What does Quarteira mean in English? (And other fun facts)
It is thought that the name “Quarteira” comes from links to Carteia (Ancient Greek: Καρτηίᾳ), a Phoenician and Roman town in the Bay of Gibraltar, Spain, that later became known as Qartayanna or Cartagena. Both names are thought to originate from Kʿrt (meaning "city" in the Phoenician language).
Well-known for its fishing tradition, which dates back several centuries, Quarteira’s connection to the much larger Roman city of Carteia goes deeper than just shared names. In fact, while under Roman rule, Carteia became well-known for exporting wine and garum (fermented fish sauce) – which were also sold in Quarteira at around the same time.
A brief history of Quarteira
Portuguese sugar cane plantations
From a small settlement and fishing village, Quarteira would become a trial location for the planting of sugar cane in the 14th century. What was learned here would then be applied in the Portuguese overseas colonies like the Azores, Madeira and later Brazil, becoming a highly lucrative export for the Portuguese empire.
Farming, fishing and raids
Rich farming and fishing traditions made Quarteira a particularly prosperous settlement for the next few hundred years. However, this prosperity also had its downsides: frequent raids by North-African pirates and neighbouring Castile. These raids led to fortifications being built along the coastline, like Forte Novo, for example, which once stood on the dunes just after the end of the Quarteira promenade before they were finally swept away by the sea in the 1980s.
Tourism in Quarteira
Though Fonte Santa (Holy Spring) in Quarteira had been popular since Roman times, drawing pilgrims from far and wide who hoped to be cured by its waters, the beach didn’t become a popular holiday destination until much later.
Tourism only really took off in Quarteira from the 60s onwards, as before that, the beach town had been notorious for the spread of malaria and other illnesses. However, São João (Saint John) festivities in June began drawing the local population to the beach for ceremonial “holy bathing” from the 1960s onwards, with “banheiros” (bathers or lifeguards) leading them into the sea and holding their hands, as many of them couldn't swim.
Tourism grew quickly across the entire Algarve, and Quarteira was no exception, with tall apartment blocks springing up along the shoreline, the promenade materialising, and tourists descending in droves as the resorts to the East and West of Quarteira saw major developments – Vale do Lobo and Vilamoura respectively, closely followed by Quinta do Lago.