Alte is a small village located in the central Algarve at the northwest end of Loulé’s municipality. The village makes for a lovely daytrip, and a good option for those wanting to steer clear of some overcrowded nearby areas. Alte is famous mostly for its natural features, the water springs and waterfall. It’s also considered one of the most typical villages in Portugal, and with less than 2.000 inhabitants famous for its slow pace of life. Alte is also one of the best places to contemplate some traditional Algarve architecture. So read on to find out everything you need to know about visiting Alte.
When to visit Alte?
Since the most attractive features of Alte are the natural springs and waterfall, the best time to visit Alte is during the warmer months. This will mean you can go for a swim, have refreshments on a snack-bar terrace, and even have a picnic in the area. During summer season, many residents of the surrounding towns choose Alte to cool off from the Algarve heat so some of these areas can be busy. Still, Alte is much quieter than most places down the coast. Alternatively, Alte and its natural surroundings can be an impressive area to hike and explore the Barrocal region of the Algarve.
How to get to Alte?
Alte is 25km to the northwest of Loulé, or around 30-minute drive. Limited parking space is available at the access to the waterfall, near the natural springs and alongside Av. 25 de Abril. If you are planning to arrive by public transport, it can be much more complicated. This is one of those towns that make a rental car seem much more practical. At the moment, there are only a couple of bus lines with stops in Alte, they are operated by EVA, and depart from Loulé. They are the lines: 83 – Loulé – Santa Margarida (por Salir), and 89 – Loulé e S. Bartolomeu de Messines. Unfortunately, both schedules are very sporadic, even more so on Saturdays and Sundays.
Places to Visit in Alte
Igreja Matriz de Alte – Church of Our Lady of the Assumption
Located in the heart of the village is The Church of Our Lady of the Assumption or simply The Mother Church of Alte. Its façade features an impressive Manueline style doorway decorated with two stone carved architraves adorned with leaves and twisted ropes. While the original construction dates from the 13th century, the church was rebuilt in the 16th century, and renovated during the following centuries. Some of its features, like the frontal rectangular window, were only added in the 19th century when the church was finalized. The interior of the church is characterized by the chancel decorated in 18th blue azulejos featuring Baroque musician angels, and four lateral Rococo style altarpieces dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi.
Polo Museológico Cândido Guerreiro e Condes de Alte – Cândido Guerreiro and Alte Counts Museum Center
Just a minute walk from Igreja Matriz at Rua dos Condes D’Alte is the Polo Museológico de Alte. Located where previously was the house of the counts of Alte, the small museum is a great way to learn more about the village’s cultural, artistic, and historic tradition. There you can see features of the life and legacy of Alte’s post-symbolist poet Francisco Xavier Cândido Guerreiro. The museum is open from Monday to Friday 09h00-13h00 / 14h00-17h00.
Fonte Pequena – Small Spring
Fonte Pequena is one of Alte’s natural springs which feeds River Alte. The spring is located on the intersection of Rua da Fonte Grande with the small white bridge at Largo Sousa Costa. The picturesque place is where previous generations of village women would interact, do their laundry, and collect water. Nowadays, it is the perfect place to pause and rest on the shade while contemplating Alte’s unique pace of life. You can also catch a glimpse of Alte through the nostalgic verses of Cândido Guerreiro which are displayed there.
Fonte Grande de Alte – Praia Fluvial de Alte
Located higher up on the same street as the smaller spring, is Fonte Grande or Big Spring. The name refers to both the spring itself and to the river pool built during the 80s. Now a fully fledged Praia Fluvial – or river beach, it’s a popular spot for swimming. Trees on both sides of the stone framed stretch of river provide plenty of shade for those planning to go for a dip. Although some claim the water volume to be much lower than it used to be, the swimming pool does have different depth levels being suitable both for children and adults. At it’s deepest it can be over 2m deep, while at its shallowest end it’s ankle deep. Despite being commonly referred to as a praia fluvial, there is no beach here. Only the grassy and shady banks of the brick lined river.
During summer, the snack-bar Fonte Grande operates selling drinks and snacks. For those that prefer to take their own food, there are picnic tables and a public barbecue available too! Fonte grande also offers full and accessible toilets and changing room facilities!
Queda do Vigário – Vigario Falls
Not far from the village centre hides one of the few waterfalls in the Algarve. The stream at Queda do Vigário falls 24m over the cliff into a deep pool shaded by fig trees. The waterfall is surrounded by a large grass area, and a couple of picnic tables. Due to its proximity to the village, no facilities are available at the place.
To access the waterfall, follow the short trail which starts behind the village’s graveyard. There are plenty of parking space at the area, the trail is slightly steep but not overly difficult to follow. While we suggest you visit Alte during the warmer months, Queda do Vigário is an exception to that rule. Due to the lack of rain in the Algarve during summer, a trip to Vigario Falls in that period can be quite disappointing as the waterfall might be completely dry. Spring is the best season to contemplate the waterfall at its full capacity, not so much for swimming.
Street art in Alte
Wondering in any direction you will find an impressive amount of street art. There’s lots hidden on even the smallest of street corners – and the biggest. Here’s a few of our favourite discoveries!
The Best restaurants in Alte
After visiting the main attractions in Alte, perhaps it is time to try some of the local food. To the surprise of many people, Alte has a great number of restaurants and cafés, and it can be quite tricky to decide where to head for a lunch break or snack. Here’s our favourite restaurants in Alte!
Reasonably priced, O Folclore is the best option for those looking for variety. There you can try a great variety of local dishes and drinks. The prices of the dishes of the day vary from 8€ to 12€. The place also has a large terrace with stunning views and free entertainment with Alte’s mascot, a donkey called Baltazar! The restaurant is located at Avenida 25 de Abril.
For some delicious and affordable Portuguese tapas try Javali Sentado. We particularly loved their boar burger, and carob brownie.
For coffee and snacks, try Germano BiciArte Café. Located at Estrada da Ponte 18ª, the café is a stopping point for those cycling nearby. Here you can also buy Algarve wines, crafts, cycling accessories and décor.
Where to Stay in Alte
For a comfortable experience in the village. Alte Tradition Guest House offers modern rooms without losing the charm of a village house. Their terrace offers stunning views of Alte and surroundings. For something more casual, Alte Hotel has plenty of facilities to offer for an affordable price. For a full range of accommodation in Alte and nearby take a look here!
Should you visit Alte?
Alte is a simple place full of nature and the perfect place for those who enjoy taking some time to appreciate nature and the slow pace of a more pristine Algarve. The village can be a little remote but totally worth a visit for its whitewashed Algarve houses, Manueline style church, and of course springs and wild swimming opportunities. It’s no coincidence that Alte was recently titled one of the most typical villages of Portugal!
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