The Portuguese Discoveries

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The Portuguese Discoveries

Because of he barriers imposed on Portugal in the European land, Portugal turned to the seas. It was between waves that the greatness of the country was made, during one of its most prosperous periods, with new cultural realities discoveries. The navigator Nicolau Coelho, on board of his ship Bérrio, was there in all the important moments of The Discoveries.


The complete route of the Portuguese Discoveries, as the time it represents, is characterized by going beyond borders. Encompassing places like the Port of Lagos, a place from where the ships that conquered Ceuta left, initiate this golden period, and even personalities like Infante D. Henrique and Vasco da Gama. It compiles figures, national and local events and former colonies that were immortalized in history.


The complete route of the Portuguese Discoveries, as the time it represents, is characterized by going beyond borders. Encompassing places like the Port of Lagos, a place from where the ships that conquered Ceuta left, initiate this golden period, and even personalities like Infante D. Henrique and Vasco da Gama. It compiles figures, national and local events and former colonies that were immortalized in history.

Itinerary / Points of interest

Nicolau Coelho

A man who was always on the right place, at the historical time. He participated not only in the discovery of the sea route to India by Vasco da Gama in 1497-99, but also in the "accidental" discovery of Brazil by Pedro Álvares Cabral a year later, always on the command of the ship Bérrio. An expert navigator, he was the first to bring to Portugal the good news of the arrival in India. He died at sea in 1504 while returning from the east under the command of Francisco de Albuquerque, possibly shipwrecked off the coast of Mozambique.

Infante D. Henrique

Perhaps the main navigator of the era of the Portuguese discoveries, he convinced his father, João I, to conquer Ceuta in 1415, ushering in one of the most prosperous periods for the country. He held various government functions in Ceuta, while managing the landings of various Portuguese navigators to areas that were then remote. His status as Grand Master of the Templar Knights, obtained in 1420, assured him funds which made it possible to explore the full potential of the Atlantic Ocean.

Vasco da Gama

He was only ten when Bartolomeu Dias sailed around the Cape of Good Hope. Decades later, by his hand, he could repeat this route and break the monopoly of Mediterranean trade which was concentrated in Italy, and brought to the country several spices then disseminated throughout the found territories. One of the names of the Age of Discovery, Vasco da Gama led the first ships that arrived in India in 1497-99 - one captained by Nicolau Coelho - and reaffirmed the superiority of maritime presence in Portugal, while defining important trade routes to the development of Europe.

Pedro Álvares Cabral

The route to India made first by Vasco da Gama proved to be full of surprises for Pedro Álvares Cabral who, by following it, in 1500, went too much away from the African coast and came ashore on the south coast of the American continent, on the coast of Brazil, which he initially thought it was an island. After making and reporting the discovery of the new lands to King Manuel I, the fleet of Pedro Álvares Cabral, of which was part Captain Nicholas Coelho, was refuelled and finally headed to Calicut in India, having been halved by a strong storm and having suffered from another conflict with Arab traders who refused to give up their monopoly to Portugal.

Bartolomeu Dias

He led the expedition that succeeded in sailing around the Cape of Good Hope (or Cape of Storms) in 1488 on the South of Africa making the connection between the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean for the first time which allowed Vasco da Gama to reach India. Along with Nicolau Coelho, he later commanded also some Vasco da Gama and Pedro Álvares Cabral’s ships in his expeditions.

D. Manuel I

He ruled Portugal during the most productive period of the Discoveries (1495-1521). This gave him the nickname of "The Blessed". He inherited the maritime explorations already initiated by his predecessors and now beginning to bear fruit. He capitalized achieved wealth with new trade routes and erected several real buildings, later added on the common classification of "Manueline".

Luís Vaz de Camões

One of the greatest authors ever of the Portuguese language and the West, referred to Nicolau Coelho as a "great sufferer" with "experience in weapons and fury." Only after his death, in 1579 or 1580, was his work recognized and began to be considered a symbol of national identity. He fought in Africa and travelled to the east in 1553, where he began writing "Os Lusíadas", an epic about the great history of Portugal with special focus on the Discoveries.

Fernão de Magalhães

Despite his death along the way, in 1521, in combat in the Philippines, he is credited as the first person in history to make a round trip of circumnavigation (1519-1522) around the globe. Spaniard Juan Sebastián Elcano completed the expedition.

Afonso de Albuquerque

In his first visit to the east, in 1503, Afonso de Albuquerque realized that there was need to hold the Portuguese position in the Indian Ocean. As governor of India then, he conquered several strategic points by military means, he promoted miscegenation and, on socio-political, he tried to close all naval accesses to that ocean, reducing the Ottoman, Arabs and Hindus influences.

Fernão Mendes Pinto

He was part of one of the first Portuguese expeditions that sought to reach Japan, in the 1540s, which introduced firearms in that country. His work "Peregrinação," which talks about his life experiences, was published posthumously in 1614. It is one of the most famous titles of Portuguese travel literature.

Jorge Álvares

It was the first European explorer to reach China in 1513, to the modern city of Hong Kong. He raised the first Portuguese “Padrão” in that country, and he built there a profitable trading system between the current Malaysia and China.

Pêro de Alenquer

Perhaps the best navigator of his time, and he was even chosen by the king to navigate the caravel commanded by Bartolomeu Dias which sailed around the Cape of Good Hope in 1488. As Nicolau Coelho, he also took part in the Vasco da Gama´s expedition to India as main navigator of São Gabriel vessel.

João Gonçalves Zarco

Along with Tristão Vaz Teixeira, he was captain of the island of Madeira, in the area of ​​Funchal, after an initial reconnaissance trip in 1425. He was one of the Portuguese navigators who occupied the desert lands in the middle of the Atlantic and there signed the influence of the country.

Diogo de Silves

Portuguese navigator who have discovered the islands of São Miguel and Santa Maria in the Azores for the first time in 1427 and then the five islands of the central group of the archipelago. A few years later, Infante D. Henrique sent the explorer Gonçalo Velho on a journey to find the islands sighted by Diogo de Silves.

Fernando, Infante Santo

So called because he died in captivity in order to avoid the loss of sovereignty of the Portuguese kingdom over Ceuta. In 1437, the Infante Santo accompanied his older brother, Infante D. Henrique, in a military expedition to North Africa that came out failed. The Portuguese surrendered and let him in Fez as a bargaining chip, while Ceuta did not return to the Moorish rule.

Martim Afonso de Sousa

He was largely responsible for the defence of the Brazilian coast and the colonization of its coastline since 1530. He left three years later to India, as Captain General of those seas, and was responsible for several important military conquests to Portugal's relations with the East.

João de Barros

Educated at the height of the Discoveries, it was one of the greatest historians of the country and one of the major responsible for the grammar definition of the Portuguese language at the time, around 1540, with several works published on the subject. He held several positions of overseas management, both in India and in Brazil.

Pêro de Escobar

While he was a navigator under the command of Nicolau Coelho, he returned the ship Bérrio to Lisbon in 1499 to give the good news to the kingdom about the discovery of India and took part in the discovery of Brazil by Pedro Álvares Cabral. Before, he had been serving Fernão Gomes on his expeditions on the West African coast.

Diogo Dias

An experienced navigator, brother of Bartolomeu Dias, accompanied him on the journey when they sailed around the Cape of Good Hope in 1488, eventually separating from the expedition and discovering the current island of Madagascar. He commanded also, as Nicolau Coelho, one of Pedro Álvares Cabral's ships which arrived in Brazil in 1500.

Fernão Gomes

Also called Fernão Gomes da Mina, due to the alluvial gold collection that carried out in the current Ghanaian town of Elmina from 1471. He was one of the biggest traders and Portuguese explorers of the West African coast. A great man of wealth, he sponsored several captains and renowned Portuguese navigators in his expeditions in Africa.

Pêro Vaz de Caminha

He was the clerk of the fleet of 13 ships of Pedro Álvares Cabral who discovered Brazil and also the author of "Letter to the King D. Manuel," where he wrote to the monarch all his first impressions about this overseas region. The letter of Pedro Vaz de Caminha, dated 1500 also mentions the Berrio's crew of Nicolau Coelho and other expedition personalities, is the first written document of the history of Brazil.

Henrique de Coimbra

Friar and Portuguese bishop who served as a missionary in Africa, India and Brazil, and even celebrated the first mass of that future country in 1500, the same year when he had arrived there with the Portuguese navigators.

Tristão da Cunha

Explorer and Portuguese commander, he was the first viceroy and governor of Portuguese India. He discovered several islands in the Atlantic Ocean, in which he collected the exotic specimens with which he paraded in 1514 in Rome before Pope Leão X. He gives his name to an archipelago in the South Atlantic, now under British rule.


City Governor of Jeddah on the Red Sea, he was one of the major and recurrent opponents of Portugal in the struggle for the hegemony in the Indian Ocean throughout century XVI.


One of the most distinguished warriors of the Discoveries, he served the Sultan of Gujarat, who made a living from trade in the Red Sea and Egypt. Feeling threatened by the Portuguese, he did everything to drive them away from the territory. However, at the end of the Battle of Chaul in 1508, he saved and freed about 20 Portuguese soldiers who survived.

Lourenço de Almeida

He was called "blond devil" because of his appearance and abilities on the battlefield He fought several times in the east, including in the Battle of Chaul in 1508, where he commanded his men to death. It was because of this event that his father, Francisco de Almeida, decided to take revenge on the Diu Battle in 1509.

Sagres Fortress

Infante D. Henrique rebuilt the village of Sagres, from 1443, and here erected its fort in order to create a navigators school from where the most capable explorers would leave, to continue the expansion of the Portuguese empire overseas. However, with the change of all procedures to Lisbon, the region ended up losing some strength.

Church of Santa Maria de África

According to the myth, the figure in this church was found in the field after the Portuguese conquest of Ceuta in 1415, and the church itself was erected to host this figure.

Wall and Castle of Arzila

Among the Portuguese heritage, which is still possible to identify nowadays in the city of Arzila, we highlight the bastions and towers built from 1508 in the former stronghold, specially the "Couraça" which was important in loading and unloading and the imposing donjon.

Real Fort of São Filipe

It was built in 1590, 120 meters above sea level, and this fort was the first fortification of Cape Verde, essential in the fight against pirates and privateers. In the same “Cidade Velha” ("Old Town") was also built in 1495, and following the Manueline architectural style, the oldest colonial church in the world, the Church of Nossa Senhora do Rosário (Our Lady of the Rosary).

Arch of the Viceroys - India

It was built in 1597 by D. Francisco da Gama, the great-grandson of Vasco da Gama, to celebrate the centenary of the arrival of his great-grandfather to India.

Kilwa Fort

It is currently part of the ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara, but it was once one of the most equipped and costly Portuguese forts overseas. For this reason, it had a life as short as a few months it took to be built from 1505.

São Tomé Fort

One of the few examples of Manueline Portuguese fortifications in the Indian which survived until today. Built in 1518, it served to protect and consolidate the newly achieved trade routes that passed through the city of Tangasseri.

São Jorge da Mina Castle

Modelled from the example of Arguim fortification, the trading post of Mina, which included the Castle of São Jorge, was founded in 1482 in an area that allowed Portugal to gather great wealth and consolidate their trade routes in the Gulf of Guinea.

Paliporão Tower

It has a hexagonal shape and it is considered locally the oldest still existing European fortification structure in the country, built in 1503.

Cranganore Fortress

With walls 18 feet thick, the Portuguese built the fortress in 1507 and it lies now in ruins.

Fort of Nossa Senhora da Conceição de Ormuz

It was hard for Afonso de Albuquerque to take Ormuz and Fort of Nossa Senhora da Conceição de Ormuz (Our Lady of the Conception of Ormuz), but once he had conquered that kingdom, in 1515, all other cities and ports in the region have also become tributaries of Portugal.

Al-Jalali Fort

Along with Al-Mirani Fort, these are the "strong twins" which defended the port and the commercial city of Muscat from external naval attacks. They were both built in 1552 from the ruins of an ancient Islamic fortification, with several staircases to mislead the attacker.

Bandra Fort

Armed with seven pieces of artillery to protect the sea-lanes towards the Mumbai port, it was one of many fortifications erected by the Portuguese on the coast of western India. It was built in 1640.

Cacheu Fort

It was created in 1588 by the Portuguese to protect the first trading post founded in the Cacheu region in Guinea-Bissau. It had 16 artillery pieces.

Fort of Nossa Senhora da Piedade de Solor

It was built on an unknown date in response to a first failed attempt by the Portuguese to build a simple wooden shelter to protect themselves from Islamic native attackers, hostile to the Portuguese presence.

Church of Nossa Senhora do Oiteiro

It was built from 1520 by the individual action of a Portuguese nobleman in Malacca, Duarte Coelho Pereira, as an act of gratitude for having managed to escape a storm in the South China Sea.

Fortress of Goréia Island

Erected in 1536, it became, for several centuries and by influence of the Portuguese, one of the largest trading centres of African slaves.

Jesus de Mombasa Fort

One of the most significant examples of Portuguese military architecture on the African coast, it was erected in 1596 to face the attacks of the Ottoman Turks and to protect that factory.

Massangano Fort

It was erected in 1583 and considered an important strategic point of military colonization and ensured the integrity of the Portuguese commercial networks, which included the slave trade to the Americas.


A place where the Moroccan and European architectural influences come together to create something truly unique, evidenced by the walls and bastions built from 1541 which are, today, attraction points in the city of El Jadida.

Fort of Nossa Senhora da Anunciada de Amboíno

After several attempts to build wooden structures to ensure the Portuguese influence on the island of Amboíno, - all failed due to constant Islamist attacks - the Fort of Nossa Senhora da Anunciada (Our Lady of the Annunciation) was finally built in 1576.

Jafanapatão Fortress

It was built in 1558, after the conquest of Jaffna by the Portuguese, in response to appeals from Christians recently converted by St. Francisco Xavier, who were often targets of looting by Muslim traders.

Bahrain Fort

It was enlarged in 1561 on top of a hill 12 meters high, taking advantage of an ancient Arab fortification existing and served as capital for one of the most important civilizations of the region.

Reis Magos Fortress in Goa

After choosing Goa to host the capital of the Viceroyalty of India, for its good defensive characteristics, Afonso de Albuquerque had built the first fortification in that area, taking advantage of an existing Muslim military post. The Fortress of the Magi would be built later, between 1551 and 1554, during the government of Afonso de Noronha.

Safim Stronghold

The Portuguese did not build its basic structure, but it was under the influence of that kingdom that the square has become, over the first half of the century XVI, a real walled fortress, with several elements of Portuguese architecture still easily identifiable.

Santo António de Axim Fort

It was built in 1515 by Portuguese hands, to ensure the factory's kingdom in the current Ghana. The Dutch had considerably expanded it later.

São Jerónimo Small Fort

A small defensive quadrangular structure, São Jerónimo Small Fort was built in 1566 on the seafront, just over a kilometre from São Sebastião Fort, on the island of São Tomé.

São Miguel de Luanda Fortress

This was the first defensive structure built by the Portuguese in Angola, in 1575, with a very irregular shape. It houses, today, the Museu das Forças Armada (Armed Forces Museum).

São Sebastião Fortress

It was built from 1554 by the Portuguese forces to give support to the ships sailing in “Carreira da Índia” (India Carrer). The city where it was built, the Island of Mozambique, was the capital of Portuguese East Africa for more than three centuries.

São Sebastião de Baçaim Fort

You can see the traces of Portuguese architecture in the three chapels still present in the ruins of the fortress, built in 1536.

São Sebastião de Shema Fort

The Portuguese built it in 1546 in the factory of the current Ghana and it played a central role in the so-called Coast of the Portuguese Gold.

São Tiago Fort

It was built from 1555, in a markedly Manueline style and it protected the factory in the area of ​​the Portuguese Gold Coast.

Diu Fortress

It was perhaps one of the most important and well-fortified military structures built in the Portuguese State of India. Its status was up to the importance that the city of Diu had for Portuguese trade routes in the East. It was built within a year, between 1535 and 1536.

Churches and Convents of Goa

Goa, the former capital of the Portuguese “Indias”, is full of not only religious structures with influence of the kingdom of Portugal, but also of the dominant artistic style at the time, from which the Basilica of Bom Jesus, built from 1594, is the best example. It was here that the evangelization of Asia started.

Morro de Chaul Fortress

The conquest of the Morro de Chaul Fortress by the Portuguese in 1594, opposed 1500 soldiers and 1,500 natives against the sultanate troops, who tried to use two dead animals on the fort front and rear doors as a defense strategy: an elephant and a horse, respectively.

Port of Lagos


It was the place where it all began. It was from here, coming from Lisbon, the ships that brought the Portuguese army and its allies to Ceuta in 1415 left, in order to conquer the city.After the first Portuguese colony in Africa had been established, it was possible to plan the entire maritime expansion path that would happen.

Padrão dos Descobrimentos


A relatively recent monument, but which has a very ancient history. The current version of Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries), near the River Tejo, was inaugurated in 1960 to honour the ones who were leading figures in the Portuguese Discoveries, which include the eminent commander Nicolau Coelho and Infante D. Henrique. At the front, on the tip of the monument, shaped as a caravel, Infante D. Henrique. On the floor, a few meters away, there is a wind rose with 50 meters in diameter.

National Museum of Ancient Art


Here is the place where can find the Six Panels of São Vicente de Fora, supposedly painted in oil by THE Portuguese artist Nuno Gonçalves and which illustrate some of the main figures of the era of the Discoveries, the Portuguese society of the time and other personalities yet to assess.

Belém Tower


It was erected in 1519, during the reign of King Manuel I – belonging to the Manueline style - and it is one of the national symbols of the prosperity of the country during the Discoveries. Initially it was completely surrounded by water, until it had a beach.

Hermitage of Restelo


It was already in an advanced state of degradation when Vasco da Gama and his fleet spent the night there praying, before leaving for the east in 1497.

Jerónimos Monastery


One of the greatest examples of Manueline architecture, it took a hundred years to be built, starting in 1501. Is directly related to the time of the Discoveries and it is still today one of the main symbols of the Portuguese nation.

Fort of São Julião da Barra


The largest maritime fortification in Portugal, it was built in 1553 to control the movement of vessels on the river Tejo and the ships on the port of Lisbon.

House of Spikes


Brás de Albuquerque, the son of the great military strategist and second governor of India, Afonso de Albuquerque, commissioned its construction in 1523. It has strong traces of the Manueline architectural style.

Orient Museum


The East is the main theme of this museum, located since 2008 in the building Pedro Álvares Cabral. Fundação Oriente manages it and it has historical, religious and artistic collections, related to the Portuguese presence in Asia in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Church Nossa Senhora da Assunção


Instituted in 1421, on the old main mosque, it has became deteriorated over the years, despite the city bishop's requests for its reconstruction, which considered old-fashioned and in too bad consition compared to the rest of the city.

Graça Church


Church of Santarém where Pedro Álvares Cabral is buried, who, along with Nicolau Coelho and other experienced navigators, arrived in Brazil in 1500. Its construction started in 1380 and it is one of the most remarkable examples of Gothic art in Portugal.

Sines Castle


Built in 1970, after several decades of claim by the people of Sines, the statue of Vasco da Gama in the Sines Castle, intends to be a tribute to the navigator born in the city and first man to conduct a sea voyage to India.