Just down the coast, before you get to Portimão, a hill rises above the flatlands, where legend has it, there was once a lagoon. At the top, the tower of a church is visible, around which the city of Lagoa has grown. This is the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Luz, built in the 16th century, although only the Manueline portal of the siren tower remains from that time. The current church dates back to the end of the 18th century and has an attractive Baroque façade and three naves. But the main point of interest on the inside is the main altarpiece, Nossa Senhora da Luz, the church’s patron saint.
Located in a working cooperative winery, Adega de Lagoa, there is a fascinating gallery, Lady in Red, which showcases a mix of sculptures, paintings and ceramics by local, national and international artists. The gallery, which serves also as a superb events venue, is perched above the bottling and processing part of the winery, and its corridors give a view of the action below, making for a unique ambiance. There’s a welcoming lounge bar and a sunny terrace where you can enjoy a cold drink. The gallery is open Monday to Saturday, 10:00 to 18:00, and entrance is free.
Since 1993, one of the cultural hubs of Lagoa is the monumental São José Convent that was founded in 1713 and is part of the Carmelite order. It is composed of a cloister, chapel, and tower, and its chapel is home to an 18th century image of São José with Jesus Christ. The building itself, used as both a museum and an auditorium, is open Tuesday to Saturday, 9:00 to 12:30 and 14:00 to 17:30.
Just five kilometres to the west of Lagoa is Estômbar, the birthplace of the guerrilla leader Remexido who, in the 19th century, struck fear in the heart of all in the Algarve. In Estômbar, you will find Igreja de Santiago church, the only registered National Monument in the Lagoa region. It was built around the middle of the 16th century and is regarded as one of the best examples of Manueline architecture to be found in the Algarve. The church, rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake, sits on top of an old shrine and is open when ceremonies are held on weekends.Where the Arade river meets the ocean, there is a picturesque fishing village, Ferragudo. The São João do Arade Fortress is located on top of a promontory between the beaches of Praia Angrinha and Grande. The castle became the private property of the Pereira Coutinho family, but can still be admired at a distance.
It is many years since the fishermen used to set off in their boats from Carvoeiro beach, ready to fight with the big fish trapped there, but today’s Carvoeiro is an international tourist resort. Nearby are the Algar Seco rock formations, where strange shapes have been sculpted by the wind and sea and feature the romantic ’Lovers’ Balcony’. On days when the tide is high, the sea turns the many fissures and hollows into booming organ pipes.
In 15 minutes drive from the famous Benagil caves, on the top of an exceptionally beautiful promontory stands the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Rocha and the remains of the fortress, dominating the coast of Lagoa.
The fortress was used to protect the population from the constant attack of pirates until it was badly damaged in the 1755 earthquake. The chapel, which was surrounded by the fortress, still stands and houses a valuable 16th century image of the Virgin Mary and Jesus.
From the promontory and its chapel, there is a panoramic view over the coastline of the Algarve: a great place to watch the sun set, and top choice for weddings.
Between Lagoa and Porches roundabouts, on the N125, is the tourist attraction Sand City, where 55,000 thousand tons of sand are spread out over six hectares for sculptors to shape and carve into entertaining, whimsical figures and scenes. Expect to see Cristiano Ronaldo next to Fernando Pessoa and the Belém Tower, Pope Francis riding a Vespa, Gulliver’s travels, the Eiffel Tower, Queen Elizabeth II having tea next to Big Ben, and an area dedicated to famous movies with scenes from Harry Potter, Star Wars, Avatar, and some Marvel characters such as Spiderman and Captain America.
Set in the district of Lagoa, Porches is a small town known for its wine and pottery production. The town has been occupied since the Neolithic Age, and today many of the people living there still make a living as potters. Olaria Pequeno, on the main EN125, is absolutely worth a visit – you won’t find its handmade works anywhere else.
And of course there is the internationally known Porches Pottery, founded in 1968. Housed in a traditional Algarvian farmhouse, the showroom displays tea sets, dishes, jars, carafes, platters, and wall plaques. You can see the artists working at the Porches Pottery showroom, shop, and enjoy a cup of coffee or a filling lunch at the pottery’s café, Bar Bacchus.
Porches has several gastronomy events during the year, including a Snail Festival in July and an Octopus Festival in August.
The coastline of Porches is made up of ochre cliffs and grottoes formed by the erosion of the waves over the centuries. It’s on top of these cliffs that you will find the award-winning resort Vila Vita Parc, which is home to a two-star Michelin restaurant, Ocean.
Words: Lívia Mokrij