Just over an hour's drive by motorway from Faro International Airport to the Western Algarve – and you enter a new world. With sheltered southern bays and harbours and rugged splendour of the wilder shores pounded by the Atlantic surf on the west coast, - you are a world away from crowded beaches & traffic jams.
LAGOS is the most historically interesting coastal town in the Algarve. Offering cafes, boutiques beaches and more. Its fame derives from its association with Portugal's 14th-and 15th-century Age of Discovery. It was here that Henry the Navigator had his vessels built and victualled for the voyages of exploration down the coast of West Africa which utimately led to the sea route past the Cape of Good Hope to India.
Cabo de São Vicente ( CAPE ST. VINCENT) is an obligatory landmark to any ship travelling to the Mediterranean. Here many major sea battles were fought just in front of its fortress. The Cape takes its name from a Spanish priest martyred at the beginning of the 4th century. According to legend, his remains were brought or washed ashore on Promontorium Sacrum, the Sacred Cape, as it was known in ancient times.Inside the fortress a chapel can be found, built on what is traditionally said to be the site of St. Vincent's grave.
THE WEST COAST the west coast faces the full brunt of the Atlantic, whose crashing breakers and cooler waters have largely deterred the developers. Nevertheless, the rocky coastline is punctuated by fantastic broad beaches accessible from the small villages of Carrapateira, Odeceixe or, a little further inland, Aljezur. This is popular territory for surfers but be warned: the sea can be dangerous and swimmers should take great care.
MONCHIQUE is with a few exceptions happily untouched by the 20th Century invasion of tourism. Lying in the saddle created by the two high hills, Foia and Picota, the former reaching to 902 metres above sea level. The town has retained the rustic atmosphere with steep cobbled streets and small dark doorways housing various artisan trades. With a neglected 17th Century Franciscan monastery overlooking the town from which a visitor has a panoramic view over the beautiful countryside. The 16th Century Parish Church has excellent examples of Manueline craftsmanship around its doorway. The surrounding area flourishes on the production of cattle, pigs, cork and wood. Another important local product is the popular "medronho", the name of a strong schnapps type drink made from distilling the fruit from arbutus bushes.
Things to do:
Slide & Splash, Lagoa - Water park with slides & animal shows
Aqualand Algarve, Alcantarilha - Family water park with slides & rapids
Zoomarine, Guia - Marine park with seal & dolphin shows, an aquarium & a sandy beach with slides & a wave pool.
Horse-riding - Tiffany's Riding Center, Almandena (Nr Luz)
Lagos Zoo - Barão de S.João
Churches in the area
17th century church in Vila do Bispo: also home to the Museum of Sacred Art.
16th century church in Vila do Bispo
Raposeira Church originates from the 16th century and still has a manueline door.
Hermitage of Nossa Senhora de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe) thought to be 13th century and where Henry the Navigator worshipped. It was one of only a handful of buildings that survived the 1755 earthquake intact. It is just to side of the main (N125) road between Raposeira and Budens.
Opening hours: April to September 09.30h to 12.30h and 14.00h to 18.00h. October to March 09.30h to 12.30h and 14.00h to 17.00h
Closed Monday, Tuesday morning and main holidays.
Budens main Church from the 18th century contains religious artefacts from the 16th to 18th century.
Hermitage of São António (St. Anthony) in Budens from the 18th century.
Hermitage of São Lourenço (St. Lawrence) in Budens originates from the 16th and 17th centuries.
Barão de São Miguel Church: Originates from the 16th century.