In contrast to the Central and Western Algarve the Eastern Algarve provides a quiet and relaxing holiday destination, the coastline has a tranquil beauty as it gently stretches towards the Spanish border.
The coastal towns of the eastern Algarve are ‘real’ towns, far more under-developed than those in the Central and Western area of the Algarve.
The East Algarve coastline is surrounded by ilhas (sand flats)that protect the characteristic tidal marshlands of the Rio Formosa National Park - an area of natural beauty. Boat trips to these Ilhas allow visitors to enjoy the quiet beaches and warm waters.
If you are after a more relaxed style of holiday, away from the hordes of tourists and water parks, then the Eastern Algarve may be just the place for you.
Why is it so undeveloped? The reason for this is probably because the towns along the coast are not generally right on the sea. They are separated from the Atlantic by salt-pans, marshland and lagoons. These form part of the Ria Formosa Natural Reserve which stretches from just south of Faro along the coast to the town of Vila Nova de Cacela, a few kilometres west of the Rio Guadiana river on the Spanish border.
The beaches you’ll find along the coast are to be found on long sandy islands and outcrops. Because of this, little development of hotels has been possible, and should therefore keep the area quieter than other areas in the Algarve.
The wetlands of the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve make this area of coastline, wild and interesting, in contrast to the red sandstone cliffs of the central Algarve and the rugged coastline in the west.
Inland, the countryside is unspoiled – and the border area, north and inland from the Guadiana River stretching up into the Serra do Caldeirao, remains untouched by tourism. The area north to Alcoutim, west to Ameixal and south to Castro Marim and Sao Bras de Alportel continues to charmingly feel as though time has stood still.
Withouta doubt the Eastern Algarve remain an area that is still completely undeveloped. It's as if time stood still for centuries.
The Climate in the Algarve
The Algarve is famous for its 300 days of sunshine, and very nice weather during 9 months of the year.
Main Towns and Villages in Eastern Algarve
Situated very close to the Spanish border, Alcoutim is a small inland river town with a busy port which is a popular destination for pleasure boats.
There are lovely views across to Spain from the 14th century castle set at the top of the town. Set on a hillside, the town has cobbled streets and small squares. The riverfront promenade has a selection of restaurants and cafés.
In Alcoutim you can find: Restaurants, Cafés, River cruises and Boat hire
Approximate Driving Time to Airports: Faro - 1 hour 10 minutes, Lisbon - 3 hours 10 minutes and Porto - 5 hours, 40 minutes
Ameixal is a very quiet typical little village close to the Alentejo border and you can reach it easily on the EN2 road. Many years ago it was the most important axis between Lisbon and Faro.
Old stone houses in their distinctive style are a feature of Ameixal. You will also see many round constructions that were used as grain stores. Near Chavacha, close to Vascao stream you will still find an old wind mill that is still in operation today.
If you enjoy walking there are many walking trails in the mountain area surrounding the village.
What you will find here: This little village has a church, cafés, restaurants, grocery and believe it or not - a petrol station!
Perched on a rocky outcrop, the unspoiled rural hamlet of Cacela Velha overlooks the sea and there are great views from the old fort. A sandy spot, which can only be reached by boat, protects Cacela Velha's excellent beach. Here you can find a few bar/restaurants.
Cacela Velha and the surrounding towns were a stopover for Greek and Phoenician navigators, and according to some authors it may have once been near the location of Conistorgis, the still-unrecovered capital of the Conii. Roman and Arab occupiers also played a significant role in the expansion of the region.
Archeological excavations conducted from May 7 to July 4, 2007, determined the village was the Medina of Qast’alla Daraj (Ibn Darradj al-Qastalli), an Islamic town dating back to the 10th century, when much of the Iberian peninsula was controlled by the Moors and Berbers who arrived from North Africa. Archeologists determined the area was an agricultural center, and part of the excavation recovered seven corn pits that were used for storing cereals and grain.
Approximate Driving Time to Airports: Faro - 40 minutes, Lisbon - 3 hours and Porto - 5 hours, 30 minutes
This small, attractive village with cobbled streets, lies between two hills one topped with the ruins of a castle, the other with the remnants of a fort. Castro Marim is set just to the north of Vila Real de São Antonio and the surrounding area of the Reserva Natural do Sapal, where flocks of flamingos and spoonbills are a common sight .
In Castro Marim you will find: Restaurants, Bars, a Market - 2nd Saturday of the month and an 18 hole golf course
Approximate Driving Time to Airports: Faro - 45 minutes, Lisbon - 3 hours and Porto - 5 hours 30 minutes
The market town of Moncarapacho is a hub for both the local farming and expatriate communities. Moncarapacho is a small country town in the middle of an area which is home to orange orchards and horticulture. It exudes a calm, unhurried atmosphere of people going about their business in a relaxed and friendly way.
The 'centre' of Moncarapacho is a charming cobbled square alongside the church where you can sit and have a drink or a meal beneath the jacoranda and palm trees and be made to jump by the church clock striking.
The town offers all the basic facilities, including three good small supermarkets and a small local produce market.
There are also several decent restaurants and plenty of pavement cafés. It even has its own tiny museum and a pink, arabic-style police station. Moncarapacho has a market on the first Saturday of each month.
For four days in the summer it comes alive with a big agricultural market, complete with local cuisine, dancing and music, and everything for sale from baskets to tractors. It also comes alive in February for the 'carnival' which is really very good for a small town and is locally quite famous.
Outside the town are the hills of Cerro de Cabeça and São Miguel, two wild areas in which you can walk and enjoy spectacular views of the Eastern Algarve coast. There is also a good ceramic factory shop on the edge of the town which is locally noteworthy.
In Moncarapacho you will find: Shops, Bars, Cafés, Restaurants and a Market - 1st Sunday of the month
Approximate Driving Times to Airports: Faro - 25 minutes, Lisbon - 3 hours 35 minutes and Porto - 5 hours 10 minutes
This is the most developed holiday resort in the Eastern Algarve and has a large, sandy beach. Monte Gordo offers a wide variety of shops, restaurants and bars and a choice of 3 casinos. Monte Gordo is a large town, spaciously laid out with wide streets.
The high-rise hotels and apartment blocks are a characteristic feature of the Monte Gordo landscape, but as you’ll see, they don’t detract from the overall feel of the town because the town is so big and so well laid out.
The main road through Monte Gordo separates the beach and promenade from the rest of the town. On the town side, the road is lined with an array of shops, cafes, bars and restaurants and on the opposite side there is a wide, open promenade, with palm trees and benches and the golden sandy beach runs along in front.
Against the backdrop of the casino and the high-rise buildings either side, the beachfront is dotted all over with beach bars, restaurants and kiosks. So if you fancy a drink or a bite to eat, you’ll certainly be spoilt for choice. If you have younger children, the beach at Monte Gordo is perfect. It is so flat and wide that it’s really safe for little ones and the water at this end of the Algarve is slightly warmer for a swim or a paddle.
Approximate Driving Time to Airports: Faro - 40 minutes, Lisbon - 3 hours and Porto - 5 hours 30 minutes
The picturesque riverside village of Odeleite is set on the shores of the Barragem de Odeleite. It is a peaceful small village in the lovely Castro Marim area, by the bank of the beautiful Odeleite river. It is located in beautiful natural landscapes.
This is the “other” Algarve, filled with charisma and beauty, distant from the tourist beaches of golden sand and close to a low altitude charming mountain side. The village is characterized by its small white houses that descend a small slope towards the banks of the riverlet, surrounded by a great natural beauty, as one can observe from the top of the slope, from where one can observer the beautiful Odeleite dam.
Odeleite is proud of its lovely 16th century Mother Church, of the interesting communitarian kilns and all the other many rural and mountain side heritage that can still be found. The village has maintained its traditions throughout the centuries, as one can observe in the wonderful and typical basketry items.
Approximate Driving Time to Airports: Faro - 50 minutes, Lisbon - 3 hours 5 minutes and Porto - 5 hours 40 minutes
Olhão or Olhão da Restauração, is a municipality and urban community in the Algarve region of southern Portugal. Located near the regional capital ofFaro, the region is a fishing port, home of the Bela brand sardines and Conserveira do Sul's Manná range of processed fish products. Along with Faro, Loulé, and Tavira, Olhão forms an urban conurbation with the city of Faro, from the eastern and central Algarve.
This is the largest fishing port in the Algarve and the harbour, bordered by a great selection of restaurants, is the focus of the town. Olhão has a distinctive North African feel and distinctive "cube" houses. There is a lively, large market held daily and reputed to sell the best seafood in the region. Ferry services take day trippers to the offshore llhas of Armona and Culatra.
In Olhão you will find: Daily market, Restaurants and Bars and a Railway station
Approximate Driving Time to Airports: Faro - 20 minutes, Lisbon - 2 hours 45 minutes and Porto - 5 hours, 20 minutes
Santa Catarina da Fonte do Bispo
The oldest record from this region, in the records in Tavira (of 10 April 1601) identified the organized settlement of Santa Catarina. The church was erected sometime in the 15th century, and compliment the style of the parochial church of the Misericórida in Tavira, which itself was built at the end of the first half of that century. It is assumed that the parish was established sometime prior to the erection of the church. The oldest ecclesiastical records, the births, baptisms, marriages and deaths recorded from this parish correspond to evident from the Torre do Tombo, and situate the parish around 1632.
Fonte do Bispo was a toponomic name referenced as early as the 14th century. The parish was named from Saint Catherine of Alexandria, who perished in 307 AD, referring to a legend stating that an image of Catherine appeared at the fountain of the bishop (Portuguese: Fonte do Bispo): this gave rise to the regions name.
Created from the ecclesiastical parish in 1835, this local authority's records were lost prior to 1886.
Santa Catarina is a small agglomeration of homes, situated on the edge of the Tavira-Loulé roadway (the Estrada Nacional E.N. 270), approximately 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) from the urban centre of Tavira. The famous Fonte do Bispo is located some distance from this road, along the rocky cliffs.
The small village of Santa Catarina da Fonte do Bispo is set in lovely countryside, surrounded by groves of olives, oranges and almonds.
In Santa Catarina da Fonte do Bispo you will find: Restaurants, Café & Bars, Shops, Banks and a Market - 4th Sunday of the month
Approximate Driving Time to Airports: Faro - 25 minutes, Lisbon - 2 hours 40 minutes and Porto - 5 hours, 10 minutes
About 3Km west of Tavira, the delightful fishing village of Santa Luzia has some excellent seafood restaurants. The beautiful Barril beach is within walking distance, however it's quite a long walk and the less ambitious may prefer to use the train service.
St Luzia's beach is known locally as Terra Estreita, meaning 'narrow land' as it is at the point of the Ihla de Tavira where it is at its narrowest between lagoon and sea. The beach has fewer facilities, is less busy and has a calmer and quieter air than its two neighbours Barril - to the right - and Tavira - to the left. And hey, the boat ride out there is fun.
To get to St Luzia's beach, you catch one of the water taxis from the middle of the promenade in the town. A jetty with floating quay was built in 2008. The boats whisk you away up the lagoon of the Ria Formosa in the direction of Tavira. They will drop you at a wooden pontoon on the other side, from where you can then walk on a wooden pathway over the dunes to the beach.
In Santa Luzia you can find: Restaurants, Bars, Cafés (one selling freshly baked bread), Supermarkets and Shops
Approximate Driving Time to Airports: Faro - 35 minutes, Lisbon - 2 hours 50 minutes and Porto - 5 hours, 20 minutes
Approached through green fields studded with almond trees, the fishing town of Tavira is possibly the most picturesque town in the Algarve. It is set about 20 miles east of Faro and sits either side of the palm-lined river Gilão which is the centre of the town’s nightlife. One of the bridges spanning the river dates back to Roman times and there is still evidence of the town’s Roman walls.
Formerly one of the most important Moorish settlements in the region, the ruins of the Moorish castle, where there are some of the best views of the town over the streets lined with 18th century houses topped by pyramidal Roman-tiled roofs. Ferries leave the terminal, 2 km south of the town centre, taking bathers to the 11 km long and 500 m wide sandy beach of Ilha da Tavira.
In Tavira you can find: Restaurants, Cafés, Bars, Daily fruit and vegetable market, a Market - 3rd Saturday of the month, Shops, Banks, Beaches, Railway Station and an 18 hole golf course
Approximate Driving Time to Airports: Faro - 30 minutes, Lisbon - 2 hours 45 minutes and Porto - 5 hours, 15 minutes
Vila Real de Santo Antonio
Set on the Spanish border, this harbour town is full of history. The original town was demolished by a tidal wave in 17th century and was rebuilt by the Marques de Pombal using a grid layout. There is good shopping in the streets that lead to the Praca Marques de Pombal – the town’s main square lined with lemon trees.
Approximate Driving Time to Airports: Faro - 50 minutes, Lisbon - 3 hours and Porto - 5 hours, 30 minutes
Original article in www.gateway2algarve.com