Silves 2 Day tour - amidst the mountains and the coast

Day 1

We leave Albufeira and start our Silves 2 day tour, day 11 of our Algarve tourSilves is a medieval town set amidst the mountains and the coast of the Algarve.

I left Paderne on Saturday morning and made my way to Silves. The first thing I spotted when I arrived was its castle, a stunning fortification built with red-stone walls perched high above a hill overlooking the town. The Castle of Silves was established by the Moors and it’s considered the best-preserved castle in the Algarve.

I drove straight towards it, passing through a series of cobbled streets lined with houses and local cafés until I finally reached the top. From here, I could see the maze of terracotta roofs leading down to the river and the white Roman bridge standing over its calming waters.

Right next to the castle, I saw the Silves Cathedral. Originally built as a mosque, it was converted to a cathedral after the Christian Reconquest in the Algarve. The cathedral has an impressive façade with a mix of white plastered walls and red sandstone, the same material used in the castle’s walls. The interior is just as stunning, as it combines Gothic, Medieval and Baroque architecture all under one roof.

I left the cathedral and walked to Silves Archeological Museum. The museum features an amazing collection of archaeological finds that were discovered around the region, ranging from prehistory all the way to the 17th century. Its main attraction is a large Moorish well that stands right in the middle of the museum. But there are other items worth checking, including ceramics from the Islamic period and funerary tracks from the Iron Age.

After the visit, I headed down to the riverside, making a quick stop near the Cruz de Portugal, a beautiful gothic cross made with limestone, which has been in Silves for hundreds of years and it’s now considered a national monument.

Then, I passed by the Silves Municipal Market. Inside the market, I found a couple of food stalls selling fish, vegetables and plenty of fruit. The sight of so many delicious ingredients was beginning to make me hungry, so I decided to go for lunch.

Only a few steps away from Silves market, there is one of the best seafood restaurants in the Algarve, Marisqueira Rui. Here, you can savour a variety of fresh fish and seafood including shrimp, clams, lobster, crab and much more. I ordered a fish soup to start and garlic shrimp as a main.

For the afternoon, I scheduled a visit to a Silves winery, Convento do Paraíso. Set in an old farm called Quinta de Mata Mouros, Convento do Paraíso uses both traditional and modern methods to produce their delicious local wine. The vineyard is spread over 12 hectares and offers an incredible view over the town of Silves.

After my wine tasting experience, I went to the Amendoeira Golf Resort in Alcantarilha for a short golf lesson. The resort has three remarkable golf courses, one of them has even been designed by Sir Nick Faldo, a professional English golfer that was once number 1 on the Official Golf Ranking.

Following my lesson, I drove down to Armação de Pêra to explore the beaches of Silves. First, I stopped at Praia de Armação de Pêra, a small sandy beach, surrounded by modern apartment blocks and a promenade filled with lively bars and restaurants. I followed the promenade and ended up at the fortress of Armação de Pêra. Formerly used to protect the town from pirate attacks, today the fortress is a great place to admire the sea views without getting your feet on the sand. 

Looking out, I could also see the dunes of Praia Grande, one of the longest beaches in the Algarve. The beach is bordered by two stunning wetlands, the Alcantarilha stream on the West and the Lake Salgados on the East. I stood at the fortress a bit longer and watched the sun go down before heading to the hotel.

This time, Iberian Escapes booked me at Vila Vita Parc, a luxurious hotel that sits on a clifftop above the Atlantic. The hotel has everything you can imagine, including tennis courts, swimming pools, tropical gardens, mini-golf and even a two Michelin-starred restaurant named Ocean. Soon after I checked in, I went to the restaurant for dinner. The menu was curated by the Austrian Chef Hans Neuner who was considered Portugal’s Chef of the Year in 2009 and 2012. I had a privileged seat near the window, which allowed me to take in the ocean views whilst enjoying my exquisite four-course meal.

By the end, I wanted to taste it all again, but it was getting late, so, right after dessert, I went straight to bed.

Walking / Driving map for Day 1 of this Silves tour

Day 2

We are on the Silves 2 day tour - day 2 and day 12 of our Algarve tour. From the coast of Armação de Pêra to the mountain ranges of Serra do Caldeirão in the north, there is a lot to explore in Silves. 

Having seen the beaches, I was excited to discover the other end of the town. The Arade Dam was the first stop of the day. More than a water reservoir, the dam is also a great viewpoint where you can admire the rural landscape around you.

Next, I continued on to São Bartolomeu de Messines, a small village in the Northeast of Silves, that borders with the Alentejo region. It’s hard to imagine that the vast green scenery of Messines is only half an hour away from the ocean. As I approached the town, I noticed a series of small chapels, one after the other, displaying the same kind of façade as the Silves Cathedral with its red and white walls. I started my tour at the Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora da Saúde, then, I walked to the chapel of São Sebastião and finished near the square with the main church of São Bartolomeu de Messines. 

Near the church, there are some cafés and restaurants, although most of them didn’t seem to be open on a Sunday. I walked a bit further and stumbled upon Restaurante João de Deus, where I ended up having lunch.

After lunch, I got back on the road and headed to another village called São Marcos da Serra. On the way, I stopped by the Funcho Dam, once again taking in the views of the nearby mountains. I arrived at São Marcos da Serra just before sunset. The streets were empty and I only passed by one or two people before reaching the church. Unlike the chapels of São Bartolomeu de Messines, the church of São Marcos da Serra was fully painted in white with only a few grey details. The clock outside marked the time and the bell above it was about to chime 6 o’clock when I got to the entrance.

Throughout the village, I spotted many ornamented chimneys sitting above the terracotta roofs, but it was near the church that I saw the largest of them all. The chimney is a memory of the Moorish occupation in the Algarve and a remarkable piece of architecture that deserves to be captured.

I found myself surrounded by hills filled with cork trees and medronheiros, the tree that gives the medronho fruit used in the traditional Algarve moonshine, a sight that I would never have expected to find in a region known for its beaches.

Just opposite the church, I came across a beautiful dark red building that houses one of the few restaurants in town, “Os Duartes”. I had a quick meal there before driving down to the coast again.

By the time I got to Vila Vita Parc, the hills were long gone, replaced by rocky cliffs and the ocean breeze.

I started packing my bags once more and prepared for the next trip to Lagoa.

Walking / Driving map for Day 2 of this Silves tour

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