Discover 5 hidden gems in the Algarve
Off the Algarve's beaten track , there is much to discoverThe Portuguese Algarve has something for everyone and is a firm favourite with international visitors. It is easy to see why – there are the wonderful sandy beaches, amazing rock formations, high cliffs, wonderful natural scenery, water sports, amazing food, buzzing nightlife...the list is endless (check out these 19 reasons to visit the Algarve in 2019 if you need convincing).
But with so much more on offer than crowded beaches and lively resorts, have you considered getting off the beaten track for a day or two? Here are 5 hidden beauty spots we think you'll love.
About 20 minutes north of Portimão by car lies the pretty inland market town of Monchique. The area is mountainous and wooded and is a real paradise for walkers with some fabulous hiking trails to discover. (Discover some more great Algarve walking routes). The town itself is typical of the Algarve, with white walled buildings and tiny cobbled streets. The centre of town has a large square containing a water wheel, fountains and a relaxing seating area.
Fóia is 902 metres above sea level and is a few kilometres above the town, on a well-signposted, winding route with spectacular views. The area around Caldas de Monchique and Monchique town is lush and green however as you travel upward to Fóia the landscape becomes more rocky and the views more dramatic.
When you reach Fóia you can enjoy amazing views of not only the southern coast of the Algarve but also the western coast – the Costa Vicentina - as well as the Alentejo province to the north.
As you might imagine, sunsets here are pretty spectacular – you can even join some of the off-road tours in the Algarve and hop on an all-terrain jeep tour to Fóia.
Salema is situated on one of the most unspoilt coastal regions of the Algarve, the Southwest Alentejo and Costa Vicentina Natural Park. This former fishing village is perched by the sea on the southwest coast and is as scenic as it is tranquil. Just a few minutes from the main coastal road but a different world from the tourist enclaves found elsewhere in the Algarve.
It sits at the top of a cove that features magnificent rock formations and a beautiful sandy beach that is lined with the old houses that formed the original village. The beach is dotted with small fishing boats that still bring in the catch of the day, and to the western end of the beach, among the rocks, you can spot some dinosaur fossils. The village has a sleepy, relaxed feel about it and there are some great local restaurants here. Above the beach, on the hills that rise behind the village there are some stylish villas and holiday apartments with endless views.
Algar Seco, Carvoeiro
Carvoeiro is situated to the west of the Algarve. Originally a fishing village, Carvoeiro is now a very popular destination with visitors of all nationalities and is considered to be one of the top places in the world to retire to, as well as having one of the most picturesque beaches! In fact the whole coastline around Carvoeiro is a fascinating mosaic of caves, grottoes and rock formations interspersed with the most beautiful and pristine beaches you could imagine.
Just to the East of Carvoeiro beach, join the wooden boardwalk that follows the cliffs to Algar Seco – a naturally sculpted network of rock formations, grottoes, tunnels and natural pools over-looking the ocean. Stunningly beautiful, you’ll want to have your camera with you for this one. There’s a lovely restaurant at the base of the steps at Algar Seco, ideal for a cold drink and relaxation. Find out more about Carvoeiro and Algar Seco.
Alcoutim is in southeast Portugal, on the banks of the Guadiana river that forms the border with Spain. A small, sparsely populated town, Alcoutim is authentic and representative of inland, rural Algarve. There is a Moorish castle that dates back to the 14th century that perches above the town and looks across the Guadiana to neighbouring Spain. A small river beach with warm, clear water is a favourite spot in the summer and refreshments are available at a small bar and there is also a pretty picnic area.
This is a beautiful, secluded spot that is almost off the map for the majority of tourists so it is never overcrowded, even in the height of summer. The place is great for walkers and anyone with an interest in history and in wanting a taste of the real Algarve.
Alcoutim hosts a fabulous cultural festival each year, called the Festival do Contrabando – the Smugglers Festival – which celebrates not only the history of smuggling along the Guadiana but also the exchange of cultures and traditions between the people of Alcoutim in Portugal and SanLucar in Spain.
Adventure seekers head to Alcoutim for a chance on the zip line that crosses the river...the only one in Europe to start in one country and end in another, crossing time zones on the way!
Alte and Vigario Waterfall
Alte is a picturesque village in the south of Portugal, located just to the north of Albufeira in a beautiful part of the countryside. The village itself is home to cobbled streets and traditional whitewashed houses, with a historic, 13th century church at the centre called The Mother Church of Alte, or the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption.
The village of Alte is also close to Queda Vigario, one of the largest waterfalls in the Algarve. The waterfall cascades down for 24 metres into a lovely oval shaped pond, perfect for swimming in. Stronger during the wetter winter months, even in the dry summer months the waterfall flows. Some of the off-road tours around the Algarve, such as Alsafari, include visits to Vigario waterfall.