Experience an alternative side to the Algarve, a region full of history, beautiful coastlines and culinary experiences with these new off-the beaten -track adventures. This southernmost region of mainland Portugal is one of the most-visited summer destinations but to experience the best of what it has to offer, visit in Spring or Autumn and leave the tourist trails and beaches, for jaw-dropping and unforgettable moments.
Holiday goers are shifting more towards sustainable travel and visiting less visited destinations, and new research by ABTA has revealed that the demand for travel outside of peak periods is growing, with many travellers looking to travel abroad during shoulder seasons.
Here are some of the best adventures the Algarve region has to offer for a slow-paced visit:
Visit the hilltop village of Aljezur – North of Sagres is a small town of whitewashed houses and cobbled streets dominated by the ruins of a tenth century Moorish castle. Upon entering the ruins, which are free to visit, tourists can see the whole town of Aljezur, the river and the bridge separating the old town from the new town. While in the town, don’t forget to visit the Museu Municipal and the Casa-Museu Pintor José Cercas, which was home to local painter José Cercas. Aljezur is also close to a number of spectacular beaches including Arrifana, Monte Clérigo and Carrapateira, all of which form part of the stunningly beautiful Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina, a strip of coastline that is protected from development.
Where to stay: Praia Do Canal – A resort located within the Vicentine Coast Natural Park of 74,000 hectares of rolling hills, marshland, imposing cliffs, rocky coves and broad beaches. Prices: approx €258 / £220 per night based on two adults sharing a deluxe natural park view.
Take a train to the eastern Algarve – Visitors can take a train from Faro to Vila Real de Santo António close to the Spanish border, covering 49 kilometres in an uninterrupted and peaceful way. Starting in Faro, tourists can walk around the old city which boasts a lovely marina, museum and a plethora of restaurants. Discover Olhão, a traditional and characterful fishing town with the best fish and fruit market. Then explore Vila Real, and meander around the streets and squares of the elegant town with 18th-century Pombaline-style buildings.
Where to stay: The Grand House – A Relais Châteaux Belle Epoque hotel nestled in the historic town of Vila Real de Santo António. Bringing with it a revival of the splendour of the Roaring Twenties and the country’s rich past with the architectural details and furniture featuring art deco, this hotel is perfect for those who want to stay somewhere glam. Prices: €227/£195 per night for a Small Room based on two adults sharing a room.
Demons Creek Walkway – A new hiking route located in the hills of Monchique offering visitors access to unique sites that have been previously inaccessible, as well as incredible scenery and stunning nature. The suspension bridge, a highlight on the route crosses the gorge known as Barranco do Demo and provides an excellent view of the surrounding landscape. The wooden walkway is part of a wider pedestrian route that connects the village of Alferce to Cerro do Castelo de Alferce.
Where to stay: Pure Monchique Hotel – Located in Serra de Monchique Natural Park, this hotel has a privileged location with stunning views overlooking the mountains and the valley. Along its 39 hectares, guests can walk different pedestrian paths, enjoy streams where the world-famous water of Monchique flows. Prices: €113/£97 per night based on two adults sharing a classic room.
Cruise around Ria Formosa National Park – This maze of canals, islands, marshes and barrier islands, stretching 60kms along the Algarve coast is a beautiful spot for nature and bird watching. For an uninterrupted guide of the nature park, tourists can opt for either a private or group catamaran cruise which will take them around the estuary, seeing beautiful desert beaches and the best hidden spots.
Speed boat tour / Duration: 1 to 2 hours / Capacity: up to 7 people / Ages: All ages / Optional private hire available too. Prices start from €25/£22 per person https://www.iseacharter.com/boat-tours/speed-boat-tour/
Where to stay: Casa Modesta– A sustainable boutique eco-retreat overlooking the tranquil Ria Formosa lagoon, blending stylish minimalistic luxury and traditional design. Casa Modesta, located just four miles from Olhão city centre, is also a partner of the FEE (Foundation for Environmental Education) and encourage their guests to practice sustainable travel. Prices: €160/£135 per night based on two adults staying in a room with sea-view.
Visit to Loulé – Famous for its Arabian inspired covered markets selling fresh produce and regional handcrafts, it allows guests to experience a truly cultural stay in the Algarve. Within its historic centre is an ancient castle, a Gothic church, an Islamic bathhouse which dates back to the 12th century and a traditional tradesmen’s house.
Situated in the town is also the Loulé Creativo, which is a project that aims to contribute to the revitalization and promotion of arts and crafts, and covers the implementation of creative tourism programs and residencies. Visitors can also participate in activities, including the Casa do Esparto.
Where to stay: Domes Lake Resort – A tranquil, five-star lifestyle destination built on a private lake of its own with views of the Vilamoura marina, surrounded by unmatched gardens and stretches of lawn, a 1.2km wooden walking deck. Prices: €324/£280 per night based on two adults staying in an Inland Retreat room.
Walk through the historic town of Silves – Silves Castle is considered the best preserved of the Moorish castles in Portugal. It is believed to have been built during the Roman period, although it was not until the Moorish occupation of the Algarve that the castle really developed. Other castles in the Algarve that you can visit are Aljezur Castle and Tavira Castle.
Where to stay: Vale Fuzeiros Nature Guest House – Situated just 15km from Silves, this three-star house is set inside a small farm, with stunning landscape views pf the Barragem do Funcho dam.
Prices: €116/£100 per night based on two adults staying in a double or twin room.
For further information on the Algarve, please visit www.visitalgarve.pt