Things to do in Salir & Alte, 1-day itinerary

There’s more to the Algarve than just beaches. The mountain villages of Salir and Alte show a different side of this amazing region, one that is made up of hills, castles and waterfalls.

In the 12th century, Salir was occupied by the Moors who built the Castle of Salir to protect the region against the Christian re-conquest. Now left to ruins, the castle acts as a great viewpoint over the green hills of Serra do Caldeirão. Besides this, the main landmark of the region is the natural park of Rocha da Pena, a popular spot among climbing and hiking enthusiasts.

Alte, on the other hand, is famous for its natural spring waters. In the past, women used to come to the fountains to fill their pitchers, do their laundry and catch up on the local gossip. Today, the water stream fed by the fountains is enjoyed as a refreshing swimming spot.

You can easily combine both villages in a single day trip. Below we highlight the best things to do in Salir and Alte, so you won’t miss a thing.

Day 1

Morning — Salir, Fonte Benémola

The Fonte Benémola is a stunning nature reserve and one of Loulé’s most hidden gems. A stream called Menalva runs through this protected area. Menalva is supplied by several water springs, allowing it to keep water all year round.

Following the walking trail, you’re likely to come across several plant species and animals, such as the colourful kingfishers, tortoises and frogs. Sometimes, it’s even possible to observe otters in Fonte Benémola, but it’s a rare phenomenon.

Castelo de Salir

Further north, you can visit the Castle of Salir, an Almohad fortress set amid the mountains. Built during the 12th century, the castle belonged to the Moorish until it was captured by the Christians. Later, it was destroyed in a fire and subsequently left in ruins. Today, only a tower and two wall sections remain from this Moorish castle. Make sure to visit the small museum near the castle, where you can find several items uncovered during excavations.

Rocha da Pena

Set between the towns of Salir and Benafim, this rocky structure has a maximum height of 479 metres and extends for over 600 hectares. Climbing and hiking are the most popular activities at Rocha da Pena. The walk is tiring at first, but it’s worth the effort once you get to the top of the cliff and enjoy the magnificent ocean views in the distance.

In Spring, you’ll find many plants flourishing at Rocha da Pena, especially wild orchids, but also narcissus and the wild peony, all adding layers of colour to this mountainous region. Visitors arriving in Autumn or Winter will also be greeted by several bird species that migrate here, including alpine accentors and ring ouzels. The village of Penina and the windmills are a few other sites you should check while visiting Rocha da Pena.

Afternoon — Alte, Igreja Matriz de Alte

Continue driving towards Alte. When you get there, head to the Igreja Matriz de Alte. Dating back to the 13th century, this local church is also decorated with tiles featuring figures of angels playing musical instruments in between the clouds. Outside, two crosses rise above the building’s roof, one on top of the church and the other on the bell tower.

Queda do Vigário

From the church, you can walk to the waterfall known as Queda do Vigário. In the old days, Queda do Vigário was a popular spot for locals who came here to bathe on Sundays or special holidays. Today it’s frequented by anyone looking to cool down on a hot summer day.

Salir and Alte Tour Map

Day trips from Salir & Alte

  • Vale do Lobo and Quinta do Lago: Part of Algarve’s Golden Triangle, these two areas are renowned for its luxury resorts, golf courses and serene beaches. You can spend a day practising your swing, rent kayaks or cycle along the surrounding nature trails. Then, finish off with a Michelin-star meal at Gusto.

  • Faro: Take a trip down to Faro, the capital of the Algarve. Learn more about the region’s history at the Museu Regional do Algarve and visit iconic monuments like the cathedral or the bone chapel inside Igreja do Carmo. You can also hop on a boat to the nearby island of Deserta, home to a pristine white sandy beach.

  • Loulé: Salir and Alte are part of the Loulé council. If you want to explore the rest of the district, you should head to the centre of Loulé. Here, you’ll find a bustling food market housed in a Neo-Arab building, a Moorish castle and a handful of contemporary art galleries.

  • São Brás de Alportel: Stick to the mountains and visit the town of São Brás de Alportel, about half an hour east of Salir and Alte. You’ll find yourself surrounded by oak trees and iconic viewpoints overlooking the hills of Serra do Caldeirão. Enjoy a picnic at the Parque da Fonte Férrea, or join a beekeeping experience at a local farm.

Best things to do with kids in Salir and Alte

Both Salir and Alte offer a couple of activities for kids. In the summer, you can enjoy a swim at the natural spring pools like Fonte Grande in Alte. This is also a great spot for a picnic. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can follow the Rota do Alte, a hiking trail that takes you along the mountain valleys.

Meanwhile, in Salir is the Clube Hípico de Salir, which organizes horseriding lessons. A bit further in Paderne is the Donkey Tours Algarve, a farm that offers donkey rides for children, a great way to explore the surrounding countryside.

Where to eat in Salir and Alte

  • Janela da Serra: Close to the Salir church, this cosy spot serves a variety of tapas, including vegetarian and vegan options.

  • A Medronheira: This rustic-style restaurant stands out with its exposed wooden beams and bright white walls. The menu changes every day, but typical dishes include wild boar and rooster.

A Medronheira restaurant, Algarve, PortugalA Medronheira restaurant, Algarve, Portugal
  • A Cataplana: In the centre of Alte is this spacious restaurant serving a mix of seafood and meat dishes. Highlights include the cataplana, barbecue chicken and Iberian pork skewers.

  • Rosmaninho: Nestled amid the Serra do Caldeirão, this family-run restaurant serves delicious homemade dishes like duck rice and pork cheeks. Reserve ahead and bring cash.

Where to stay in Salir and Alte

  • Alte Tradition Guest House: You’ll find this modern guesthouse in the centre of Alte. It has nine rooms featuring double or twin beds. Other facilities include an outdoor pool and a rooftop with a jacuzzi overlooking the mountains.

  • Quinta do Freixo: Surrounded by natural streams, this rural property doubles as an accommodation and farm. Guests can enjoy delicious organic treats for breakfast, interact with the farm animals and rent bikes to explore the area. There is also a restaurant and a pool on site.

  • Casa da Mãe - Hospitalidade Serrana: This rural complex near Salir offers a mix of rooms and houses with fully equipped kitchens. All guests have access to the gardens, outdoor pool and barbecue facilities.

Salir and Alte Festivals

  • Festa da Espiga: Festa da Espiga is a traditional festival that takes place 40 days after Easter on the Feast of Ascension. It is held near the church of Salir, and it’s an homage to the countryside. To mark this day, residents collect ears of wheat which symbolise abundance and hang them outside their houses until the following year. The day is celebrated with a parade, music and local food.

  • Salir do Tempo: At the end of July, Salir transforms into a medieval village. The festival recreates the atmosphere in the village when the Algarve was being disputed by Christians and Muslims.

  • Carnaval de Alte: Every year around February, Alte celebrates carnival with a bang. Locals get together to create the floats and customs for the parades, which take place on Sunday and Tuesday.

  • Semana Cultural de Alte: Between the 25th of April and the 1st of May, Alte hosts a cultural week full of events. These include exhibitions, walking tours, street performances, craft markets and live concerts.

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