It is in the heart of the Costa Vincentina that we find Aljezur, an Algarve town whose Islamic origins date back to the 10th century. To the west, it is bathed by an extensive coastline that forms part of the Southwest Alentejo and Vincentian Coast Natural Park. In Aljezur we can better understand the History of Portugal, explore varied landscapes between the mountains and the sea, taste the various local products and even practice radical sports. A place not to be missed!
Aljezur is a town in the Algarve belonging to the district of Faro. The nearest town is Lagos, about 30 km away. Lisbon is 250 km away, being possible to do the journey by car, by highway A2 in about two hours and fifty minutes.
Alternatively, you can take the bus. The journey between Oriente Station and Aljezur takes approximately four hours and the fare is around 20 euros.
WHAT TO VISIT IN ALJEZUR?
Aljezur has very ancient origins and an Islamic and Christian heritage! To enter into the soul of Aljezur it is important to get to know the town’s monuments and museums. In order to efficiently organise the sequence of your tours we have prepared an attractions map for you. We hope you find it useful.
Aljezur Castle is considered one of the most important in the Algarve region and is one of the castles that we find represented in the Portuguese flag. It was also the last castle in the Algarve to be recaptured by the Christians. It was built on a hill about 88 metres high, in the oldest part of the town.
Located on a site occupied since the Bronze Age, this castle controlled the Ribeira de Aljezur and the surrounding plain. In the 15th and 16th centuries, it began to lose its importance from a defensive point of view and was abandoned, eventually falling into ruin. The earthquake in 1755 caused various damage to the castle, which was only rebuilt in the 1940s as part of the centenary celebrations of Prince Henry the Navigator.
JOSÉ CERCAS HOUSE-MUSEUM
José Cercas (1914-1992) was a painter from Aljezur who left his house and estate in his will to the Câmara Municipal. His intention was to create a house-museum, which came about in 1995. In the House-Museum you can see an art collection consisting of the works of José Cercas and other painters, but also objects that he collected throughout his life, such as sacred art, furniture and ceramics. Here we can also find a recreation of the painter’s studio, with the original arrangement of the objects, allowing us to take a real trip back in time.
It may be visited during the following opening hours: between June and September from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (closed from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.); between October and May, only for previously booked guided tours. It is closed on Sundays, Mondays and public holidays. An important note: there is a single ticket that allows entry to the Municipal Museum, the Museum of Sacred Art, the Antonianum Museum and the Painter José Cercas House-Museum at a very affordable price.
ALJEZUR CHURCH OF MERCY
The date of the original construction of the Igreja da Misericórdia de Aljezur is not known, but it is known that it underwent works in the 16th century. Later, the 1755 earthquake forced it to be rebuilt again. Today it is possible to see a Renaissance doorway (dated 1577) and that therefore survived the destruction caused by the earthquake. It is a church with a simple interior, with only one nave.
In one of the dependencies of the Church of Misericórdia of Aljezur we find the Museum of Sacred Art Monsenhor Francisco Pardal. The church is open to the public at mass time, but can also be visited at other times, if requested at the Museum of Sacred Art.
MAIN CHURCH OF OUR LADY OF ALVA
The Mother Church of Nossa Senhora da Alva was commissioned by bishop D. Francisco Gomes de Avelar after the 1755 earthquake. The purpose was the creation of a new urban nucleus after the destruction of the old one by the earthquake. It is known as Igreja Nova and is located in the current centre of the town of Aljezur. The church was built on the site of a Neolithic necropolis and follows the neoclassical style. It has two side chapels with 17th and 18th century altarpieces, a Manueline baptismal font and a large gilded wooden sculpture of Nossa Senhora da Alva, dating from the late Baroque period.
During the Second World War an air battle took place near Aljezur (the only one in Portugal) between Nazi and Allied forces, which resulted in the death of the German soldiers. The soldiers’ funeral ceremonies were held in this church. The Mother Church can be visited between July and August from 2pm to 6pm. It is closed to the public on Sundays, Mondays and public holidays.
ALJEZUR MUNICIPAL MUSEUM
The Museu Municipal de Aljezur is located in the old Paços do Concelho building. This museum space is divided into three nuclei: In the archaeological nucleus, it is possible to see artefacts from the Late Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Bronze Age. Here we also find a stone containing the coat of arms of the Order of Santiago which may have belonged to the old Mother Church which was destroyed in the earthquake. The ethnographic nucleus displays implements used in agriculture, fishing and baking in the region in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Andalusian Legacy Room is made up of collections from the time of the Islamic occupation, particularly ceramics. The museum is open from June to September from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (closed between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.) and from October to May from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.). Closed on Sunday, Monday and public holidays.
SACRED ART MUSEUM (ANNEX MISERICÓRDIA CHURCH)
The Museu de Arte Sacra is dedicated to Monsignor Francisco Pardal, a priest and writer of the 20th century, born in Aljezur. It is housed in the former 18th century Hospital da Misericórdia, one of the dependencies of the Church of Misericórdia. The museum’s collection brings together pieces from Aljezur’s Misericórdia and the Parish of Nossa Senhora da Alva, as well as donations and more recent acquisitions. The pieces are organised in sets that reflect the liturgical times of the Catholic Church, i.e. one set on Christmas, another on Lent, another on Holy Week, etc.
It is open between June and September from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (closed between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.). Between October and May from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.). Closed on Sunday, Monday and public holidays.
Ribat da Arrifana, also known as Arrifana Castle, is a military and religious complex from the Islamic period that is located on the tip of Atalaia, in the Vale da Telha area. It was commissioned by Ibn Qasi, an Islamic leader from Sines, and was an architectural complex that combined military and religious functions. It was situated at a strategic border point between the territories under Islamic rule and those that had already been recaptured by the Christians.
This convent-fortress was abandoned shortly after the death of its founder and eventually lost its original functions. In the 14th century, the minaret was transformed into a watchtower. Although it is in an advanced state of degradation, it is a very important monument since it is the only known religious-military complex from the Islamic period in Portugal. Ribat is close to Arrifana beach and offers excellent views of the region’s beaches and cliffs.
BEACHES NEAR ALJEZUR
The coast of the municipality of Aljezur is mostly rocky but interspersed with sandy beaches that form beautiful beaches! These beaches are part of the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina. To help you find them, we have prepared a map.
Located in Arrifana, it has a length of sand of 500 metres. On the cliff on the north side we have the ruins of an old fort, the Ribat da Arrifana, and this is the best area to enjoy the landscape. It is a beach with surfers all year round and very frequented by bathers in the summer.
It is also called praia dos 3 castelos! Located in the town of Carrapateira, it has a long sandy beach and small waves. To access the sand you have to overcome the barrier of 100 steps. For this reason it is usually a less sought after and frequented beach. At low tide it is possible to visit some “caves” among the rock formations. There are surfing and bodyboarding schools. A final note for the magnificent sunsets and sunrises that Amado beach offers!
The northernmost beach in the Algarve. It is characterized by an extensive sandy stretch protected by cliffs. On this beach we can see, on one side, the Odeceixe stream and, on the other side, the sea. During low tide small lagoons are formed which delight children. Because it is a large sandy beach, there is always room to spend a quiet afternoon on the beach. Access to the beach is good and accessible to all (unlike many beaches in the region). Next to Odeceixe beach we find several bars and restaurants. Perfect for a family beach day!
This is one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen in my life! Characterized by an extensive sandy beach and easy pedestrian access. A true paradise for surfers who find perfect waves and a considerable size swell. Beware of the strength of the currents that are sometimes extremely strong and dangerous. It is a perfect place to walk alone or accompanied enjoying and admiring the forces of nature.
Praia da Amoreira Beach is unique in the region for presenting an estuary-lagoon system. At low tide, lagoons form on the beach where the water reaches 20ºC. Good for surfing and bodyboarding, it also has a diversified fauna. The beach is very extensive, offering space for everyone, even in high season. The sea is often strong, cold and sometimes dangerous (even for those who think they swim very well).
ACTIVITIES IN ALJEZUR
If you like adrenaline and close contact with nature, take a look at our suggestions.
SURF AND BODYBOARD
Aljezur is a place where the beaches offer ideal conditions for learning and practising sports such as surfing and bodyboarding. For this reason, it is easy to find several schools of these sports in the region. Praia da Arrifana beach is considered one of the best for surfing and is very popular with foreign surfers. Praia da Amoreira is also a good bet, as it usually has few bathers. For the more experienced, there is also Praia do Canal. However, you must consider that the access to this beach is quite difficult.
There are trails prepared for mountain bikers that pass through the Aljezur area. One of them is the Rota Vicentina (“historic path” trail), which goes through places like Odeceixe, Arrifana and Carrapateira. Another is the Via Algarviana, a long-distance trail which takes around five days to complete and is physically demanding. In both cases, it is advisable that practitioners have good physical and technical preparation.
HIKING IN ALJEZUR
Aljezur is ideal for hiking, as it is a place focused on nature tourism. The Aljezur Historic-Cultural and Environmental Circuit is a pedestrian route which passes through rural and urban environments. It is 4km long and can be walked in two hours. Rota Vicentina is a pedestrian route that covers a length of 350km between Santiago do Cacém and Cabo de São Vicente, passing through Aljezur. It is divided into two distinct trails, the “historical trail” (230km, in a rural environment) and the “fishermen’s trail” (120km, in the coastal area).
VIRTUAL TOUR AROUND ALJEZUR
HOW DO I GET AROUND IN ALJEZUR?
The historic centre of Aljezur and its surroundings can be visited on foot, but it is advisable to wear comfortable shoes and carry a bottle of water, especially on hot days. However, to explore the various beaches nearby, it may be a good idea to rent a scooter. This means of transport allows you to get around quickly and parking is easier than with a car. This option also has the advantage of providing greater contact with the surroundings.
HISTORY OF ALJEZUR
Aljezur is located in a region that has been occupied since prehistoric times, a fact that is proven by the archaeological remains that have been found there. The town was originally founded by Muslims in the 10th century. At that time, the Ribeira de Aljezur was navigable and had great strategic importance. The Islamic presence in the area remained strong until the Christian reconquest, which took place during the reign of King Afonso III. In 1280 D. Dinis granted a charter to the town. The great earthquake of 1755 shook Aljezur, causing serious damage to the town. For this reason, there is a movement of the population to another area, which grows around the church of Nossa Senhora da Alva. The hydrographic basin of the Ribeira de Aljezur is altered by the earthquake and is no longer navigable. Thus, the town loses its importance as a port of entry into the country.
WHAT TO VISIT NEAR ALJEZUR?
Aljezur is a small town. To get to know it well, allow two full days in your agenda. In case you have some time left, be aware that nearby you will find other places worth visiting. Our suggestions are: 1-Mochique, 2-Sagres, 3-Lagos, 4-Vila do Bispo. Here is a map to guide you!
From Aljezur to Monchique is a distance of 32 kilometres, which can be covered in 34 minutes. Monchique is synonymous with tranquillity and well-being. In the “Sacred Mountain” you will find viewpoints, waterfalls, monuments and the famous water of the Moonchique mountains. A destination to put on your “bucket list”.
32 minutes and 35 kilometres separate Aljezur from Vila do Bispo. A peaceful town with magnificent beaches. But the attractions are not limited to the sea and the sun! Dinosaur footprints, fortresses, archaeological excavations, monuments and magnificent gastronomy! It is worth visiting Vila do Bispo!
Only 7 minutes and 8 kilometres separate Sagres from Aljezur. Whoever visits Sagres, visits the southernmost point of Portugal. A place still far away from the great Algarvian tourist routes. It is in the vicinity of Sagres that we find the most beautiful beaches of the country. A paradise for surfers and water sports enthusiasts!
From Aljezur to the city of Lagos is 30 minutes (32 kilometres away). It is in Lagos that we find two of the most beautiful beaches in Europe: dona Ana beach and Camilo beach. White sands, crystalline waters and rocky formations form a paradisiacal triad! Haven’t you visited Lagos yet? It is a must-visit place!
TYPICAL CUISINE OF ALJEZUR
Aljezur is a region with a wide variety of land and sea products. Delight in the fresh fish and seafood caught off its coast, resulting in dishes such as caldeiradas, mussel rice or feijoada de búzios. Due to its freshness and quality, fish should also be enjoyed in its simplest form: grilled over charcoal. The local produce includes peanuts, which make a great appetiser and, of course, sweet potatoes, which are used not only in typical dishes (such as cabbage with sweet potatoes), but also in confectionery (for example, sweet potato pudding). Be sure to try the medronho brandy, which is distilled in copper stills.
RESTAURANTS IN ALJEZUR
THE ELSKA KITCHEN
Two star restaurant with over 95 reviews and an overall rating of 4.9 (out of a maximum of 5). A restaurant with a welcoming atmosphere and decor with personality. The quality of the food is matched by the friendliness of the staff. The top rated restaurant in Aljezur.
HOTELS IN ALJEZUR
VALE DA TELHA HOTEL
2-star hotel. It has over 420 reviews on Google and an overall rating of 4.2 stars (out of a maximum of 5). The most complimentary comments refer to the tranquility of the space, the impeccable cleanliness, the quality of the breakfast and the good price/quality ratio. The staff are extremely friendly.