Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima, the biggest pilgrimage site in Portugal

Located in Central Portugal, the sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima has become, throughout the years, the fourth biggest catholic pilgrimage site in the world, due to the apparitions of Virgin Mary to three little shepherds in 1917.

In this article, you’re going to learn more about the history of Our Lady of Fátima, the places to visit in the city and outskirts as well as the places where you can spend the night and have lunch or dinner.

On the 13th May 1917Lúcia and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco, aged 12, 9 and 7 years old, were herding sheep at Cova da Iria – Fátima, when they saw a bright light.

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First, they thought it was a lightning but soon after a brighter light illuminated that place. At that instant they saw next to a small oak tree a lady that shone more than the sun.

© wikipedia.org – Joshua Benoliel

This lady asked the three little shepherds to go to Cova da Iria on the 13th day of each month, at the same time for 6 months. She promised to reveal her identity as well as the purpose of her presence.

During the apparitions, this lady foretold some revelations like the end of the First World War and that Francisco and Jacinta would soon go to heaven (Francisco past away in 1919 and Jacinta in 1920, victims of the Spanish flu).

As months went by, more and more people would appear to witness the apparitions. By the time of the second apparition, about 50 people were present but in the 13th October, during the sixth apparition, there were 50 000 people present to witness the miracle promised by this lady.

It was then that the three little shepherds knew that this lady was Our Lady of the Rosary.

Here’s what Our Lady of the Rosary said to Lúcia:

«Lúcia: – What do you want of me?
Our Lady of the Rosary: – I want to tell you that a chapel is to be built here in my honour. I am the Lady of the Rosary. Continue always to pray the Rosary every day. The war is going to end, and the soldiers will soon return to their homes.
Lúcia: I have many things to ask you: the cure of some sick persons, the conversion of sinners, and other things…
Our Lady of the Rosary: Some yes, but not others. They must amend their lives and ask forgiveness for their sins.
Looking very sad, Our Lady said:
Our Lady of the Rosary: Do not offend the Lord our God any more, because He is already so much offended! {If the people amend, the war will be over, and if they do not amend their ways, the world will come to an end.}»

Information: this excerpt, like others from the other apparitions, can be found in the official site of the sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima.

Apart from the three little shepherds, no one saw Our Lady of the Rosary, so on the 13th October 1917 a miracle happened so that everyone could witness and believe in the apparition of the Virgin Mary.

That day was cloudy and rainy but suddenly the clouds disappeared giving place to a bright sun and a clear blue sky.

Thus a phenomenon of light occurred in the sky and, since then, it is known as the “Miracle of the Sun“. Don’t hesitate to click on the link to learn more about this miracle.

© wikipedia.org – Judah Ruah

What to visit in the sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima?

Chapel of the Apparitions

© wikipedia.org – Andreas Trepte

One of the places you must visit in the sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima is the chapel of the apparitions. This small chapel was built in 1919 on the exact spot where the tree was rooted (the oak tree disappeared soon after the apparitions due to pilgrims that cut its branches to keep a part of this “relic”), next to which the Virgin Mary appeared to the three little shepherds.

Although it was destroyed by strangers in 1922, the small chapel was rebuilt some months later.

In 1982, a big roof was added to the small chapel to protect the pilgrims from the hot days and rainy days.

In the centre of the chapel you’ll find the original statue of the Virgin Mary (1920). In its crown you can find the bullet that hit the Pope John Paul II in the assassination attempt in Rome in the 13th May 1981.

In some days of the year, masses are celebrated in this chapel and rosaries are prayed with live broadcasts on the Internet.

Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fátima


In the sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima you can also visit the basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Built between 1928 and 1953 in a neo-baroque style, the basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary has the tombs of Jacinta and Francisco (1951 and 1952). After the death of Lúcia in 2005, her body was also put to rest  in this basilica, side by side with her cousins.

Basilica of the Holy Trinity

Basilica da Santissima Trindade - Fatima Portugal

The construction of this basilica in the sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima began in 2004 and ended three years later. With its 8633 seating capacity, this is the fourth biggest catholic church in the world.

This basilica is located in the southwest end of the sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima, facing the processions area. In the other end (500 metres away) you can admire the basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary and closer you have the chapel of the apparitions.

What to see close to the sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima?

The three little shepherds houses

© wikimedia.org – Vitor Oliveira

Two kilometres away from the sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima, in a place called Aljustrel, you’ll find the location where the three little shepherds lived. In the house of Francisco and Jacinta you can admire furniture from that time and objects from everyday life; you can even take a picture in the exact spot where the three little shepherds were photographed – a photo known worldwide (see it in the beginning of this article).

Lúcia’s house is 150 metres away from her cousins’. Here, you can find a museum that offers to visitors the possibility to learn more about the life in the 20th century.

  • Location: Rua de Aljustrel 42, 2495-301 Fátima

The Coin Cave (Gruta da Moeda)

Located 5 km away from the sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima, Gruta da Moeda is one of the places you can’t miss when you visit this region.

Discovered in 1971 by two hunters chasing a fox, this cave can be visited in its 350 metres of extension and 45 metres of depth. Its temperature is 18 ºC during the whole year, which makes it easier to visit it in the summer and in the winter.

Click on the map to access Google Maps

Mira de Aire Caves

Located in Mira de Aire and 15 km away from the sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima, Mira de Aire Caves were voted in 2010 as one of the 7 natural wonders of Portugal.

This 11-km complex of rare beauty was found in 1947. You can only visit 600 metres and climb down the 683 steps until you get to a depth of 110 metres.

But don’t worry! You won’t need to climb up again because, at the end of your visit, you’ll have an elevator waiting to take you to surface.

These caves can be visited throughout the year at Mira de Aire location. To get to know its opening hours and ticket prices, you can visit their webpage.

If you’re going to stay some days in this region, then don’t hesitate to visit Serras de Aire e Candeeiros Nature Park (20 km away from the sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima), Tomar and its amazing Castle and Convent of Christ, listed by UNESCO as World Heritage (37 km away), Leiria and its beautiful castle (23 km away) and Batalha Monastery (17 km away).

How to get to Fátima?

If you want to visit the sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima, the caves, the natural park and the beautiful monuments in Tomar and Batalha, then I suggest that you take your own car (there is even a highway exit near the sanctuary).

You can also take the bus in Lisbon or in Porto. Fátima also has a train station but it is located 20 km away from the sanctuary.

Where to eat in Fátima?

When I went to Fátima, I had lunch in O Crispim, a typical Portuguese restaurant that I totally recommend! This restaurant is located 1,5 km away from the sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima, far from the other most touristy restaurants.

  • Location: Rua São João Eudes, n. 23 | Lomba D’Égua | 2495-630 Fátima
    GPS : N 39.63136 – W 8.66283
  • Tripadvisor reviews

People also recommended me Pátio do Avô and the well known Tia Alice Restaurante.

Where to sleep in Fátima?

Luz Charming Houses

Located 1,5 km away from the sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima, this boutique hotel is an idyllic place where you can enjoy one or more wonderful nights in this region.

I spent two nights here and I can tell you that I could stay here forever! Apart from the beauty of this place and the warm welcome, I loved the fantastic breakfast with some magnificent background music, fado.

Important information: I wasn’t paid to promote this property. I’m only doing it because I loved the time spent in this beautiful boutique hotel.

Where to sleep in the outskirts of Fátima?

Meio Country House

Meio Country House is located in a centennial 4-hectare farm in Alcanede, a place just outside the Natural Park of Serras de Aire e Candeeiros and 40 km away from Fátima.

The house where you can sleep was refurbished recently, however its history remains intact. This place can accommodate up to 14 people (7 bedrooms with private bathroom).

Aside from the bedrooms, you can also enjoy the beautiful living-room, the kitchen (that you’ll have to share if you only book a room), the terrace and, if you have to work, you’ll find the necessary equipment and even a training room.

Information: obviously you’ll have access to free wifi throughout the property

After having visited the points of interest in the surrounding area, you can rest or do one of the activities available at Meio Country House.

You can witness in real time how goat cheese is made, you can also try to bake artisanal bread, savour local liqueurs, try to bake local delicacies and go on a guided tour to Natural Park of Serras de Aire e Candeeiros.

Apart from this calm and relaxing atmosphere, you’ll also have a warm welcome by Michael, a Portuguese that was born in France but lives in Portugal since he was 12 years old.

Do you want to spend some enjoyable and relaxing moments and discover the most touristy but authentic places?

Important information 2: I wasn’t paid to promote this property. I’m only doing it because I loved the way I was welcomed, loved the house and its location.

Hotel Mar & Sol ****

Located in São Pedro de Moel, facing the sea, this 4-star hotel is the perfect place to rest after your visit to Fátima (47 km), Batalha, Leiria, Alcobaça and Nazaré.

Hotel Mar & Sol has 57 available rooms with a magnificent view over the sea, the lighthouse and the village where it is located; a spa, where you can relax while enjoying a massage, jacuzzi, sauna and a Turkish bath; a restaurant where you can enjoy the local speciality, shellfish rice, while admiring the views over the sea; on the roof, you’ll find a terrace where you can have a drink (in the summer) and enjoy the magnificent views.

On Sundays, for those people who like parties, the hotel has a sunset party from 16h30 to 22h30 (in the summer) where you can have a cocktail while enjoying some lounge music – all this is complemented with the wonderful views over the sea, the beach and the village.

Do you want to enjoy some pleasant and relaxing moments and discover one of the most beautiful villages in the Portuguese coastline?

Important information 2: I wasn’t paid to promote this property. I’m only doing it because I had a warm welcome, loved all the available amenities and its location.

Are you going to visit Fátima? Then don’t hesitate to book your hotel room, your car or the best activities by clicking the links below. This way you are helping me in the development of my blog and I’ll be able to offer you free tips and travel guides so that you can better prepare your visit to Portugal. Thank you!

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