Located in the antechamber of the Mediterranean, a civilization cradle, the Algarve perfectly mixes its cultural and climate influences with those from the Atlantic. Closely related, Earth and Sea entwined millenary relations of complicity, creating fantastic adventures, and shaping a strong personality in its products. This is the territory we are going to show you, in a discovery of the Mediterranean Diet soul and its best locations, key players, products and cultural traits. As olive oil is one of the Mediterranean Diet main traits, we will start this route by a billenary olive tree that can be found leaving road N125 (Km 130.5) at the tourist resort of Pedras D’El Rei - Jorge Amado St., 46B, 8800-562. At this point, look west and try to imagine the village of Balsa, one of the most important Roman cities of Iberia (Centuries II BC – V AD) - probable Phoenician origins - from which there’s nothing left but memories and traces kept by the land. Head towards the barrier islands of Ria Formosa ( ), one of the 7 Natural Wonders of Portugal until Barril Beach where you can see the stunning “Cemetery of Anchors” ( ), the remaining of the ancient tuna trap “Três Irmãos”. Next stop is Stª Luzia, a lovely fishing community that elected octopus as its main fishing target. You must try the dozens of different culinary variations about this noble mollusc at the tavern “Casa do Polvo” ( ) - (Av. Eng º Duarte Pacheco, nº 8) before leaving towards Tavira.
Known for its delicate architecture (and its “scissor roofs”) and an impressive number of churches, as a community open to the world, Tavira owes its origins and its wealth - monumentally expressed throughout the town - to trade. Phoenicians, Romans and Muslims shaped the evolution of this community and left indelible marks you must know: Phoenician wall (D. Paio Peres Correia St.); Almohad (Graça Monastery) and Muslim Museum nucleus (Galeria Palace) where you can’t miss the famous and mysterious “Tavira vase”. Nevertheless, the Mediterranean Diet is a dynamic and modern reality, based on high quality local products and places where you can enjoy them. Don’t miss the stalls in the new Municipal Market, the Mediterranean Diet shop at the old Ribeira Market, by the riverside, and the Craftsmen Association (ASTA), near Galeria Palace. Walking down the pavement, let your eyes enjoy the sunset at the beautiful “Roman” bridge, where a myth says two lovers sealed a pact of impossible love that gave two unlikely names to the river: upstream, Asseca (from her) and downstream, Gilão (from him).
Tavira has a large gastronomic offer of excellent quality at varied levels: from familiar and local to sophisticated and exquisite. Highlights include, at Ribeira Market, the Gilão Restaurant, showcasing a diversified MD menu. Crossing the river to the east bank, be sure you taste the traditional dishes at Ponto de Encontro Restaurant, on Duarte Padinha St., 39.
Leaving Tavira and heading east, the “Arraial Ferreira Neto”, at the mouth of River Gilão, is a key element to understand the history of tuna fishing. Enjoy the place, recently converted into a hotel, and visit the tuna fishing gear museum.
Stroll along the nearby salterns and admire their colours and the wisdom underlying their exploitation. On its banks grows the glasswort (Salicornea europea), a plant about to change gastronomy as its high salt content turns it into an outstanding ingredient for Mediterranean dishes. Eventually, this discovery journey through the old ways linked to the sea and the Mediterranean takes us to Cabanas, which pristine beaches, in the heart of Ria Formosa, are not the sole attraction. At the Municipal Market, you can closely contact with grown and locally harvested fruits and go on a “pilgrimage” to a temple of gastronomic pleasures of the Mediterranean Diet, the restaurant “Noélia and Gerónimo” ( ) (Av . Ria Formosa 2, tel.281370649); here you can participate in a celebration of flavours and genuine Mediterranean aromas.
This is just one of many discovery suggestions about the best that Mediterranean Diet has to offer to the traveller, thirsty for a millenary History made of close bonds and wisdom between people, products and places.
Located in the antechamber of the Mediterranean, a civilization cradle, the Algarve perfectly mixes its cultural and climate influences with those from the Atlantic. Closely related, Earth and Sea spun millenary relations of complicity, creating fantastic adventures, and shaping strong personalities in its people and products.
Since the IV millennium BC that the Hills of Mú - archaic name for the Hills of Caldeirão - have been sceneries for highly symbolic cultural expressions to the communities that erected the Masmorra Dolmens (Alcarias de Pedro Guerreiro and Pedras Altas - Mealha, in the Parish of Cachopo); moreover, they were a crossroad of ancient routes and, currently, of roads N124 and N397. This are the paths we are going to show you, in a discovery of the Mediterranean Diet soul, its best locations, key players, products and cultural traits.
Cachopo, typical village “Serrenha” invites us to a walk through its shale houses alleys and to visit its rich rural heritage: Moinho Branco, Museu das Flores, Museum Centre of Cachopo, as well as the crafts shop “O Moinho”. Take the opportunity to know some pretty villages - or “Montes”- in the vicinity, such as Mealha, Casas Baixas and Feiteira, where you can taste the typical arbutus berry brandy, produced by “Aquardente” (Phone: 932 277 650). Engage in some friendly chatting with the “elders” you meet along the way; you will be surprised by the friendliness of these communities, faithful keepers of the hospitality values, a key cultural trait of the Mediterranean. Descending from Cachopo towards the coast, recharge your energies at the tavern “O Paraíso da Serra,” Monte da Ribeira, where you can order delicious local delicacies (Phone: 289 844 969) and hike along the intricacies of the mysterious meanders of Odeleite creek.
Continuing southwards, exit road N397 to Alcaria do Cume, where you can enjoy a magnificent landscape at the local viewpoint and along the road crossing the limestones of Barrocal, heading to Santa Catarina da Fonte do Bispo. Don’t miss the visit to the Olive Oil Mill and Nucleus of Santa Catarina’s Cooperative and on Saturday morning the Municipal Market. If these visits had opened your appetite, head east on road N270, turn to Morenos and follow to Umbria, where you will find the restaurant “Monte Velho”, trustee of the most authentic local cuisine (under appointment only, phone: 281 971 061; ).
If travelling with your family, we suggest a visit to the rural thematic park “A Quinta”, between Santa Catarina and Santo Estevão, near Poço do Vale, (phone + 351 281 324 245; ).
Heading south to road N125, you will find Luz de Tavira, recommended for some tranquillity time, particularly, the Municipal Market, on Saturday. Following the longitudinal Algarvian road, pass through Tavira and then Conceição; at Nora, turn north to Santa Rita. Shortly after the viaduct over the A22 motorway, you will find the entrance of the Leisure Park of Perímetro Florestal (Forest Perimeter) of Conceição de Tavira, where the whole family can finish this unforgettable journey and enjoy while watching the fauna and flora of the Mediterranean forest.
The churches of Tavira, an expression of rural community’s devotion and social power from a wealthy business urban class, deserve a special visit, starting in the parish church of Santo Estevão(Cachopo). Descending from the limestone region of Barrocal, we highlight the anonymous painting “Juízo Final” at the Manueline style Church of Santa Catarina da Fonte do Bispo. Then we follow to the heart of the parish, to the Church of Santo Estevão, where the perspectives created by the master painter José da Costa still catch our eye. Completed in 1570, the Church-Hall of Luz de Tavira ( ) is the next stop in a journey continuing into the centre of the village, passing by the chapel of S.Sebastião, which faces a former prison, now wisely changed into the Library Álvaro de Campos, the beautiful churches “Igreja das Ondas” or “Compromisso Marítimo” at Travessa (Alley) de D. Brites. Standing in front of the building of the Municipal Council, walk up Galeria Street and visit the pretty Renaissance Church of Misericórdia. Now, head to the castle where you will find the Church of Santa Maria do Castelo, built over a mosque from the Islamic period; Tavira’s conqueror, D. Paio, rests here. This route through some of the most beautiful churches of Tavira ends on the other side of the River, at the Chapel of Santa Ana, in the square with the same name, where you can enjoy a magnificent view over the town.