Spread out over a hillock and not far from the ocean, is the small village of Porches. It used to be part of the municipality of Silves before it became a parish of the municipality of Lagoa. The lovely beach ‘Praia de Nossa Senhora da Rocha’ and the emblematic chapel of ‘Ermida da Nossa Senhora da Rocha’ (Our Lady of the Rock) situated on an impressive promontory overlooking the ocean and beaches, are part of this parish. All the more attractive is its proximity to some of the Algarve’s most picture-perfect beaches, neighbouring Carvoeiro’s stunning beaches to one side and Armação de Pêra’s to the other. These golden coves, some of which are backed by soaring cliffs, fill up quickly in high season, so you may want to visit early, then come back to your own poolside pleasures later in the day.
The Porches region was especially known for its wine and its great masters of pottery. Both the art of wine making, and the secular art of pottery continue playing an important role here and make a visit worth its while.
Before Porches’ current location, its population lived in Porches Velho, an ancient village at the coast. This village had been occupied by the Romans, and its privileged spot with promontory in dominant position over the coast, between Ossónoba (Faro) and Lacóbriga (Lagos), protected the beach and a small harbour.
In 1253 it was already considered a village, head of a court and possessed a strong medieval castle. A document, dated February 1250, states that King D. Afonso III gave the castle to his chancellor D. Estevão but no other information has been found. During the 16th-century a fortress was built on the same spot in order to defend the beach from pirates.
The Porches of today was founded by the population of Porches Velho, halfway through the 16th-century.
The ‘Ermida da Nossa Senhora da Rocha’ (Chapel of Our Lady of the Rock) was built inside the fortress, date of construction as yet unknown, and is now the only visible structure which is left. At the beginning of the 19th-century, the fortress was already greatly damaged with long stretches of its original perimeter destroyed by maritime erosion that, undermining the base of the cliff, led to its progressive collapse.
Armação de Pêra developed out of a small fishing community. The existence of a tuna fishing rig near Pêra, in the area of the coast now known as the bay of Pêra, explains the origin of the name of Armação de Pêra (fishing rig of Pêra) and denotes, following first written references of 1577, that there would be a small fishing community seasonally or permanently fixed in this territory. The fortress was built in 1571 to protect the area from pirates and corsairs who could attack the tuna fishing frames.
The Earthquake of 1755 brought on a tsunami which in Armação de Pêra provoked the death of 84 people, leaving only one house standing.
Take a little time for a stroll through the village centre with its narrow cobbled streets and its typical houses. The chimneys of Porches are original, colourful and very old, sitting on roofs of which the tiles have become irreplaceable as nowadays a different type is used.
On the road towards Armação de Pêra, take the turn to the right to Nossa Senhora da Rocha and drive down, following ‘Ermida da Nossa Senhora da Rocha’. Enjoy the brilliant views to the left and right as this chapel is built on a high and narrow cliff, pointing out into the ocean. Investigations lead to believe that the original chapel was built when there was once a castle (13th-century) and then a fortress, but the present building was built at the end of 15th or beginning of 16th-century. It harbours some interesting features inside which can be seen from the exterior.
Armação de Pêra boasts a number of good beaches, ranging from sandy coves lined by beautiful rock formations to a long and wide beach flanked by dunes. There is a great variety of waters sports available and boat trips, ranging from visiting the caves, a sunset cruise to watching dolphins, can be booked too. Beach bars and restaurants are plentiful, some of them offering high quality cuisine. Most of the old centre has been made into pedestrian zone with its little streets connecting to the beach-lined boulevard, the fortress, which dates back to Roman times, and a little chapel of the early 1700’s. The boulevard is continued on a higher level where the beach can be reached by descending a flight of steps. The municipal market with its fresh vegetables and fruits is worth a visit, and, especially for those whose passion is cooking, the fish market (in the same building) will be a highlight.
If you are looking for a fun day out with the family, the water park Aqualand will be a great option, it is only a 5min drive away, close to the big roundabout of Alcantarilha. The renowned Zoomarine also a great day out, with so much to see and to do. Do not forget to bring your swimming gear as the park also has fantastic waterslides and it even boasts an artificial beach and waves!
For a special treat book a romantic dinner at one of the excellent restaurants of the Vila Vita Parc Resort & Spa of which the Ocean restaurant boasts 2 Michelin stars. Spa treatments can be booked here as well. For true, luxurious indulgence, the neighbouring resort, Vilalara Longevity Thalassa & Medical Spa, offers a huge variety of spa and health treatments. Both resorts boast lovely gardens and border the coastline, offering splendid views from their many terraces with bars and restaurants. They are situated between Porches and Armação de Pêra.
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If you are looking for villas in Algarve with private pool Affinity Villas offers many more destinations including Tavira, Quinta do Lago, Vale do Lobo, Loule, Vilamoura, Silves, Carvoeiro, Ferragudo, Alvor and Luz.