Algarve, the 'real' Portugal and beyond
Tavira - Beja – Évora - Sagres – Estoi
This route originates in the eastern, less developed region of the Algarve, reaches north inland before heading back to the South West coast at Sagres and finally to Faro and is perfect for those looking for a more cultural holiday. The southernmost region of Portugal, the Algarve, is without a doubt the best-known to visitors to the country from overseas thanks to its popularity as one of Europe’s main holiday destinations. Certainly the Algarve’s attractions are many, and not least its enviable climate with sunshine virtually year-round.
The region is probably most famous for its beaches and its numerous golf courses. The Algarve has around 100 miles of coastline, stretching from the border with Spain in the east right across the south of the country to Cape St Vincent in the west (this is the most south-westerly point in Europe), and then north for about 30 miles up to the border with the Alentejo region. And it’s a wonderful coastline with a mixture of extensive beaches of fine golden sand, small sandy coves and, in places, dramatic cliff-faces and rock formations.
STAY: POUSADA DE TAVIRA
This exceptionally beautiful Pousada stands on what was once most likely the Jewish quarter of the attractive fishing village of Tavira. The 16th-century convent features a 16th and 17th-century Renaissance cloister, a baroquestyle central staircase and many original features. Tavira is steeped in history and famous for its 37 churches. It is known as the ‘Town of churches’, and also as the ‘Venice of the Algarve’ due to its position on two hills on either side of the River Gilão linked by a sevenarched bridge. Midway between Faro and the Spanish border, this is a delightful and completely 'unspoilt' area of the Algarve to explore.
The attractive fishing village of Tavira will occupy you for several days, staying in the magnificent 16th century convent and exploring the town known as the ‘Venice of the Algarve’. Heading north and crossing into the Alentejo region the next Pousada is Beja, a 13th century convent in the centre of the delightful town. It is a fascinating city: it received its name from the occupying Moors in the 6th century, and a variety of cultures have influenced the city and its region since pre-historic times. The ‘Museu Regional da Rainha Dona Leonor’ contains a wealth of items reflecting these cultures.
STAY: POUSADA DE BEJA
This impressive Pousada set in a 13thcentury Franciscan convent has an air of complete tranquility thanks to its solid white walls, vaulted ceilings and elegant sitting rooms. Surrounded by lawns, palm trees and an inviting outdoor pool, this is the perfect place to stay cool even in the intense heat of midsummer. The bedrooms (which are of modest, though comfortable, proportions as they were once monk’s cells!) are now beautifully furnished to the highest standards and are positioned around three sides of a cloister. The Pousada is located in the heart of the historical town of Beja in the Alentejan plain.
Back into the Algarve and you will see it is not just about beaches and golf. Inland the region is largely rural – hilly, and in places mountainous – and many of the picturesque little towns and villages in the interior appear to have changed little over the centuries and still retain their quiet, unhurried and relaxed way of life. Heading north you will reach the Pousada of Évora, which is found in the historical centre of the city, between the Gothic Cathedral of Évora and the Temple of Diana.
STAY: POUSADA DE ÉVORA
This Pousada stands in the heart of the historic centre of Evora, 130km east of Lisbon, a city classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. The town is well known for its roman ruins and the frescoes found inside many of its churches. Originally a convent founded in 1485, the Pousada is one of Evora's historic gems with elements of Romanesque, Gothic and Manueline architecture. There are sumptuous drapes, richly covered velvet chairs and sofas, 18th-century frescos, and gilt mirrors. The restaurant is located in the cloister and there is also a swimming pool to enjoy.
The route then heads to the far western tip of mainland Europe and the Pousada at Sagres. Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by deserted beaches, this Pousada is located in the picturesque fishing village of Sagres, close to Cape St Vincent.
STAY: POUSADA DE SAGRES
Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, and on a path down to deserted beaches, this Pousada is located in the picturesque fishing village of Sagres, close to Cape St Vincent in the far west of the Algarve region. The village has an important historical and maritime significance, as it was from here, 500 years ago, that Prince Henry the Navigatorʼs caravels left on their voyages of discovery and the cape has seen many sea battles by the likes of Drake, Napier and Nelson. The Pousada itself, with a maritime atmosphere in sympathy with its location, is a haven of peace and tranquility far removed from the popular Algarve resorts to the east.
Finally, passing the busier strech of the Algarve you will return to the area just north of Faro for a stay in the Palacio de Estoi, a very grand ending for the route - in the 19th century palace with spa facilities and attractive gardens.
STAY: POUSADA DE ESTOI
Situated only 10km away from the coast and the capital of the region, Faro, Estoi offers a more sophisticated perspective of the Algarve. The Pousada occupies an impressive 19thcentury palace once owned by the Viscount of Estói, situated in a 4-hectare complex with the ancient tea pavilions and beautiful gardens in “Versailles style”. Guests can relax in the gardens and grounds of the palace, indulge in the spa and swimming pool, and enjoy authentic Portuguese cuisine in the Pousada's restaurant. This notable Pousada is located in the small village of Estói, close to the Roman ruins of Milreu.