The tiny village of Cacela Velha between Monte Gordo and Tavira feels like stepping back in time. Unspoilt by modern development, the pretty calçadas, cobbled streets and painted houses are pristine. Best of all is its fortified location, high above the beach and lagoons of the Ria Formosa. The square has a pretty church and fountain and the views from the 18th-century fortress are spectacular. It’s the sort of place where you see the local policeman sharing a morning coffee and medronho with locals in the café. Yes, really!
Incidentally, the restaurant in the village, Casa Velha, is one of our marketing manager Angela Viegas’s favourite lunch spots, if you like authentic Portuguese food, sardines, long clams (canivetes) and other local delicacies.
Off the beaten track, the village rarely gets busy apart from in July when it holds a four-day Moorish Nights Festival, “Noites da Moura Encantada”, complete with temporary souk and Arabic street food and music.
The beach below the village has been rated as one of the best in the world, and it would be hard not to agree. To get to it, follow signs to “Fábrica”, just west of the village, around 1km downhill, or walk the footpath descending from the village. From here, small boats can take you over to the beach (daily in summer, but only during good weather in the rest of the year).
Golfers can combine a trip to Cacela Velha with a game at nearby Quinta de Cima or Quinta da Ria, or you could just go for a meandering drive around the area. The country lanes in the vicinity are beautiful at any time of the year.