Fátima is one of the most popular destinations in the world for Catholic pilgrims. The story of the three young shepherds that witnessed the apparition of the Virgin Mary in 1917 gives hope to many people in search of miracles. Thousands of pilgrims attend the shrines that have been built in the places where the apparitions are said to have taken place.
The site of the first apparition has a large cathedral. The field in front of the cathedral is larger than St. Peter's square in the Vatican. Thousands of pilgrims come to Fátima on the anniversaries of the dates when the apparitions occurred.
In addition to the cathedral, there is a small chapel in the large field which is used when the crowds are too large to fit in the church.
Many pilgrims like visit the house where Lucia lived and retrace the path from her house to the sites where the apparitions took place. The garden of Lucia's house has several large fig trees and other fruit trees.
Adjacent to Lucia's house is the Aljustrel House Museum which allows access to the manger and workshop where grapes and oil were processed as part of the rural life style. Tools used for maintaining a farm in the early 20th century are displayed in the museum.
The house where Francisco and Jacinta lived is half a block away from Lucia's house. The house has rustic furniture which was typical for that time. The neighborhood has several shops that sell Fatima-themed souvenirs such as religious statues, embroidered napkins, rosaries and candles.
A looping trail with the stations of the cross has been built close to the site of another apparition close to Lucia's house. Pilgrims walk along the trail reciting prayers. Here, I met an Irish woman on an electric scooter who had visited Fatima eight times.
The trail meanders in an orchard with olive trees whose trunks are covered with moss because the air is always moist.
The town of Tomar is approximately 30 kilometers (19 miles) from Fatima. It is the site of the Convent of Christ and an adjoining Templar castle. The convent and the castle were classified as a World Heritage monument by UNESCO in 1983. It is worthwhile taking a detour from Fatima to visit this magnificent medieval structure built in the 12th century.