Located in southern Portugal, the Algarve region is a popular destination for those seeking beach resorts, loads of sunshine, and award-winning, golden, sandy beaches – topped off with a fabulous nightlife. If you have already been to the Algarve, then you know just how much this region of Portugal has to offer. For those of you who have yet to enjoy an Algarve holiday or will be retuning for another, here are four hidden gems to check-out.
Restaurant Casa do Campo
Casa do Campo is one of the most charming restaurants around. It is hidden from the main road in Amancil. The restaurant is housed in what was once an old farm house, dating from 1884. In summer, the wooden shutters are open to take advantage of the warm evenings or you can dine al fresco on the garden terrace. A magnificent old fig tree dominates the courtyard, providing welcome shade, not to mention the fruit for some seriously fresh fig dishes. Mediterranean and Algarvian dishes are the typical fare and local fresh produce is used whenever possible. The specialty is the Pepper Steak Flambé served at your table with a flaming presentation. The restaurant is open year-round; in the winter you can dine by the fireplace!
EHTA (Escola de Hotelaria e Turismo)
If you are on a budget but want to eat like a king, you must visit the EHTA Culinary School in the city of Faro. Located in the old convent of the Church of San Francisco, the school opens the restaurant and bar to the public. All the cuisine and service is provided by students studying to be in the restaurant or hotel business. They are all supervised by skilled trainers. For 15 Euro pp, we had 3 course meals (whatever they are cooking that day is served, there is no set menu) and we sampled several desserts!
Caldes de Monchique Thermal Baths
Monchique is easily reached by car from anywhere in the western Algarve. On the way to this spa town you can drive through the village of Marmallate or you can climb to the top of the mountain where you will find breathtaking views of the entire Algarve coastline. This area is also famous for its roadside Chicken Piri Piri restaurants (barbequed chicken with Piri Piri hot sauce) and other Portuguese favorites at very reasonable prices. The Romans built impressive thermal baths here and the waters are believed to have healing properties. There is also a fountain where you can sample the natural sulfurous spring water. This is a great spot to cool off in summer since the mountains are much cooler and greener than the coast that lies to the south.
The city of Tavira
Located in eastern Algarve, Tavira is a stunning old city with a Moorish castle and many historic churches. At one time it was the capital of the Algarve and is often referred to as Venice of the Algarve. The town boasts Roman bridges, Renaissance architecture and tree lined squares. It is also located near the Ria Formosa natural park which offers miles of lagoons and barrier islands where you can view flamingos and many aquatic birds. The beach at the ilha de Tavira (a long sand spit) can be reached in summer using a ferry from the centre of town. Although this stretch of sand is very popular with the Portuguese, it continues for miles allowing for some quiet spots even during the busy summer season.
When you visit the Algarve avoid visiting in July to mid-September. This is when most Portuguese and other Europeans take their holidays; spring and autumn are lovely alternatives.
Off the beaten path in the Algarve, we think you’ll love the quiet castle towns, flower-covered hillsides, and vast stretches of shoreline still untouched by development.
Written by Carla Scott for EuropeUpClose.com