Cape Espichel

A jagged end of the world formed by the raw nature of time and the elements



If you want to experience the natural landscape in its very crudest form, look no further: the Cape of Espichel is as raw as coastlines get. But to call the ancient cliffs unrefined would be plain wrong, as tectonic and tidal powers have been grinding these rock outcrops for billions of years. The magnitude of the seemingly immovable cliffs towering over the Atlantic makes for a belittling experience, placing you outside of your tiny temporal self, and into the vast spectrum of life moving at its own timeless pace. Indeed, with all the time in the world.


Visiting the cape is a profound experience, and you won’t be the only one who’s felt that way. During the Middle Ages, the cape has instilled divine awe in the hearts of many of its visitors. The legend that gave rise to the cape’s church, sanctuary, and cult of Nossa Senhora do Cabo tells the miracle of two 14th-century fishermen being woken by a vision of Mary holding the baby Jesus and riding a giant mule up the cliff of Cape Espichel. At first light, both made their way to the cape, where they found the footprints of a giant mule on the cliff’s face!


A more scientific explanation for the giant canted footprints is they belong to a herd of sauropods (the giant dinosaurs with immensely elongated necks) roaming the former-wetlands-turned-cliffs a mind-boggling 150 million years ago. So whether you’re planning on following the footsteps of medieval pilgrims in search of a divine image of Mary, or the footsteps (called the Pedra da Mua tracks) of the biggest creatures to have ever walked the face of the earth; you can count on a first-hand experience of the power of the timeless Cabo Espichel. 


How to get there

The cape is about an hour’s drive from Lisbon and easily reachable by van. There are parking lots at the cape’s monastery (which is worth a visit too) and lighthouse. 

Sesimbra, Portugal


GPS coordinates

37.1554° N, 7.6960° W


The cliffs

Height: 134 m


To bring

Essentials: -

Extras: -


Indie insider

Unless you plan rock climbing, the Pedra da Mua footprints aren’t reachable. The Lagosteiros footprints aren’t as large as those from the colossal sauropods, but these tracks are found on land and. While the footprints are only a short walk apart, the theropod (upright dinosaurs like the velociraptor) imprints are about 50 million years younger than their cliffside counterparts.

Find the footprints by following the signs. 





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