Almancil is a bustling town offering a fine selection of shops and restaurants. Close by are Vale do Lobo and Quinta do Lago - exclusive holiday resorts offering glorious sandy beaches as well as championship golf courses and other sporting activities. On the outskirts of Almancil, the Church of São Lourenco is well worth a visit. The 18th Century church is covered inside with beautiful ceramic tiles. The São Lourenco Cultural Centre hosts regular art exhibitions and musical events.
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With such a large coastline it’s no surprise the Algarve is a great place for all kinds of fish and seafood, with restaurants commonly serving fresh sardines, bream, cod, monkfish and tuna. Another famous dish of the Algarve is chicken piri-piri great for a relaxed atmosphere! Most dishes will be served with served with boiled potatoes and vegetables or salad.
Almancil offers a selection of bars and restaurants for a chilled out relaxed evening, if you wanted something a little more lively, Vilamoura is around a 15 minute drive away where you will find plenty of bars and clubs.
Rio Formosa Nature Reserve
The 170 square kilometres of saltwater lagoons, islands and marshes of the Ria Formosa estuary is a breathtakingly beautiful area, teeming with migrating birds, dozens of species of fish and unique flora and fauna. Less than half an hour’s drive from Almancil and encompassing the Quinta do Lago resort within its boundaries, the reserve’s easily accessible pathways and boardwalks make this a fabulous place for walking, cycling and birdwatching and there are numerous guided boat trips on offer. You can even hire a kayak and paddle your way around the canals and lagoons. Viewing points and bird hides are strategically placed to make the most of the views and to spot rare birds in their natural habitat. You could spend several days here but be sure to include at least one visit during your stay.
Situated in Guia, around a 30 minute drive from Almancil, Zoomarine Park, the Algarve’s marine theme park offers a brilliant day out for all ages. Meet sea creatures, enjoy animal shows, attractions, and even a 4D cinema. Zoo marine is open from March until September and opening hours from 10:00am too 19:30pm in high season.
With more churches than hotels, the unspoilt riverside town of Tavira is one of the Algarve’s best kept secrets, exuding authentic Portuguese charm. History abounds in its colourful architectural details, with decorative features from Renaissance to Baroque, Moorish to Gothic. The fishing port is a hive of activity and it’s a wonderful place to wander around at leisure. Pop into the former water tower that’s been turned into a camara obscura, reflecting a fascinating 360° tour of the town on a horizontal screen.
It may be best known for its international airport but the nearby city of Faro is well worth a visit. Its charming old town is located to the east of Faro marina. The city’s Se Cathedral, quite unassuming on the outside, is surprisingly ornate inside, with gilded carving, traditional azulejos (tiles) and impressive works of art, and you can get a wonderful view of the city by climbing the steps up the cathedral tower. A mainly pedestrianised shopping area consists of dozens of cobbled streets and squares with plenty of cafés and restaurants. For a little retail therapy head to the Forum Algarve shopping mall on the main EN125 road from the Faro airport area; it has a wonderful choice of stores built around an open air square.
Now a cosmopolitan market town, nearby Loulé retains plenty of its historical roots. The ancient walls of its medieval castle still dominate, with the winding cobbled streets of the old town now bursting with cafés, bars, restaurants and shops. There are some beautiful old churches here and the daily market is particularly worth a visit for its array of fresh produce, crafts, basket weaving and copper goods.
Church of Sao Lourenço de Matos
This magnificent early 18th Century church is a must-see for anyone staying in the area. Often referred to as one of the Algarve’s most important art treasures, the church’s exceptional wall-to-wall blue and white tiled tableaux run the length of the nave and depict the life of Saint Lawrence in wonderful detail. The gilded wood-carved altar and tiled dome are equally stunning. The church is located on the hillside just a few minutes south of Almancil off the main N125 road towards Faro.
Church of Santa Bárbara de Nexe
A truly historic nearby village, Santa Barbara de Nexe is built on the site of a bronze-age hill fort subsequently used by the Phoenicians and the Romans. The local landmark nowadays is the charming 400-year-old whitewashed church, understandably the focus of many artists’ paintings with its strikingly tall bell tower dominating the countryside. It’s well worth a peek inside to admire the various architectural and decorative styles used through the centuries, including examples of the area’s famous azulejos (tiles) depicting historical and religious scenes. You’ll find 16th century renaissance art alongside 17th century statues and 18th century carvings and a beautiful triumphal arch with a panel above depicting Saint Barbara being crowned by angels.
Milreu Roman Ruins
A short drive south from the nearby village of Estoi on the Faro road you’ll find one of Portugal’s most important archaological sites, the ruins of a grand Roman villa dating from the 1st century AD. Beautifully excavated, the villa’s luxurious origins are clear, with a central courtyard surrounded by columns, a series of rooms dedicated to bathing and even underground heating. Large sections of intricate fish mosaics are still intact and there is evidence of the villa’s later use as a church and then a Muslim burial site. The ruins are well worth a visit for anyone with a fascination for Roman history.
Karting Almancil, opened by Ayrton Senna himself in 1992, is a vast fun park devoted to karting and racing for children and adults of all ages. The main race track is a replica of Brazil’s Formula 1 circuit with dozens of twists and turns to keep you on your toes. Karts of various engine sizes are available according to age and experience while separate tracks for juniors and very young children ensure the whole family gets to enjoy the park. Located just five minutes’ drive from the centre of Almancil, the centre is open Tuesday to Friday afternoons only and from 10am to 6pm on weekends and holidays.
Buggy Safaris: Hot, dusty and bumpy it may be, but a buggy safari is also enormous fun! Discover some of the Algarve’s more rugged terrain and drive your own dune buggy in convoy along dirt tracks, up and down rocky peaks and even through the Algibre Creek. An experienced guide accompanies the group and there’s a choice of shorter or longer tours, some with lunch included. The buggies carry a qualified driver (over 18s only) and can take one passenger (children must be over 7 years old). Tours start from Karting Almancil.
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