Tavira is one of the architecturally most attractive towns in the Algarve. Its origin dates back around 2.000 BC, and during the Moorish occupation the fishing industry of this town was of great importance. In the 17th Century its port, located at the Gilhão River, played a significant role shipping wine, salt and dried fish. After the earthquake in 1755 the town has been completely rebuilt with many fine 18th Century buildings and 37 churches. The church of Santa Maria do Castelohas been erected on the site of a Mosque. It contains the tombs of Dom Paio Peres Correia and his seven knights, who took the city from the Moors after his knights were killed.
If you come to Tavira you'll understand why it is named "Venice of the Algarve".
Many people don't like it because of the heavy (almost English) tourism but the old town is a great place.
The former fishing village of Albufeira has expanded since the 1960s into one of the Algarve’s major holiday resorts and now has over 16.000 permanent residents. During the summer the old centre of the town with its plentiful collection of shops, bars, clubs and restaurants is filled-up with tourists from all over the world.
Albufeira is surrounded by some of the best known beaches from Praia da Falésia in the west to Praia de S. Rafael in the east. A new marina is currently being constructed on the west side.
The name of Albufeira goes back to the times of the Moorish occupation Al-Buhera when it became an important trading port in the 8th century.
Faro is the administrative centre of the Algarve region with a population exceeding 40.000 people. The city has both Roman and Arab ruins, but most of the attractive older buildings have been built after the catastrophic earthquake of 1755. During the 500 years of Moorish occupation the city, then named Ossónoba became an important trading port. With the decline of the former capital Silves, Faro took over the role of the administration for the whole Algarve....
The old part of Faro, still surrounded by Roman walls, is attracting tourists from all over the area. You can still see the open square that once used to be the Roman Forum. Interesting buildings are the 13th Century Cathedral, the Episcopal palace and the 16th Century Convent, now turned into an archaeological museum. The church of Nosso Senhora do Carmo is an excellent example of gold-leaf woodwork and contains a chapel lined with the bones of more then 1.200 monks.
Unfortunately we had not enough time in Faro. We will come back!
The history of Olhão is linked to the local fishing industry since the 17th Century when the town grew into existence. Already in 1882 the first canning factory for sardines and tuna was founded there, and similar factories spread along the Algarve coast.
The architecture of the older quarter of Olhão shows a Moorish flavour. Every morning the fish market at the waterfront offers an impressive variety of fresh fish and seafood in a lively and noisy atmosphere.
The origin of this town traces back to some 1.000 BC and it was already a notable place in Roman times. During the Moorish occupation in the early 11th Century it was given the name of Xelb. They constructed lavish palaces and it became the cultural centre of learning for the whole Iberian Peninsula under the mantle of Cordoba in Spain. In 1189 it had already 15.000 inhabitants, when the city was sacked by the Knights of Santiago with support of Anglo-Norman crusaders. The importance of Silves continued under the control of the Portuguese kings until the 15th Century, when its commerce began to shrink due to the sitting-up of the Rio Arcade, Silves access to the sea.
The earthquake of 1755 destroyed most of the town and its historic buildings. The remains of the Moorish castle are still impressive, and the huge underground water reservoir is still used by the city today. An archaeological museum has been constructed above this cistern showing local objects including items from the Stone Age. The Ponte Romana, a stone bridge over the Rio Arcade was rebuilt in the 15th Century from the original erected during the Roman occupation. On the site of a Mosque the Cathedral was built in the 13th Century and suffered significant alteration over the time.
Almancil has become an important support centre for the two nearby top residential developments Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo . There is an excellent selection of restaurants offering local specialities and international cuisine. You also find there exclusive interior decorators and furnishing shops, many real estate offices and top food & beverage shops.
The Algarvian coast spreads over more than 200 km from the Spanish border in the east to the Costa Vicentina in the west. More than 70% of the coast are natural reserves, some of them hosting millions of migrating birds in spring and fall.
The pattern of the coast differs significantly. In the Eastern Algarve dunes and lagunes dominate the picture. The beaches of the Central Algarve are well protected by pittoresque cliffs, and the Western Algarve offers dramatic rocks, hidden creeks and caves washed by the Atlantic Ocean
Portimao is the largest town in the western Algarve. It has been an important port since ancient times because of its location at the mouth of the river Arade. Today it is a busy provincial town and a commercial fishing port. During the summer month the quay on the town side of the river is lined with boats offering game-fishing trips and coastal and river cruises. Portimao was rediscovered as a holiday resort, gaining a reputation among English tourists attracted by the exotic beauty of Praia da Rocha.and it is the place in Algarve that offers you the most beautifull beaches if you come here mostly for that purpose
A very windy place. You need warm clothes there. And be careful on the cliffs!
The most southerly western point of Europe, the Cape St. Vincent, is named after the martyr Saint Vincent whose relics have been transported from the Holy Land to the cape according to the legend by ravens.
The impressive lighthouse providing the guiding beam for the ships passing the cape can be visited. On the surrounding cliffs, beaten by the strength of the vast Atlantic, local fishermen risk their lives wedged in dramatic perches with the thundering sea below.
Cape St. Vincent, as the English call it, is the most southwesterly point of Europe and it has certainly seen its share of voyages of discovery pass on their way to Africa, India and the Far East. It was also off this cape in February, 1797 that a 15 ship British squadron defeated a 27 ship Spanish fleet attempting to sail to Brest to link up with the French fleet for an invasion of England.
Perched atop the 200 foot cliffs at the Cape, is the Cabo de Sao Vicente lighthouse. It is believed that the first lighthouse here was established in 1515 by monks. However, the present 88 foot tower was built in 1846. The lighthouse lens was upgraded in 1906 to one of the most powerful in the world, standing 13 feet tall. The combined tower and cliff heights give this lens a 282 foot elevation above sea level and it's beam can be seen 37 miles out to sea (despite what the tour books say about it having a 60-mile range!). The lighthouse is open to the public. Information courtesy of 'lighthousedepot.com'
Such is the diversity of things to see in Portugal, that we did not even have time to stop and explore the town of Silves! With only 2 weeks to travel around the whole of the country, we could only hit the peaks - one of the things that I regret about trying to do so much in such a short time-span.
In this case, the waves had driven us from the beaches and we were headed inland toward Monchique and Mount Foia. Silves is known for the orange groves surrounding the town, as well as its sandstone castle, dating from the 11th century when this was the Moorish capital. This town would definitely be worth a stop for a closer look - maybe next time?
We did notice that the road from Silves to Monchique had a lot of logging activity going on - many of the hills were completely cleared of trees. That part did not look so good!
This is a sleepy market town located about 1500 ft (460 m) above the ocean in the Monchique Mountains. It is most famous for the door in it's church, the Igreja Matriz, dating from the 1500s. This door is decorated in the Manueline style, named after King Manuel I who ruled (1495-1521) during the height of Portugal's overseas discoveries. This type of stone decoration depicts maritime motifs such as intertwined ropes and the Cross of the Order of Christ. In the case of this church, located on a quiet back street of Monchique, it is the unusual points at the end of the ropes that make it unique (for a closer look see the Intro photo for this page!).
We enjoyed walking around here with an ice cream cone while we took in the sights - the pace of life did not seem too hectic!
The progress has turned Albufeira into a city with tourism and leisure as its vocation. on the beach, the bright colours of the fishing boats contrast with the blue of the sea. a walk by the sea whill offer you a magnificent view over the city, the beaches and the cliffs which are part of the charm of Albufeira. at nite on summer time albufeira is one of the most crowded in algarve full of beautifull tourists.
On a rise just short of the village stands the Church of São Lourenço de Matos, famous for the profusion of 18th-century tiles depicting biblical scenes which cover virtually the whole of the walls and ceiling. The picture is from a postcard. It is forbidden to take pictures inside the church
During our stay in the Lisbon area, we had toured the ruins of a Moorish castle in Sintra and also the old fort in the Alfama district of Lisbon itself. These had both been restored to normal condition. It was only in Aljezur that we found some Moorish castle ruins that had been left in their natural 'ruined' state! This particular castle is believed to have been established by the Moors in the 900s although excavations have also revealed evidence that people lived here in the Iron Age. It was not until 1249 that the castle fell to Christian forces when they finally reached these far southern parts of the Moorish occupation of Portugal. There is not really much to see regarding the ruins themselves, but they afford a great view out over Aljezur!
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