The best independent guide to Central Portugal
The best independent guide to Central Portugal
Fatima is the most important pilgrimage site in Portugal.
This is where an apparition of Mary appeared to three shepherd children, six times over the course of six months, culminating in the Miracle of the Sun, which was witnessed by over 70,000 people.
These events draw many millions of pilgrims and visitors to Fatima every year, and at the site of the apparitions, a massive religious complex has been constructed. Within this complex is a beautiful Basilica, a colossal church, a sprawling plaza, and the tiny chapel Mary instructed to be built.
This article will provide a tourist guide to Fatima, and help you plan the perfect trip to Fatima.
Note: As this is a tourist guide, it will not focus on the historical events of Fatima (Wikipedia is for that) or the religious significance.
Related articles: Lisbon to Fatima
There are two types of tourists who visit Fatima;
1) The religious; those who wish to pray, make a blessing or as a personal pilgrimage
2) The curious; those who are interested but not deeply religious, or simply want to visit a famous location in Portugal
If you are visiting Fatima as the first group, you will adore your time in the town. The Santuário de Fátima has a deeply religious atmosphere, you can join a church service at the Capelinha das Aparições (site of Mary’s first apparition), perform a dedication (via a lighting candle), along with visiting the two Basilicas (Basílica de Nossa Senhora do Rosário and the Basílica da Santíssima Trindade).
If you are visiting as the second group, you may have mixed feelings about Fatima. The apparition of Mary and the Miracle of the Sun only occurred in 1917, so the entire complex is relatively modern, and if the truth be told, rather bland. The only standout building is the Nossa Senhora do Rosário Basilica, with all other structures massive but of a functional design.
Once the main religious sites are seen, there is not much else to see or do in Fatima itself.
Fatima can be visited as a day trip from Lisbon, but involves either a 1h10m drive or 1h30m bus journey each way (public transport details are at the end of this article).
A typical visit to Fatima takes two hours, and this is sufficient time to visit the two basilicas, the Capelinha das Aparições, the waxwork museum and purchase some religious gifts from the countless gift shops. A visit will be longer if you plan to join a church service, or want to light a candle at the Capelinha das Aparições (there can be very long queues at peak times).
A good place to begin your day trip, and gain an understanding of Fatima is the Museu Interativo, which provides a detailed overview of the history of Fatima. The Museu de Cera de Fátima has beautiful wax statues and is recommended to extend a visit.
The shepherd's houses, in the village of Aljustrel (2.2km south from the Santuário de Fátima), have been restored to how they were in 1917, and are also worth including in the day trip. Most evenings between May and October there are beautiful candle processions, which are a magical experience (details provided further on).
Within Fatima, there is a wide choice of restaurants and cafes, and there are many good inexpensive options – primarily design for Portuguese visitors who would refuse to accept over-inflated tourist prices!
Generally, Fatima will only be a half-day trip, and if you are driving, we would recommend combining Fatima with the castle of Ourém or the limestone caves of Grutas da Moeda.
Advice: It is not advisable to visit Fatima at the weekends or the 13th of each month, as it can be very busy. Also, Fatima is not ideal on a wet day, as there is little shelter within the Santuário de Fátima.
Below is an interactive map detailing the main sights of Fatima
Sights of Fatima: 1) Capelinha das Aparições 2) Basílica de Nossa Senhora do Rosário 3) Basílica da Santíssima Trindade 4) Casa da Lúcia 5) Casa de Jacinta e Francisco Marto 6) Museu de Cera de Fátima 7) Museu Interativo 8) Grutas da Moeda
It’s worth staying in the Fatima region but maybe not necessarily in the town itself, as there are many more fascinating destinations in the surrounding region.
To the west is the historic city of Tomar and the pretty hilltop castle of Ourém, while to the east are the two grand monasteries of Alcobaça and Batalha, and the charming beach town of Nazaré.
Generally, we would recommend staying the night in Tomar and have a day trip to Fatima.
Related articles: Tomar – Nazaré – Batalha
Hotels in Fatima
The map below shows the location of the best hotels and accommodation in Fatima. If you adjust the dates to your stay, it will display current prices and availability.
The main pilgrimage days to Fatima align with the dates of the six apparitions, which all occurred on 13th of each month, from the 13th May (first vision), up to the Miracle of the Sun (13th October 1917).
The 13th May and 13th October are major pilgrimage days to Fatima (the Peregrinação de Fátima) and on the preceding night (the 12th) there is a beautiful candlelit procession led by the bishop and church leaders.
During May to October, there are candle processions most evenings, which are a beautiful spectacle to behold. The latest schedule, along with times of masses can be seen on the official Shine of Fatima website: https://www.fatima.pt/en/schedule
An organised tour eliminates the hassle of public transport and provides an opportunity to see much more of the central Portugal region.
The standard of tours in Portugal has significantly improved, with knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides catering for worldly and modern tourists.
We have worked with GetYourGuide for the previous five years, and some of their best tours which include Fatima are:
The tiny Capelinha das Aparições chapel is the focal point for all devotion to Fatima, and its construction was instructed by Mary.
The actual site where Mary appeared, just in front of the chapel, is marked by a statue of Our Lady of Fatima. Encompasses both the chapel and statue of Mary, is a modern open-sided church, and is where the masses are held.
Pope John Paul II had a close connection with the Lady of Fátima, believing the third secret of Fatima foretold the assassination attempt on his life in 1981, and protected him during it. In devotion, one of the four bullets which struck him is encased in the crown on the Our Lady of Fatima statue.
Insight: When pilgrims pay homage to Fatima by walking on their knees or crawling, they are heading to the Capelinha das Aparições, and not the grand Basílica de Nossa Senhora do Rosário.
One of the religious highlights of Fatima is to light a candle and pray for a special intention at the Capelinha das Aparições.
Candles can be purchased from the stall just to the rear of the chapel, for the inexpensive price of €0.80, with the larger 60cm candles only costing €2.70.
Insight: The candles are a brown colour as they are moulded from the waste wax collected from the hundreds of burning candles
One of the highlights of Fatima are the houses that the shepherd's lived in as children.
The two houses (the Casa de Jacinta e Francisco Marto and the Casa da Lúcia) have been restored to how they were in 1917, and even retain some of the original furniture.
At the bottom of the garden in Lúcia's house is the Poço do Arneiro well, and is where the angel (Anjo de Portugal) appeared to the children in 1916.
Driving is the quickest way to travel to from Lisbon to Fatima. The route follows the A1 expressway and turns off at junction 8 (after passing through the hills of the Serras de Aire e Candeeiros), which leads to the many car parks surrounding Fatima. The only downside to the 92km journey along the fast A1 road, is the high toll of €8.40 each way.
For public transport, bus travel is the only sensible option as Fatima train station is 20km to the east of the town, and there is no feasible travel option from the train station to the Santuário de Fátima.
The bus services are operated by Rede Expressos, the main intercity bus company of Portugal. There are up to 18 daily departures from Lisbon to Fatima, but tickets should be booked in advance, as popular services do sell out. The bus service departs from Sete Rios bus station in Lisbon, the journey takes 1h30m, and a single adult fare costs €12.80. The latest timetables and bookings can be made of the Rede Expressos website: https://www.rede-expressos.pt/
Related articles: Lisbon to Fatima - Sete Rios bus station
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