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The long strip of dunes that separates the sea from the Ria Formosa is a paradise for anyone who enjoys sun, sand and sea. With the advantage that visitors can choose from a necklace of separate islands, and have mile after mile of sandy beaches all to themselves.
Ilha de Faro
Linked to the mainland by a road, this island has a small nucleus of beach houses, restaurants and other tourist facilities.
Ilha de Barreta
This island is truly calm and solitary. Thanks to the fact that there are no regular ferry connections. It is an excellent destination for anyone who has hired a boat or is lucky enough to have their own and who wants to enjoy the pleasures of sea and sand undisturbed by other holidaymakers.
Ilha do Farol
Apart from a few fishermen's cabins, there is nothing on these islands but sand...
Ilha de Barreta
A former fishing village, until a few decades ago the houses of Culatra had wooden walls and thatched roofs. Fishing still goes on, and shell fish are harvested from the Ria. There is an extensive beach which is quiet, with a family atmosphere. Regular steam boat services run to the Farol and Culatra beaches from Faro (summer) and Olhão (all year).

Places of Interest

The streets and houses of this ancient village, with their whitewashed walls, squat chimneys and small gardens full of trees and flowers, retain much of the traditional character of the Algarve.
Main church - Built in the 16th century on the site of a medieval chapel, the church was rebuilt in the 18th/19th centuries under the guidance of the Italian architect Francisco Xavier Fabri. It has a neo-classical facade culminating in a pediment. Interesting bell-tower. The interior consists of three naves and the altars have 19th century retables. There are statues from the 17th-18th centuries. Most notably a São Vicente (St. Vincent) and a São Diogo (St. Diogo). The pulpit is made of local marble. The baptistery bears neo"rocaille" decoration in the style used in Estoi palace. The church treasures include a monstrance in silver gilt and an embroidered cape (17th century).
Hermitage of Nossa Senhora do Pé da Cruz (Our Lady of the Foot of the Cross) - Built in the 17th century and altered subsequently, this chapel has a carved retable on the main altar and a number of statues. Patterned tiles (17th century) are visible on the walls. The tombstone of the couple who founded the chapel is also to be seen. At the beginning of May each year a centuries-old festival, the Festa da Pinha (Pine Cone festival), is held in the churchyard.
Estoi Palace - (Pousada de Faro) - The romantic tastes of the fast owner, a scion of one of the most distinguished families of the Algarve nobility, inspired him to build a country house surrounded by gardens in a beautiful natural setting. Rather than turning to the medieval models favoured by the revivalists of the period (first half of the 19th century). as exemplified by the Royal Pena Palace in Sintra. The opted for a style combining neo-baroque and "neo-rococo" elements. After several decades of neglect the palace was bought by a wealthy, pharmacist (who later became Viscount of Estoi), who continued work on it and made it his home (early, 30th century). The palace is a huge building, its exterior partially covered with tiles bearing floral decoration and depicting a variety of scenes. Inside, the decoration on the plaster ceilings the finest in the Algarve - is worthy of mention, as is the chapel, the hall; the reception and dining rooms, the two tea pavilions.
At the entrance to the palace there is a small temple containing a waterfall and a statue of the Three Graces on a shell, a copy of the work by the Italian sculptor Antonio Canova (1757-1822). Statues of Venus and Diana stand in niches. The gardens are in the late romantic style, set out on different levels, with flights of steps, lakes and statues of marble and pottery.
The Roman ruins at Milreu - What had been a large farmhouse in the 1st century was in the 3rd century turned into a vast and luxurious "villa". The living quarters were arranged around the columns of the peristyle and the floor was covered in mosaics bearing a variety of designs. The "villa" had its own baths and striking mosaics decorated with marine motifs (fish; sea urchins etc.). A sanctuary built in the 4th century was made into a paleo-Christian church in the 5th. On the ruins stands a 16th century, house with cylindrical buttresses.

Santa Barbára de Nexe
The presence in the vicinity of a bronze age hill fort, which was subsequently, used by both the Phoenicians and the Romans, shows how ancient this settlement is. The village is surrounded by fields and hills covered in fruit trees.
Main church - Built in the 15th century; the church suffered a number of alterations in the 18th. It has an interior consisting of three naves, with ogival arches. The main chapel has a panelled vault, preceded by a triumphal arch that is in the Manueline style but already displays the influence of renaissance art (16th century). The altars have carved retables (18th century). There are statues from the 17th and 18th centuries, with pride of place going to that of Santa Barbara (St. Barbara - 17th century). In the chapel of Santo António (St. Anthony) there are two 16th century paintings on wood. The walls are decorated with an ashlar of polychrome tiles and above the triumphal arch there is a panel depicting the coronation of Santa Barbara by two angels (1702).
Hermitage of Santa Catarina (St. Catherine) -Situated at Gorjoes; this small 17th century church was reworked in the 19th. The retable and status inside date from the 18th century.

Single story houses, their doors and windows picked out in bright colours and their facades edged with geometrically-patterned borders, lend Conceição the charm of a typical Algarve village.
Main church - This is a modest 16th century church, rebuilt in the 19th century. It has a renaissance doorway and a main chapel with a panelled vault; preceded by a triumphal arch bearing Manueline decoration. Images from the 18th century.
Cross - Statue of the crucifixion mounted on a column (16th century).


Faro is an ideal place to explore the colourful world of Algarvean crafts. Tiles decorated with traditional motifs are produced locally. Further inland, in Santa Bárbara de Nexe and Estoi, the womenfolk still weave and plait palm leaves to make baskets, hats and mats.


All of the Algarve's best known dishes can be tasted in Faro. But anyone who wants to try the typical fishermen's recipes should sample the local fish soup and the traditional razor clam risotto. Choosing among the many local cakes and desserts is a hard task because they all make extensive use of the tasty local figs and almonds. The best way to round off a meal is a glass of fig brandy or "medronho", a spirit made with the fruit of the strawberry tree.

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