ALGARVE EAST - MUST SEES
If you`re looking for fun in the sun with lots of amenities, you can`t go wrong with Faro Beach. The beach is very long, allowing you to have your own space underneath an umbrella or cabana, and it is perhaps one of the most wheelchair-accessible beaches in all of Portugal. You`ll see lots of bars, restaurants, and hotels closer to the beach. On winter weekends many people like to fly kites on the beach; in the summer, water sports are king.
Avenida Poente and Avenida Nascente, Faro
Faro Island is the only one of the islands that has a road connection with Faro city; the rest have to be accessed by boat or car ferry. The island is dotted with little hotels and motels, cafes and restaurants, and of course beautiful mom-and-pop shops which offer great souvenir shopping opportunities. In the summertime the beaches on the island are particularly known for jet skiing and other water sports.
Barreta Island is also known as the `Deserted Island`. About four miles long and less than 200 feet wide at its narrowest point, Barreta Island is a great place to enjoy the sun and sand without being around lots of tourists. If you are considering spending more than an afternoon there, look into renting a fisherman`s cabin (available for nightly stays).
Cabo de Santa Maria
Cabo de Santa Maria is perhaps best-known as being the southernmost point in mainland Portugal. One of the most secluded beaches in Ria Formosa Natural Park, the beach at Cabo de Santa Maria is easygoing even during tourist season. A lot of flamingos live in the area and it is possible to bird-watch at many times throughout the year.
Praia da Barreta-Mar, Faro
While Barreta Island is almost completely devoid of development, two towns are located on nearby Culatra Island, but these towns are very small and none of the roads are paved. People who stop here come via ferry and decide on either staying at the north or south end of the island: the south end offers clear waters and the north end`s Ria Formosa lagoons are visually inviting as well.
Igreja do Carmo
One of the most ornate churches in all of the Algarve, Igreja do Carmo was built in 1713 (and expanded in 1747) to accommodate the Third Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The building was constructed in the Baroque style and houses quite a few azulejo tile designs and elegant hand-carving throughout the chapel. It has been a Portuguese `Property of Public Interest` (national monument) since 1978.
Largo do Carmo, 8000-148 Faro
The marina in Faro, like the marina in the town of Olhao to the east, is located in the northern reaches of Ria Formosa Natural Park (described as one of the `Seven Natural Wonders of Portugal`). Boats of varying sizes transport locals and tourists to outlying islands in the park, such as Faro Island, Barreta Island and Culatra Island.
Praca Dom Francisco Gomes 15, 8000-168 Faro
Igreja da Misericordia
The original building on this site housed the Manueline Order of the Holy Spirit, and was rebuilt in 1583 at the orders of Bishop Castelo Branco. The imposing facade was rebuilt in the early 19th century by Italian architect Francisco Saverio Fabri, who fell in love with Faro and decided to make his home in the town. Make a note to see the unique altarpieces (including a Gothic-designed holy water sink).
Praca Dom Francisco Gomes 17, 8000-084 Faro
Arco da Vila
The facade for the Arco da Vila was built on one of the few Medieval wall entrances left in Faro. The design was executed by Italian architect Francisco Saverio Fabri, who designed a statue of St. Thomas Aquinas (also Italian) to place in the facade above the arch. The Arab entrance, inside the arch, used to lead Moorish sailors to Faro after trading at sea.
Rua da Misericordia 8, 8000-168 Faro
Muralhas de Faro
The medieval city walls of Faro date from the ninth century, although primitive structures were built on the site as far back as the third century before the Common Era. King Afonso III added to the walls in 1249, as did Joao III in 1541. The walls were abandoned in the late eighteenth century, only to be preserved again starting in the late 1970s.
Largo de Sao Francisco, 8000 Faro
Arco do Repouso
Dating from the 12th or 13th century, this access point was just one of many separating Faro`s old town with the areas outside the city walls. The name of the site, which means `Arch of Rest`, has two possible meanings. The first: In 1249, King Afonso III supposedly slept here after defending Faro from the Moors. The second: The daughter of an Arab caliph allegedly fell in love with a Christian soldier, then died, and now haunts the arch.
Rua do Repouso 3, 8000-215 Faro
The main cathedral in Faro was built in the late 1200s at the orders of the Archbishop of Braga. King John III of Portugal moved the seat of the Diocese of Faro to Faro Cathedral in 1540, where it has remained ever since. The view we see today of Faro Cathedral was the result of a remodel in 1596, after it suffered fire damage at the hands of pirates from England.
Largo da Se 11, 8000-138 Faro
Museu Municipal de Faro
Faro`s museum of history was opened in 1894; it has operated from its current location at the former Convent of Our Lady of the Assumption since 1973. Over 12,000 artifacts are housed in the museum`s permanent collection, divided into 29 exhibits, which tell the history of the city over the past centuries, and they have extended exhibits on the surrounding region as well.
Praca Dom Afonso III 14, 8000-149 Faro
Ria Formosa Natural Park
Spanning a land and sea area of approximately 70 square miles, the Ria Formosa Natural Park is considered one of the seven natural wonders of Portugal. The Portuguese government first classified the area as a natural protective zone in 1987. Two peninsulas and five barrier islands protect the park from the sea and possible erosion. This area is well-known for being the home of the Portuguese water dog breed, as well as being a migration stop for tens of thousands of birds making the trip south each winter. The area stretches from Faro Island in the west to Vila Real de Santo Antonio in the east. Ria Formosa is part of the EU`s Natura 2000 network.
Tavira Castle was commissioned by the Portuguese crown in the 13th century, shortly after the town was taken from the Moors during the Reconquista. By the beginning of the 14th century, the castle was reinforced to protect the town which grew along its walls. The Forte de Santo Antonio de Tavira, an addition, was added in the late 16th century. After the 1755 earthquake, the castle was abandoned and many fortifications were removed or fell into ruin. The ruins of Tavira Castle have been protected by the Portuguese government as a national monument since 1939.
Calcada de Sete Cavaleiros, 8800-306 Tavira
Roman Bridge of Tavira
Don`t let the name fool you; the Romans did not build this bridge, nor was it built during the time of the Romans. The Moors built the bridge, most likely during the late 1100s. The town of Tavira became an independent commune for many decades afterward, and the bridge helped to facilitate trade and bolster their economy. The current bridge dates from 1655 when an accident necessitated its reconstruction. The bridge was the main point of entry into Tavira for centuries, well into the age of the automobile. After a flood washed away portions of the bridge in December 1989, it was reopened only to pedestrians.
Ponte Romana, 8800-349 Tavira
Part of Ria Formosa Natural Reserve, Tavira Island is approximately six miles long and is only 450 feet wide at its narrowest point! This beach is great for visitors who want to swim and for people who like to bird-watch. Perhaps the most famous of the beaches on Tavira Island is Praia do Barril, with its iconic anchors north of shore. The anchors are a monument not only to the fishermen who lost their lives at sea over the centuries, but also a memorial to the industry at large, which has more or less died in this portion of the Algarve. Portions of the beaches on Tavira Island are clothing-optional, one of only eight official spots where this is legal in Portugal.
Castro Marim Castle
The castle overlooking Castro Marim was a key fortification along the Portuguese frontier, and would see action during the Reconquista as well as during the Restoration War in which the Portuguese crown was aided by France and England in the fight to liberate Portugal from the Habsburg Empire. A fortification existed on the site all the way back in the ninth century BCE, but the current castle and walls were not constructed until 1230. Inside the perimeter, there is a church, the Igreja do Santiago, and the Fort of Sao Sebastiao. Damaged by earthquakes in 1755 and 1969, restoration efforts have been plentiful especially since the latter earthquake. The Portuguese government approved a €6 million renovation in 2007, which was undertaken the following year.
Travessa do Castelo 3, 8950-133 Castro Marim
Castro Marim and Vila Real de Santo Antonio Marsh Natural Reserve
The area surrounding the Guadiana River estuary immediately to the west of the border with Spain is called the Castro Marim and Vila Real de Santo Antonio Natural Reserve. It was first designated as a protected area in 1975. Clocking in at 8.6 square miles, roughly comprised of two-thirds wetlands and marshes and one-third arable land, the reserve houses cattle, migratory birds, and is home to many species of shellfish. It was in the salt marshes of this area that fishing and canning was first perfected in the Algarve, all the way back in the ninth century BCE.
Praia da Altura
Also known as Praia da Alagoa, this beach is the main stretch of sand and waterfront for the town of Altura. It is sandwiched in by Manta Rota to the west and Praia Verde to the east. With over a half-mile of coastline, Praia da Altura is one of the larger beaches in the Algarve, and is famous for its white sands and blue waters. This is a handicapped-friendly beach, which means during peak tourist season (summer), there will be at least one operational entry to the beach that will be easier for people with disabilities to navigate.
Rua da Alagoa, 8950-411 Altura
For those travelers who wish to have a fun beach adventure with their children, Praia Verde is perhaps geared toward families the most. There are a number of cabanas and umbrellas available for rent, each providing a sizable parcel of space large enough for the entire family. Facing south-east onto the water, Praia Verde is connected to parking and the main roads by a footpath, which is also handicapped-friendly.
Rua de Real Village, 8950-414 Castro Marim
Manta Rota Beach
Manta Rota is one of the most popular beaches in all of the eastern Algarve. It is well-regarded for its well-maintained amenities and services, the wide stretches of beach great for those who want their own space, and perhaps most notably, the warm waters off the coast. (Did you know the warmest waters in all of the Algarve are found at Manta Rota?)
Rua da Praia da Manta Rota, 8900-065 Vila Nova de Cacela
Cacela Velha Beach
Traveling west from Manta Rota, you will encounter a lagoon which essentially splits the coastline into two parts. Across the lagoon is Cacela Velha Beach, with the Fortaleza located on the other side of the lagoon. Ferry access is perhaps the best way of reaching the beach. This is a beach to visit if you are an explorer and do not mind the sparseness -- both in terms of people and public facilities.
Rua de Cacela Velha, Vila Nova de Cacela
Fortaleza de Cacela
The Moors had originally built a castle on this land before the Reconquista. The first fortress commissioned by the Portuguese crown was constructed here in 1573, but the 1755 earthquake destroyed it. The current fortress dates from 1794. but the fortress we know today was only finished in the year 1794. In 1897, ownership of the fortress was transferred to the Guarda Fiscal, the governmental group which oversees taxes and customs clearances in Portugal.
Rua de Cacela Velha 2, Cacela Velha
Monte Gordo Beach
Like Manta Rota, Monte Gordo Beach benefits from the warmer waters which flow in that direction from the Mediterranean Sea. This beach is enjoyed by locals in the slower winter months, and by tourists most any other time of year. There are over a dozen bars and restaurants lining the beach`s promenade, and it is perhaps one of the easier beaches to visit and enjoy for people with mobility issues.
Avenida Infante Dom Henrique, Monte Gordo
Casino de Monte Gordo
Located in Monte Gordo, just three miles from the Spanish border, the Casino de Monte Gordo is one of the larger casinos in Portugal. It has been open since 1996 and is owned by the Solverde Group. There are three restaurants and bars open in the casinos (gambling times from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m.), with nearly 300 slot machines available for play, as well as areas for roulette, blackjack and poker.
Adjacent to the cross-streets of Rua Pedro Alvares Cabral and Avenida Infante Dom Henrique, 8901-908 Monte Gordo