Cacela velha is a small whitewashed village situated on top of a cliff. Whoever visits it on foot feels that time has not had its effect there. It is one of the last places in the Algarve where massive construction has failed to take hold. It is less than 10 minutes by car from Manta Rota and belongs to the municipality of Vila Real de Santo António.
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It was and still is a fishing village. But from the 80’s of the last century, it became a tourist destination and today its population lives from these two activities: tourism and fishing (the local fishermen still supply the restaurants in the region). In front of Cacela Velha we find the Ria Formosa. Between the immense ocean and the ria there is a tongue of sand that delights those who choose it to spend a magnificent day at the beach. If you like warm waters, know that this is one of the beaches where you are most likely to have luck. The sea presents itself in shades of greenish blue. The water temperature, after the upwelling (wind coming from Gibraltar that hits the Mediterranean sea “dragging” the warm waters to the Algarve coast), often reaches 25 degrees.
WHERE IS CACELA VELHA?
If you live in Lisbon, be prepared for a 3-hour drive (by freeway) and a distance of 313 kilometers. A small effort for a place of many rewards.
HISTORY OF CACELA VELHA
It is difficult to precisely identify the date and the people who first occupied this settlement. Its high geographical position allowed it to watch the coast and the approach of enemy vessels. It is known that Tunicians, Phoenicians, Romans and Muslims occupied this village (during the Arab occupation, the village of Cacela Velha was quite important). The sandy beach in front of the village of Cacela Velha has undergone over time, numerous transformations with regard to its geography and size. Some transformations happened by force of man and others by force of nature (as a result of storms, earthquakes and sea currents).
WHAT TO VISIT IN CACELA VELHA?
Cacela velha is a small village and its center is obviously even smaller. It can be reached on foot in about 20 minutes. There we find several tourist attractions with a small core consisting of a medieval church.
NOSSA SENHORA DA ASSUNÇÃO CHURCH
It was erected in the 16th century and replaced a religious construction from the 13th century. From this medieval temple, a side door of gothic style still remains in the present Matriz church. Inside the church you will find an image of Nossa Senhora da Assunção (18th century). This image represents an allusion to the entry of the virgin Mary into the kingdom of God.
FORTRESS OF THE KNIGHTS OF SANTIAGO DE CACELA
Also called Forte de Cacela Velha. It is very close to the main church (about 100 meters away). The fortress was once a Moorish castle that was part of a defensive system (created during the Muslim occupation of the Iberian Peninsula (711 – 1492). When Cacela was conquered by the Portuguese (1242), the fort was given to the order of Santiago. It was used as a logistical support structure for the reconquest of Tavira, Silves and Aljezur. The current construction dates back to the 18th century and emerges as a consequence of the destruction inflicted by the great earthquake of 1755. The earthquake affected immensely not only Lisbon but also the Algarve). During the 19th and 20th centuries it was left to its fate and degraded considerably. If you visit the Cacela Velha fort, take a few minutes to enjoy the magnificent view over the Formosa estuary.
CACELA VELHA BEACH (OR FÁBRICA BEACH)
The village of Cacela Velha is just a 4-minute drive (1.4 km) from the pier that will take you to Fábrica beach.
I was a regular on this beach in the late 80s and early 90s (between the ages of 10 and 16). The truth is that little or nothing has changed since then. The beach restaurant is still in the same place and the beach remains magnificent and not very frequented.
NATURISM AT CACELA VELHA BEACH
The Fábrica beach is one of the beaches referenced by the Portuguese federation of Naturism as a place where the custom is well accepted by the other users of the beach. It is important to mention that the practice of nudism is LEGAL AND PERMITTED by law (Law 92/88). If you are a fan of this practice, you should know that near Cacela velha you will find one of the most famous naturist beaches: the nude man’s beach. If you want to know more about this beach, be sure to read our article about the Barril beach.
Right in the center of the village (next to the church), we find an old cistern that, in times gone by, will have supplied (obviously with water) the residents. It is believed that the construction of this unit dates back to the period after the 1755 earthquake (don’t forget that the Algarve, along with Lisbon, was tremendously affected by the earthquake). Before there was the cistern, there was a pillory on the same site. All the cistern and its wheel (used to draw water), is in good condition.
ISLAMIC QUARTER AND CHRISTIAN NECROPOLIS
It is located in the eastern part of the village. It is believed to have been a residential neighborhood in the 13th century. Alleyways and archaic water drainage systems were found there. These archaeological finds were discovered between 1997 and 2007. From them was born a project called “Muslims and Christians in Medieval Cacela: territory and changing identities”.
VIRTUAL TOUR TO CACELA VELHA
WHAT TO VISIT NEAR CACELA VELHA?
A few kilometers from Cacela Velha you will find several villages and places worth visiting. Here is a list of suggestions (most places in Portugal but also some suggestions in Spain). Don’t forget that Cacela Velha is quite close to neighboring Spain. If you have a car at your disposal, then take our suggestions and hit the road. Here is a map for you to check distances and plan your trips.
There are 11 kilometers between Cacela velha and Tavira. 14 minutes by car connecting these two towns. Tavira is a nice place that deserves a close visit!
Only 17 minutes by car separate Cacela Velha from Vila Real de Santo António (12.8 kilometers). The town is very close to Spain, literally a bridge away.
Only 29 kilometers away that can be covered in just 37 minutes by car. If you are on vacation in Cacela Velha, it is a good suggestion for a different day. The sea water is usually a little warmer than at the beaches in the Algarve.
Cacela velha is a 35-minute drive from Cristina island. A short drive of 33 kilometers away will allow you to get to know another place of choice for those who love the beach.
From Cacela Velha to Quinta de Cima Golf course is only 8 minutes drive for a distance of only 2.6 kilometers. If you like golf and beach, know that Cacela Velha offers you both.
From Cacela Velha to Torre de Aires is a 25-minute drive over a distance of 21 kilometers. It is a tower of Islamic origin with a circular shape. In ancient times, it was part of a defensive system (a watchtower).
Cabanas Island is a sandy tongue located just 20 minutes by car from Cacela Velha. The sandy beach of the island reaches as far as the bar of Cacela. The beach is next to the village of Cabanas, a small fishing village. To get there, be prepared for a short boat ride across the ria.
Cacela velha and Castro Marim are 16 kilometers apart. A very short trip that will reward you. In Castro Marim, you’ll find white houses on the banks of the Guadiana River. There are also mountain ranges, flamingos and wonderful scenery. Not to be missed!
14 kilometers separate Cacela Velha from the saltpans of Tavira. The immense saltpans of Tavira are in front of the city (near the municipal market). If you like to observe water birds, seagulls of different species, waders (a kind of bird) and… salt pans, then be sure to visit this place.
In Castro Marim (16 minutes from Cacela velha), there is also room for relaxation! Few know this magnificent natural spa that offers you the opportunity to float in the waters of the saltpans. If you like to treat your skin, know that you can cover your body with natural clay. Go in time, you don’t have to book. Take an old bathing suit for obvious reasons. Enjoy the magnificent natural juices in the bar! I guarantee you will spend a magnificent afternoon here!
37 kilometers and 33 minutes by car separate Cacela Velha from the ria Formosa natural park (in Olhão). It is one of the most beautiful places in the Algarve. Perfect for walking, cycling, boating and observing the fauna of the region. If you can stay until sunset to enjoy the magical colors of the sun reflected on the landscape. Paradisiacal!
Cacela velha is a 5-minute drive from Manta Rota. And it is at Manta Rota beach that you can find the warmest waters in the Algarve. I spent vacations there for about ten years during the 90s. Among the many good memories I have of that time, the water temperature (23, 24, 25 degrees) is certainly on the list.
GASTRONOMY OF CACELA VELHA
We have already mentioned throughout this article that Cacela Velha is a fishing village. Naturally, the local specialties come from the sea! Be sure to try the clams (also called “cadelinhas”) and the razor clam rice. For dessert try the carob and lemon tart and the almond pudding.
The oysters of Cacela Velha are famous! Those who appreciate oysters (not me) say that here you can eat the best in the country!
…And the oysters here are fabulous. Not only do they come fresh, they taste very much like the sea, they are big and juicy. This is no exaggeration: you can clearly taste the difference between these oysters and those from other places…https://www.casalmisterio.com/
RESTAURANTS IN CACELA VELHA
CASA DA IGREJA IN CACELA VELHA
More than 540 comments on Google and an overall rating of 4.5 (out of 5 stars). Regarding price, the restaurant is referenced with 2 dollar signs ($) out of a maximum of 3. On the positive side, the comments refer to the quality of the OYSTERS and all the snacks served there. The restaurant is very popular, so be prepared for a wait that can be up to 1 hour… Reservations are not accepted.
CASA VELHA EM CACELA VELHA
Over 1300 (!) reviews on Google. It has an overall rating of 4.2 (out of 5 stars maximum). Regarding the price, it is referenced with 2 dollar signs. It is (usually) the only restaurant open in winter. The fish and desserts are highly praised among customers.
HOTELS IN CACELA VELHA
In high season (summer months), accommodation in the Algarve is unavoidably expensive. We are going to make a recommendation that results from what we think is the best hotel in the PRICE/QUALITY ratio.
OZADI TAVIRA HOTEL
4-star hotel. Over 550 reviews on Google. It has an overall rating of 4.4 stars (out of a maximum of 5). When we compared the prices of hotel units in this region, the Ozadi Tavira Hotel appears with an intermediate value and with an overall better rating than the 5 star hotels. The compliments emphasize the friendliness of the staff, the great breakfast and the cleanliness and quality of the rooms.
EVENTS IN CACELA VELHA
During the summer months, Cacela Velha comes alive and street events happen very frequently. During the other months of the year, the schedule is slower, but it exists. If you want to check the upcoming events, check the viral agenda (cacelha velha).