Alte, a picturesque village nestled in the central Algarve, is a serene escape from the bustling tourist hubs of the region. Located at the northwest end of Loulé’s municipality, this quaint village is renowned for its natural beauty, particularly its refreshing water springs and cascading waterfall. With a population of fewer than 2,000 inhabitants, Alte exudes a slow-paced charm, making it a haven for those seeking tranquility.
The village’s cobbled alleys, adorned with terracotta-roofed houses, offer a glimpse into traditional Algarve architecture. Beyond its scenic allure, Alte boasts a rich cultural heritage, evident in its 13th-century parish church, the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Assunção, adorned with exquisite azulejo tiles and ornate gold-leaf retables. This is arguably one of the prettiest towns in the Algarve.
The village’s history is further accentuated by its ancient water mill and the iconic Fonte Pequena and Fonte Grande springs, which once served as communal gathering spots. As visitors wander through Alte’s narrow sunlit streets, they can discover local crafts, including the unique Esparto grass creations, and indulge in artisanal products like handcrafted soaps infused with local ingredients.
Most people that visit the Algarve will choose to stay closer to the coast. However, if you’re looking for somewhere that’s more of a hidden gem, Alte offers a perfect off-the-beaten path experience. Alternatively, it’s possible to visit Alte as part of a day-trip or half-day-trip as long as you have a car.
Useful Resources for Your Trip to Alte
Here’s our top tips and tricks for getting the best deals for your trip to Alte.
- Accommodation: Booking.com and Airbnb are the two most comprehensive websites for finding hotels, hostels, apartments, and other types of accommodation in Alte.
- Car Rental: Discover Cars and Rental Cars are the two most useful sites for booking local car rental.
- Airport transfers: There are taxis and Ubers at Faro Airport, but you can also pre-book an airport transfer with Welcome Pickups.
- Tours & Things to Do: Both Get Your Guide and Viator list lots of local tours and activities in Alte and the surrounding Algarve region.
- Luggage Storage: Luggage Hero and Bounce are two great sites for finding places to store your luggage in Portugal.
- Public Transport: Cp.pt is the main website for trains in Portugal. For longer distance buses, see Rede Expressos. Flixbus.pt often has cheap tickets between cities in Portugal.
- Flights: Skyscanner and Google Flights are the two most useful websites for finding flights to Portugal. The nearest airport to Alte is Faro Airport.
What to Do
Explore the Town
Wandering through the town of Alte is akin to stepping back in time, immersing oneself in the essence of rural Portuguese life. As you meander through its cobbled lanes and serpentine side streets, the town unfolds its secrets, offering a glimpse into a bygone era. The beauty of Alte lies not just in its historic architecture but also in the spontaneous discoveries that await around every corner. A leisurely stroll, lasting no more than a couple of hours, unveils an array of street art, from grand murals to intricate pieces tucked away in the most unexpected nooks.
The town’s artistic flair extends beyond its walls. As you delve deeper into its heart, you’ll come across quaint stores showcasing the region’s rich craftsmanship. From the delicate ceramics at Ceramica d’Alte, echoing Portugal’s long-standing pottery tradition, to the handwoven grass crafts, every artifact tells a story.
For a more immersive experience, Casa do Artesão beckons. Here, not only can you admire the exquisite Portuguese arts and crafts, but you can also witness artisans breathing life into their creations.
And for those with a penchant for organic products, Papoila offers a range of handmade olive oil-based items, including soaps and creams. Their collection also boasts cork handbags and jewelry, encapsulating the essence of Alte in every piece.
Fonte Grande, aptly named the “Big Spring,” is a serene oasis nestled higher up on the same street as its smaller counterpart. This spring, which gave rise to a river pool in the 1980s, has since evolved into a haven for both locals and visitors, offering a refreshing escape, especially during the warmer months. The river, framed by stately stones and flanked by trees, provides ample shade for those seeking respite from the sun.
While some argue that the water volume has diminished over the years, the pool remains versatile in its depth. Ranging from a mere ankle-deep at its shallowest to over 2 meters at its deepest, it caters to swimmers of all ages and abilities. Contrary to its “praia fluvial” moniker, Fonte Grande doesn’t actually have a sandy beach. Instead, visitors are treated to the grassy and shaded banks of the brick-lined river, offering a unique and tranquil experience.
As summer descends upon the region, Fonte Grande comes alive with the hum of activity. The snack-bar Fonte Grande opens its doors, serving a variety of refreshing drinks and delectable snacks to those lounging by the water. For those who prefer a more personalized dining experience, the area is equipped with picnic tables and a public barbecue, inviting families and friends to enjoy a meal amidst nature. Fonte Grande is also equipped with accessible toilets and changing room facilities, ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable day out for everyone.
Fonte Pequena, translating to “Small Spring,” is a charming natural spring in Alte that feeds the River Alte. Nestled at the intersection of Rua da Fonte Grande and the quaint white bridge at Largo Sousa Costa, this spring holds a special place in the village’s history. In bygone days, it was a bustling hub where village women would gather, sharing stories and laughter as they went about their daily chores of laundry and water collection.
Today, Fonte Pequena stands as a testament to Alte’s rich heritage, offering visitors a tranquil spot to relax and immerse themselves in the village’s unhurried rhythm of life. The verses of the renowned poet Cândido Guerreiro, which capture the essence of Alte, are beautifully displayed here, allowing one to journey through the village’s nostalgic past.
In the late 1940s, Fonte Pequena underwent a thoughtful renovation, transforming it into a welcoming haven for both locals and visitors. The area now boasts picnic tables and benches, set amidst the shade of towering trees, creating an idyllic setting for relaxation and reflection. The spring’s serene ambiance is further enhanced by a dedicated space honouring its most celebrated resident, Cândido Guerreiro. Here, one can delve into the poet’s soulful sonnets, each line resonating with the beauty and charm of Alte, making Fonte Pequena a must-visit spot for those seeking a blend of natural beauty and cultural richness.
Igreja Matriz De Alte
Nestled in the heart of the picturesque village of Alte stands the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, commonly referred to as The Mother Church of Alte. This emblematic church, with its roots tracing back to the 13th century, serves as a testament to the village’s rich history and architectural prowess.
The façade of the church is a marvel in itself, boasting a magnificent Manueline style doorway. Intricately carved stone architraves, embellished with leaf motifs and twisted ropes, grace the entrance, inviting visitors to explore its sacred interiors. While the church has witnessed several renovations over the centuries, its essence remains intact. The 19th-century addition of a rectangular window complements the church’s ancient charm.
Stepping inside, one is immediately captivated by the chancel adorned with 18th-century blue azulejos, depicting Baroque musician angels. The church also houses four exquisite Rococo style altarpieces, with one particularly dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi, as well as images from the 17th and 18th centuries, and a Manueline baptismal font, each narrating tales of faith and devotion from bygone eras.
The restaurant O Folclore stands out not just for its delectable array of local dishes but also for its most celebrated resident, Baltazar. The expansive terrace of the restaurant offers diners breathtaking views, making it an ideal spot to relax and soak in the beauty of the surroundings. But what truly sets O Folclore apart is the free entertainment provided by Baltazar. His gentle demeanor and playful antics have endeared him to visitors, making him a star attraction of the place.
The name “Baltazar” also evokes historical and cultural connotations. In Western church tradition, Balthasar is one of the Magi who visited the infant Jesus, often depicted as a king from Arabia or sometimes Ethiopia. Traditionally represented in art as a Middle Eastern or Black man, Balthasar is believed to have presented the gift of myrrh to Jesus. The presence of a donkey named Baltazar in Alte adds a layer of intrigue and cultural depth to the village, intertwining the past with the present in a delightful blend of history, tradition, and local charm.
Learn About Cândido Guerreiro
Cândido Guerreiro stands as one of Portugal’s eminent literary figures, with his roots deeply embedded in the picturesque village of Alte. Born Francisco Xavier Cândido Guerreiro on December 3, 1871, on Rua Poeta Cândido Guerreiro, he was not just a man of words but also of action. His academic journey led him to the University of Coimbra, where he earned a degree in Law in 1907.
His influence wasn’t limited to the literary world. Guerreiro’s leadership qualities shone through when he served as the president of the Municipalities of Loulé and Faro between 1923 and 1941. Beyond the realms of poetry, Guerreiro wore many hats – he was a playwright, a lawyer, and a notary, practicing in both Loulé and Faro.
As a poet, he was a prominent figure in the Portuguese Renaissance, a movement that sought to rejuvenate Portuguese literature and arts. Despite his numerous roles and contributions, it is his poetic legacy that remains most celebrated in Alte. A testament to his enduring influence in the village is the Fonte Pequena, where azulejo panels proudly display his portrait alongside some of his most cherished poems.
One of his most emblematic verses serves as a poignant reminder of Alte’s most celebrated son. Guerreiro’s journey came to an end in Lisbon on April 11, 1953, but his legacy continues to inspire and resonate in the hearts of many.
Porque nasci ao pé de quatro montes
Por onde as águas passam a cantar
As canções dos moinhos e das fontes,
Ensinaram-me as águas a falar.
(As the place where I was born lies encircled by four hills
Through which waters run singing
The songs of fountains and mills,
Waters taught me to speak.)
— Cândido Guerreiro
Unfortunately, getting to Alte isn’t particularly easy without a car.
- Flying: The nearest airport to Alte is Faro Airport, which is located roughly 45 minutes by car (55 km or 34 miles).
- Train: While there is a train station called Messine-Alte, this is actually on the outskirts of Messines and around 12 km (7.45 miles) from Alte. You can take a taxi from Messines to Alte, which takes around 15 minutes.
- Bus: There aren’t many options for getting to Alte by bus, however, there is Line 89 which starts in Loulé and goes to Messines and line 83, which starts in Loulé and goes to Freixo Verde. Both lines are operated by Vamus Algarve.
- Driving: By car the easiest way to get to Alte is by car, so it’s recommended that you rent a car at Faro Airport if you don’t already have one.