Cabo da Roca

Cabo da Roca (Portuguese: [ˈkaβu ðɐ ˈʁɔkɐ]) or Cape Roca is a cape which forms the westernmost point of the Sintra Mountain Range, of mainland Portugal, of continental Europe, and of the Eurasian land mass.[1] It is situated in the municipality of Sintra, near Azóia, in the southwest of the district of Lisbon. Notably the point includes a lighthouse that started operation in 1772.

Cape Roca
Cabo da Roca on sunset.jpg
The Cabo da Roca lighthouse, overlooking the promontory towards the Atlantic Ocean
Highest point
PeakCabo da Roca, Sintra-Cascais Natural Park
Elevation140 m (460 ft)
Coordinates38°46′51″N 9°30′2″W / 38.78083°N 9.50056°W / 38.78083; -9.50056Coordinates: 38°46′51″N 9°30′2″W / 38.78083°N 9.50056°W / 38.78083; -9.50056
EtymologyRoca: Portuguese for sea cliff
Native nameCabo da Roca
Cape Roca is located in Portugal
Cape Roca
Cape Roca
The location of Cabo da Roca in continental Portugal
Country Portugal
SubregionGrande Lisboa
Parent rangeSerra da Sintra


Cabo da Roca was known to the Romans as Promontorium Magnum[1] and during the Age of Sail as the Rock of Lisbon.


The Cabo da Roca Lighthouse (Portuguese: Farol de Cabo da Roca) is a beacon/lighthouse located 165 metres (541 ft) above the Atlantic Ocean, on Portugal's (and continental Europe's) most westerly extent (Cabo da Roca). It is located in the civil parish of Colares, in the municipality of Sintra, situated on a promontory that juts out into the ocean, made up of granite boulders and interspersed limestone. It is a third-order lighthouse, which originally began operating in 1772. It was the first new purpose-built lighthouse to be constructed in the country: the older lighthouses in existence at that time, were constructed on existing platforms or from pre-existing beacons.[2]


Monument announcing Cabo da Roca as the westernmost point of continental Europe
Granite boulders and sea cliffs along the coast, north of the cape
Invasive Carpobrotus edulis growing on the cape plateau
The shoreline at Cabo de Roca

The cape is within the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, 42 kilometres west of the city of Lisbon and in the southwest of Sintra. A location (38°47′N 9°30′W / 38.783°N 9.500°W / 38.783; -9.500) is inscribed on a stone plaque, located on a monument at the site.

The western coast is a mixture of sandy beaches and rocky cliff promontories: around Cabo da Roca, cliffs are more than 100 metres in height, and cut into crystalline rocks, composed of strongly folded and faulted sedimentary units. These forms are disturbed by dikes and small beaches.[3] This promontory of "high" beaches is the extreme western immersion of the ancient eruptive Sintra massif, as evident from the rose-coloured granite in the north and syenite of the Ribeira do Louriçal in the south. In the vicinity of the Cape, there are geomorphological examples of gabbro-diorite, volcanic breccia, and granite.

Part of the granite formations show evidence of strong coastal erosion, while in other areas there are limestone deposits embedded in the granite.[4]

Much of the vegetation on this cape is low-lying and adapted to saltwater and windy conditions. Once home to a variety of plant life, Cabo da Roca has been overrun with the invasive plant species Carpobrotus edulis. This creeping, mat-forming plant, a member of the Aizoaceae succulent family, was introduced as ground cover by local residents several decades ago, but now covers much of the arable land on Cabo da Roca.

Many migratory and marine birds roost temporarily along the cliffs and protected coves of the coastal area.

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  1. ^ a b "Cape Roca". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Retrieved 12 August 2008.[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ Costa, Patricia (2004). SIPA (ed.). "Farol do Cabo da Roca" (in Portuguese). Lisbon, Portugal: SIPA – Sistema de Informação para o Património Arquitectónico.
  3. ^ Anja Scheffers and Dieter Kelletat (2005), p.6
  4. ^ António Oliveira Fonseca (2010), p.11