Beaches that rock.
The southernmost region of mainland Portugal, Algarve is one of my most favourite holiday destinations. The climate here is mild and sunny and it is full of high quality natural beaches, wide bays with golden sands, limestone caves, grottoes and sheltered coves, many framed by breathtaking cliffs. The Algarve has several interesting cities, towns and villages, to name the few, Faro, Albufeira, Lagoa, Lagos, Silves. The Algarve is also a home to an extensive network of golf courses, although for me the main attraction here is the ocean, in every shade of blue and green, charming towns with Roman ruins and Moorish castles, flower-covered hillsides and amazingly smelling forests full of eucalyptus trees. I always base myself in a lively resort of Armação de Pêra (picture above). Its wonderful beach is backed by a palm-lined promenade and there are some charming cobbled streets in the old town. Nature trails and parks, the natural beauty, comfortable resorts, great food and warm welcome is all what I need on my holidays and therefore I treasure this area so much.
Near the charming fishing village of Benagil in Algarve I have encountered the most astonishing caves, grottos and arches. Created by ocean, wind and rain, these rocks can be visited by fishermen’s boats. For an extra charge I got off the boat and took some pictures from a tiny beach inside the cave. The cathedral like domes of the caves lit by the shaft of light coming through the roof are truly spectacular.
A short drive from Portimao took me to Silves, the former capital of the Algarve, a city founded during the times of Roman domination. The town and its spectacular castle are situated on a hill above the Arade River. The castle offers spectacular views from its eleven towers and thick walls made of red sandstone.
Carvoeiro was a traditional fishing village but today it is a popular resort. The village is a profusion of whitewashed houses that cascade down the sides of the cliffs that shelter the town beach. The golden limestone cliffs carved by the sea into little bays make up the coastline around Carvoeiro a true gem. Eroded by wind, rain and seawater, they form an intricate landscape of natural grottoes, arches and crevices well worth exploring.
The Fort of Nossa Senhora da Rocha is otherwise known as Fort of Our Lady of the Rock. It is a medieval castle and the chapel sitting precariously on a promontory near Armação de Pêra, in Porches. Although there are some doubts regarding the exact date when these fortifications were built, it does show that its main task was to protect the maritime access to this bay.
This traditional fishing village of Alvor is set right at the mouth of the River Alvor estuary. The main attraction here is the beach, big and beautiful, situated a few minutes away from the town. My favourite part is the beach on the eastern end of Alvor, called “The beach of the Three Brothers” named after the three tall rocks formations which I photograph at sunset and in the evening.
The westernmost point of Algarve is Cape St. Vincent with its famed lighthouse. The first time I came here I was expecting some fantastic cliffs rising vertically from the Atlantic and some nice warm sunset light that would illuminate rocks. What I saw was a big surprise! I could hardly see the rocks as they were almost completely covered with tourists watching the sunset. All of them holding cameras and taking pictures. It was like a worshipping place. In fact it was in Neolithic times, later on, the Romans called it Holy Promontory. We don’t believe any more that the sun sinks here hissing into the ocean, marking the edge of the world, but for sure, the sun takes centre stage here and holds hundreds of people in awe.
Beata Moore is a professional photographer and writer. She has written a number of books including “The Channel Islands”, “Portrait of Wimbledon”, “The Square Mile – photographic portrait of the City”, “Cracow: City of Treasures”, “A Year in the life of the New Forest” and “A Year in the Life of the Cotswolds”.