense of why this region became the base for all these famous sea voyages.
Meanwhile no tour of Portugal’s coastal cities is complete without learning the story of Pedro Álvares Cabral in Belmonte, and that of Vasco da Gama in Sines - the great idols of the Portuguese ‘Discoveries’.