Algarve Towns · Albufeira · Almancil · Alvor · Armação de Pera · Carvoeiro · Faro · Lagoa · Lagos · Loulé · Monchique · Olhão · Portimão · Quarteira · Quinta do Lago · Sagres · Silves · Tavira · Vale do Lobo ·Vilamoura ·Vila Real de Santo António
Albufeira - History
In history Albufeira was a thriving seaport and had its own castle, that was later destroyed in the earthquake of 1755. Happily, most of the older parts of the town that survived and have been carefully maintained. In Roman times it was know as Baltum and later changed by the Moors to Al-Buhera. During the Moors 8th Century occupation the town became an important trading port. In 1532 and in 1755 the town was badly hit by earthquakes, and in the latter, 227 unlucky people perished when the roof of the town church collapsed. During the "War of the Miguels" the town was besieged and set ablaze. The destroyed town consequently suffered a very long period of poverty and really only recovered with the boom of tourism in the later half of the 20th Century.
Albufeira - Description
As a result of the tide of tourism, this "once upon a time" fishing village has expanded since the 1960s into a major holiday resort and now has over 15,000 permanent residents. As the sun sets the centre of the town changes its character. A plentiful collection of bars, restaurants and clubs start to fill-up with people, until they spill over into the narrow streets. A fine selection of good beaches extend east and west from the town. Praia de Balaia, Praia de Castelo, Praia de Falésia, Praia de Galé, de Olhos d’Agua, Praia de Maria Luisa, and Praia de São Rafael, being the principal ones.
There is a small museum of 15th and 17th century Ming ceramics and a Municipal art gallery that holds regular exhibitions during the season. A further addition to the town is a new Virtual Archaeological Museum. A new Marina has been completed on the west side of the town and offers a different and attractive aspect.
Albufeira - Nearby Locations
Other places of interest near to Albufeira are, Armação de Pera, Boliqueime, Guia and Paderne with its ruined castle perched on an isolated hill some distance from the village. This castle was liberated from Moor occupation in 1248 by Dom Paulo Peres Correia. At Ponte Grande there are impressive caverns with large arches, and also the underwater caverns of Grutas do Xorino.
Introduction to Almancil
This town has become an important centre for providing supporting services to feed the needs of two nearby stylish well-established holiday and residential developments; Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo. In keeping with the needs of the area there are a good selection of restaurants offering many different forms of cuisine. Also, as to be expected there are many real estate offices, interior decorators and furnishing shops. Close by to the east of Almancil is a small village named São Lourenço. The church here is well worth a visit as it is covered inside with beautiful 18th Century ceramic tiles and is an outstanding example in the Algarve. In the street leading up to the church you will find the São Lourenço Cultural Centre which is open to the public. This Centre has been established for many years and mounts regular art exhibitions and classical music events
Alvor - History
It is believed the Carthaginians founded Alvor and its history is interesting. It is said by some that it was really the site of "Portus Hannibalis". The Romans gave it the name Ipses and it was considered an important port and was allowed to issue its own money. Its importance is confirmed by the ruins of a wealthy Roman villa located slightly inland from the present village. In the time of the Moors, who first occupied the area in 716, they gave it the named of "Albur" and the village passed through both the Portuguese and Moors hands several times until 1250 when the Christians conquered it for the final time. King Dom João II, who is regarded in history as an outstanding Portuguese king, is recorded as dying in within the town walls from a prolonged illness in 1495. Most of the original village and its castle was destroyed in the earthquakes of 1532 and 1755.
Alvor - Description
Although this ancient coastal village is now a very popular holiday location the enclosed narrow streets have kept development to a minimum. Many of these streets now boast bars with live music and different types of restaurants, however leading off from these there are still memories of the older fishing village. In the area are a number of holiday resorts from which the tourists enjoy visiting it and its attractions. The village is well located facing a natural lagoon opening onto the sea. There is a choice of a long open sandy beach or a number of small coves tucked under the cliffs. The originally 16th Century Parish Church was rebuilt after the earthquake of 1755 and still has a prime example in its main doorway of the great craftsmanship of the Manueline era of architecture. It was the only building that more or less survived from the earthquake.
Alvor- Nearby Locations
Places near to Alvor are the commercial town of Portimão, the famous popular beaches of Praia da Rocha and Praia da Vau, and the semi-nature reserve of Quinta da Rocha
Armação de Pera - History
Not very long ago this town was nothing more than a collection of small shacks where the local residents from the nearby village of Pera used to maintain their fishing boats. It is quite probable that the name "Armação" is a link with the distant past of the great Tuna fishing industry that existed along the Algarve from the 15th Century and before. This later fell under the protection of a small 18th Century fort that still remains in part to this day.
Armação de Pera - Description
Nowadays, the town is mainly composed of blocks of holiday apartments of which present bars and restaurants on the ground floor. In the three summer months the town overflows with tourists but outside the top of the season it offers a wonderful peaceful holiday location. Meanwhile, the nearby rural village of Pera remains as a reminder of the un-spoilt typical sleepy Algarve. Boasting one of the finest longest sandy beaches in the Algarve this is a popular location for tourists. On the beach close to the eastern side of the town are a number of fish restaurants that pride themselves on serving fresh fish. The spread of building from Armação de Pera has been mainly to the west with the creation of several holiday apartment complexes above the very charming beaches of Senhora da Rocha.
Armação de Pera - Nearby Locations
Places near to Armação de Pera are the market towns of Algoz, Alcantarilha, Porches and the inland historic and attractive city of Silves with its magnificent walls and castle
Introduction to Carvoeiro
This was a very small intimate fishing village that has lost any resemblance to its modest origins. In 1965 a foreign resident wrote about the place - “the mode of living remains essentially medieval”. Then there came the tourists and the money. Today, the village spreads to the east and west with expensive villas and comfortable holiday apartments. The one and only village street has now become three, each lined with bars, smart restaurants and tourist shops. Happily, there are still examples of the older quaint small houses tucked in between the more recent ones. A 36-Hole Golf and Holiday Complex can be found to the west of the village together with a well run Tennis Centre. To the east and on the outskirts is a further 9-Hole Course. A couple of Lawn Bowling Clubs add to the choice of sport. The area has long been considered a excellent area for tourist to acquire property and also due to the variety and pleasure provided its many small beaches. High cliffs surround most of these, and some of which have eroded to create beckoning dark caves most of which are only accessible at low tide. Beaches to visit are Praia de Centianes, Praia de Carvalho, Praia de Benagil, Praia de Marinha and Praia da Albandeira. (Visit - Portugal History)
Carvoeiro - Nearby Locations
To the west and near to Carvoeiro is the village of Ferragudo, which still remains as a virtually un-spoilt small fishing village. Lagoa, the nearby area administrative town is also close to the birth place of the 11th Century renown Arab poet "Ibn Ammar". Inland is the typical inland small village of Porches. Another place that is a must to be visited is the inland historic and interesting city of Silves with its remains of its castle as a reminder of its greater past.
Faro - History
Faro is the administrative centre for the whole of the Algarve region with a population in excess of 55.000 people. The city has both Arab and Roman ruins but most of the present attractive older buildings were constructed after the disastrous earthquake of both 1755 and 1532. The Moors who occupied the town in the 8th Century originally gave the city it the name of Ossónoba and developed it into a trading port until 1249. They were then defeated by the forces of Dom Afonso III. With the decline of the importance of the city of Silves this town took over the role of administration of the Algarve area. The Earl of Essex sacked the town in 1596 with his fellow crusaders on their journey to the Holy Land and the collection of books taken from the palace of the Bishop of Faro became an important part of the Bodleian Library in Oxford, England. Another interesting point is that during the 500 years of Moorish occupation there were some Jewish inhabitants in Faro who were kept busy printing copies of the Old Testament. (Visit - Portugal History)
Faro - Description
Particularly attractive is the old part of the city surrounded still by the Roman walls which date back to the 9th. Inside a spacious open square that was once the site of the Roman Forum is a 13th Century Cathedral that faces the 18th Century Episcopal palace. An interesting building is the neighbouring 16th Century Convent that is now turned into the home of the city’s archaeological museum. Within it is a section devoted to the Arab occupation. The "golden" church of Nossa Senhora do Carmo is claimed to be the best example of gold-leaf woodwork in southern Portugal. It also contains the macabre spectacle of a chapel lined with the bones from over 1.200 monks! Next to the small boat basin bordering the Praça de Dom Francisco Gomes is a small Naval Museum composed of scale model boats and galleons showing the maritime history of the coast. There is also the Faro Jewish Heritage Centre which consists of a cemetery and a small museum. Much of the city is now composed of apartments and there are attractive shops and a particularly artistic theatre. Faro is also the home of the Ria Formosa lagoon, a nature reserve of over 17.000 hectares and a stopping place for hundreds of different birds during the spring and autumn migratory periods.
The beach is almost 7 Kms distant from the city and is a long sandy spit reached by crossing a bridge not far from the International Airport. The municipal council has an active cultural department organizing different and various events during the year.
Faro - Nearby Locations
Near to Faro is the small town of Almancil where nearby can be found the church of São Lourenço de Matos renown for its 18th Century blue tiles.
To the north of Faro at the inland village of Estói there are some notable roman ruins of Milreu depicting a 3rd Century Roman home that enjoyed more comforts than some of the newly built villas in today’s world. The Parish Church was built in the 16th century on the site of a previous chapel. Here, may be found the Manor House know as "Palácio de Estoi" which is due to be converted into a Pousada. Further to the north of this village is the town of Santa Barbára de Nexe with a bronze age hilltop fort nearby.
The well-known developments of Quinta do Lago and Vale de Lobo, both five star holiday areas are located west of Faro. Together they provide 7 top quality golf courses, tennis centres, riding schools, hotels, holiday resorts and villas
Lagoa - History
Somewhere between 1242 and 1246 the Moors took possession of this then small-fortified hamlet and placed it under the control of nearby Silves. The location was later formally declared a town only to be severely destroyed by the earthquake of 1755. It was in this town in 1797 that the notorious bandit José Joaquim Sousa Reis known as Remexido was born. Commanding a fierce band of followers his acts are recoded as being a mixture of good and bad legends. Most of the Algarve and also to the north in the neighbouring Alentejo district suffered by his band of brigands. He died before a firing squad in Faro in 1838. The town of Lagoa has since grown as an administrative town for the area that lived off in the past its abundant agricultural produce. (Visit - Portugal History)
Lagoa - Description
Within the town are a number of long buildings with double doors that open into courtyards, off which more than just a large storeroom can be found as it will often be the home of some rich landowner. The produce was dependent on the time of year and could be from carob beans to topsoil vegetable products. On the outskirts of the town used to be an active co-operative for the owners of vineyards that are still produce a small quantity of full bodied red wine. This reduction has been seriously effected by the demise of vineyards over recent years as their owners have found a new "pot of gold" by selling their land as building plots.
The parish church was inaugurated in 1814 but there is the older church, the Igreja de Misericórdia that dates from the middle of the 18th Century. Another building of interest is the Convento do São José which was built in 1713 and survived the earthquake of 1755. It is now used by the local Council as a location for art exhibitions and has a small theatre for cultural events. Inside is a turn-box door which was in previous times used for passing unwanted babies to the nuns. The mother would place the baby and any small possessions on a shelf in the box and communicate through a small aperture with the nun on the other side. The revolving door delivered the baby to the nuns without the mother having to disclose her identity.
In August of every year an important commercial and rural produce Fair named Fatacil is held in the town, exhibiting products from all over Portugal. The occasion provides an excuse for enjoyment and national bands and singers entertain the visitors late into the night.
Lagoa - Nearby Locations
The nearby town of Estombar has a history dating further back to when the Moors occupied the Algarve. It was the home of the famous 11th Century Arab poet “Ibn Ammar”. Many local legends exist and there are reputed to be subterranean passages from near this town going inland for about 12 Kms. to the ancient Moorish capital of Silves. Near to Estombar is an area named Sítio de Fontes that has for centuries been a popular swimming spot due to two freshwater springs that provide a small lagoon prior to joining the Rio Arade. The authorities have now created at this attractive area an open space for performing plays and general picnicking.
To the south of the Lagoa is the once small fishing village of Carvoeiro that today is an area of expensive villas, comfortable holiday apartments and golf courses. To the east is the small and attractive village of Porches that dates back to the Roman period. Unfortunately, the earthquake of 1755 destroyed its ancient castle and also the original parish church that is believed to date to the 16th Century.
To the west of Lagoa on the edge of the river, Rio Arade, opposite the town of Portimão is the small town of Ferragudo. Romantically said to have once been the home of local pirates this place has retained much of its Portuguese flavour, and as yet, it has not been too influenced by tourism. During the summer on weekend evenings the main square is filled with the sound of music and laughter as the locals and tourists dance the night away.
Lagos - History
The Romans gave the name of “Lacobriga” to the town but its natural river port would indicate very much earlier occupation. The Moors then gave the town the name of "Zawaia" It was captured from the Moors in 1189 but it was not until 1249 that it was finally conquered by Dom Afonso III and integrated into the kingdom of Portugal with the name of "Lagus". This historic town has played an important part in the story of discovery of many parts of the world. It was from the harbour that Vasco da Gama sailed in 1499 on his historic and epic voyage of discovery. Lagos was the capital of the Algarve from 1578 until 1756 and there remain several ancient buildings to testify to its historic glory. From its Port maritime expeditions were embarked upon to discover the world at the orders of Prince Henry the Navigator. Also, the Armada of 800 vessels led by the ill-fated heir to the throne Dom Sebastião embarked from Lagos in 1578 to capture the town of Ceuta in Morocco.
It is written that the very first time the famous explorer Columbus from Genoa set foot in the Iberian Peninsular, was when the inhabitants of Lagos saved him and other sailors from the shipwreck of a vessel in which he was sailing. Another interesting fact is that Francis Drake in 1587 failed in his attempt to raid Lagos and then sailed on to Sagres to sack the occasional historic home of Henry the Navigator". (Visit - Portugal History)
Lagos - Description
Essentially now an important tourist town there are still many architectural signs of its ancient past, even a building dating originally back to around 1445 which is recorded as being Europe’s first building used as a slave market. The walls of the town in the most part remain after sections were restored. Attached to the famous 17th Century "gold" church of Santo António there is a small museum of regional items, some of which are quite odd!
There are several interesting statues erected to the famous figures of the past that are associated with the history of this town. None more controversial that the sculpture of Dom Sebastião standing in the main square in front of the Town Hall. A more recent statue commemorates the Algarve’s only Saint, São Gonçalo de Lagos, who was born in 1360 and died in 1422 in Torres Vedras. Pope Pio VI raised him to Sainthood in 1778. The town’s more recently constructed Marina presents a lovely picture and this harbour is practically the first sight a visitor has of Lagos. Besides the boats that find it convenient as a permanent mooring it is usually full of yachts passing on the way or returning from the Mediterranean and the Americas. At the entrance to the harbour is the "Forte da Bandeira" which was constructed in the 17th Century.
The municipal council has constructed near to the centre of the town there is a reasonably modern Cultural Centre in which various exhibitions and culturally related events are held during the year. In the Marina visitors will find different boat tours, yacht hire, and deep sea-fishing outings that can be booked.
Lagos - Nearby Locations
To the east and across the river from Lagos is Meia Praia, a very long sandy beach sheltered to the north by a gentle slope dotted with comfortable villas. To the west of Lagos the once upon a time fishing village of Praia da Luz is now devoted to the quieter side of the tourist trade and is the home of many residents from the colder northern climates. Further to the west is a another small fishermen's beach village of Burgau. Moving even further west is the coastal village of Salema. Here will be found some small Roman ruins proving the existence of its past importance.
The furthest west town is Vila do Bispo and is a very small administrative town for the Sagres area, the later being the most south-west corner of Europe! This area is a must for every visitor to the Algarve as it presents a very impressive and dramatic sight of towering sheer cliffs being beaten by the weight of the vast Atlantic Ocean. It is from here that Prince Henry sat and planned the several epic voyages of discovery that enlarged the known world of that time. Cape Santo Vicente is the name given to this promontory as it was here that fable has it that the Saint supposedly landed and decided to reside here for a period.
To the north of Lagos on the road to Lisbon is the small town country town of Aljezur with some fine nearby west coast beaches. Originally a hamlet, the Moors constructed a castle in the 10th Century whose ruin still stands today overlooking this town.
Loulé - History
This place is a rural administrative and active market town with some remains of a castle dating back to the 12th Century. The Arab castle has been virtually destroyed leaving some walls still standing that are now surrounded by modern buildings. Like most other towns in the Algarve, most of the older potentially interesting buildings have been destroyed in the earthquake that occurred in 1755.
Loulé - Description
Within the remaining walls is a museum with an explanation of what was in the past the grandeur of the castle. The various earthquakes that it has suffered through its history have damaged the 13th Century Church of São Clemente. However, its Gothic arches and side chapels that are from the 16th Century have survived. The town Loulé consisting of some 20,000 residents is mainly concerned in producing souvenir products made out of copperware, leather, cane and wood, or, servicing the tourist industry. The weekly Fair attracts tourists from all along the Algarve. Due to the demands of the tourism this town has blossomed in size. An important event is the annual Carnival held in February that is considered to be one of the best in Portugal. In the town there is a Museum that is devoted to the local industry of dried fruits and it is interesting to see how these products are prepared for the public. To the west of the town is a hilltop Church that is built on the site of a 16th Century chapel. This is the destination of an annual religious procession that requires some physical effort on the part of the bearers of the church's religious shrines.
Loulé - Nearby Locations
Near to Loulé is Almancil a small town that acts also as a supplier of services to the prosperous holiday areas just south on the coast. Further inland is the small village of Alte, a village that is known for its un-spoilt rural architecture and its enthusiasm for folk music. Another inland village is Paderne that has a romantic 13th Century castle in ruins sitting alone on the crest of a deserted hilltop. The coastal town of Quarteira that was once a fishing village is now converted into a multi-apartment tourist location. Not too far away from Loulé is the village of Querença with its stalactite caves. Also, the village of Salir with ruins of a castle and a nearby two 800 meters long walls from the Neolithic period. The small village of Benafim existing from Arab times and within easy reach of Loulé, still reflects rural life from the early part of the last century.
This area has two added attractions in both the caves at Alto Fica and the rock face of Rocha da Pena. The towns of São Brás de Alportel and Santa Bárbara de Nexe, are both small and also demonstrate the fast disappearing Portuguese atmosphere reflecting the rural social style of life. In São Bras de Alportel there is an interesting museum that houses a permanent collection of rural artefacts and costumes truly reflecting the past manner of living in the Algarve
Monchique - Description
The town of Monchique is with a few exceptions happily little changed by the 20th Century invasion of tourism. It lies in the saddle created by the two high hills, Foia and Picota, the former reaching to 902 metres above sea level. As with “mountain” people the world over the 10,000 inhabitants of this town have retained its rustic atmosphere with steep cobbled streets and small dark doorways housing various artisan trades. There is a very neglected 17th~Century Franciscan monastery which overlooks the town from which a visitor enjoys a panoramic view over the beautiful countryside. The 16th Century Parish Church has excellent examples of Manueline craftsmanship around its doorway. The surrounding area flourishes on the production of cattle, pigs, cork and wood. Another important local product is the popular "medronho", which is the name of a strong schnapps style of drink made from distilling the fruit from arbutus bushes. Foia and its sister mountain of Picota are excellent locations from which to see dramatic views of the coastal plain to the south and to the western Atlantic coast.
Monchique - Nearby Locations
Between Monchique and the town of Portimão is the village of Caldas de Monchique that was developed in Roman times as a Spa. Here a visitor can try the curing elements of the sulphur smelling hot spring water that emerges at a constant temperature of 32ºC. There are two further hot spring sites, one of which is to the south of Picota hidden in a valley. Its name is Fonte Santa and it is rumoured to have special healing properties. Some people make annual visits and in its history some centuries ago it has been recorded as being visited by both the King of Portugal and the King of Italy. The two nearby villages of Alferce and Casais are both typical un-spoilt locations reflecting the spirit of rural mountain life. The village of Marmelete is to the west and located on the road that connects to the many sandy beaches on the western Atlantic coast. The small rural town of Aljezur with its hilltop 12th Century castle and its 14th Century parish church is further west on this same road.
Olhão - History
The town of Olhão is essentially and historically linked to the local fishing industry and only grew into existence as a significant location in the 17th Century. It has about 30,000 inhabitants and was raised to the status of a town as a result of their actions in 1808. On the 16th of June when they revolted against the French occupying army. Then 17 local fishermen successfully crossed the Atlantic Ocean without charts in their small fishing boat “Bom Sucesso”. The vessel was 18 metres in length and had two sails and the journey took two and half months. Their successful purpose was to announce to the exiled Prince regent, Dom Pedro, that the French invading armies had been defeated in the Algarve and had retreated northwards leaving the Algarve free for their him to return to Portugal. After his return in November of the same year the village was raised to the status of a town in reward for the valiant trip taken by the fishermen. It was in this town in 1882 that the first canning factory for tuna and sardines was established. Very soon canning factories spread along the coast and it was to become the leading industry for many years in the Algarve.
Olhão - Description
The town lies on the coast reasonably close to Faro and at the end of the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve. Architecturally the town is well known for an older quarter where the flat terraced roofs and straight box-shaped chimneys show a definite Moorish flavour in their style. Another important curiosity to the visitor is the fish market held every day in a long building on the waterfront. Each morning there is a lively atmosphere and the impressively large variety of fish offered by the local catch is displayed to tempt the local housewife.
Olhão - Nearby Locations
Travelling east from Olhão is the small sea village of Fuseta with the ruined remains of a what was once a castle and some older similar architectural style houses. To the north in the countryside is the small village of Moncarapacho with a 16th Century Church with a local museum next door. On the nearby hill named Cerro da Cabeça there is a popular grotto named after the village. From the town of Olhão there is a boat ferry service that takes visitors to the nearby very small islands of Ilha da Culatra and Ilha da Armona. With their un-spoilt andy beaches and virtual lack of construction these islands act as a pleasant contrast to the noise and bustle of the main coast
Portimão - History
It traces its origins back to a small trading port of the Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians. Some historians have indicated that the place was originally the famous Portus Hannibalis named by the famous Carthaginian General, Hannibal Barca. During the following Moorish occupation they renamed the place “Burj Munt”. Located at the mouth of the River Arade it provides a natural harbour and has at times been known in its past as a home for smugglers and pirates. The river also provides the sea access to the up-river ancient city of Silves which was once the capital of the Algarve during the Moorish occupation. At this time the place was named Porcimunt but later in 1504 it was recognized as a town and granted the name “Vila Nova de Portimão” and became part of the possessions of the Castelo Branco family until the 17th Century. Much later it was commonly renamed as Portimão and was extensively developed in the 19th century to become one of the most important centres on the Algarve of the fishing and canning industry until the early 1980s when the recession drove the remaining factories out of business.
Portimão - Description
The town with some 35,000 inhabitants is essentially commercially orientated and was the main shopping town of the whole Algarve during the 1970s and 1980s. The town's church that is the last attractive building surviving in the town dates from 1476 but it under went many alterations as from 1717 onwards. The town council appears to have adopted a policy of demolishing architecturally interesting buildings in favour of modernization. Happily, it also has a very active cultural department and there are always different forms of events happening throughout the year. The Municipal Museum is housed in an old sardine canning factory and here regular exhibitions are held that cover art, history, and general culture, all of a local and national content. A boat Marina was recently opened adjoining Praia da Rocha and this adds the fascinating sight of the many boats at anchor and a further choice of bars and restaurants in which to pass the evening. When approaching the town from the direction of Faro there is a choice of two bridges to cross. The old one runs along past the harbour but we would recommend take the new bridge. It is so well balanced in design that it can be seriously considered among the most pleasing bridges to the eye built in Portugal in the 19th Century. On the river front near the square with the cafés many different boat tours and deep sea-fishing outings can be booked.
Portimão - Nearby Locations
In the Portimão area is Armação de Pera with a small 18th Century fortress and a popular location for tourists with its long sandy beach. The beach village of Alvor is another popular tourist location. Still maintaining its village character with its 16th Century Parish Church its narrow streets teem with life in the tourist season. The village of Carvoeiro is a small charming beach location that is now surrounded by comfortable self-catering villas. The tourist trade happily not yet overpowers the small delightful fishing village of Ferragudo, lying just across the river from Portimão. Slightly inland is Lagoa a small administrative town. Praia da Rocha and Praia de Vau are seriously devoted to offering tourist accommodation with the added attractions of good beaches and active nightlife. The inland city of Silves and its truly interesting historical background is worth a visit. Included in the many true stories are the battles between the Moors, the Crusaders, and the Portuguese. Unfortunately, the city was for the most part destroyed by the earthquake of 1755. The Moorish occupiers considered the city at the turn of the 11th Century as the centre of all true culture in the Iberian Peninsular.
Near to the town of Portimão are several sites of interest such as the Caves of Estombar, the mosaic floor of the Roman villa at Figueira, and at Alcalar the recently well restored burial tombs from the Dolman period (around 3.500 BC). Here, evidence of quite a large settlement of the 4th and 5th millennium BC which is undergoing investigation
Introduction to Quarteira
Another once upon a time small fishing village that has grown since the 1960s into a major tourist location. Tall blocks of holiday apartments now dwarf the older area of the town. As it lies next door to the well-known and popular Vilamoura holiday resort it acts as a dormitory location for the many employees and companies involved in the tourist trade. However, it also enjoys its own loyal tourists who return annually to make use of its long open sandy beach and promenade. A little to the east of the town is Fonte Santa where a natural spring is said to have healing qualities. Reasonably close to Quarteira is the inland town of Almancil that is also a centre for service companies. The administrative town of the area is Loulé.
Introduction to Quinta do Lago
Andre Jordan first visited the recently popular Algarve in 1970 coastline located in the south of Portugal. He quickly appreciated the potential of an unspoiled site of a 550 hectare estate of pine wood terrain located near to the already developed Vale do Lobo Resort. His investment advisers had informed him that the Algarve was about to become a pot of gold!
The large beach lined estate was owned by the Pinto de Magalhães family for more then three centuries. Negotiations for the purchase took about 12 months and Andre Jordan together with a group of international investors combined to successfully acquire the property. An exciting Master Plan was drawn by a team of Portuguese architects and engineers directed by Pedro Vasconcellos and Luis Nobre Guedes. The object was to create a luxury estate offering clients privacy, tranquillity and seclusion, combined with an active social and sporting life and a wide range of leisure and sporting facilities.
With the infrastructure and a shopping centre completed a boom period of sales started from 1973 and buyers were purchasing from all over Europe. The result was that a short time the Quinta do Lago was soon attracting an array of rich and famous names from all walks of life of many nationalities. The military coup on April 25th in 1974 brought this success to an abrupt end. In 1975 the Portuguese State took over and Andre Jordan returned to Brazil. In 1982, still maintaining his believe in Quinta do Lago, he returned to find most things run down and only the 18 hole golf course under the direction of Mário Barruncho had been maintained. By 1985 with his influence and contacts the bank debt of 8 million dollars was transformed into assets of more than 30 million dollars.
In 1987 Jordan sold the owning company Planal to a consortium of British shareholders headed by Roger Abraham and David Thompson. By 1989 Abraham had withdrawn and Thompson appointed Domingos da Silva as Administrator of Planal and its associated companies. In 1998 the ownership of Planal was acquired by its present owners, O'Brian family from Ireland.
Quinta do Lago has some of the most luxurious villas on the coast. The resort has been carefully planned, with individual architecturally designed villas blending neatly into pine trees and the four golf courses. Facilities include a floodlit tennis courts centre, horse riding, water sports and squash. There is the new Quinta Shopping which includes fabulous boutiques offering exclusive designer labels and amazing interior design outlets. In addition there are some appetising international restaurants on the estate providing a choice of cuisines
Sagres - History
To the Romans this location was known as "Promontorium Sacrum - the end of the world where the waters of the ocean boil at sunset". Today, this small town is close to the most south western point of Europe known as Cape St. Vincent. The legend of the martyr Saint Vincent is that his relics were mysteriously transported by ravens from the Holy Land to the Cape and subsequently guarded by them. In 1173 the ravens reputedly then moved the relics to Lisbon where they remain to this day. However, it much more likely that they were moved to Lisbon upon the orders of Dom Afonso Henriques. Several naval engagements took place off the Cape; Admiral Tourville defeated Sir George Rooke in 1693; Admiral Rodney defeated the Spanish in 1780; Admiral Jervis with Nelson defeated the Spanish fleet in 1797. As Sagres is located on the south side of the Cape its natural protection from the western winds and rough seas lent itself to the building by Prince Henry the Navigator (Dom Afonso Henrique), of a fort in which to house his school devoted to navigation and exploration but he lived mainly in nearby Lagos. He is also reputed to have created a shipbuilding yard in the small natural harbour.
From 1419 until 1460 he devoted his time and the revenues of the Order of Christ into this project. Money was spent liberally in building the vessels known as the “Caravela” which was in time to prove so suitable for exploration. In 1427 Diogo da Silva first discovered the Azores Islands. Until 1434 no sailor was known to have sailed further south than the Cape Bojador on the west side of Africa. In this same year, Gil Eanes from Lagos, conquered the Cape but it was not until 1488 that Bartolomeu Dias succeeded in rounding the Cape of Good Hope. A home of the Prince was likely to have been at the nearby Cape St. Vincent close to the ruins of a 16th Century Monastery. Unfortunately, the famous English captain and sometimes pirate, Francis Drake has recorded in his logbook that his men completely sacked this house in 1597.
Sagres - Description
There is very little left from an historical point of view as the only items left from his original building is the small chapel of Nossa Senhora da Graça and reputably the giant pebble wind compass, Rosa dos Ventos. The present walls surrounding the area are the remains of a 17th Century fort. At the nearby Cape St Vincent is an impressive lighthouse that can normally be visited. This lighthouse has provided the guiding beam that safely directs the hundreds of ships that pass the Cape every year from the inevitable destruction that would otherwise occur. The surrounding cliffs present a very dramatic sight with their impressive towering sheer height and at most times being beaten by the strength of the vast Atlantic Ocean.
The local restaurants are renowned for their fish and its variety and freshness and it is common to see the local fishermen wedged in dramatic perches on the cliff face with the thundering sea many scores of feet below. Unfortunately, every year the lives of some of these enthusiastic fishermen are taken, usually by falling. It is interesting to note that the area of Sagres enjoys its own mini-climate. There is very little vegetation, the ground being mainly rock with barely any soil, but in the area to the north of the town 25 different varieties of wild orchids have been found.
Sagres - Nearby Locations
The nearest town is Vila do Bispo that acts as the administrative centre for the area and also houses a few good fish restaurants. In the 8th Century about one kilometre to the southwest of this town was the seat of a religious Order known as the Igreja de Corvo. Founded by Christians from Valencia seeking refuge from the persecution of the Spanish ruler Abderramão I, all visual traces have been removed in the course of time. However, in the immediate vicinity are over 250 “megaliths” and other signs of ancient civilization dating back thousands of years.
The area was recorded by the Moors as being very rich and providing hospitality to all travellers regardless of their faith. From Sagres the traveller can either go north or back to the east. Along the south coast just to the east is the superb open beach of Martinhal that is popular with windsurfers. Further east are the small and unspoilt beaches of Ingrina and Zavial, whilst further on is the more developed beach of Salema. Just to the east of Vila do Bispo near the small village of Raposeira is the modest 13th Century Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Guadalupe, reputed to have been used often by Dom Afonso Henrique in his religious devotion.
The beaches immediately to the north of the Cape are more exposed to the winds and rollers of the Atlantic with quite dangerous offshore currents. Further to the north of Vila da Bispo is the open sandy beach of Bordeira. About two-thirds of the journey north to this beach is a turning left to the small village of Pedralva. The village was virtually uninhabited and shows to the traveller a picture of what the Algarve looked like prior to the invasion of tourism and how life was once very demanding. At present there is a plan to reconstruct the many ruins and turn into a type of tourist cultural attraction.
Silves - History
This city was once the capital of the whole district and was still referred to in the beginning of the 19th Century as the “Kingdom of the Algarve”. So much history is attached to Silves and its surrounding area that only a book would do it justice! Standing proudly on a hill Silves can be traced back to existing some 1.000 BC. Evidence shows that it was already a place of note in Roman times but it really became an important place during its occupation in the early 11th Century by the Moors. Giving it the name of Xelb, they constructed lavish palaces and created a cultural centre of learning for the whole Iberian Peninsular. Although it was important as a town it still fell under the mantle and control of Cordoba in Spain.
They imported lions and other wild animals that are reputed to have roamed freely through exotic gardens in palaces under its Seville based powerful ruler Al-Mutamid. Born in Beja in 1040, he became at the tender age of thirteen the ruler of Silves until later when he moved to Spain. It is recorded that in 1189 there were over 15.000 inhabitants when the Knights of Santiago sacked the city with the assistance of the Anglo-Norman Crusaders. Two years later it was retaken by the Caliph Ben Yussef. It was only in 1242 that it was again under the control of the Portuguese Kings. From 1250 until 1267 and with the encouragement of Pope Innocent IV, the Algarve became a battle ground for its ownership between the Portuguese King Afonso III and the King of Castile. The matter was settled in the favour of the Portuguese by the Treaty of Badajoz.
Silves continued in importance as a main town of the Algarve until its commerce began a slow decline in the 15th Century due the silting-up of the Rio Arade that had given the town good access to the sea. (The authorities are at present involved in re-establishing this important link by dredging the river). In 1544 the Bishop moved his residence to Faro. A specialty of the town are the “Morgados” cakes made with pumpkin.
Silves - Description
Most of the town and nearly all its ancient buildings were destroyed by the earthquake of 1755. The impressive remains of the castle dates back to Moors and there is a impressive underground water reservoirs that are still used by the city today. The biggest has the romantic name of “ Cistern of the Enchanted Moorish Girl” and was said to be a principal factor in the fall of the town during its siege. The Museu Arqueológico has been constructed above the cistern and here a visitor will find exhibits of locally found objects included items from the Stone Age. As a reminder of the Romans occupation is the Ponte Romana, a fine strong bridge over the Rio Arade below the city walls and having been rebuilt from the original in the 15th Century. The city’s earlier 13th Century Cathedral was built on the site of a Mosque and has suffered considerable alteration over the centuries. To the southwest side of the town is a modern statue celebrating the siege of 1189 in an appropriately named square, Largo dos Mártires, where it is suggested that the remains of the defending Moors were buried. Just to the northeast of the city is a fascinating 16th Century granite cross that is located beside the road to the north. The countryside around Silves was once the biggest orange growing area in Portugal and the local quality of this fruit still enjoys fame over other areas in Portugal and neighbouring Spain. There has been a popular recent decision to site a new University in Silves to recreate its links with its past.
Silves - Nearby Locations
Another administrative and rural town named Lagoa is only 8 Kms. to the south of Silves. To the southeast is the town of Alcantarilha whose main claim to fame is a chapel lined with hundreds of bones belonging to its earlier inhabitants. Further to the south of Alcantarilha is the beach town of Armação de Pera with its long beautiful sandy beach. Lying to the north of the fertile valleys of Silves is an area of attractive forest covered hills that eventually lead up to the mountains of Monchique. The large national Dams of Arade and Foz are well worth visiting for the beauty of their natural setting.
Tavira - History
Tavira along with Lagos is one of the most architecturally attractive towns in the Algarve and its origin seems to date back to around 2.000 BC. In about the 7th Century BC the inhabitants of this area prior to the arrival of the Phoenicians were the fabled Tartessus that were possibly of a Celtic origin. The location was of considerable importance during the Roman period and a large area of some 45 hectares to the east of the present position of Tavira is being excavated on which there is evidence of a very large Roman settlement. During the occupation of the Algarve by the Moors this town was given considered importance due to its fishing industry. Dom Paio Peres Correia took the town from the Moors in anger in 1242 after seven of his principal Knights were killed during a period of supposed truce. During the 17th Century the port in its river was of was shipping produce such as salt, dried fish and wine. Like most of the Algarve towns, mainly all the major buildings including its castle were virtually destroyed by the earthquake of 1755. (Visit - Portugal History)
Tavira - Description
The town has since been rebuilt with many fine 18th Century buildings along with its 37 churches - in fact it is referred to as the town of churches! The town church of Misericórdia dates back to 1541 and Palácio de Galeria is a location of historical interest besies being a cultural centre. A Roman bridge links the two parts of the town across the River Gilão. The church of Santa Maria do Castelo is built on the site of a Mosque and in it are the tombs of Dom Paio Peres Correia and his seven faithful Knights. Its original economic reliance on the fishing industry has now been surpassed due to the change in the migration patterns of the tuna fish. The population are mainly involved in the servicing a military base whilst the surrounding area is still very rural and undeveloped. This is now changing due to the demands of the tourist industry and opening of golf courses in the near vicinity. The immediate beach for this town lies past the salt pans and is reached by a ferryboat that takes the visitor to the long attractive sandy-bar island known as Ilha de Tavira.
Tavira - Nearby Locations
Near to Tavira is the areas Cabanas and Pedras del Rey, both originally very small beachfront villages. Tourism has now become the main source of income for many of the fishermen as there fishing has declined. It is in the latter place that there exists an olive tree that is said to date from the 17th Century and probably the oldest one of its type in Portugal. It stands 7.70 metres high and its girth is 11.80 metres. In the small village of Luz de Tavira there is one of the finest examples of Manueline art and craftsmanship around the southern door of the Parish Church. Santa Luzia is a very small un-spoilt village with a fort and has its name from an Italian effigy of the Virgin Mary that was recovered from a shipwrecked. Near to the Torre de Aves there are the remains of a Roman villa. To the east of Tavira and overlooking the sea can be found the original traditional village of Cacela-a-Velha used by the Phoenicians and later becoming the possession of the Knights of Santiago in 1240
Introduction to Vale do Lobo Resort
The British company Trust House Fortes decided in 1962 to turn this magnificent 450 hectare estate bordering on the Atlantic Ocean in the Algarve into a luxury holiday destination for tourists. Consisting of hectares of pine trees and a lovely long sandy beach it offered an attractive potential. This was a bold move by this company as the Algarve culture at that time consisted of farmers, and the fishing and canning industry. The only practical access to the region was by road from Lisbon which was often narrow and not always in good repair. Townhouses, villas and a 18 hole golf course designed by Sir Henry Cotton was built and Vale do Lobo quickly become a popular destination with the British market.
The scene improved further with the opening of the Faro Airport in 1966 making the Algarve more quickly accessible to Europe. However, due to the Portuguese policy all flights from Faro were limited to Lisbon Airport thereby often making long delays for the travellers in the journey. In 1989 a new terminal was inaugurated at Faro and this outdated policy no longer applied with direct flights being allowed from all over Europe.
In 1977 the Dutch entrepreneur Sander van Gelder who had first visited Vale do Lobo in 1970 took over its ownership. Recognising its constant attractive potential he increased the facilities by adding another 18 hole golf course and many facilities including bars, restaurants, and shops. During the next 30 years van Gelder changed the face of Vale do Lobo Resort to become an important European location in the blooming holiday market.
Meanwhile the attractive five star "Dona Filipa Hotel" was opened overlooking the beach and quickly became a chosen holiday destination. Vale do Lobo now became an attractive location with its facilities for not only tourists and also for permanent foreign residents.
Towards the end of 2006 a combination of Portuguese and international investors together with the Portuguese national bank Caixa Geral de Depósitos acquired the development from van Gelder. Serious investment has been made to update the luxury faculties together with new projects of villas and apartments, a luxury Spa, a modern Medical Centre, a large active Tennis Centre, the Golf, Sports & Spa Centre of Barringtons and the luxury Dunas Douradas Resort.
Today, there are 15 first class restaurants offering Mediterranean cuisine to fine-dining. During the year there are many art and musical events. Holiday makers will find a well-stocked Supermarket for their home catering and many attractive boutiques offering luxury or essential items. Also, a heavy emphasis is placed on overall security and the whole Resort is subject to constant vigilance.
Introduction to Vilamoura
Vilamoura is the name given to an area rather than to any actual town. It is outstanding in that it is one of the largest single tourist complex in Europe and covers some 2.000 hectares of land. The land is variable in its vegetation, some parts covered in pine forests whilst others open recovered marshland. The company that owns this complex is extremely environmentally conscious and has made every effort is being made to protect nature within its continued planned development. Due to the size of the resort area it offers the visitor nearly every form of sport and entertainment. On the southern border is a long sandy beach swept by the Atlantic Ocean.
Amongst the many attractions and facilities there are six different Golf Courses, a large Marina, a Lawn Bowling Club with two grass Rinks, a Tennis Centre, a Sports Club, a Shooting Club, 5 Star and 4 Star Hotels, Tourist Apartments, self-catering Villas, Night Clubs, an International Casino with glamorous shows, a Cinema, and an excellent Riding School. Within the centre of Vilamoura there is a preserved Roman Site and Museum of Cerro da Vila providing an interesting glimpse into the past of the area. In Roman times this location was important in producing a fish paste known as "garum". The ruins also include the baths in which the mariners used to bathe.
As a location specifically designed for tourism it has proved to be a very successful holiday destination for all ages due to the variety of facilities that it provides holidaymakers.
Vilamoura - Nearby Locations
Neighbouring the area is the once upon a time small fishing village of Quarteira that has since the 1960s blossomed into a dormitory town. To the northeast is the commercial and administrative town of Loulé.
Vila Real de Santo António - History
The origin of the town was as a small fishing port and dates back to Phoenician times when the "Conii" tribe populated the area. Due to the topographical flatness of the area the neighbouring hill of Castro Marim lent itself to a stronger location to fortify. This frontier town with Spain was especially designed and rebuilt after the terrible earthquake of 1755 by the Marquês de Pombal, an very influential Royal Minister in the 18th Century who redesigned the centre of the City of Lisbon due to the same earthquake. (Visit - Portugal History)
Vila Real de Santo António - Description
Today, these townhouses around the main square are showing serious degradation with the passing of time. With the construction just to the north of the town of a new bridge in 1991 across the River Guadiana provides rapid connecting with Seville and the rest of Spain. The obvious diminishing of the popularity of this town will have further effect if steps are not shortly taken. Between the town and the Ocean is a popular beach resort area named Monte Gordo that offers the tourist kilometres of sea washed beach lined with a pine forest and safe bathing.
The population of approximately 14,000 inhabitants tend to gain their living either working in the tourist industry, fishing, or, trading across the river with their Spanish neighbours. Attached to the Town Hall is a small but interesting museum which is mainly focused on the designs for tins for packaging in the fishing industry. It is a very pleasant and relaxing experience to cross the river by the original ferryboats and visit the Spanish town of Ayamonte. Visitors can take a boat trip upriver to the charming small unspoilt Portuguese town of Alcoutim.
Vila Real de Santo António - Nearby Locations
North of Vila Real de Santo António is Castro Marim that due to its location has played a considerable part in the history of Portugal. This later town was originally chosen as the founding headquarters in 1319 of the 14th Century movement of the Order of Christ. Although the buildings are now in ruins from the effects of the 1755 earthquake it still has the unusual feature of having a castle built within a castle. In the 17th Century a stronger and more defensive stronghold was built on a hilltop just to the north that also still remains. The castle acted as a well-known haven to escapees in the early days from the Spanish Religious Inquisition until the Portuguese also introduced their own Religious Inquisition. From the walls of the castles the view is to the south across the flat lands that are now a nature reserve for birds and plants and this area is known as the Reserva Natural do Sapal.
Near to Vila Real de Santo António are the holiday destinations of Manta Rota, Monte Gordo and Praia Verde, all purpose built to provide accommodation for visitors to the long sandy beaches.
Inland, and up river is the interior small unspoilt administrative town of Alcoutim with its ruins of two castles that date back to the Moor occupation of the Algarve, and of which one that is even older dating back at least 1000 years. The King Dinis rebuilt the main castle in 14th Century but it was liberated from Moor occupation in 1238. This small town looks across the River Guadiana at the Spanish town of Sanlúcar and has a local museum. It was at this town that Dom Fernando I signed in 1371 an important Peace treaty with Don Henrique II de Castile. Even further up river is the town of Mértola with its 13th Century castle ruins. The Phoenicians founded this historic town as an inland port, later successfully used by both the Romans and Moors. Perched on a high spur overlooking the River Guadiana this town has many vestiges of the past and a museum housing one of Portugal's best collections of Islamic art.
Back on the coast the small beachside village of Cacela-a-Velha dates back to Phoenician times and has an 18th Century Fort that overlooks a small natural lagoon between itself and the protecting sandbar.
Information courtesy of general internet research and algarveuncovered.com, portugal-info.net, tripadvisor.com, algarve-guides.com and many more sources
Villas Algarve provides thumbnail description below of the following Algarve towns and resorts including brief history and nearby locations of interest. where you can rent an algarve villa or apartment for your holiday in the Algarve sun.