Making the 125 km journey from one of Europe's best cities, Lisbon, to the town of Fatima is something that thousands have done religiously for the last 100 years or so. Indeed, scores of pilgrims from all over the world have traveled to the site where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to three school children in 1917.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the first apparition and I've decided to commemorate this by putting together a quick guide. This will help you to decide what the best way to travel from Lisbon to Fatima is. We will focus on the following:
A pilgrimage can be a deeply personal trip and it is important to choose the right option for yourself. I genuinely hope this information helps you as you begin your planning.
Walking to Fatima
For many, making the sacred pilgrimage from Lisbon to Fatima on foot is the only acceptable option. There are two main options if you plan on making the journey in this manner. Both of these routes take roughly five days to complete on foot, so be sure to think about finding accommodation and food along the way.
The first follows the Estrada Nacional 1 (EN1), a main highway. This means that it's more popular, has more options for accommodation and food, and is a little bit more direct. It is also serviced by the Red Cross, which support pilgrims as they travel. The drawback to this route is that it follows a busy highway, making some sections a bit aesthetically unpleasant and even dangerous.
If you're looking for something a bit more picturesque, then the Tejo Route might be the better choice for you. This largely unknown route is less hectic than the EN1 and is considerably more scenic. The disadvantages are that you will find fewer facilities along the way and there won't be as many services.
Keep in mind that both of these trips require you to walk about eight hours per day if you would like to reach Fatima within five days. You will also most likely be carrying all your belongings on your back, so this won't be a walk in the park. You will be tired, hungry, and dirty if you choose this option.
For many people, this journey can be difficult and exhausting, so be sure to prepare yourself physically before you arrive. Make sure you have travel medical insurance sorted too - while it's unlikely you'll need it, you never know what could happen on a five-day trek! I use SafetyWing, the best provider I've found for both short trips and long-term travels. They have a robust policy that will give you the peace of mind that you're protected in the event of a mishap from just $1.32 per day.
Not a fan of walking all day? Check out the other ways I've listed below.
Driving to Fatima
If you are pressed for time, then this is by far the quickest way to get to Fatima. It will take you about 1 hour and 20 minutes. From the airport, take the Estrada Nacional (E1) directly to Fatima.
If you do decide on this option, be sure to read up on the complicated toll system, as you will have to pay a series of tolls along the way. Don't let this put you off, but definitely do your research so you understand it.
I recommend booking your rental car in advance through Discover Cars, my go-to platform for finding good-value and reliable car rentals in Portugal. They conveniently offer five different pick-up and drop-off locations within and around the city. So depending on where you arrive and whether you want to spend some time visiting Lisbon first, you can arrange to start your rental right at the airport, from one of the railway stations, or from downtown.
You can find fantastic deals by booking your car a few months or weeks in advance, so it's smart to arrange your car rental as soon as you start planning your trip. Discover Cars often offers significant early booking discounts.
If you like to be behind the wheel, this could be the best way to travel from Lisbon to Fatima for you. You could even extend your journey and turn this pilgrimage into a longer road trip.
Bus to Fatima
If I didn't have enough time to make the pilgrimage on foot, then I would definitely take the bus. Not only are the buses cheap (roughly 10-25€), they run several times daily, and arrive in only 90 minutes. An added bonus is that it eliminates the confusion of the toll system that you would have to navigate if you drove yourself.
To get the bus, purchase tickets beforehand at Lisbon's main bus station, Sete Rios, or buy them online for convenience. Rede Expressos is the primary bus company, although others like Renex and citi express also run buses between the two cities. The station is well connected to the metro line in Lisbon and offers intercity services all across the country. Try not to be late, as buses generally depart punctually and promptly.
Train to Fatima
While this is one way to get there, it is really not the best way to travel from Lisbon to Fatima. I highly recommend that you take the bus instead. Trains do depart from Lisbon, but the nearest train station to Fatima is about 20 km away. This means you will have to shell out the money for a taxi or take a slow regional bus. So unless you have a thing for trains and money isn't a factor, taking the train is quite impractical and expensive.
Guided tours to Fatima
If you're interested in visiting Fatima for its history, culture, and architecture but don't want to get bogged down in all the planning and organisation, a guided tour from Lisbon to Fatima may be the perfect solution for you.
Going on a guided tour can be the best way to travel from Lisbon to Fatima if you're short on time. As an added advantage, you'll have a knowledgeable local guide to explain the sights and bring them to life. Moreover, the best day tours from Lisbon to Fatima stop at several other interesting sights along the way. Make sure to choose one that takes in the medieval walled town of Obidos, Portugal's most romantic village.
My absolute favorite tour for value and quality is this small group day trip. For just 60€, it takes you to all the unmissable sights in Fatima as well as Obidos, Batalha's 14th-century monastery, and the Atlantic Ocean town of Nazaré, where you can watch surfers practice their wave-riding. If you only have a half-day or prefer to focus on experiencing Fatima only, take this Best of Fátima half-day tour.
Where to stay in Fatima
Due to the fact that it continues to be a highly popular destination for pilgrims and tourists alike, Fatima is well equipped with a wide range of lodging options. Check out accommodation options in Fatima.
As I mentioned before, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the first apparitions at Fatima. Understandably, this will be a busy year in the area, so be sure to plan your trip early so that you can make all the necessary arrangements and bookings. The official celebrations will be around the 13th of May, so expect big crowds during this time. Easter and Christmas are also generally quite busy.
While I normally recommend traveling at off-season times to avoid crowds, experiencing Fatima in communion with thousands of other pilgrims could be a very powerful and moving experience. If you are contemplating this trip, I hope that this information is useful to you as you decide on the best way for you to get from Lisbon to Fatima. Remember the following:
- Walking from Lisbon to Fatima will be the most memorable and probably the most powerful experience.
- If you can't walk, take the bus to Fatima, as it is cheaper and quite easily done.
- Drive to Fatima if you prefer the convenience of having your own car.
- Take the train to Fatima only if all of the above routes are impossible.
- If you'd rather not do a lot of planning and would prefer to discover Fatima with a knowledgeable guide, opt for a guided tour from Lisbon. Day tours such as our top-recommended one often take in several other great sites along the way.
For many, this journey is a test of willpower, commitment, and faith. Sometimes when we travel, we seek a bit of solitude and time to reflect. If you take this trip to Fatima, I hope you find some peace, not just in the time spent alone, but also in the time you spend in the company of others.
Have you traveled to Fatima before? Are you going this year for the 100th anniversary? Let us know your thoughts and leave us a comment. Be safe and happy travels!