The southern-most city of the Portuguese mainland is Faro, a thriving port on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and the first city of the Algarve region.
The stunning location of the city is no coincidence – the same sheltering lagoons and hill regions that allow Faro to bask under the warm Algarve sunshine all year long have also long protected the city and its people from Mother Nature at her most destructive, with Faro surviving almost unscathed a devastating earthquake and tsunami in the 1700s. The fortune of the Faro district has meant its fine examples of Moorish and early Christian architecture are some of the only such examples to be found anywhere in the continent, and as the Principle city of the region it is a cultural hotbed and the centre of a world-class tourism industry.
A Faro flight from airlines like Jet2.com touches down at Faro Airport daily, and with travel connections available by train, bus and boat, Faro would certainly make for an excellent base from which to explore the wider Algarve region. But stick within the city limits and you won’t go far wrong, with so many attractions, events and curiosities within walking distance of each other you may forget about the rest of the world.
A Captivating Church
For only a couple of Euros, entry to the Chapel of Bones (the Capela de Ossos) would be a bargain at twice the price. At first a rather grisly outing, the Chapel quickly works it’s magic and provides its visitors with a uniquely profound experience. The walls and ceilings of the chapel are lined with the bones, skulls and skeletons of hundreds and thousands of deceased priests and worshippers from the church.
What might read as a rather morbid and gruesome way to spend an afternoon, the statement of devotion by the builders, coupled with the light and airy architecture of the building itself, bathed in the bright sun of the Portuguese climate makes for a genuinely intriguing and uplifting visit. Built in the early 1800s, guided tours of the church are available for only a few Euros more. Perhaps think twice before seeking out any souvenirs!
Elsewhere, night walks down the cobbled streets of the Faro Old Town provide atmospheric and diverting encounters with local history, where ancient buildings – many of which are still in use – and gated archways positively demand exploration.
A short walk past the bustling cafes and market stalls, down sleepy midday streets and avenues and you will soon arrive at Faro’s wild and meandering coastline. A rich network of lagoons and sandy spits that stretch out into the sea, in mere moments you can find a soft, sandy beach all of your own. Or for a unique perspective, buy passage on a boat trip to the nearby islands, or join the many local diving courses, for a glimpse of a Faro that few others see.