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6 secret places you should not miss in the Algarve

Are there any undiscovered places in the Algarve? Would you believe us if we told you that there are places rarely visited by tourists? Let this article show you the 6 secret places in the Algarve that you should not miss and will make you fall even more in love with the south of Portugal.

We begin this journey from the eastern to the western Algarve with the promise of revealing secret places that not even the most fertile imagination could have foreseen. Make your holiday itinerary with these six suggestions for lesser-known destinations.

1. Cacela Velha

If you plan to travel to the Algarve, this is one of the places you should definitely visit. Cacela Velha is one of the most remote places in the region; without the traditional mass tourism, this small village manages to leave a mark in the memory of those who come here. Although it is a village with little movement in general, it is visited by more tourists in the summer than at other times of the year. So, if you come to the Algarve in spring, autumn or winter, take advantage of the unpopulated roads and the excellent weather that characterises this part of the region.

Try the oysters at the Casa da Igreja restaurant in the off-season. Don't expect to be able to book a table, and don't expect to get a seat inside this restaurant. The reason is simple: there are no reservations, and the tables are on the street next to the church. Here it's normal to share a table with strangers and end up praising the divine taste of the fresh oysters.

Near the church square, you can take a boat to Cacela Velha beach, enjoy the magnificent view of the Ria Formosa on the way and swim in the warm water until the end of the day. The price of the boat ride is €1.50, and the last return trip is at 9 pm, depending on the tide.

Distance and location: Cacela Velha is 1.20 hours from Baía da Luz.

2. Ria Formosa

Separated from the salt waters of the Atlantic Ocean by barrier islands, the Ria Formosa is the most important wetland in the south of the country and is classified as a natural park. Its various habitats, such as dunes, pine forests, marshes and agricultural land, are home to several birds and a natural breeding ground for some marine species. It is a true haven for nature lovers and birdwatchers.

Would you like to get to know the country's southernmost landmark? The Cabo de Santa Maria is located on one of the Ria Formosa's islands, Barreta Island, also known as Deserta Island. All you need is a boat to get there, and then it's time to enjoy one of the Algarve's best-kept secrets. After a day at the beach on the island's crystal-clear waters, you can have lunch at the island's only restaurant, which burned down in 2021 but reopened months later in a new building. This is the Estaminé restaurant, which is open from 12.30 pm to 5 pm.

Distance and location: The Ria Formosa is 1.05 hours from Baía da Luz.

3. Tavira

Of the places that call for tranquillity in the Algarve, one might immediately single out tranquil Tavira, with its river Gilão crossing and dividing the two sides of the town. Tavira as a whole is not the most secret place, but every nook and cranny has the mystique of discovering something for the first time. One of the busiest places is the Old Bridge (Ponte Velha), where people walk from one bank to the other without stopping. We recommend sitting down on one of the stone benches, eating an artisanal ice cream and watching the day end.

Gastronomy is meaningful in every city in the country, but Tavira represents the Mediterranean diet on the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. You can enjoy the best of this healthy diet in the city's various restaurants and try the corn porridge, the octopus’ salad, the stuffed figs or the fig stars.

"Get to know the restaurants that have earned the emblematic Michelin star in the Algarve."

After a short ride on the electric train, you'll reach the Algarve's most peculiar beach, Barril beach, where several anchors lie in the sand, reminiscent of the tuna fishing days. If you want to continue exploring areas with water, go to the Pego do Inferno waterfall and see a small oasis surrounded by vegetation.

Distance and location: Tavira is 1.10 hours from Baía da Luz.

4. Estói

Are you looking for those picturesque, whitewashed places that lend themselves to several souvenir photos? Estói's Monument Village (“Aldeia Monumento”) is the key to a well-spent day in a town of just over 4 thousand people. If you are interested in architecture, you should see all the buildings in the village, especially the 19th-century rococo-style palace. This palace is now an inn, but the interior and gardens are open to the public.

Nearby you will find the ruins of Milreu, a Roman village with well-preserved remains from that period. Learn more about the ruins of Milreu in this video.

Distance and location: Estói is 56 minutes from Baía da Luz.


5. Alte

Another secret place not to be missed in the Algarve is the municipality of Alte, which belongs to Loulé and where the beaches are not the main attraction for tourists. Alte is surrounded by orange groves and lies at the foot of the Caldeirão mountains. In the centre of the municipality, you will find whitewashed houses, Portuguese-paved streets, lots of urban art on the walls and a donkey named Baltazar to welcome you. In the 1930s, it was considered the "most Portuguese village in Portugal", but after that, it was not so interesting for tourism.

There is no beach nearby, but the Alte springs, a freshwater canal and the natural shade of the trees are inviting places to spend the day with the family. Although there is a bar nearby, you can bring your own snacks and sit at the picnic tables on the grounds for free. Another place to spend the afternoon is the Queda do Vigário, a waterfall surrounded by nature, with arduous access on the way back. For this reason, you should not take any unnecessary items with you. Bring a towel to lie down on the grass, a bottle of water and something to eat.

Distance and location: Alte is 54 minutes from Baía da Luz.

6. Alvor

It is a parish of Portimão where the inhabitants still remember the days when the boats left for several days to fish. The original fish market may still be seen in the waterfront area, where residents gather to chat nowadays. This place also boasts a number of restaurants with large grills to entice travellers to try the fresh fish. Perhaps the most secret spot in this municipality is the wooden walkway that runs between the ria and the beach. Walk along the Algarve's biggest walkways, watch the kite surfers in Alvor, swim in the ria (small river) or the sea, and relax.

In Alvor there is a street entirely dedicated to nightlife, with several bars for all ages. The Bolan bar is the one that stands out the most because it has the walls painted in different colours, bears the signatures of its visitors and offers the best caipirinhas in the Algarve. Alvor is worth a stroll through its narrow streets at any time of day.

Distance and location: Alvor is 26 minutes from Baía da Luz.

The Algarve has secret places, away from mass tourism, that you should definitely visit. There are always additional places to visit in the region that are rich in history, monuments, and nature landscapes. Make a holiday itinerary that includes at least one of the destinations recommended in this article. If you require assistance with your planning, please contact  reception in Baía da Luz.