My first reminiscence of the Algarve is a beaming face and wrinkled hand passing me freshly-picked oranges. Sitting underneath an almond tree for shade, I shortly peeled and devoured one – saving the opposite – and the flavour was so candy it tasted like heaven. Twenty-five years later, I nonetheless smile at that second each time I step off a flight at Faro airport and scent the scent of oranges which regularly lingers within the air.
In some ways, rather a lot has modified within the two-and-a-half many years since; extra resorts, extra vacationers, and plenty of fishing villages at the moment are so developed you wouldn’t recognise them in an outdated postcard. Alternatively, it’s nonetheless simply the identical. Oranges are hand-picked and offered on the roadside, and away from the must-visit sights, there are nonetheless some Algarve hidden gems to expertise.
When you would possibly image the Algarve as boozy brits and massive resort lodges in Albufeira, belief me once I say you don’t must stray far to find a number of the secret Algarve. Serene shorelines, lakes dotted with flamingos, tiny villages and distant forested trails, it’s all right here.
These are a few of my favorite Algarve hidden gems from practically a lifetime of exploring the sun-kissed south of Portugal. However, earlier than diving into these ‘secret Algarve’ spots, have you ever learn concerning the finest locations to go to within the Algarve?
Silves: for a slice of Moorish historical past
Silves seemingly deserves its place on the must-visit Algarve record, however sadly – or maybe fortunately – many individuals nonetheless don’t make it to any of the inland cities.
A brief drive from the coast, a day – or perhaps a day – in Silves is a pleasure. Topped by one of the best preserved Moorish fort within the Algarve, it’s fairly a sight to behold. Ochre roofs climb the gently sloped hill, orange timber line the panorama, and a laid-back vibe permeates.
Silves can also be among the best Algarve hidden gems to be taught concerning the Islamic historical past of the area when it was underneath Moorish rule. In addition to touring the fort, you may go to the church – as soon as a Mosque – and see ruins and artefacts within the small however well-kept museum.
In case you’re round throughout August, make sure to attend Silves Medieval Pageant, when the streets come alive with historical past due to reenactments, parades, stalls and actions.
Alcoutim: for the smuggling previous
Many Algarve hidden gems are discovered within the area’s east, particularly alongside the Guadiana river, which defines the border with Spain.
When you can take boat journeys up the river – and even throughout it to Spanish Ayamonte – for a extra thrilling border crossing, head additional inland to Alcoutim.
Right here, you may kayak or hop a water boat to the Spanish village of Sanlúcar de Guadiana. To return, Limite Zero operates a zipper line, which is able to can help you cross the border – and a time zone – at some pace. Actually probably the most uncommon issues to do within the Algarve.
For almost all of the 12 months, the sleepy village stays in a slumber. Nevertheless, for an extended weekend in March, the Pageant of Contraband brings it again to life. In celebration of the historic smuggling route throughout the river with Spain, a floating bridge brings a brief reference to the neighbouring nation, whereas stalls, music and occasions add to the festivities.
Tavira: for the seasonal flamingo-heavy salt pans and waterfalls
Tavira is one among my favorite locations within the Algarve – I’m writing this text from right here, the truth is – however outdoors the gorgeous city itself, there are two Algarve hidden gems value a go to.
First, you’ve gotten the Tavira salinas (salt pans). You may spot seasonal migrating flamingos – primarily from November to March – and stroll or cycle by means of the panorama. Generally, when the salt focus is good, some salinas flip a near-photoshopped pink color.
Secondly, a brief drive inland is the Pego do Inferno waterfall. Be warned, it not often has a lot water from late Spring till Autumn, nevertheless it makes for a pleasant stress-free spot over the winter.
Thirdly, Ilha de Tavira is one among my favorite seashore islands within the Ria Formosa. It is advisable to take a brief and low cost boat to get right here, nevertheless it’s value it – particularly if you happen to stroll a bit of means from the primary seashore to search out an empty spot.
Vale de Bispo: for a recovered whitewashed village
For a novel place to remain within the Algarve, head to Aldeia da Pedralva, barely inland from Sagres.
At one level, this whitewashed rural village was practically left to wreck. Fortunately, some Portuguese associates crowdfunded to revive the village and switch it right into a ‘resort of types’. Now, the outdated houses act as resort rooms, little streets nonetheless result in the outdated cafe and publish workplace, and the encompassing trails are tremendous serene – a bit of slice of secret Algarve bliss.
Learn extra: Distinctive locations to remain within the Algarve
Alvor: for the ‘secret’ sea caves
Whereas the Benagil Cave is undoubtedly the Algarve’s most well-known sights, it’s not the one sea cave you may discover within the area. With the crowds at Benagil turning into so intense, you could wish to discover a extra uncommon factor to do within the Algarve and search your caves elsewhere.
Round Alovr’s coast – close to Praia de Boião – are some super secret Algarve spots to discover. You’ll have to snorkel into a few of these caves fairly than Kayak like at Benagil, so you could favor to go along with a Zip&Journey small group tour led by an area marine biologist.
Learn extra: Search secret Algarve caves close to Alvor
Estoi: for Roman ruins and palace stays
Simply outdoors Faro, the Algarve’s capital metropolis, you’ll discover Estoi, a small parish residence to 2 of the Algarve’s hidden gems.
First up are the Roman Ruins of Milreu. As soon as an unlimited and opulent Roman Villa, the location is now in a much less grand state. There are nonetheless some mosaics and components of the partitions and temples, and it’s an affordable ticket for a slice of tradition.
Second is the Pousada de Estoi, one other grand constructing renovated and transformed right into a luxurious resort, excellent for a chic Algarve hidden gems in a single day expertise.
You don’t must be a visitor to discover the primary rooms and grounds of this 18th-century palace, and a relaxing glass of wine on the veranda comes with a slice of grandeur you’ll wrestle to search out elsewhere within the Algarve. If you wish to expertise Turkish baths and boutique luxurious, you’ll have to e-book a room.
Loulé: for Islamic baths, markets and carnival tradition
Loulé, one other inland city, makes for a superb base within the Algarve if you happen to don’t wish to keep on the coast. The explanation I really like Loulé a lot is, as of but, tourism hasn’t wholly pushed out the standard lifestyle, and it stays a extra conventional really feel. Workshops with a concentrate on preserved Algarvian handicrafts additionally assist cement these credentials.
There are fort partitions and the stand-out Artwork Nouveau market corridor to discover. A brand new addition in 2023 is a small museum housing Portugal’s solely recognized Islamic Baths which someway remained a buried and secret Algarve spot for hundreds of years.
Whereas Loulé is a superb secret Algarve spot to go to year-round, the city actually comes alive for 3 days in February. House to the Algarve’s largest carnival celebration, these celebratory days see the arrival of many guests from close to and much to expertise the colorful and joyful affair. In case you’re round, it’s among the best and extra uncommon issues to do within the Algarve.
Alte: for a waterfall dip
A brief drive from Loulé is the small village of Alte, which provides an perception right into a slower-paced and extra storied lifestyle. Whereas it’s extra on the vacationer path now, as some bus excursions sometimes cease right here, they typically transfer on shortly.
The village is quaint and compact, with just a few cafes amongst the whitewash. Watermills and small canals make for an important picnic space, whereas the Algarve’s finest waterfall is only a brief stroll from the village. Within the hotter months, anticipate some associates and households to be right here, which may make it really feel ‘busy’. Nonetheless, even within the low season, it makes for a refreshing, if chilly, dip.
Fort of Paderne: for a laid-back strolling path
Whereas these ruined fortress partitions from the sixteenth century aren’t a lot to take a look at anymore, they nonetheless play a vital half within the nation’s historical past; the Fort of Paderne is likely one of the seven castles on the Portuguese flag.
The path, nonetheless, is nice for a stroll. Passing a close-by mill the place little turtles can typically be noticed within the river, it’s an pleasurable two-hour break from the seashore you probably have a automobile.
Carvoeiro & Ferragudo: for fishing village nostalgia
Though the inhabitants of those two outdated fishing villages is comparatively small – belief me, whereas it’s nonetheless heat in winter for Europe, you may’t imagine how quiet it may be – each villages have turn out to be widespread vacationer spots in summer time and crowds balloon.
In case you go to outdoors of the tourism season, you’ll discover them rather more peaceable. In Ferragudo, you may see fishermen tending their nets and bringing of their catch. In Carvoeiro, the primary attracts are the small seashore, clifftop boardwalk, and the wave-battered Algar Seco rock formations and swimming pools.
Estombar’s Fontes: for picnics and greenery
This municipal park is a well-liked spot for us locals to flee the seashore and revel in a picnic lunch surrounded by nature; nonetheless, it’s nonetheless a fairly uncommon factor to do within the Algarve for vacationers. The 12+ picnic tables shortly get busy on a sunny day, primarily as a result of six BBQs can be found – simply carry your personal coal and cooking instruments.
Away from the picnic space, although, there’s a stunning inexperienced – however not too shaded – stroll across the park and estuary of the Arade river. An od-water wheel, amphitheatre and miller’s home are the primary ‘sights’, however the park additionally hosts varied wildlife and birds, with flamingos being a welcome addition throughout the season.
Marmelete: for some strong-AF liquor
In Marmelete, a tiny village en route between Monchique and the west coast, you may see how one of many Algarve’s native liquors, medronho, is made.
Brewed from shiny purple berries, this fruit brandy is commonly known as firewater and may be tried in bars throughout the area. Right here, you may see a small museum to be taught extra concerning the brewing course of, and with prior preparations, you may go to some brewing spots, typically extensions of individuals’s homes. This drink has a kick although, it’s definitely not as simple on the lips as a port from Porto.
Lagoa & Silves: for vineyard experiences
Lagoa has grown vastly prior to now 30 years and has turn out to be a comparatively well-known wine area in Portugal (learn: winery tasting/ingesting is obligatory). It’s situated simply outdoors Carvoeiro and Ferragudo and, once more, like Loulé, gives a way more native city really feel.
Quinta dos Santos, a comparatively new craft beer and vineyard, provides the prospect to hit up a cellar-door tasting or seize some tapas. Lagoa’s transformed cooperative, now residence to the Girl in Purple Gallery, additionally serves up each wine and tradition. In Silves, there are additionally extra conventional vineyards and wine experiences to get pleasure from.
If you’re round in early July, then Lagoa’s night-time, the candlelit market, is a lovely time to go to and see the streets.
Porches: for a rock-crowning chapel
Chapel Nossa Senhora da Rocha is one other gem and may function an prolonged start line of the Seven Hanging Valleys Path.
Two sandy bays sit on both facet of a high-rising cliff, and perched on the highest is that this little chapel. You may stroll out to it, and the views are actually one thing particular – it’s someplace I like to come back with a e-book and look out to the unending Atlantic Ocean past.
Praia do Barril: for a ‘cemetery of anchors’
One of many extra uncommon issues to do within the Algarve is to go to the ‘cemetery of anchors’ on Praia do Barril.
This unusual web site, set on a sand-dune-backed seashore within the Ria Formosa pure park, was created after the demise of the tuna trade. Native fishermen laid their anchors out right here, and now they’re slowly ageing and sinking into the sand.
The island can also be one among my favorite seashores within the Ria Formosa pure park as you don’t have to take a ship; you may stroll right here by foot over the lagoon-crossing bridge and even hop on a bit of prepare. When you get to Praia do Barill, flip left and stroll additional up the seashore to discover a extra peaceable spot. In case you maintain strolling, after a few hours, you’ll finally arrive at Ilha da Tavira.
See extra of my favorite Algarve and Portugal tips about my new web site: Guide2Portugal.com
Santa Luzia: for octopus
This small fishing village close to Tavira – and a brief stroll from Praia do Barrill – is famed in Portugal because the nation’s Octopus capital.
For hundreds of years, octopus – polvo in Portuguese – have been caught in these waters utilizing conventional clay pots, though many fishermen have traded these in for related, however extra trendy, choices. Practically all of the eating places within the village are devoted to the native speciality, which may be ordered contemporary and in quite a few varieties.
Aljezur: for a west coast village
The Algarve’s west coast is awash with browsing spots, empty seashores, small villages and farming valleys, but, there’s additionally some tradition and historical past to be discovered right here.
In Aljezur, the ruins – it’s simply the outer partitions – of a Tenth-century Moorish fort inform the historical past of the area; if you happen to haven’t seen but, plenty of locations across the Algarve start with Al, which highlights the historical past and roots of the Arabic interval on the Iberian Peninsula. You’ll additionally discover a few museums right here, primarily devoted to spiritual artwork.
Costa Vicentina: for practically footprint-free bays
There are some actually unbelievable seashores alongside the west coast of the Algarve, referred to as the Costa Vicentina. From windswept bays and dune-backed stretches to browsing scorching spots and river-meets-ocean carved sands, these are a few of Portugal’s finest seashores.
Whereas some are fairly widespread – Arrifana for browsing and Odeceixe for merely being breathtaking – there are a lot extra bays and seashores which don’t get as a lot foot site visitors. In case you have a automobile, take a street journey, and make sure to detour down minor roads to small coves – you’ll undoubtedly discover a bit of slice of near-empty Algarve hidden gem heaven to get pleasure from, particularly outdoors peak summer time.
Querença: for sleepy villages and trails
The small village of Querença sits upon a hill and is a fantastically spotless whitewashed land with a strong dedication to tradition and literacy, regardless that it’s tiny. A small sq. with a church is the ‘assembly place’ with two restaurants-cum-cafes. Attempt the native almond cake for a candy deal with.
There’s additionally a brief native stroll – widespread for hen watching – which takes you thru a part of the park. Comply with the path from the village to Fonte da Benémola the place watermills, streets and olive presses complement the verdant setting.
When you’ve explored all of those Algarve hidden gems, make sure to try the finest issues to do within the Algarve and these distinctive locations to remain within the Algarve to assist plan your go to. If you wish to discover extra off-beat Portugal, think about these causes to go to the Azores islands.