Considering that it’s a small fishing village in the Algarve, you may not expect there to be many things to do in Alvor. You’d be wrong! Especially if you enjoy walking and being in nature.
With the exception of a cluster of high rise apartment blocks near Praia da Torralta, Alvor’s architecture is relatively low rise and it retains its Portuguese charm and authenticity. Yes, there are streets in the centre that are lined with restaurants and shops which cater to tourists, but it’s still a lived-in village with places that locals frequent and it’s not hard to escape the buzz of holidaymakers.
Snippets of Alvor’s history
There’s a lack of historical monuments in Alvor, due mainly to the earthquake of 1755. Although much was destroyed, including homes, the fortress, the Facho tower, and the chapel of Our Lady of Help, only one inhabitant was killed in the event.
The important Alvor Agreement was signed on 15th January 1975 in Alvor, which granted Angola independence from Portugal, formally ending the 13-year-long Angolan War of Independence. In 1988 the village once again attained the status of vila (town).
Although I may be offending proud Alvor residents, to me it still looks and feels like a village, at least around the old town.
Curiosity: In the closing decades of the 15th century Alvor was a centre for the Jewish community in Portugal.
So what is there to see and do in Alvor? Read on to find out…
Marvel at the Church of the Divine Saviour of Alvor
This surprisingly grand and beautiful parish church overlooks the village and the river. Built in the 16th century, it has two beautifully carved Manueline (Portuguese Gothic architecture) doorways. Look out for the exquisite figurines carved into the left side of the main entrance.
The craftsman responsible for this fine work also worked on the exquisite doorways of the Church of Mercy in Silves, and the main portal at Estômbar parish church but unfortunately his name remains a mystery. Such a shame for someone so talented.
Following the great earthquake, the Church of the Divine Saviour of Alvor was restored and that’s when the bell tower was added. Inside you’ll see pastel colours, gold carvings and many depictions of nature, a common sign of Rococo influence.
Spot local wildlife on Alvor’s riverside Biodiversity walk
If you’re looking for things to do in Alvor and fancy a change of scenery from the village or beach, simply follow the Alvor River upstream from Largo da Ribeira.
The first section beside the river is paved and easy for anyone to follow. Once you get to the small beach, house and Fishermen’s Cave, you’ll need adequate footwear, i.e. trainers or walking shoes/sandals, rather than beach sandals.
At this point, bear right at the cave to head up the cliffs to start the Biodiversity walk. Although the trail is not marked, it’s easy to follow as long as you stay close to the river. There are information boards at various intervals to help you identify the various plants and insects that live here.
As well as beautiful flowers and trees, the views from the cliffs are wonderful. As you walk upstream, you can see small villages nestled amid the surrounding greenery on the other side of the river. Coming back downstream, the estuary and fishing boats take centre stage.
Safety note: The terrain is fairly easy, with a few slopes and rocky sections. However, the final few metres to descend to the dam are challenging to say the least and I would skip this if you’re unsteady on your feet or if the ground is wet.
When you reach whatever end point you deem appropriate for you, simply turn around and retrace your steps.
If you do make it to the dam, it seems possible to extend your walk as far as the village of Figueira by crossing it and following the clear pathway but I haven’t put this to the test.
Take to the air for a different view of the coast
I really enjoy walking along the coastal routes but for a different perspective, you could take to the skies!
Parasailing is available – look for a kiosk near the harbour – but for a real adrelaline rush you can try this tandem skydive from 15,000 feet. It starts from the Portimão Aerodrome on the outskirts of Alvor and offers incredible views of the coastline and countryside.
Learn about local fishing culture at a Lota (the old fish market)
The open-sided structure by the water in Largo da Ribeira used to be the local fish market.
You can’t fail to see that fishing is an extremely important part of Alvor’s heritage and this is now celebrated in the form of a mini cultural space. There are photographs and an interactive screen that allow you to appreciate the hard work of the local community.
There’s also a fun marble statue of a proud fisherman and his catch nearby!
Stop for a drink at the riverside esplanade
The promenade continues downstream from Largo da Ribeira and after passing the kiosks selling boat tours and water taxis, you’ll hit a cluster of bars and restaurants.
This is a deservedly popular place for people to hang out, soak up the sun and watch the boats and the world go by.
See fishermen at work
As well as the space near a Lota, where I saw seagulls eagerly watching a fisherman gutting his catch and boats being tarred, there is a whole area devoted to wooden huts for the fishing community. This is just south of the cafés, next to the boat harbour.
A respectful wander through this working area offers a fascinating insight into the pre and post-fishing operations.
Stretch your legs and enjoy the views on the Alvor boardwalk
This easy 4.7 km (3 mile) trail takes you from the fishing harbour in Alvor to the mouth of the Odiáxere.
Along the PR2 Alvor route, you’ll experience marshes and wetlands that are a haven for birds; sandy dunes covered in flowers and plants; a long sandy beach and delightful views of the estuary and surrounding mountains, countryside and villages.
If you like to have more focus on your walks, this half-day birdwatching tour over the Alvor dunes will give you the opportunity to learn about and appreciate the local wildlife.
The full trail is the shape of an angular figure of eight, which means you don’t have to do the full trail unless you want to. You can always take a break at the beach before continuing…
Spend time on the beach
Whether you are looking for a quiet sandy spot all to yourself or somewhere you can rent a sunbed for the day and pop to a restaurant to refuel, the beaches in Alvor are sure to meet your needs.
Praia de Alvor
As I’ve already mentioned, this beach is long and sandy and backed by dunes. If you want to rent a sunbed and beach umbrella, stay close to the restaurants near the town end of the beach. If you want to find a more peaceful spot, just keep walking westwards.
If you’re adventurous and would like to explore sea-life close up, this snorkelling experience led by marine biologists would be a great way to spend an afternoon. Note that this is at Praia do Alemão, a little further along the coast.
Praia da Torralta
Torre means tower and alta means high so you’ll quickly understand how this beach got its name.
If you’re staying at one of the Alvor hotels near the beach, this will likely be your closest patch of sand and there’s plenty of space to go around.
Praia dos Três Irmãos
A little further along from Torralta, you’ll find the stunning rock formations at Praia dos Três Irmãos.
At low tide, you can walk between the cliff stacks and arches to Praia da Prainha, where you’ll find Caniço Restaurant tucked in the cliffs. At high tide, the only access to this eatery is from above.
Do be careful though – as the warning signs say, rock falls are possible so I wouldn’t sunbathe in the shade of the cliffs.
Browse the shops for souvenirs
Alvor has several hotels so, unsurprisingly, there are lots of souvenir shops around. Amid the general tat, there are some gems to be found.
I liked Tia Lin Arte e Moda on Rua Marquês do Pombal for unique clothing and a small selection of artwork.
Shop for local produce at Alvor Market
For reasons that I could not fathom, the municipal market was closed when I visited but if it’s anything like other Portuguese markets, it should be a riot of colours and aromas.
There’s a weekly farmer’s market by the river on Sunday mornings (8 am to 1 pm), which is a great place to get fresh fruit and veg.
Take to the greens at Alto Golf
This 18-hole course lies between Alvor and Praia da Rocha, so is handy for travellers staying in the three nearby Pestana Hotels. It proves to be very popular amongst both locals and holidaymakers.
See this post about Algarve golf courses from golf travel expert, Andy Waple.
Where to stay in Alvor
5 star hotels in Alvor
The Pestana Alvor Praia Premium Beach & Golf Resort has rooms overlooking Tres Irmãos Beach and a direct pathway to it from the hotel. Rooms are lovely and have views of the ocean or garden. Take a look at the photos.
4 star hotels in Alvor
Just a short walk to the center of town is Agua Hotels Alvor Jardim. Although its facilities are at the lower end of the 4-star spectrum, rooms are spacious and the beds large and comfortable. There’s an outdoor pool, too. The staff are very helpful and an added bonus is the free car parking available. Check availability.
Tip: If you need to get to or from Faro airport without a car, you can take this Faro airport private transfer.
3 star hotel in Alvor
For other accommodation in Alvor check out Booking.com.
Stays for larger groups
If you’re looking for a space that can accommodate up to 10 people then Cacti Sunsets would be ideal. Located on the championship golf course, this vila has huge windows and high ceilings and lots of natural textures that make the place calming and relaxing. Check availability for your dates.
Looking for exceptional places to stay in Alvor? See the options on Plum Guide.
How to get to Alvor
To get from Faro to Alvor by car takes just under an hour. If you’re looking to hire a car I recommend either Discovercars or Rentalcars, both offer good value. Alternatively, you could relieve the stress and take an airport transfer from Faro to Alvor.
A journey from Lisbon to Alvor takes just under 3 hours to drive but you can get a direct bus from Oriente.
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