Posted 2nd Feb 2017
We’ve all heard of the Algarve’s more obvious attractions: sun, sea and sandcastles, villas-with-pools and water parks galore. And while there’s nothing wrong with these, we do rather like the approach taken by Inntravel, the Slow Holiday people, to this beguiling corner of south-westernmost Europe. They get well off the beaten track, and use footpaths – and some wonderful places to stay – to help you discover some of southern Portugal’s lesserspotted delights.
"This region of rolling hills and broad, sandy beaches perhaps needs little introduction; but few visitors – especially outside the peak holiday season – take the time to explore its heart and soul. A walking holiday is the very best way to do that." James Keane (Inntravel’s expert on Portugal)
A coast of many colours
Inntravel is the UK’s leading provider of self-guided walking holidays, and their hotelto- hotel route, A Coast of Many Colours, which takes you across the Algarve – from its honeyed, southern coast through an agricultural heartland to the wilder, western shores – is one of the most enticing in their entire collection. A world away from the region’s busy resorts, you can discover for yourself the unspoiled landscapes of the Costa Vicentina National Park, characterised by dramatic cliffs, pristine coves and quiet, rolling pastures. The colours are many and varied: long stretches of golden sand give way to grey-and-red jagged rocks before softening to a paler orange and rose as the coastal edge turns northwards.
Inland, the green hills are home to drifts of winter blossom, plantations of quince and oranges, and flower meadows carpeted with citrus-yellow Bermuda buttercups. As the most south-westerly corner of Europe (once considered the edge of the known world), the area feels delightfully remote.
"These are landscapes of change, of dramatic crystalline cliffs, pristine coves, deserted pastures and rolling hills. Here, in the far west, it seems that a balance has managed to be struck between the demands of tourism and a traditional way of life. I found fishermen, clinging precipitously to the high cliffs, working with rod and line or spearing octopus from the tidal pools. And in the hinterland, bee hives, groves of almonds, small herds of cattle and a few grazing goats." Linda Lashford (Inntravel photographer)
An Algarve quinta
If you prefer the idea of a single base for your perambulations, you need look no further than the Quinta das Achadas. This delightfully converted farmhouse, a short distance inland from the historic harbour town of Lagos, provides the accommodation for Inntravel’s week-long Algarve’s Coast and Hills holiday. Well positioned for exploring both westwards along the coast and into the hills of the littleknown interior – and run with great enthusiasm and attention to detail by Anglo-Portuguese couple Jill and Julio Pires – the quinta is an absolute delight. Again, Inntravel provide detailed, self-guided routes, and an included hire car means that you have the ultimate in flexibility, enabling you to pick and choose from different walking and sightseeing options.
"It was just another perfect start to the day on our quinta’s sunny breakfast terrace. Jill came to take our breakfast orders, and we started to chat about the choices for the day ahead. We could laze by the pool, potter down to harbourside Lagos, or have a poke around historic Silves – the former medieval capital of Algarve. However, Jill’s walking suggestions would doubtless prove tempting once again. Today might be the day to enjoy the spellbinding coastal scenery she had told us about east of Benagil, or perhaps it was time for an excursion into the Monchique mountain range for that ‘valley walk’ those other guests had raved about – all cork oaks, wildflower meadows, citrus trees and lush countryside. What a dilemma!"
A man of passion & vision
When he first set eyes on the village of Aldeia da Pedralva, visionary developer António Ferreira saw past the deserted houses, decaying walls and neglected streets... “I discovered Aldeia da Pedralva when I was looking for a holiday house. I worked in advertising which meant a very stressful life. I felt tired and my ‘wellness’ wasn’t brilliant, so I thought that renovating a holiday home would be a good project to take my mind off the day-to-day stress. A colleague told me to go and see Pedralva, an old rural village in ruins where he had already bought a house to rebuild. I went there with my wife and we instantly fell in love with the place, so much so that we actually bought three houses. It made me look at the village from a different perspective and made me realise that there must be other ‘workaholic’ people like me who need to disconnect from the real world. Pedralva was the perfect place to make this happen – a tourist project based around nature, detoxing – and surf. Pedralva lies in the ‘other’ Algarve, part of a Natural Park with amazing nature and wild beaches. It’s a place where you really feel that time has stopped.” Today, António’s dream has become a reality, though it remains fundamentally a traditional place at heart – the houses are simply furnished in keeping with the spirit of the original village. Thanks to the vision, passion and tireless work of one man, Pedralva is alive once more…
Discover the Algarve's quiet side
Choose Inntravel’s hotel-to-hotel walking holiday, A Coast of Many Colours (including a stay in Pedralva); or Algarve’s Coast and Hills, based at the Quinta das Achadas. Find out more by visiting www.inntravel.co.uk or by calling 01653 617000. For Algarve information, see visitalgarve.pt