Fun Facts about the Algarve
Updated: May 12
That you may (or may not) have been wondering about
So, continuing on our story (I’ll catch you up – British/Brazilian Luci and Portuguese Nelson moved down to the Algarve), like when you move anywhere new, there’s a lot to take in and a lot that needs explaining.
You have the obvious fun facts the tour guides will tell you straight off the bat – about how:
while still a part of the country, the Algarve was considered to be somewhat separate from Portugal for a long time (and so the region was known as “Portugal and the Kingdom of the Algarve”).
the Moors ruled the Algarve (Al-Gharb – “the West” - in Arabic) for over 500 years, and that’s why so many names down here begin with “Al” (“the” in Arabic).
the chimneys you’ll see all over the region and some of the most beautiful architecture was inspired by the Moors and
how you won’t get fresher fish anywhere else.
But there was a lot more besides that that came as a surprise!
Let’s start with food:
What is an Açorda?
1. Have you ever seen “bread soup” on a menu? If you did, would you order it? Luci didn’t, not for a good while, but turns out “Açorda” (which is most often described as bread soup in English) is so much more than that. A typical dish from the Alentejo (the region just North of the Algarve), this “soup” isn’t boiled as you may expect.
Olive oil and vinegar are added to crushed salt, coriander and garlic, and the water used to boil cod or poach eggs poured over the mixture, while it’s still boiling, all of which is then all poured over bread, sometimes with stock added at the very end. Needless to say, describing it as “bread soup” doesn’t do the dish justice!
Now for landmarks!
Spotted all over the Algarve,
What are Casas dos Cantoneiros?
2. These tile road signs (most often seen in the countryside, although not exclusively) are all over the Algarve, and notable for their traditional blue (azulejo) tiles and the fact that they’re all abandoned. Having once housed road conservation workers, these houses all have the names of the closest cities on the side, as well as the distance to them. They’re certainly worth looking out for!
And why so many hand-shaped door knockers?
3. A lesser-known Moorish symbol, the “hand of Fatima” knockers that can be seen on many doors across the Algarve. The hand is a symbol of protection for those inside the house, and also served to display the faith of its inhabitants.
And one last buried treasure,
Loulé Rocksalt Mine
And last, but certainly not least, this incredible hidden gem lies within the city of Loulé, at a dead-end you wouldn’t think to look twice at. That’s because all you can see is a strange white triangular structure – you’d never imagine that below it lies a rocksalt mine that’s been there over 230 million years!
Of all the things in Loulé, this was certainly not one Luci (or Nelson) expected to find, and they have revelled in stories about how a company from the US once wanted to turn the mine into storage, having gained interest from companies in the Middle East and Moscow for the purpose. It seems the company already stores classic Warner bros films in another rocksalt mine at its headquarters, in Kansas (and it seems the lack of humidity, earthquake-proof, restricted nature of these mines makes them perfect for use as storage facilities!) The deal, however, never went through, and now the mines have become a tourist attraction for the city, providing visitors with the chance to delve into the depths of the earth.
For a complete description of a trip down to the mine, read Sara Alves’ account in the Portugal Resident’s article here.
It’s safe to say that there’s a huge amount more to be discovered in Loulé and the Algarve in general, for those who are looking, and we’ll certainly continue to do so!
Some of our other favourite places in Loulé include:
The Saturday morning fresh fruit and veg street market (which is now well-spaced out to allow for social distancing).
The year-round events Loulé town hall throws (and they don’t do anything by halves, believe us!), from the country’s oldest carnival to Noite Branca (literally “white night” an end-of-summer party), the MED festival and Christmas markets.
And finally the surrounding nature other than the beaches (and specifically streams, waterfalls and lakes) in the hills inland of Loulé, (the Serra do Caldeirão). In fact, the new development - the Ombria Resort - is the perfect example of how the beauty in the "heart of the Algarve" is now being recognised more and more.
Got a burning question about an Algarve tradition you just don't understand or want to share your favourite places in the Algarve with us? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org