It’s true, most visitors to the Algarve come for the sea and sand however, there is so much more to discover.
With hamlets and villages dotted throughout the Agarve’s hinterland, visitors would be forgiven for thinking they had travelled back in time.
Of course, there are a few towns also along the way – all are of interest to those seeking a different holiday from one that the coast offers.
For some more ideas of different things to do such as skydiving, jeep safaris or hot air ballooning, click here. And for those who want a something a little different we check in at six locations in the region that are easily accessible and worth visiting.
We start in Foia, Monchique, the highest point of the Algarve. From here you can see across to the west coast and east along the coast toward Faro.
For those that don’t want to sit and feast on the views there is an artisan market, café and souvenir shop to enjoy.
Monchique, the town itself, is small. There are cafés, restaurants and shops that sell items made from locally sourced products; cork, Medronho (local firewater), wicker and honey are just a few.
Following the road down the mountain, Caldas de Monchique nestles in a small valley. Here visitors can enjoy the thermal spas, a walk along a gurgling stream and sit under Jacarandas in the square for a coffee.
There are numerous restaurants in the area, most serving presunto (cured ham) and the well-known chicken piri-piri together with other local and international dishes.
Moving eastwards, Silves is a rural town and for several centuriesa was the capital of the Algarve.
The narrow cobbled streets lead up to the cathedral at the top of the hill, located in front of the castle, and the river Arade winds through the valley below, to the coastal city of Portimão.
Every August Silves hosts a medieval festival that offers a journey back in time.
Streets are lined with stalls, merchants dress in medieval costumes (visitors can also dress up hiring their choice of clothes for a small amount) and restaurants offer a choice of local dishes with a medieval theme.
The castle and cathedral are backdrops for entertainment, from musicians to belly dancing, jousting to juggling.
For a brief history of Silves together with suggestions of places to visit in the town click here and turn to page 56.
Alcantarilha and Paderne
Moving a little closer to the coast, Alcantarilha is known for its chapel of bones.
Although perhaps a little unsettling for us today, an ossuary is not uncommon when space is short for burials.
Moving east, Paderne is a picturesque town surrounded by agricultural farming land.
Paderne’s castle is believed to have been built in the late 12th century. Perched above the river, which is a lovely walk, the castle is easily accessed however is only open on Wednesdays from 10am to 4pm and Sundays from 9.30am to 12.30pm.
As in most places mentioned above, there are Roman ruins in Estoi which is about 30kms east of Paderne.
This village is home to the Milreu ruins, part of the Roman occupation.
Known locally as Casa Rural das Ruínas, these ruins are understood to be those of a villa with traditional Roman bathing chambers covered in fish mosaics.
The Palace of Estoi was finished at the tail end of 1909. It has fabulous ceiling paintings, stucco decorated rooms, a large ballroom and beautiful gardens.
Currently a hotel, the Palace does allow visitors to the gardens and ground floor even if not staying at the hotel.
This village showcases traditional buildings with their typical Algarvean chimneys and cobbled pavements.
Fontes de Alte is beautiful with crystal-clear water from the river that meanders through a wooded area. Fonte Grande is lovely for a picnic by the riverside and is a great place to enjoy a cooling dip.
For more information on the above mentioned places and many more besides, click here to read about the Algarve-s rich cultural heritage.