Unusual Things to Do in the Algarve, Portugal
Quirky, fun and slightly weird.....Looking for quirky activities in the Algarve? There are plenty of unusual things to do and see here, ranging from cross-border zip lines to skull-lined chapels of bones and underground salt mines. Here are some of the fun, different and awesome things to do when in the Algarve.
One of the top beach destinations in the world, with miles of the most beautiful coastline, there are plenty of things to do in the area that don't involve getting sand between your toes. Check out our suggestions that range from cultural to energetic.
Time travel and cross borders by zip line
In the East Algarve, where the Guadiana river runs between Spain and Portugal, you can ride one of the longest zip lines around. At 720m long, the Limite Zero zip line is not only quite a ride, it’s also the only time-zone and cross-border zip-line in the world. You begin in Spain, in the village of Sanlucar and end up in Portugal, in Alcoutim an hour earlier, crossing the Guadiana river at about 80km per hour!
What unusual about visiting a wine cellar? Well, the VILA VITA Parc wine cellar, or Cave dos Vinhos, is 9 metres underground. Built from specially imported bricks, designed to maintain a level temperature all year round, the cellar is atmospheric, beautifully laid out and home to about 7.000 bottles of some of the most amazing wines in the world. You can visit just for a look around, to sample some wine or enjoy some food and wine pairing. This is a fabulous spot too for an unusual wedding proposal....
Wine and Art
For a different wine and art pairing visit the LiR Gallery in Lagoa, near Carvoeiro. It’s housed in a still functioning wine co-op, where small local producers produce and bottle their wines. The gallery’s runways and corridors are perched above the working co-op, making for a different experience.
Train with elite athletes and international coaches
There are plenty of tennis holidays around, but imagine having a tennis holiday with Judy Murray as the coach? Or upping your rugby skills with an Irish and Lions star Brian O’Driscoll rugby camp? Or kicking a ball around on a football escape with Rio Ferdinand and other legends? The Campus at Quinta do Lago not only has great facilities (tennis, padel, biking) it also hosts regular camps where top exponents of various sports coach juniors and adults. Held throughout the year, the camps have limited places so advance booking is essential.
Jump out of a plane
For an adrenaline rush like no other, and the bonus of the best views in town, try a Tandem Skydive with Skydive Algarve. After a briefing and instructions on the ground at Portimão aerodrome, it's time to take to the skies. As the plane climbs higher the views of Alvor beach and bay, the river estaury and Monchique hills are simply stunning. Then, strapped to the instructer, leap into the blue, freefalling and then, whoosh, float back to earth.
Visit an underground salt mine
Travel 230 metres deep into the earth, to explore the weird and wonderful world of the Sal Gema (rocksalt) mine in Loulé. 45kms of corridors and walkways run beneath the streets of Loulé. During a 2 hour guided tour of the rock salt mine that follows a 1.3km route, you can see geological formations that are 230 million years old and you'll learn about the old and current mining operation. There are four tours each day, in English, French and Portuguese . Helmets, flashlights and vests are provided.
Walk where dinosaurs roamed. You can actually place your feet in the ancient footprints of dinosaurs by the beach at Salema. A small fishing village, Salema is loved for it’s laid back and relaxed vibe, unpretentious charm and fabulous beach. The footprints are at the Western tip of the beach on rock outcrops and are best viewed from the staircase above the beach and at low tide.
If dinos are your thing, check out the donosaur themed Adventure Golf in Alvor - 18 holes of challenging fun with some massive dinosaurs overlooking the course.
Photo Credit: Eoin O'Hagen
Chapel of Bones
For a somewhat creepy reminder of our mortality, how about a visit to a chapel whose walls are lined with meticulously arranged skulls and bones? There is a very small Capela do Ossos (Chapel of Bones) by the main church in the village of Alcantarilha and a larger one in Faro at the Igreja do Carmo, in the old part of town.
Play miniature replicas of iconic golf holes
Famous as a top golf destination with superb golf courses, just for fun you can play miniature versions of iconic golf holes from around the world at Quinta do Lago’s mini golf course. There are replicas, in a mini scale, of holes from Augusta, Belfry and Sawgrass. Bragging rights are included too!
If you prefer feet to clubs, try a round of Foot Golf at Desert Pines foot golf course at the ATF centre (Algarve Tennis and Fitness Club).
Go sailing on a traditional fishing boat
The Falcão Veloz is part of the Bom Dia Boattrips fleet and it dates from 1922. That means it's almost 100 years old! Originally a fishing boat, built in Setubal, near Lisbon, it still sails the seas as a colourful, graceful and historic sailing boat, bringing visitors to explore the wonderous coast around Lagos and Ponta da Piedade. The boat has been beautifully restored and is always freshly painted, a jaunty yet historic figure in Portuguese waters.
You don't have to be in Germany to enjoy authentic Oktoberfest fun. The VILA VITA Biergarten hosts an amazing Bavarian Oktoberfest each year at the end of September and begining of October. It's several days of hearty food, loud oompah music and lots of beer. Great fun and hugely popular, it's a little bizarre to be eating sauerkraut and streudel, served by lederhosen-clad waiters on mellow Autumn evenings in southern Portugal. (Okotberfest will be back in 2201).
Fresh Oyster tasting
Sure, you can order some oysters at a nice seafood restaurant, but how about eating oysters that have literally just been plucked from the water and opened right before you? Join a food tour or hop on the oyster tasting experience by Salt & Sea boat tours to the Ilha de Culatra in the Ria Formosa. You’ll learn about oysters from a local producer before being treated to some incredibly fresh and tasty oysters, with a nice crisp wine to round things off.
Float in an open-air artisanal salt pond, slather your body with argila and enjoy the soundtrack provided by the breeze and birdsong at the Castro Marim Salt Spa. Century old methods are used to produce Flor do Sal here and you can learn about this as well as enjoy a session at the spa. You can even join a Soft Yoga class while you're there.
Learn the secrets of the cork tree
One of the things you may not know about Portugal is that Portuguese cork is famous for its excellent quality, used by leading brands such as Moet Chandon, Rolls Royce and NASA. Graceful cork oaks dot the Algarve countryside, the ochre colour of the trunk an indication of recent harvesting. Join a fun jeep safari or buggy tour for some off-road adventures to see these beautiful trees.
Jump off a Cliff
Cliff-jumping into the ocean, swimming in the caves, discovering beaches that are inaccessible by land…This is coasteering. A fun and energetic way to explore the fabulous Algarve coastline with versions for adults and kids, coasteering is a real hands-on way to explore the coast.
Keep an eye on our Events Calendar to find out what weird and wonderful things are happening in the Algarve.
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