Armação de Pêra
Armação de Pêra is a beautiful long expanse of sandy beach stretching for over 6 km and framed by the golden limestone cliffs that form the natural backdrop to so many of the beaches on this western side of the Algarve. Originally used by the local fishermen from the nearby village of Pêra for preparing their fishing tack (armação), Armação de Pêra has now become one of the most popular beaches in the Algarve and a modern resort, offering a host of amenities and entertainment.
Armação de Pêra has a considerable amount to offer. In addition to kilometre upon kilometre of fine, golden sand bathed by calm, warm waters, the promenade skirting the beach is lined with bars, restaurants and gardens that provide a welcome break from the sun and sea. Picturesque fishing boats and fishermen’s huts adorn one end of the beach, marking the beginning of the marshlands that lie at the mouth of the Ribeira de Alcantarilha and that provide safe harbour to the countless species of migrating birds that visit the Algarve each year. Some of these boats can be rented out for exploratory trips around the hidden coves and caves that punctuate the coastline and that often provide excellent sites for snorkelling and diving. Additional water sports facilities include windsurfing, scuba diving, fishing and pedal boat rentals.
The waterfront area buzzes with animation and holiday cheer. Bars, nightclubs and restaurants abound in this area and offer both local and international cuisine. A more local flavour is available in the restaurants lining the narrow, cobbled streets of the old part of town where the fish, as always in the Algarve, is the star attraction. Grilled sardines and horse mackerel or the fishermen’s ‘Aunt Chica’s’ stew, also consisting of sardines and horse mackerel cooked in lime, come high on the list, followed by the sweet ‘morgados’ or the egg-based ‘lesmas’. To finish it all off, there is nothing better than a glass of the Algarve’s own liqueur, the arbutus berry-based ‘medronho’.
There are plenty of shops in Armação de Pêra, providing an array of holiday essentials and some of the local crafts, including pottery, embroidered linens and jewellery. Shopping malls in nearby Portimão and Albufeira offer a larger selection of shops and if planning a trip inland, the historical town of Silves is perfect for traditional handicraft: bobbin lace, wicker objects, Algarve houses in miniature and colourful linen patchwork quilts and cushions.
The countryside around Armação de Pêra is too beautiful to be ignored and merits a visit. Leaving the coast behind and venturing inland, the landscape opens up into a mass of colourful pomegranate orchards and orange groves interspersed with almond, fig and carob trees. Dotted amongst them lie the charming whitewashed Algarve houses, with their Arab chimneys and blue-rimmed windows. Progressing further, up into the mountains of the Serra de Monchique, strawberry trees and cork oaks offer shelter to birds of prey, including sparrow hawks, falcons and eagles.
The historical town of Silves, the 11th century capital of the Algarve, is situated on one of the hills of this mountain ridge overlooking the river Arade and can be reached by boat from nearby Portimão. Despite the ravages of the 1755 earthquake, it contains interesting monuments that lend colour to the history of this area. The battlements of its impressive castle afford lovely views of the landscape and numerous excavations have uncovered Iron Age relics that can be admired at the Archaeological Museum. The riverfront area provides a number of restaurants, an opportunity to admire the Roman bridge and the refurbished Fábrica do Inglês (Englishman’s Factory), an old cork factory that has been transformed into a sophisticated leisure and exhibition centre. The cork museum was winner of the Best Industrial Museum in Europe.
Golfers have a variety of golf courses to choose from in the surroundings, the closest being the Herdade dos Salgados Golf course behind the adjacent Praia Grande.
Long are the days when only the fishermen visited the shores of Armação de Pêra’s beach. Yet, despite the influx of visitors and its increased allure as a holiday destination, they continue to go about their daily business and regard it as their own.