Portugal's Algarve coast is known for quite a few things: golden sea cliffs filled with grottos and arches; historic white-washed villages; and beaches lapped by turquoise waters. It is also home to some very good coastal hiking!
I'm not normally a big hiker, but it was impossible for me to ignore the beautiful cliff top views that beckoned in Lagos, Portugal. Lagos is a small town on the Algarve coast, known for its picturesque old town and delicious seafood – and its proximity to Ponta da Piedade.
What is Ponte de Piedade?
With its name translating roughly to “Point of Mercy” or “Piety Point,” Ponta da Piedade is collection of craggy rock formations that form a coastal headland not far from central Lagos. The golden-colored rocks of the headland twist into sea arches and natural caves, hiding pretty grottos and tiny spectacular beaches.
It's understandable that this is one of the most famous landscapes in all of Portugal.
Visiting Ponta da Piedade is one of the most popular things to do in Lagos, and there are a couple different ways to do it. You can simply drive out to the lighthouse at Ponta da Piedade; you can take a boat tour from Lagos to see the rock formations from the water (I recommend this, too!), or you can hike to Ponta da Piedade from Lagos.
I did both the boat tour and the hike, and personally enjoyed the hike more since you can take your time and see a lot more.
The Ponta da Piedade hike
Hiking from Lagos to Ponta da Piedade is not a difficult or long hike; in fact, it's only about 1.5 miles one-way, and largely flat along wooden boardwalks.
The hike can be a bit confusing starting from central Lagos, however, as you may assume you can walk along the beach itself, or perhaps along the tops of the cliffs. But you can't.
The main beach in Lagos town (Praia da Batata) IS connected to a few smaller beaches via rock-hewn tunnels that are accessible at low tide. However, this path only goes as far as Praia dos Estudantes – so don't bother trying to follow the beach.
Where to start the Ponta da Piedade hike
This is where you need to pay attention. Older guides and blog posts might tell you that you can walk directly from the beaches in Lagos along the edge of the coastal cliffs all the way out to Ponta da Piedade. And this was true a few years ago.
Unfortunately, erosion and landslides have taken their toll on this part of the Algarve, and the clifftop coastal path is no longer a safe way to walk out to Ponta da Piedade. Some posts will tell you to start your hike at Praia do Pinhão, a pretty little beach only a few minutes' walk along the road from Lagos.
And while you can get TO Praia do Pinhão, parts of the old coastal path beyond this beach are either completely washed out, or fragile enough that walking along them is not advised.* (If you choose to try it, just know that you're doing it at your own risk!)
Instead, the best place to begin your hike is at the (new) official starting point of the Ponta da Piedade hike, close to Praia de Dona Ana. This is one of the more popular beaches in the Lagos area, and is well worth a visit on its own!
In the last couple of years, the regional council in Lagos has worked on building a system of wooden boardwalks to connect various beaches and viewpoints along the coast surrounding Ponta da Piedade. You can get on this new boardwalk system at the end of the Praia de Dona Ana parking area (Parking Dona Ana); the start of the boardwalk is accurately marked on Google Maps as “Ponta da Piedade Walkway Entry.”
You can either get to this boardwalk entry point by walking from Lagos town (it's about a 20-minute walk, but it's mostly along roads; you'll take Av. dos Descobrimentos, turn left on Estrada Ponta da Piedade, and then left again on Alameda Dr. Armando Soares Ribeiro), or by taking a taxi to this point.
*Note: There are plans to extend the boardwalk system to connect Praia de Dona Ana and Praia do Pinhão, but it hasn't been started yet! Perhaps in a few more years, the entire coastal walk WILL be doable from Lagos.
Ponta da Piedade boardwalk
From here, the boardwalk meanders close to the coast – but not too close, since landslides are still a danger here. There are offshoots to various viewpoints, and a few areas with benches along the way.
The boardwalks are wide and flat, making this a very easy walk!
The boardwalk currently ends shortly before the parking area at the Ponta da Piedade lighthouse, though there are plans to completely re-do this area, too, with new parking areas, viewpoints, and more boardwalks.
For now, the walk from the current boardwalk entry to the lighthouse without any major detours will take you maybe 30 minutes.
BUT, there are definitely some detours you might want to make!
Visiting Praia do Camilo
One detour I think you should make is to take the stairs down to Praia do Camilo, which is arguably the prettiest beach along this whole coast. There are a lot of steps (220 or so) to get down to the small beach, but it's definitely worth seeing.
The beach is named for a rock formation (to the left side of the beach if you're looking at it from the steps) that looks kind of like a camel lying down.
This beach isn't huge, but it's absolutely gorgeous, especially on a sunny day.
There's also a restaurant nearby called O Camilo that is the best spot for lunch along the coast – I had some calamari here that was delicious!
The walk from the start of the boardwalk to Praia do Camilo is only about 10-15 minutes, and then it's another 15 minutes along the boardwalk to Ponta da Piedade.
Getting to Ponta da Piedade
When you get to Ponta da Piedade, there are several different spots to view the grottos and sea arches from above. Some dirt paths lead out onto the tops of the rock formations themselves, but as always be careful on these as some may be unstable thanks to erosion.
Also nearby are some shops and vendor stands, as well as a small cafe near the lighthouse (though personally I wouldn't get anything more than a coffee or cold soda here).
The most popular thing to do once you get to Ponta da Piedade is to climb down into the grottos via a famous stone staircase. (Yes, again it's a lot of steps – 180 this time!)
Down in the grottos, there are usually locals with small boats offering rides through some of the nearby arches and caves. These tours are more informal than the ones you can book from Lagos town (for example, there won't be any commentary), but it might be a good option if this is going to be your only visit to Ponta da Piedade.
More coastal boardwalks
While the hike to Ponta da Piedade itself might be enough for you, know that there is another stretch of coastal boardwalk to to west of the lighthouse. This section of boardwalk intersects with some paved walking/biking trails, and offers up even more pretty coastal views.
This section of boardwalk will take you above Praia do Canavial, where the boardwalk ends on Rua do Canavial. (Be sure to stop for views at Miradouro da Praia do Canavial, which is about a 20-minute walk from the Ponta da Piedade lighthouse.)
From any point along your walk, it's easy to retrace your steps to return to Lagos on foot.
Ponta da Piedade boardwalk FAQ
Here are some other questions you might have about this hike!
Where does the Ponta da Piedade boardwalk start?
Currently, the boardwalk starts near the Praia de Dona Ana parking lot off Alameda Dr. Armando Soares Ribeiro, at a spot marked “Ponta da Piedade Walkway Entry” on Google Maps. It ends near Praia do Canavial on Rua do Canavial (marked as “Ponta de Piedade Boardwalk Endpoint” on Google Maps).
Eventually, the boardwalk should extend to Praia do Pinhão, but as of 2024 only goes as far as Praia de Dona Ana.
How long is the boardwalk?
There are a couple different sections of boardwalks that are open so far.
Currently, from the entry point to the Ponta de Piedade lighthouse, the walk takes about 30 minutes. From the lighthouse to the “endpoint,” you can expect another 30 minutes of walking. (Though it took me a lot longer since I took all the detours and stopped so frequently for photos!)
From Lagos to Ponta de Piedade and back with plenty of stops (and maybe a lunch break), I would allow at least half a day so you don't feel rushed!
Is the boardwalk accessible?
While I did see some bike riders and families with strollers on the boardwalk when I went, there are still some wooden steps at certain points (especially at the entry point of the boardwalk). So it's not exactly wheelchair-friendly.
Do I have to stay on the boardwalk?
The boardwalk system is not yet fully complete, so there are currently some sections where you won't have a choice but to leave the boardwalk. However, in the sections where the boardwalk is finished, it's definitely recommended that you stay on it and avoid using the dirt footpaths closer to the cliff edge.
Not only is this just safer for you, but it's also kinder on the clifftop environment, and hopefully can help curb the erosion issues.
Best time to visit Ponta da Piedade
The Algarve region of Portugal has a Mediterranean climate, meaning it experiences hot and dry summers and mild winters. There's not really a *bad* time to visit Lagos and Ponta da Piedade, to be honest.
High season in Lagos and the Algarve runs from late June through August. This is when it's the hottest and busiest – and perhaps not ideal hiking weather!
I visited Lagos in the off-season, in March (see my full 3-day Lagos itinerary!). While I had some partly-cloudy days this time of year, it was in the 70s (F) and sunny the day I hiked out to Ponta da Piedade. Perfect hiking weather!
I'd say the BEST times to go to Lagos are probably late April-May and September-early October if you want nice hiking weather and fewer crowds, but still plenty of things to do.
As for the best time of day to hike to Ponta de Piedade, it will largely be season-dependent. Ponta da Piedade faces south, so generally there's sun on it all day. When I was there in March, the morning hours were the best for photos, and sunset would have also been nice.
What to pack for the Ponta da Piedade hike
This isn't a difficult or technical hike at all, especially now that it's mostly on wooden boardwalks! But you'll want to make sure you have:
- Plenty of water, especially if you're hiking on a hot day.
- A hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses, and perhaps long sleeves; there's ZERO shade on this hike, so bring plenty of sun protection!
- A snack, unless you plan to stop for lunch.
- Comfy shoes or hiking sandals.
- A swimsuit and towel if you plan to stop to swim along the way.
Pick up a daypack like this one to carry all your gear!
READ NEXT: The Perfect 10-Days in Portugal Itinerary
Where to stay in Lagos
I stayed at the Baluarte da Vila Apartments, which is an apartment hotel within walking distance to all the main sights in Lagos. The apartments are large (mine was 3 floors and included a rooftop terrace!), and the building has a nice pool and a couple lounge areas.
Other good hotel options in Lagos include:
- Hotel Marina Rio – Top-rated hotel located at the Lagos marina.
- Lagos Avenida Hotel – Another good hotel option near the Lagos marina with a rooftop pool.
- The Salty Lodge – A serviced apartment option right in the heart of the Old Town.
- Solar de Mos Hotel – A small family-run hotel option.
- Cascade Wellness Resort – Located closer to Ponta da Piedade, this resort has a spa, multiple pools, and more.
Is the Ponta da Piedade hike one you'd like to do in Portugal?
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Amanda Williams is the award-winning blogger behind A Dangerous Business Travel Blog. She has traveled to more than 60 countries on 6 continents from her home base in Ohio, specializing in experiential and thoughtful travel through the US, Europe, and rest of the world. Amanda only shares tips based on her personal experiences and places she's actually traveled!