Boca do Inferno

The Boca do Inferno is an interesting cliff formation close to Cascais, which translates as Hell’s Mouth.

The Atlantic Ocean relentlessly smashing on the cliffs has chiseled out a small cave, which subsequently collapsed forming a small bay and natural arch.

Hell’s Mouth gets its name from the booming of the ocean waves which crash against the cliff face, forcing their way into a cave system, and spraying angrily from an opening above.

When the sea is calm you’ll wonder what the fuss is about but we were lucky enough to see it in full spate!


Climbing the ramparts

The next place that we explore in Sintra is the impressive Castelo dos Mouros – Castle of the Moors.

(NB the picture below is actually part of the Pena Palace estate, it was a left over from a previous post that I didn’t want to leave out!!)


The imposing ruin of the Castle of the Moors forms a commanding presence on the town’s hillside. Its ramparts forming a rugged spine, snaking sinuously across the hillside.

We wind our way upto the castle through a verdant valley dotted with huge boulders.

Then we emerge into the open square of the castle to get our first glimpse of the structure.

Built by the Moors in the 8th and 9th centuries, it was an important strategic point during the Reconquista, and was taken by Christian forces after the fall of Lisbon in 1147.

It is a National Monument, part of the Sintra Cultural Landscape and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The castle gradually fell into disrepair and was damaged by an earth quake in 1755 and by 1838 the towers were in ruins.

However, in the mid 19th century a restoration project began under the direction of King Ferdinand II as part of his Romanticist designs on Sintra which included the neighbouring Pena Palace.

From the high vantage points there are wonderful panoramic views over the hills of the Serra De Sintra and the plains stretching west to the Atlantic Ocean.

You can also spot the fantastical Pena Palace and enjoy the toy town vista of Sintra below.

There is a fair bit of climbing involved in order to reach the best vantage points but it’s well worth it.

The weathered old stones shimmer under the baking sunshine and vertiginous views beckon from every rampart.

Even though crowds of tourists pour into the castle each day it is still possible to be secluded and alone.

With the breeze blowing in your face and the dizzying drops to the ground below, you certainly feel a little bit of a pioneer as you scale the multitude of steps.



Fairytale in vivid colour

Here’s lots more colourful pictures taken at the magical Pena Palace in Sintra.

From exotic bird of paradise plants to Moorish turrets and a child’s paintbox palette, the palace is a tourists dream.

All set against a perfect blue sky we couldn’t have picked a better day to immerse ourselves in the crazy world of the Pena Summer Palace.

Below you can see an ornately carve window that shows  a newt, symbolizing the allegory of creation of the world.

The palace is located high on a hill with a one way traffic system and relatively small amounts of parking, making it a bit difficult to get to if you have mobility issues.

However once inside the estate gates a shuttle bus will ferry you further up the hill to the actual castle although there is still a bit of a walk at the top.

Below you can see the clock tower and details from a tiled window.

Apparently Palacio Pena translated into English means the Feather Place, a whimsical, apt name for such a flamboyant display.

As you wander the palace walls you have wonderful views across the countryside and you can also glimpse one of the other castles – the Moorish Castle, a magnificent ruin that we’ll visit later.

I’ll finish on yet more magical colours. Next up we check out the interior and also wander the wider palace grounds.


On route to our next photogenic village we stop off briefly to take a closer look at one of the many traditional water wheels that are still dotted around the region.

They are protected monuments so if you buy land with one on it, it has to stay there forever!!

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They still function as well as ever, even if they’ve been left to rust for decades.

Next on the photo tour we head to a pretty little village called Altes.

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It’s a typical, Algarve village of whitewashed houses with lattice work, handcrafted chimneys and narrow, cobbled streets nestling in the foothills of the Serra do Caldeirão.


There are so many pretty windows that I became virtually delirious with snappy delight!

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Dotted about the whitewashed alley ways are delightful terracotta pots full of fleshy succulents and geraniums.


Some of which I have absolutely no idea of what they’re called!


Sunlight bounces off the blindingly white buildings, contrasting with the solid blue of the sky.

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Here’s a few more colourful snaps of plants and paintwork.

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Plus a local feline stares me down as I capture them in my view finder.

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At the eastern end of Alte, past the school, are the springs (fontes) for which Alte is well known. The area around Fonte Pequena (little spring) is very pretty with a bridge across the stream, the start of a series of waterfalls and a picnic site.

There’s also a paved garden area dedicated to Alte’s famous poet, Cândido Guerreiro..there are tiled plaques on the wall with some of the poet’s works on.


As usual there are lots of pretty tiles to be found on the local houses.


While sunshine bathes some of the local flora in glorious light and colour.


Eastern Algarve tour

Another day, another tour of the delights of Portugal. This time it was a day exploring the eastern Algarve.


First up was a brief return to the capital of Faro before heading onto the port of Olhao. Sadly we had mere minutes to take a look at the market hall before speeding onwards.

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Next up we briefly cross the border into Spain and the town of Ayamonte.


Again we had very little time to spare in the town so we just snapped some of the colourful tiles in the town centre.


Patterns galore and palm trees make the town a pleasant place to sit and watch the world go by.


Here’s a few more colourful painted tiles.

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Next on our whistle stop tour is Vila Real de Santo Antonio.

This pretty town is easy to find your way around, because it’s laid out on a grid system. The town was designed that way by the Marquês de Pombal.


Vila Real has a large town square, ‘Praça Marquês de Pombal’, which is edged with orange trees and surrounded with white buildings, shops, cafes and restaurants. Its grey and white cobbles radiate out from a central obelisk.

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There’s lots of lovely details scattered around the town. Including highly detailed tiles on many of the buildings.


Lots of the buildings are in a sad state of disrepair. Partly because anything over one hundred years old can’t be knocked down, only refurbished.

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Here’s another of the decorative tiles.


Another of my favourite touches is that some of the houses are completely tiled from floor to ceiling. Whether this is purely decorative or whether it helps keeps them cool in summer I am not sure.

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At the end of the 19th century the town was a major canning centre for sardines and tuna. There’s a museum dedicated to the business.

It includes lots of the surprisingly decorative packaging and tins.

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There’s also an exhibit of lithography which was used for the print of the labels.

Finally we visited the lovely town of Taveria. Thanks to a cock up I have already posted about that though!!! Opps 🙂


Tavira is a beautiful town with a river cutting through it. It’s in the eastern Algarve and feels a world away from the tourist hordes of the usual beach resorts.11150398_10152739047927353_7724253535114584378_n

Between the 8th and 13th centuries Tavira was under Arab rule until its conquest by the Knights of the Order of Santiago in 1242.


The gracious seven arch bridge, over the river Gilão, was believed to be Roman in origin for a while but is now thought to be Moorish, although its present appearance was acquired in the 17th century.

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There are more than 20 churches in and around the town along with plenty of other sights.


The Moorish occupation of Tavira between the 8th and 13th centuries left its mark on the agriculture, architecture and culture of the area.

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That Moorish  influence can still be seen in Tavira today with its whitewashed buildings, Moorish style doors and rooftops.

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Above is Igreja de Santa Maria do Castelo, is a 13th-century Gothic Church, built on the site of a Moorish mosque but rebuilt by an Italian neoclassicist following earthquake damage 500 years later.

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It’s next to the ruins of Tavira castle where you can make the climb onto the ramparts and enjoy the view across the pretty town.


It’s a far ole drop down! But the pay off is that from atop the walls views of whitewashed houses stretch into the distance.

11138530_10152739048847353_4817815637755538244_nIt’s a beautiful place to while away a few hours, wandering the little back streets and just soaking up the atmosphere.

Faro and bones

Faro, the capital of the Algarve, is often overlooked by the hoardes of tourists who disembark at the airport and head straight for their beach resorts.

However it has a wealth of beautiful buildings, a quaint old town and some macabre secrets to share with anyone who takes the time to explore it.


I hopped on a local bus from Praia D’Oura but I must have picked a route that literally went around the houses as it took nearly two hours for me to arrive!


First up I headed for the main square in the old town. This peaceful, orange tree lined open space is also home to Faro cathedral.

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The cathedral, with its family of storks nesting on the roof, has a wealth of ornate details waiting to be uncovered. From gilded cherubs to the ubiquitous white and blue tiling that is a feature of the region.

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You can also get a marvellous panoramic view over the old town and out towards the marsh flats from the roof top of this venerable old building.


The old town itself is a maze of whitewashed houses, punctuated with vivid splashes of colour from Bougainvillea and ornate tiling.

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Grafitti, deep red walls and endless tiles all via for my attention.

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However the main attraction of Faro for me is to be found behind this facade of the Baroque Igreja do Carmo.


The Igreja do Carmo originally dates from 1719 with the money for its construction financed with Brazilian gold from Portugal’s colony in South America.

It has some wonderful features including these serene figures of Jesus and Mary. However, they are not the reason I am visiting.

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The reason is a little more macabre . . .  it is the Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones) set within a small walled garden within the church grounds.

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The bones and skulls that can be seen are those of over 1200 Carmelite monks that were exhumed from the nearby church cemetery when the ossuary was built in 1816.

An inscription over the entrance reads: “Stop here and consider the fate that will befall you.” A fitting thought as you examine the skulls and femurs that “decorate” the interior.


It’s not the first bone chapel I have visited. The Capuchin bone crypt, a larger, multi roomed, version can be found in Rome, complete with chandeliers made from pelvic bones!

But each one is a fascinating way of emphasising the brevity of human existence and giving us pause to consider our own mortality in the empty eye sockets of those that have gone before us.

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I personally found it very serene and peaceful, not at all creepy. Indeed I think it shows a healthy respect for, and embracing of, death.

Back amongst the living, out on the streets there’s always time to pause and appreciate some street art before heading back to the bus station to head for home.


Next we’ve taking a trip to the pretty town of Silves and the highest point of the Algarve!

Albuferia old town

On the hunt for peeling paint and ornate stuff, I head to Albuferia old town.

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While it is quite small I still managed to find some details to snap away at. From the ornate tiles that are found on most houses, to beautiful doors and colourful paintwork.

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In Roman times Albufeira was known as Baltum and then re-named Al-Buhera by the Moorish settlers in the 8th Century.

It was finally taken from the Moors in the middle of the 13th Century by the ‘Knights of the Order of Santiago’

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Albufeira was a small fishing village until the arrival of tourism in the 1960s. Substantial developments since then have turned it into a major holiday resort

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Even with all of the developments, some of Albufeira Old Town still retains the essence of the village it once was, with narrow cobbled streets winding up and around the hillsides.



Next up I’m grabbing a local bus to the capital city of Faro. Somewhat overlooked by tourists in the main who head straight from its airport to their beach resorts.


Around the headland

Having sat on the beach for all of half an hour I was predictably getting itchy explorer feet so decided to strike out for the headland and see what was around the bend!P1030855

I knew that the beach of old town Albuferia could be found via a cliff top walk and it was apparently was only twenty minutes away.

So off I trotted, just me and my trusty camera.

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While it wasn’t exactly a gentle stroll (more a a scramble and hike) I got to experience some of the stunning, rugged coast line that the Algarve is famous for.


As it was just me and my camera you get treated to a rare glimpse of me (as the usual photographic human subject AKA the other half, wasn’t on hols with me!)

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Dramatic ochre cliffs crumble and tumble into the deep blue waters below. The sunny April day was a perfect temperature for the climb.


Along the way I spotted secluded little coves without a tourist in site, eroded rocks created bridges and pools while the sandy cliff path kept on winding its way ahead of me.

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It really was a beautiful walk.

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I barely passed a soul as I trekked along the cliff top. It felt like I had the Algarve to myself.


It got a bit hairy in some places where the path had literally dropped into the sea, leaving just a tiny section to inch your way along.


But before long I had sight of the populated Albuferia town beach. A huge stretch of sand that is accessed via a tunnel from the old town. Here’s the steps down from the cliff I had just crossed.


It was back to civilisation and goodbye to the empty rugged glories of the lonely cliff top.


My destination was the old town of Albuferia.


On the look out for my favourite snaps of peeling paint, old doors and architecture. The town perches on top of the cliff, all white cubes and parasols.


Next up, some snaps from the old town!

Algarve memories

Fresh from a week’s break with family in Albuferia, a bustling part of Portugal’s Algarve. Ten of us rocked up to the very swish Villa Bosque with its own private pool and spacious living quarters.


Set down a quiet residential street it is just minutes from the main drag of Praia d’Oura with all its restaurants, supermarkets and “The Strip” the long street of bars.

It was ideally placed for the beach too, about 15 minutes walk. Perfect!!

With tiny nippers in tow it was ideal for youngsters with a heated pool and lots of garden space to whizz around in.

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Here is a rare glimpse of my younger sister taking to the water!!


Meanwhile I take it easy and put my feet up! (Fear not, it was only for arrival day – I was soon on the touring rampage, camera in hand)


We took a stroll down to Praia D’Oura beach, a pleasant crescent of sand with some of the Algarve’s trade mark yellow ochre cliffs tumbling down to the sea.


Later on in the holiday I take a hike around the cliff headland in the distance to Albuferia old town and its huge beach.


But just for the first day we take a well earned rest (or I do – grandma has her hands full!)

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