Tourists visiting the Algarve this year have been invited to enjoy “an alternative side” to the region: six new off-the-beaten track adventures. Recommended by the Algarve Tourism Bureau, the adventures give intrepid travellers a memorable insight into the region’s history, coastlines and culinary experiences.
“This southernmost region of mainland Portugal is one of the most-visited summer destinations,” says the bureau, ”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.”
Noting that holidaymakers are shifting more towards sustainable travel and travelling to less-visited destinations, the bureau referred to new research by the ABTA travel association revealing that demand for travel outside peak periods is growing, with many tourists looking to travel abroad during the shoulder seasons.
The following six experiences (no specific order) are “some of the best adventures the Algarve region has to offer for a slow-paced visit”:
1. Aljezur, north of Sagres, is a hilltop village of whitewashed houses and cobbled streets dominated by the ruins of a 10th century Moorish castle. When entering the ruins (free to visit) tourists can view the whole town, the river and a bridge separating the old town from the new urban area. Top sites to visit include the Museu Municipal and the Casa-Museu Pintor José Cercas. Aljezur is also close to several beaches including Arrifana, Monte Clérigo and Carrapateira, all part of the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina, a coastal natural park that is protected from development.
2. Visitors are invited to take a train from Faro to Vila Real de Santo António – near the Spanish border – covering an uninterrupted and peaceful 49-kilometre route. Before leaving Faro, tourists have time to walk around the old city with its marina, museum and many restaurants. A short distance away, Olhão is a traditional fishing town known for having the best fish and fruit market. Travellers can then explore the streets and squares of the elegant town of Vila Real, with its 18th-century Pombaline-style buildings.
3. Demons Creek Walkway is a new hiking route located in the hills of Monchique and offering visitors access to exceptional sites that have previously been inaccessible, as well as stunning scenery and nature. The suspension bridge – a major highlight of the route – crosses the Barranco do Demo gorge 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.
4. The Ria Formosa National Park, a maze of canals, islands, marshes and barrier islands, extends for 60 kilometres along the Algarve coast and is ideal for nature and bird watching. Tourists can opt for either a private or a group catamaran cruise to take them around the estuary, viewing deserted beaches and other picturesque hidden spots.
5. Famous for its Arabian-inspired covered markets selling fresh produce and regional handcrafts, Loulé offers visitors a richly cultural stay in the Algarve. Within its historic centre is an ancient castle, a Gothic church, an Islamic bathhouse (dating to the 12th century) and a traditional tradesmen’s house. Also situated in the town is the Loulé Creativo project, which aims to contribute to the revitalisation and promotion of arts and crafts by implementing creative tourism programs and residencies.
6. The historic town of Silves is home to one of the best-preserved Moorish castles in Portugal. It is believed to have been built during the Roman period, although it wasn’t fully developed until the Moorish occupation of the Algarve.