I Saw the Mouth of Hell
And I was fascinated by it…
Imagine you’re on a boat near Cascais, Portugal and you lose engine power…and slowly drift straight towards The Mouth of Hell. That was the thought that came to me as I looked over the wall and shot this video. As the waters rushed into the arch, I could feel the power of the sea even though I was at a safe vantage point. It was exhilarating and frightening all at the same time to observe this strength, and I was fascinated by it. But then, I’ve always had a connection to the forces of the sea, while also having a healthy respect for it (thanks to my dad).
Respecting the water
Spending my summers as a kid on Gaspee Point on the Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island, my father was diligent about teaching his children to ‘respect the water.’ The Bay could be smooth as glass and in no time, change to an angry combination of wind and high waves. It could be exhilarating to watch, but inexperienced boaters or swimmers who lacked respect for the water could easily get caught in sudden tidal changes and then would have to make a last-minute beeline towards the shore.
The Mouth of Hell
Boca do Inferno (the Mouth of Hell) is a mesmerizing place! This maritime attraction is located along the coast on the western edge of Cascais. Although still a fishing community, much of Cascais’ village charm has been replaced by hotels, restaurants, cafes, and fashionable shops. In the summer, the city is overcome with tourists from all over the world who are attracted to the weather, the beaches, the natural attractions, and the vibe.
The Mouth of Hell is what remains of an ancient cave that protrudes out towards the raw Atlantic Ocean in the form of an arch. When the ocean is calm, the strong waves move lazily through. But when the ocean is angry (or even just a little agitated), the tidal waves become oversized and crash up, into and through this space. You wouldn’t survive if you got caught up in it. In fact, as morbid as this sounds, this is a popular place if one is contemplating suicide (or faking one).
The famous fake suicide
In 1930, Aleister Crowley, English occultist and magician, came to Portugal to meet the then-famous poet, Fernando Pessoa. With Pessoa’s assistance, Crowley went to Boca do Inferno and faked his suicide. Pessoa then gave Crowley’s ‘suicide note’ to the media and the police. Three weeks later, Crowley appeared in Berlin suggesting that the faked suicide was nothing more than an elaborate publicity stunt.
Although this was a fake suicide, in reality, people do perish at this location – whether by accident or not. Fishermen sometimes fishing off the unstable cliffs have fallen to their deaths. Tourists who do not stay on the marked trails and observation points, have also had a similar fate (no award-winning picture or selfie is worth the risk). Heed my father’s words and always respect the water.
Famous silent movie
In addition to being famous for a publicity stunt, in 1896, Boca do Inferno was also made famous by a brief silent film directed by Henry Short entitled, A Sea Cave Near Lisbon. This 13-second film was shot using a portable lightweight camera that had been recently developed by R.W. Paul. Called an actuality film, the movie was shot looking out towards the entrance of the cave – fairly close to where I stood over 100 years later.
How to visit Boca do Inferno
From the Cascais Marina, it is a mostly flat, easy walk which may take about 20-30 minutes. Along the walk there are spectacular ocean views. Hotels and homes line the opposite side of the road. There are also bicycle and pedestrian paths along this route. It’s also easily reachable by car with parking available at the site. You’ll also find a variety of small shops selling souvenirs, food, and gift items (most take cash only) as well as a couple of restaurants. There are public restrooms (marked WC) next to the parking lot.
The main observation area is where the shops are located. But along the way, there are other observation points as well as short paths that can be followed (watch your footing as there can be protruding rocks and roots).
During the summer months, the seas are relatively calm and tranquil, but the waves and the tides can still be strong and powerful, so if you’re visiting Cascais in the summer, be sure to exercise caution. In the winter months (when we visited and when this video was taken), waves can be extremely powerful, and it is not unusual to see waves crashing over the cliffs or even onto some of the observation areas. You can get wet from the spray, and it can be slippery.
Location: Av. Rei Humberto II de Itália 642, 2750 Cascais, Portugal
This attraction is free.
Boca do Inferno website: https://www.visitcascais.com/pt/resource/boca-do-inferno
Until next time…