Pilgrim’s Guide To Portugal. How To Travel To Fatima. Part 2
Sanctuary of Fatima is open all year round: Masses are celebrated and Rosary is prayed several times daily; confessions are heard in multiple languages almost all day, every day; candlelight processions are held each evening from Easter to Advent and once a week (on Saturdays) and on the 12th of each month from Advent to Lent.
Most pilgrims come to Fatima from May to September and there are significantly less visitors from October to April. When I was in Fatima in January, there were some evenings that I was praying in the Apparitions Chapel alone which would be impossible during the summer months. The most crowded days of the year (and with the most beautiful celebrations) are May 12-13 (First Apparition) and October 12-13 (Last Apparition).
The weather can get very hot (up to 90 F or even higher) but usually with low humidity during the summer. Winter day temperatures are in the mid 50s to mid 60s F with a lot of rainy and foggy days (but some winter days can also be quite warm and sunny).
April and October are probably the best months of the year to visit Fatima as hotel costs are usually lower (except around October 12-13), days are sunny with the temperatures in the 70s, and crowds of people are not as big as they are from May to September.
- Where To Stay In Fatima
Although Fatima is a small town it has about 50 hotels where you can stay while visiting it. Most of the hotels are located within 5-15 minutes walking distance from the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary and the Apparitions Chapel. The cost of a 3 star hotel room varies on average from $50 to $85 May to August. The rates start dropping in September and reach $35-65 per night from November to April. An additional discount can be applied at some hotels if you stay 3 nights, a week or longer, especially during the off-peak months. The hotel rates are usually the highest (a few hundreds of dollars per night or even more) on and around May 12-13 and October 12-13 as tens or even hundreds of thousands of people come to Fatima on those days.
You can book Fatima hotels on all major hotel booking websites but my favorite ones are booking.com and hotels.com as they seem to have more hotels in Fatima available than other websites. I have stayed at four different hotels in Fatima during my visits and my favorite ones were Cristo Rei and Domus Pacis. Both hotels were comfortable, rates reasonable, staff very polite, and breakfast wonderful.
I have noticed that sometimes (especially during winter months when number of pilgrims is lower) some hotels admit large groups of tourists who stay in Fatima only at night and during day are traveling by bus in other parts of Portugal. These groups tend to be rather loud at night which can cause difficulties with sleeping and make your pilgrimage not as peaceful as you might have expected. My advice would be to book your stay at a smaller hotel and at the one that has room floors covered with carpets so that noise coming from the rooms below and above your room could be reduced (you can usually see hotel floors in pictures on booking websites). While reading hotel descriptions, sometimes you can see that certain hotels have sound-proof walls which can make your stay less noisy, too. You could also email hotel and ask whether they have a big tourist group staying at the hotel during your travel dates and if so choose another hotel.
- Where To Eat and Shop In Fatima
Most Fatima hotels offer breakfast for their guests either included in the room rate or for an additional charge. Only few Fatima hotels offer half or full board for their guests so even if you have breakfast at your hotel you will most likely need to eat your lunch and supper at restaurants or buy the food at supermarkets.
There are dozens of restaurants in Fatima, most of them located within a walking distance of the Sanctuary area. The average cost of lunch or supper is around $10-15. Most restaurants have traditional Portuguese dishes on their menu. You can check reviews of Fatima restaurants and choose the one that you will visit here.
If you want to save money, you can buy your food at supermarkets. The closest one to the Basilica is Pingo Doce supermarket, on Dom José Alves Correia da Silva Avenue, a few minutes’ walk from the bus station (after leaving the station, cross the street in front of you and turn left, then walk for a few minutes and on your right you will see Pingo Doce sign). You can also ask people on the street where “Pingo Doce” or “supermarket” is and they will show it to you. This supermarket sells fruits, vegetables, bread, cheese, prepared and raw meats, milk, juice, wine, yogurt, cookies, tea, coffee and many other things. Food in Portugal is usually cheaper than in the US or some other Western European countries.