Meet and Greet your tour leader at the Air port in Faro . Get all your luggage and make sure that nothing has been left behind. The Transfer service along with your tour guide will take you to your hotel and get ready for an unparalleled experience. On your way to the hotel , your local tour guide will give you some general idea about Portugal and Faro . Upon arrival to the hotel , check into your room , and get refreshed for a short walking tour of the hotel surrounding. During this short walk you will learn more about Portugal, its Culture, Its food and where to get the necessary shopping around the hotel . Then get back to the hotel and take a rest
The day starts with a view from your balcony, either over the Atlantic blue sea or the green Algarve mountains. This journey started last night upon arrival at Faro's international airport on a direct flight over most of the main cities in Europe.
After a relaxing night in one of our beautiful hotels, today we're headed to Sagres to visit the Fortress and St. Vincent's cape and lighthouse, the most south western point of mainland Europe. Next time, we'll take some time to enjoy an amazing sunset in this magical place.
Sagres Fortress was built by Prince Henry the Navigator in the 15th century as a nautical school to start the Portuguese Discoveries of Brazil, Africa and the nautical routes to India and Asia - it’s a place of great historical and symbolic value.
St. Vincent´s lighthouse, at the cape, stands at a former medieval convent. The legend says it housed the mortal remains of São Vicente (St Vincent). The lighthouse has one of the brightest lights, visible up to 60 miles.
Heading north along the coast through the Vicentine Coast Nature Park to Aljezur we will discover the unspoiled beautiful and famous surfing beaches like Amado, Carrapateira, Arrifana and Odeceixe as well as enjoying some of the most stunning scenarios of our region, exploring by foot Rota Vicentina, one of Europes’s Leading Quality Trails.
Back to the Algarve's south coast, we will visit the historical city of Lagos. Inhabited since 2.000 B.C., on the 15th and 16th century’s Lagos was the main port of arrival and departure of the vessels that explored the African coast. There are quite a few not to be missed points in Lagos like the city walls, the former slave’s market, Ponta da Bandeira Fort and the church of Santo António with its small Museum on the side.
We still have time to visit famous beaches like Porto de Mós, the Instragramable Camilo beach and the awarded Dona Ana beach.
To end our day, we'll take a small fishing boat to visit the caves at Ponta da Piedade, an impressive rock formation both seen from its top or bottom inside the natural caves. We will see an unforgettable view of the sunset from here.
This morning we head early to the green heartland of Algarve, to Monchique Mountain and the highest point in the Algarve, Fóia's peak with 902mts. high. From here, we can admire beautiful views of the west and south coast.
Although its early, you cannot be in Monchique and miss the chance to taste its famous local gastronomy of smoked ham and traditional sausages. To join the cured meats, have a shot of "Medronho", a firewater made with the fruit of the arbutus tree. Take a couple of minutes and buy some souvenirs at one of the crafts and pottery shops.
On the way down the mountain don’t miss Caldas de Monchique, an amazing thermal spa area used since the Roman times which they considered to be “sacred” and cured rheumatism and respiratory problems. The water from the natural spring has a 9,5PH, the highest in the country.
As we head southwards, if you are a motorsports fan you can go to the Algarve Motor Park, with a car/bike racing track including a race driving school with several driving experiences, as well as karting track and off-road track.
Cross the old bridge over the river heading east and visit the beaches of Ferragudo and Carvoeiro with their colourful fishing boats. Nearby Carvoeiro, you will find the unusual rocks at Algarseco shaped by the wind and the sea and several caves only accessible by sea, like the famous Benagil Cave (Algar of Benagil). Starting at Vale Centeanes and ending at the world-renowned Praia da Marinha, you will find the "7 hanging valleys" pathway over the cliff tops along the coast with astonishing views and the possibility to see the Benagil cave from land, or in this case, from its top.
Moving further east don’t miss the small chapel of Nossa Senhora da Rocha, built on the 15th century on a rock formation that stretches out to the sea.
Time for a wine tasting at Quinta dos Vales Winery, to admire the sculptures spread over the vineyards while tasting wonderful Algarve wines.
Heading to Lagoa we can visit one of the biggest private art galleries in Europe, located on the old Winery Cooperative site or we can head north for about 8km to Silves, a charming old Moorish city surrounded by orange trees.
Silves was the first capital of the Algarve in 1249 when it was conquered by the 3rd king of Portugal to the Moorish. Silves was well known already in the 8th century for its development and prosperity, it was a cultural center with the most brilliant Moorish poets, chroniclers and jurists. In the city you can visit the red sandstone Castle, the Cathedral, both national monuments and the archaeology museum.
Albufeira will be our first visit of the day. With its Arabic name meaning “Castle-on-the-Sea”, this former fisherman’s village is nowadays a symbol of the Algarve's tourism with dozens of hotels, restaurants and popular nightlife it tends to be very crowded in summertime. This is "a must go" area with beautiful beaches, some with small coves and bays, rock formations like Castelo Beach, Arrifes, St. Rafael, St. Eulália and Olhos d’Água with its fresh water springs rising in the sand to large golden sandy beaches with dunes. To end, on Albufeira's east side the famous Falésia beach stands gorgeous with its red cliffs. Once in Albufeira area, a visit to Zoomarine family park offering "oceans" of fun and knowledge about the sea animals cannot be missed. But this one is worth a full day visit to enjoy properly. Next stop will be Loulé with its medieval castle, a maze of narrow, white streets where craftsmen carry on age-old traditions and where its broad horizons point out to a sanctuary set high on a hill, "Mãe Soberana" (sovereign Mother). When in Loulé, the market is worth a visit, not just for the "Neo Moorish" lines building itself, but also to stimulate your appetite with its traditional and fresh produce. A quick stop before lunch to admire S. Lourenço's church with its inside walls all covered with blue hand painted Portuguese tiles.
We will dedicate this afternoon to "The Golden Triangle Area", a set of three world known resorts,Quinta do Lago, Vale do Lobo and Vilamoura. Vale do Lobo and Quinta do Lago are amongst the most exclusive resorts in Europe where some world celebrities have their holiday homes, high end hotels and properties situated on the middle of some of the most famous golf courses and a dense green touristic complex. Here is where Ria Formosa Natural Park starts and to reach the beach you must cross a 300mt walking bridge, one of the longest in Europe. What an exciting afternoon it will be! We will have our very first golf lesson at Paul Mcginley Academy (I wonder if captain of the 2014 Winning Ryder Cup team, would be around) at Quinta do Lago and at the end of the day, they will be taking us trough the course to watch the sunset at THE most photographed hole in Europe: the 16th of Vale do Lobo Royal Course! Vilamoura, is one of the largest Europe’s touristic and real estate developments. Among this leisure complex garden city, you can find again several golf courses, cycle tracks, tennis courts, casino, equestrian centre and the biggest Marina in Portugal with luxury boats set among delightful surroundings of outdoor cafes, bars and restaurants and sophisticated shops. In the very heart of the Marina sits the Algarve Congress Centre, a leading venue for conferences and exclusive events in Southern Portugal. Part of Vilamoura's environmental park, and aside from the hundreds of different species of birds you can also visit Cerro da Vila an archaeological site of a Roman fishing villa from the 1st century AD and with records of previous occupancy of the 27 century BC.
Today is Saturday, a busy day in Olhão where we are this morning. It’s the fish and farmers market. Daily, the two Moorish inspired buildings, designed by the French engineer Gustave Eiffel, host the most fresh fish directly from the fisherman’s boats, fruits, vegetables and meats from producers but on Saturdays, outside the buildings, just in front of Ria Formosa nature park, the area is full of other farmers that came from the countryside with their produce offering locals and visitors a surprising mix of colors and smells. Just along the markets area is the "Barreta" quarter, an ancient neighborhood with whitewashed houses and narrow streets that once belong to the fishermen and poor people. It is now a bustling trendy area full of soul, sun-drenched terraces and chimneys overlooking Ria Formosa waters. The first stone building in Olhão was Nossa Senhora do Rosário's church, built in 1698 and from that date the settlement developed an urban centre with houses with a similar architectural style like the North Africa's Maghreb. The church is still today the center of Olhão. Two steps away from the market, we can catch the ferry to the barrier islands with their amazing long sandy beaches: Armona, Culatra and Farol facing the Ria Formosa on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other.
After lunch we're now heading north inland to S. Brás de Alportel, a very well known place for the cork . We will visit a plant to watch and learn all about the cork transformation process. S. Brás is home to the Museum of the Algarve costume and just outside the village is the "Calçadinha Romana", an old Roman road who once connected Ossónoba (old name of Faro during the Roman occupancy) to Pax Julia (the old name of Beja in Alentejo region). S. Brás de Alportel is where the landscape called "Barrocal" (red farming land) starts and has great off-road tracks but also hiking and mountain bike trails like the Via Algarviana that crosses the Algarve east to west inland; from south to north you then have the coastline, the Barrocal and then the "Serra" mountains. We're now headed south again to Faro but before we stop in Estoi to visit the Milreu Roman ruins site from the 1st century A.D. Faro in the very heart of Ria Formosa is the administrative capital of the Algarve since 1540 but it has been an important city since the Roman times when it was called Ossonoba and it even had the right to mint coins. We are touring around the city walls, also known as "Vila Adentro", and inside we will visit the Cathedral (Sé), built in 1249 on top of a Roman Temple and Muslim Mosque and the Convent of Nossa Senhora da Assunção where the archaeological museum is located. Just outside the walls we can get the ferry to go to one of the barrier islands that form the Ria Formosa lagoon, "Ilha Deserta" deserted island but it is worthwhile spending half a day to enjoy this surprising place and admire the lagoon’s wildlife. So we are now visiting Algarve’s regional Museum with a reproduction of a typical Algarve House and cannot miss a visit to the charismatic church of Nossa Senhora do Carmo with its peculiar bones chapel. We are going to end the afternoon strolling around the trendy shops downtown at St. António street and the open-air cafés and restaurants that lead to Faro’s small marina.
Our last day starts in charming Tavira, founded by the Phoenicians, but it was the Romans who left the most significant traces from the pre-Islamic period and the biggest example is the famous Roman Bridge that crosses the Gilão river in downtown Tavira. We’re visiting inside the castle, it is of Arab origin and rebuilt in the 13th century. There is a pleasant flower garden where you can enjoy a view over the city's scissor shaped roofs. Next to the castle is the Santa Maria church, a national monument also built in the 13th century on top of where it once stood the Tavira Mosque. Close by is the Convent of Graça built in 1542 and recently refurbished to host a Pousada (hotel in a historical monument). There are many other churches in Tavira, 37 in total, that are also worth a visit. But now, we're facing a dilemma: shall we catch the ferry to visit the fantastic beaches of Tavira island? Shall we go to the small fishing village of Santa Luzia (famous for its octopus dishes) and take a boat to cross the lagoon to Terra Estreita beach? Or shall we take a small old train connecting the resort of Praia D’el Rei to Barril beach where a “graveyard” of anchors (used in the past to anchor the Tuna catching net traps) still stands on the dunes?
After a wonderful lunch we're at the most eastern city of the Algarve, Vila Real de Santo António, bordering Spain and sharing the Guadiana river with the Spanish city. Vila Real was born in 1774 by the hands of Marquês de Pombal (a marquis), the kings prime minister following a political decision to affirm the Portuguese crown in an area desired by Spain. It was built in 2 years following the architectural style of that time, known today as Pombalino style, which explains the geometric layout of the streets. The 19th century brought great prosperity with the canned fish industry and the proximity with Spain and that’s why it’s still today a great place to taste traditional gastronomy focused on the Tuna Fish. Vila Real de Santo António, is stage of a big long sandy beach that stretches from Cacela known as the Monte Gordo Bay, great for athletes that come here on the low season to practice and great for kids in the summer for its shallow waters on the low tide. Five minutes away from Vila Real is Castro Marim, with great strategic importance since the time of the Phoenicians. It was at the time surrounded by water and served as a harbour for boats which sailed up the Guadiana River to collect the copper that was extracted further north. We are visiting the Medieval Castle built in the 13th century and also the São Sebastião Fortress from the 17th Century. Today, Castro Marim, is also surrounded by salt pans, where the gastronomic delicacy “Fleur de Salt” (salt flower) is produced and collected and sold up to 10 times the price of normal sea salt due to its organoleptic characteristics. . 30 minutes north along the Guadiana river is Alcoutim. With records of occupancy since 2500 B.C, it was known in those times for the mining industry with easy access transportation routes down the Guadiana river. We will visit the castle and its archaeology museum and the tiny cobbled streets. Maybe next time we'll have a boat tour up the river or just swim at the river beach of “Pego Fundo”. The hiking route "Via Algarviana" starts/finishes here in Alcoutim, a Great Pedestrian Route (GR13) which connects Alcoutim to Cabo de São Vicente, over 300kms in length mostly through the Algarve mountains. The route crosses eleven municipalities in the Algarve and is considered the “backbone” of a network of other footpaths in the region. Along all the steps of Via Algarvaina, hikers are in strict contact with the region's authenticity, tradition and culture with connections points with farmers, producers, and artisans. On our next journey, later in the year, we will add three more days to the educational trip and dedicate it to our walking lovers, hiking along Algarve Great Routes.
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