Fátima is one of the most important shrines to the Virgin Mary in the world, as three shepherd children are said to have stated that Mary appeared to them. The last event, on Oct. 13, 1917, is known as the Miracle of the Sun and was attended by upwards of 40,000 people. A marble pillar with a statue of Our Lady marks the exact spot in the Chapel of Apparitions, and millions of pilgrims make the journey to see it yearly.
Fátima is second only to Lourdes in France as Europe’s most important pilgrimage site, with a history and culture that will fascinate the religious and nonreligious alike. While some Catholics opt to visit during a pilgrimage, you can also visit the town and its religious sites—particularly the Basilica de Fátima—on a day trip from Lisbon or Porto. Choose between a half-day tour to Fátima and a full-day sightseeing tour with stops at other historic points of interest. Guided tours often include stops at other points of interest, including Óbidos, Nazaré, and Batalha. Travelers pressed for time can see the town on a half-day tour.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Fátima is a must-visit for Catholics and history buffs.
- Day tours from Porto and Lisbon last upwards of eight hours and include hotel pickup and drop-off.
- Conservative dress is recommended, as many of Fátima’s attractions are sacred spots for devotees that sometimes ask visitors to cover their shoulders or legs.
- Mass at the basilica is held several times a day.
How to Get There
Fátima is 88 miles (142 kilometers) north of Lisbon. The easiest way to get there is on a guided tour, but it’s also possible to travel independently. Buses depart regularly from Sete Rios bus station in Lisbon or Batalha bus station in Porto. The rides take 90 or 120 minutes respectively. There is a train station servicing Fátima, but it’s located 12 miles (20 kilometers) outside of town, making it a less convenient option.
When to Get There
Fátima sees two major pilgrimages each year, in May and October. During this time, thousands of pilgrims make their way into town, and the city’s hotels and guesthouses fill up, making pre-booking a must. Every month on the 12th, there is an international rosary followed by a candlelight procession.
Points of Interest in Fátima
While the religious structures tend to be the most popular attractions at this pilgrimage site, there’s more to do in Fátima. The Fátima Wax Museum offers a history of the town through 31 scenes and more than 100 wax figures, while limestone formations of the Moeda Caves (Grutas da Moeda) are also nearby.