Call me ornery, call me a snob … and sometimes call me just plain stupid!
I drove through the hill village of Alte (pronounced alt, located north of Loulé) many times and because I’d seen it in tour books described as ‘the prettiest town in the Algarve’ I decided to ignore it. I mean, how can anyplace that makes the major tour books and is so glowingly described be of interest to a self-proclaimed specialist in ‘off-the-beaten-track’ Algarve? Well, one day I decided to stop and see what all the action was about and realized I’d been being a stupid, ornery snob! Sigh. …again.
The main road that runs through Alte doesn’t really let you see its delights. And it is quite a delightful little place. Sure there are a couple of interesting looking pottery shops. And the cemetery looks like it’s worth an exploration, sitting perched on the side of a broad valley. But beyond that, Alte certainly doesn’t look that picturesque from the highway.
But if you head up-hill at the traffic circle on the western edge of town, you quickly discover an absolutely delightful little place with cafés spilling out onto the street, at least one great pastry shop, an attractive church and lots of meandering, narrow streets. Parking isn’t easy, even in the off-season so you’ll need a bit of patience.
There’s a small mercado located on the left as you enter the village. It is a long series of covered stalls with a fun mosaic. Alas it has never been open on any of my visits, but one of these days I’ll make it when it is filled with fruits, vegetables, fish and meats.
In the meantime, this is a great place for a wander; a fun place for poking around, soaking up the sunshine and watching the locals go about their business. If you like to drive, press upwards on some of the streets and you’ll have the joy of wondering how sharp an angle your vehicle can handle, plus the pleasure of seeing what the backside of the mountain looks like. On one fall visit I was fortunate enough to find a number of medronhos (arbutus trees) bushes in full fruit. What a find.
The pastry shop near the mercado makes wonderful almond treats and has a lovely balcony where a few lucky people get to gaze over the valley while sipping coffee and munching on almond crescents. Yummy.
And it is just about the prettiest place I’ve been in the Algarve. Great spot to while away a couple of hours doing not much of anything.