We’re talking castles made of human bones, rock formations that make you feel like you’re in the core of a distant moon, zip lines that transcend borders, and so much more. Algarve might be one of Europe’s more affordable vacation spots, but that doesn’t mean it’s a Dollar General knockoff; there’s no shortage of unique adventures to be had here.
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Along the shore of the Bay of Angra, you can find the Cemetery of Anchors. As the name suggests, this graveyard of anchors honors the small tuna fishing community that once thrived throughout the Algarve region.
Tuna fishing doesn’t sound too dangerous, but back in the day, it was a risky and profitable endeavor. The kinds of anchors you can find in this Cemetery were used by fishermen to weigh down the net, allowing for the capture of many bluefin tuna at once. The region’s unique tides and landscape nevertheless made tuna fishing a turbulent business, and by the 1960’s, declining tuna populations forced tuna fishermen to give up the ghost.
The person who first established this Cemetery is a mystery, but that didn’t deter the locals from adding their own rusted anchors to the pile. Today, you can walk among the ominous sands of this maritime cemetery, and honor the lives lost gathering tuna to eat and sell, and the anchors they used to make it all happen.
Zip lining is something everyone needs to try at least once; it’s both accessible and adrenaline pumping! There’s no shortage of zip lines in Portugal (or Spain, for that matter), but what if we told you there’s a zip line that actually crosses the border between countries?
Limite Zero Alcoutim stands alone as the only cross-border zipline in the entire world! The more than 2,360 feet of zipline will allow you to cross over the border to Spain in spectacular fashion, and gain an hour in the process! It’s better than waiting in line at a border checkpoint, for sure. Especially when you factor in the 50 mph you’ll be traveling, which is only a bit faster than the 0 mph you’ll travel in a customs line.
There’s a few things to keep in mind. First, you must be 14 or older. They are only open in the spring, summer, and fall. Sorry, but no crossings are offered in the winter months!
When you ask about the composition of a building, typically you might ask about square footage, building materials, and the like. If you asked the builder of this imposing chapel in Alcantarilha that question, the answer would probably send a shiver down your spine. You see, we’re not talking how many bricks went into the building of this chapel; it’s a question of how many bodies were used (the answer is over 5,000 skeletons, btw).
Believe it or not, this is only one of many chapels of bones you can find in Portugal. The one in Alcantarilha is a bit more tucked away, hidden behind the Church of Our Lady of Conception. Entry is free, and the pictures (and chills) will stay with you for a lifetime.
Make no bones about it; Tripio thinks this chapel should be on every Portugal explorer’s bucket list. Just don’t kick that bucket while inside, or you might find yourself as a part of the building entrance!
Algarve is renowned across the world for its long history in the fishing industry, from tuna to sardines and everything in between. In Portimao, you can find an entire museum dedicated to the sardine industry, which appropriately is located inside the remains of an old sardine canning factory. You’ll get up close and personal with the very machines that were used to keep the sardine and canning industries afloat (no pun intended).
Beyond learning about the industry, you’ll also learn about the history of the area, dating all the way back to prehistoric times. Portimao has seen many different historical tenants, from the Roman Empire to the Ottomans, and its place on the Arade River practically guaranteed that these many European and African cultures would mesh together.
There is an art museum on the top floor as well, with works from local artists and historical artifacts denoting the region’s long history. Even if your schedule feels bunched up like sardines in a tin, make some time to check this spot out.
One of Algarve’s earliest occupants was the Roman Empire, whose mighty hand of power engulfed the entire Mediterranean. Roman culture spread far and wide, and you can find evidence of this all over Portugal and the Algarve region.
If you’re really looking for an authentic Roman experience, check out the Cerro da Vila in Quarteira. The remains you’ll find here are of an ancient Roman villa. The estate included two residences, baths, dams, fish salting stations, and a necropolis (an elaborate cemetery with specially designed tombs). Though the site was constructed in the days of Roman Empire, it also played host to Visigoths and Arabs in its long history.
Today, while many of the structures have long since withered, you can still find the walls, atriums, and more of the residence buildings and bathhouses. These come complete with the original marble and painted stucco designs. The necropolis was only recently uncovered, and perhaps might be the most intact part of the entire estate.
In another blog post detailing some of the coolest natural wonders in Algarve, the Benagil Caves made the top of the list. Tripio feels no shame featuring this spot again.
The openings in the cave ceiling, resulting from years of rainfall eating away at the limestone, let in golden rays of sunlight like a natural skylight. It’s a view akin to the cinematography in a George Lucas film, the kind that is otherworldly and yet relaxing at the same time.
There’s also a nice little beach inside the cave that can only be reached by water. Fear not: there are plenty of kayak and boat tours that will take you inside this unique structure. This might be the only beach where you don’t necessarily need sunscreen. The cave walls will do that for you!
Algarve truly is continental Europe’s best kept secret. If the thought of traveling here makes you blush, you’ll find good company in the hot pink walls of the Palace of Estoi. Also known as the “Pink Palace,” this former estate stands out even among Portugal’s deep catalog of castles. This is thanks to the unique blend of Versailles, Romantic, and Rococo design at work both within and without the palace.
The story of the palace doesn’t come without its fair share of intrigue. Construction began in the 1840’s, but after the tragic death of the Viscount of Estoi, the original owner of the property, work ceased for many years. It was local businessman Jose Francisco de Silva who came to rescue, anteing up a good chunk of his fortune to finish the castle’s grand design in 1909.
Did we mention the palace has an amazing garden? Because it totally has an amazing garden… Three levels of beautiful, flowering plants, connected with cool blue, azulejo grand staircases. Heading inside, you’ll come across the shining gold leaf and plasterwork that makes this palace famous.
Today, the palace is actually a hotel. You can book a room and have a place to stay in style while exploring Algarve, all with a pool, spa, and more hotel amenities. Or, you can simply make a day trip here. Tripio will tell you this…no matter how long you stay, your breath will be taken away by the magnificence of the Pink Palace!
Use Tripio to Plan Your Next Adventure
The Algarve region is a traveler’s paradise, with a unique blend of natural and adrenaline-boosting adventures and historical and cultural stops that will turn even the most well-traveled of heads. Tripio is only scratching the surface with what can be found in southern Portugal! Whether you’re a simple traveler looking for that next great vacation or adventure, or a seasoned travel guru looking to knock off some stops on your bucket list, the Algarve region will check every box.
You can also use the Tripio app to add to your trip, before travel or while you travel. Using the app, select the plus icon at the bottom of the screen titled “Create.” This will take you to the trip creator, which can create custom top 10 lists and a custom itinerary in under 60 seconds! It’s never been so easy to plan a great adventure or vacation.
The oddities above, along with other adventures, can be found in multiple categories. Make sure to give the types of adventures you prefer a 5 for trip importance, to ensure your custom top 10 itinerary has a focus on these activities. To really round out your top 10 itinerary, consider adding Good Eats for when you get hungry, or Nightlife if you’d like to meet some locals and take your adventure after hours.
Stop waiting to take that bucket list trip; get Tripio today!
Interested in more of the Algarve Coast, check out: Natural Wonders Along The Algarve Coastline
-Joshua Faulks, Tripio Guru
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