Most of the action on the Algarve happens on the coast, where pretty beaches and friendly tourist resorts are the main draw. Head upcountry though and you’ll find some charming old towns and villages, where the slower lifestyle is more Portuguese and better suited to year-round living. We’ve picked five of our favourite inland communities and a property you could buy in each!
On the hunt for inland Algarve property, somewhere you could enjoy a more traditional – and affordable – way of life and still be a short drive from the bright lights of coastal hot spots? Here we highlight options for you, starting in east of the Algarve and heading west. For each, we also indicate typical drive time to the nearest beach resorts. Look closer and you’ll notice how much further your money goes compared to the more touristy coastal resorts.
To see more and even enquire about the properties listed below, click on the image. If an error comes up, I’m afraid that means the property has already been taken – but you can find an equally fantastic alternative on our property portal.
Drive to beach: 30-35 minutes to Praia Verde or Monte Gordo
Highlights: Perched picturesquely beside the River Guadiana, looking across to Spain on the opposite bank, Alcoutim is a sleepy white town with a busier past life. Forty kilometres upriver from the river estuary at Vila Real de Santo António (Ayamonte on the Spanish side) and surrounded by countryside, it was once an important trading station, a history evident through its impressive castle, white churches and pretty quayside. Before dismissing it as too far from the sea, it has a small marina and its own local beach on the river at Pego Fundo!
São Brás de Alportel
Drive to beach: 25 minutes to Praia da Faro or Fuseta Ria, or 30 mins to Vale do Lobo
Highlights: Surrounded by wooded hills and with views of the sea, this charming town 20 minutes inland from Faro Airport grew out of cork production (once the largest producer in Portugal). Its success as an agricultural hub survives today through its architecture – winding streets of traditional low houses complemented by small squares and elaborate mansions of former cork merchants, complete with tiled façades, ornate stonework and cast-iron verandas. Dating back to Roman times and home to the old summer palace of the Algarve bishops, São Brás offers a culturally rich lifestyle with easy access to both the eastern Algarve and Golden Triangle.
Drive to beach: 25 minutes to Albufeira
Highlights: A more authentically Portuguese village in the Algarve you would struggle to find! Alte might be small and deliciously laid-back but it packs a bundle of charm within its historic centre, made up of pristine whitewashed houses, a Manueline style church and selection of cosy cafés and amenities. Not forgetting it is blessed with a river with natural springs and beach area at Fonte Grande, where you can bathe and enjoy a BBQ in the warmer months, and the Vigário waterfall, one of few in the Algarve, a short walk from the centre.
São Bartolomeu de Messines
Drive to the beach: 30 minutes to Armação de Pêra and Albufeira,
Highlights: This small town tucked away amongst the forested Algarve mountains remains as much a working community as a lifestyle or tourist destination for foreigners, giving it a truly Portuguese feel. Usually referred to as simply Messines, the town holds a large household market and separate flea market on different days each month. And true to tradition, locals there love their annual festivals, including Carnival in February, a Festival of Traditions in August and a Gastronomy Week in November. Perhaps not as sweet as other smaller villages, the surrounding natural scenery with lots of outdoor activities and nearby Funcho and Arade dams have helped put it on the map, as has its claim to being the birthplace of one of Portugal’s most famous poets, João de Deus!
Monchique / Caldas de Monchique
Drive to beach: 35 minutes to Portimão, Alvor or Ferragudo
Highlights: Set in a valley between the two highest peaks of the Monchique mountains and looking down over the Algarve coastline around Lagos, the village of the same name is a true gem. Fanning out from the pretty square and church, traditional white houses line sloping cobbled streets, offering spectacular views across a lush eucalyptus covered mountain-scape as far as the distant sea. Cooler and calmer than the coastal resorts, 500 metres below, it attracts residents seeking a healthy, outdoors lifestyle. The village’s traditional liqueur and handicrafts are also appealing! Next to Monchique is Caldas de Monchique, a settlement built around a natural spa with thermal springs – and waterfalls – that has attracted health tourists since Roman times.