Public Art in the Algarve

Metalwork Palm Trees - Vila Nova a Cacela

Art in public spaces is not something I’ve encountered a whole lot of as I’ve traveled around the Algarve. However, on my January trip I did come across an impressive sculpture in a tiny little hamlet called Vila Nova de Cacela.

I had parked my car at the edge of the hamlet and wandered down to the fortress, enjoying the warm, sunny weather and then the incredible views out to sea and over to the Spanish border. It is easy to see why around the turn of the first century (yes, around 1,000 AD) a fortress would have been built to warn of maurauding pirates. It was subsequently well used in the centuries when the Moors and Christians passed control of the area back and forth. But sadly, like much of the Eastern Algarve, the original fortress was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake and subsequently rebuilt at the turn of the century.  Still, it is an impressive structure to our modern eyes. And unless the ground opens up and swallows the cliff upon which it rests, the views are stunning.

Next to the fortress is a lovely old parish church. As I came around the corner of the fortification and headed towards an opening with more views of the water, I came upon two lovely metal sculptures of palm trees that filled a quiet, sunny courtyard. No one else was about; I had the place to myself. As I stood appreciating the way the huge metalwork trees graced the spot, the church bells peeled out the hour.  All in all, a delightful few moments when nature, history and art combined to give me an experience I had not expected. That this moment occurred in such a tiny hamlet seemed to make it all the more special. I can guarantee you that only the tiniest fraction of visitors to the Algarve even know about this place, let alone these graceful sculptures.

Now Vila Nova de Cacela is not the only place I’ve encountered public art in the Algarve. But it certainly was the least expected art experience I’ve had. That’s what I like about wandering around on my own. I never quite know what will be around the next bend. It isn’t always as gorgeous as this hamlet and these sculptures, but it gives me the thrill of discovery each and every day that I set out to explore!

Look below for some of the other public art pieces I’ve encountered in my travels. I know that on my next trip I’ll be conscious about seeking out even more of them to tell you about, because I know they are out there waiting for me to turn a corner and discover them.

Algarve’s Gentle Eastern Shores

I recently spent two more glorious weeks in the Algarve.  Only this time, I moved east, staying in the delightful town of Tavira.  My days were spent exploring the town, the back country, the waterfront and, of course, the many fine dining opportunities that abound in the Algarve.  Off-the-beaten track Algarve continues to be what calls to me.  This recent trip helped confirm, yet again, just how much diversity is packed into this tiny region of wonderful vistas, friendly, gentle people, great food and culture, fabulous beaches and good shopping.

Sunset near Tavira

The coastline feels more gentle because you are pretty much behind the barrier islands of the Rio Formosa in this part of the world.  Beaches are broader and backed by sand dunes rather than cliffs. The food feels more traditional, but perhaps given that it was the dead of winter many restaurants were offering all kinds of stews. There are several very small fishing communities that are still highly traditional and are delightful to spend time in. Boardwalks along the waterfront are much more popular in this part of the region.

And the countryside, oh my! The almond blossoms were just coming out when I arrived and were at the peak of perfection during my visit. And there are sooo many of them. In some places, there were white and pink blossoms as far as they eye can see.

Unfortunately, there are also some depressingly overbuilt and congested tourist traps in this area too.  And it was scary to be driving the back hill country only to encounter the massive up-scale golf courses and gated housing communities that have sprung up as ugly blots on the rural landscape.  But I suppose that tourists must be attracted in whatever way possible.  Sad to see, though.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks, folks as I document my most recent discoveries.  Great art galleries, public art displays in unusual places, villages, restaurants, country drives will all be featured to help make your visit to the Algarve an amazing and rich one.  Or perhaps even to tempt you to visit this wonderful gem of a destination tucked away in the southern-most reaches of an equally delightful country.