Welcome to our tour of the Algarve. We will be touring the entire region. We are at the very start, this is our Faro 3 day tour. From here we will keep close to the coast moving to the far western corners of the region. We will then move inland travelling eastwards through the mountainous regions until we hit the Spanish border, then head back down to the coast, and slowly travel back to Faro.
Many travellers are drawn to the Algarve for its dazzling beaches, hot summer nights, premiere golf camps, and staggering natural features which promise to leave its visitors in awe. While its popularity continues to grow worldwide, there is still a side to the Algarve that remains unexplored by many: Faro, the main gateway to the Algarve.
Faro airport is often the first stop on your route to the Algarve and for some, it is the only side of Faro they will ever see. This underrated city, is in fact, the capital of the Algarve, but it receives much less attention than its neighbour resort towns in the West. I decided that Faro deserved more than just a flying visit. At 10.15 am I landed in the South of Portugal for the first time with one suitcase and a plan to explore every town in the Algarve.
It was late September and the temperature was still hot enough for a swim. In 15 minutes a cab could take me to the Faro beach or the city centre, all I had to do was pick. For convenience sake, I decided for the latter and headed straight to the Luxury Guest House_Opus One, my home for the next two days.
After checking-in, I was ready for my morning walk. In less than 5 minutes I was in front of the Igreja do Carmo, a baroque church dated from the 18th century and paid with Brazilian gold. The first thing that caught my eye was the bright yellow window frames, highly contrasting against the rustiness of the building’s façade. On top of the church’s towers, large stork nests emerged, a sight that I would eventually find in most of the town’s high landmarks.
in and I was even more impressed by the golden details embellishing the walls
of the church from the bottom to the top. My ticket also included a visit to the Capela dos Ossos (Chapel
of Bones) which is set right behind the main church building. “Stop here and consider the fate that will befall you.” - I read
before entering a room fully adorned with bones and skulls staring at me from
every angle. These are the remains of over 1000 monks which were exhumed from
an overcrowded local cemetery during the 19th century. As creepy as it may
look, it does remind you that life is ephemeral and that our destiny lies in
After the chapel, I followed the path to Faro marina, where many
locals dock their boats. From nearby here you can take to a boat trip to the local beach, Praia de Faro or one of the islands, Ilha da Barreta (also known as Deserta) or Ilha do Farol, but that's for another day. I walked towards the Old Town, making
my way through the old Arco da Vila. I was welcomed by the city’s patron saint,
St. Thomas Aquinas, the figure that lies on top of this neoclassical arch that
marks the entrance to the medieval neighbourhood known as Vila-a-Dentro.
Once inside, I found Faro’s Cathedral, a splendid building that during the Moorish occupation actually served as a mosque. Later, with the attacks of the English troops and a wave of devastating earthquakes, the church underwent a series of renovations which significantly altered its original features. The result is a unique mix of renaissance and baroque architecture. But
it’s on top of the clock tower that real beauty strikes. If you follow the
narrow stairs to the top of the Cathedral, you will be rewarded with stunning
views of the city of Faro and the Ria Formosa Natural Park. This is one of the
best viewpoints in town and the perfect place to capture the sunset.
The sound of my rumbling stomach was overshadowed by the twelve
strikes of the church’s bells, a sign that it was time for lunch. As I was making my way to Faro Museum, I
stumbled upon the restaurant Faz Gostos, where I settled in for my first
Portuguese meal. I figured, since I was near the coast, I should be ordering
fish. So I scanned the menu and found a sea bass casserole with clams and
shrimp, a delightful introduction to the local cuisine. (Please note that Faz Gostos is not open for lunch at weekends).
my energy levels replenished, I continued my walk and went inside Faro's
Municipal Museum, where I discovered more about Algarve’s historical background
through the museum’s artefact collection. From the prehistoric era to the
neoclassical period, the museum features a variety of items, but it was the
large Roman mosaics that won me over, that, and the cloister garden surveilled
by gargoyles hiding just below the roof.
I left in the direction of the Jardim da Alameda João de Deus, the largest garden in the city. Guided by the palm tree corridor, I was lead to a small striped house with beautiful Islamic details. I also found another Neo-Arab building, a former slaughterhouse, now home to the city’s main library. If it weren’t for the peacocks meandering around the garden, it could have well been set in Marrakech.
After a relaxing stroll, I headed to the restaurant Chefe Branco
for a delicious homestyle dinner. The perfect ending to my first day in Faro. The fact that it was a straight line from the hotel prevented
any chances of me getting lost, which was almost inevitable after a few glasses