Alvor is a village located in the west Algarve, within the municipality of Portimão. Despite being referred to as a civil parish or freguesia in Portuguese. Its infrastructure and facilities are comparable to some of the nearby bigger towns. That combined with amazing beaches, and a great variety of bars and restaurants, give Alvor a unique setting. With the charms of a traditional Algarve village, but liveliness of a resort town, Alvor attracts thousands of visitors and seasonal residents every year. Want to find out more about visiting Alvor? Read on!
When to Visit Alvor
So, what is the best time of year to visit Alvor? If you appreciate the bustling of high season, the months of July and August might be the best option. With maximum temperatures averaging the 28 °C, Alvor is buzzing with its hectic mix of pubs, bars, and fish grills. We personally think the village is best enjoyed in September when it becomes slightly less crowded but still lively. It’s also when accommodation prices are more friendly and the temperatures slightly cooler. If you’re here to experience Alvor’s nature, and a more relaxing holiday, then a visit at any time of the year can be good as well!
How to get to Alvor
Located between Lagos and Portimão, Alvor is at approximately 72km from Faro or a 45-minute drive. If you’re arriving at Faro Airport, then you have multiple options to get there. The main options being, a private transfer, public transport, or even a rental car. A private transfer from Faro will cost you around €60 for a standard vehicle. If you are planning to arrive by public transport, the easiest way is to travel to Portimão via the regional train line. From Portimão, you can connect to Alvor with one of the several buses run by Portimão’s council called Vai e Vem. Alternatively, an Uber ride between the two locations cost around 6€. A hire car can be a good option if you plan on exploring the wider region too. If you’re driving a rental there are two possible routes. The faster and smoother toll route, the A22. Or the slower and free route, the N125. Your time, budget, and potential stress levels should help you decide. During the peak months the N125 is often slow going and clogged up with lots of tourists.
A Brief Introduction to Alvor’s History
Archeologic evidence suggests the area has been occupied since at least the Celtic period. It was founded in 436 BC as a commercial port by the Phoenicians, and the village continued to grow during the Roman period. From 716 to 1250 it stayed under the domain of the Moors who built Alvor Castle which was later fortified by the Portuguese following the reconquest. Although severely damaged by 1755’s earthquake and tsunami, the village was rebuilt strengthening its economy based on fishing, salt farming, and wine production. In present times, these activities still play a significant role in Alvor’s cultural and economic wealth.
What to See and Do in Alvor
Castelo de Alvor – Ruins of Alvor’s Old Castle
If you visit Alvor, there is a great chance you will walk pass its castle without realizing. There is no actual castle in Alvor. Instead, the remaining walls of a 7th century castle built during the Moors’ conquest. After multiple failed attempts of retaking the village, the Portuguese recovered the castle in 1250. Which was fortified 50 years later, serving as the village’s main defence for 500 years before being knocked down by 1755’s natural disaster. At the end of the 20th century, the castle’s ruins were turned into a garden/children playground. Although quite unimpressive, it’s interesting to see the contrast of the houses surrounding the Medieval construction, and it’s worth stopping by for a quick visit.
Igreja do Divino Salvador – The Mother Church of Alvor
After exploring a little bit of Alvor’s historical centre, it’s time to visit the village’s most emblematic feature. Igreja do Divino Salvador – Church of the Divine Saviour or simply The Mother Church of Alvor. Built during the 16th century, the church is perhaps Algarve’s most important Manueline piece. From the outside, the main portal is adorned with an impressive set of 6 archivolts engraved with botanical patterns, dragons, and other fantastic elements.
The portal was crafted by the same unknown carver responsible for the lateral doorway in Igreja da Misericórdia de Silves, and the main portal at Igreja Matriz de Estômbar. Damaged by the 1755’s great earthquake, the building was restored in the 18th century, when the bell tower was inaugurated. On the inside, the Manueline feature merge with the more recent Rococo style. The characteristic Rococo exuberance can be seen in both main and side chapels’ decorations: pastel colours, gold carving, and nature motifs. While typically Manueline carved stone columns sustain the arches which separate the main nave from the lateral ones.
Marginal de Alvor – Alvor’s Waterfront
From Rua da Igreja, head down to Marginal de Alvor through Rua Vasco da Gama. The waterfront is one of the most beautiful parts of the village. Pavemented in the traditional Calçada Portuguesa, the area has a few waterside restaurants facing the lagoon, and a small harbour where you can book boat trips and water sports. It’s also where you can see that Alvor has not been completely taken by tourism.
Next to the harbour is a traditional fishing community. In the mornings and evenings, you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of this fishing activity, with boats being launched or catches being landed. Sometimes you will even see the fishers socializing and barbecuing their fish. Despite being charming, tt’s important to remember this is not a tourist attraction. It’s a feature of daily life in villages with fishing tradition like Alvor, so try be respectful to the locals and their privacy.
Passadiços de Alvor – Alvor Boardwalk
Passadiços de Alvor is a 5km long boardwalk connecting Alvor and Praia de Alvor. Beginning a couple of meters from the harbour, the first part of the path goes alongside the lagoon through the wetland before reaching Pérgola do Alvor. From there you can either keep following along or take a left which will take you straight to the beach. The circular path is quite customizable, and it offers stunning views to the lagoon, the village, and the coast. For those interested in wildlife, the lagoon is a popular bird watching spot and the home of several local bird species such as the Common Ringed Plover, and the Little Tern.
Praia de Alvor – Alvor’s Beach
Praia de Alvor is the west portion of Alvor’s coast. With an approximately 2km long stretch of sand, and plenty of facilities, the beach has been designated as a blue flag beach yearly since since 1987. It is life guarded continually throughout the summer bathing season – June to September. The pristine waters of Praia de Alvor are perfect for families and less experienced swimmers, it’s gentle curving bay results in calm waters for the west Algarve. The beach also has three main snack bars providing refreshments and meals, as well as a large car park, and accessible entry along a boardwalk.
During the summer the sand stretch surrounding the car park can get quite packed. For a quieter and more pleasant experience, follow the boardwalk towards the west. For children and families you’ll also find an array of water sport items to rent, from pedalos with a built in slide, inflatable rings, and paddle boards. If you’re looking for something more adventurous, you’ll also find banana boats, and jet skis for hire. Alvor beach offers everything you can expect from a true beach resort and offers much in this department.
Praia dos Três Irmãos – The Three Brothers Beach
Praia dos Três Irmãos is the far east portion of Alvor’s coast, and the most scenic of the two beaches. Compared to Praia de Alvore it’s backed by Algarve’s iconic cliffs. The small beach is one of the most sought-after beaches in the region. Although located in the same stretch of sand as Praia de Alvor. Praia dos Três Irmãos is slightly further away from the historic village and closer to a more touristic part of Alvor, with plenty of hotels and holiday housing. If you prefer a quieter more exclusive beach, Praia dos Três Irmãos might not be for you. That said, neither beach are particularly quiet in the summer season!
A Rocha Delicada Trail
Located at Quinta da Rocha, A Rocha Delicada Hiking Trail is the perfect activity for those who want to explore Alvor’s lagoon and surroundings a little more. The trail starts next to Mexilhoeira Grande train station, on Caminho da Espargueira. Which is great for those arriving by train. Just keep in mind that if you are coming from Alvor, you’ll might need to get to Portimão first then take the regional train to Mexilhoeira Grande. With a bit of luck, you can find Uber drivers finishing rides in Alvor to take you to where the hiking starts. If you are driving, the road is on the right straight after the railroad crossing. At this point you can park your vehicle and follow the gravel path by foot.
Highly rich in biodiversity, the area comprises the marshland, Mediterranean pine and scrub forest, and the lagoon ecosystems. Along the trail, you will also come across small farms, orchards, small vineries, and abandoned saltpans. This distinctive environment accommodates an impressive array of marine, and bird wildlife. The 8km path is considered easy and it can be completed in approximately 3h. As some parts of it are not shaded, sun cream and a hat are essential.
The Best Restaurants in Alvor
- Located at the busy Rua Dr. Frederico Ramos Mendes. Fisherman’s Rest is great for fresh grilled fish, and seafood dishes like Cataplana and Arroz de Marisco. With the bonus of being able to watch all sorts of fish and seafood being barbecued on the external grill while waiting for your food!
- For the classic steak and chips, Rib Eye Steakhouse has a great variety of cuts, and even tapas options too. We kept it simple and had the steak the restaurant is named after – rib eye – and it was fantastic!
- Hidden away on a quieter street, Indian Garden might be our new favourite Indian restaurant in the Algarve! Not only the food is fantastic, but the service and atmosphere are very friendly too. We can’t recommend enough their Lamb saag!
Where to Stay in Alvor
Located at a 12-minute walk from Alvor historic centre, Pelican Alvor offers ample rooms and a quiet ambience. For those who enjoy swimming, it has a great swimming pool and plenty of sunbeds for you to enjoy the Algarve sun.
The 5-star Pestana Alvor Praia has all of the facilities you can wish for. Including a spa, and a swimming pool with saltwater. It not only offers stunning views to Praia dos Três Irmãos, but it has their own private access to the beach as well!
The well located Água Hotels Alvor Jardim offers good rooms for affordable prices. With great breakfast and service. It’s a good value option! For a full range of accommodation to suit all budgets you can search the full list here!
Should You Visit Alvor?
Yes! If you are visiting the western Algarve, you should definitely include Alvor on your list. It’s village combines features of daily life in the Algarve with the variety of restaurants, hotels, and nightlife of the bigger resort towns. However, it might not be the best place to stay if you don’t have a your own vehicle or if you plan to see more of the Algarve. If you do, some popular daytrips from Alvor include: Portimão, Ferragudo, and Lagos. What do you think of Alvor? Is there anything you think should be included in our guide? Let us know in the comments!
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