Armacao de Pera may not get the attention of some of its more famous neighbours in the Algarve but in many ways this is its biggest advantage. While there are plenty of great things to do in Portimao and Lagos, visitors to lovely little Armacao de Pera, Portugal get to enjoy the same stunning cliffs and fantastic beaches, just without the oppressive crowds. The new blocky apartment buildings in the main part of town detract somewhat from its visual charm but after spending nearly 2 months in Armacao de Pera we were still discovering new sights and activities right to the end. If time permits, every visitor to the Algarve should try to spend some time in this wonderful coastal area.
Armacao de Pera History
After you get a look at the wide bay flanked by dozens of tiny coves you won’t be surprised to learn that Armacao de Pera started out as a fishing village. Back in the 17th century, the village was known as Pera de Baixo and was focused on netting tuna. The unusual nets they used for this purpose were known as “armacao”, hence the name Armacao de Pera. Unfortunately, these nets were routinely attacked by pirates to the point they eventually had to build a fortress to help protect their catch.
While fishing is still a profession for many locals, tourism has long since overtaken it as the main source of income in the area. Armacao de Pera receives an interesting mix of domestic and international tourists, with many northern Portuguese families from Lisbon, Porto and Braga coming down to spend their holidays in the temperate climate of the Algarve. And while beautiful beach towns like lovely Faro and impressive Lagos are have plenty to offer foreign visitors, Armaça retains a slightly different, more Portuguese feel thanks to its higher percentage of domestic tourists.
So, clearly, Armacao de Pera should be on the shortlist for your next visit to the Algarve. And to help you plan your visit, here are 9 amazing things to do to ensure a memorable holiday.
Armacao de Pera Map
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Find the Perfect Armacao de Pera Beach
The majority of tourists come to enjoy the beach, with the total number reaching 80,000 in the peak season of August. However, with so many terrific beaches to choose from, including the 5-kilometre stretch of sand of Praia Grande, it is always possible to find space.
Praia da Armacao de Pera
Located right in front of town below a set of craggy, scenic cliffs, the main beach area is classified as an “Accessible Beach” and even has lifeguards on duty in high season. There are a couple of restaurants and snack shops, and everything in town is within 5-10 minutes on foot.
Praia Grande de Pera
Stretching for nearly 5 kilometres from the eastern edge of town to neighbouring Gale, Praia Grande is long, flat and perfect for beach strolling. There is a network of hiking trails and boardwalks among the fields and marshes back behind the beach as well. Praia Grande and Praia da Armacao de Pera are connected by the small Praia dos Pescadores, filled with fishing boats, nets and shacks.
Heading west from town you will reach a string of spectacular beaches, including Praia do Vale do Olival, Praia da Nossa Senhora da Rocha, Praia da Cova Redonda, Praia dos Beijinhos, Praia Tremoços, Praia das Escaleiras and Praia Nova. At low tide you might be able to walk from beach to beach along the water. At other times you’ll need to stick to the cliff tops. For a map and detailed descriptions of all the beaches around Armacao de Pera, check out:
Also, if you have the time and are planning to explore more of the amazing Algarve, check out The Best of the Costa Vicentina, a detailed planning guide to this incredible stretch of cliffs, surf beaches and friendly fishing villages along the southwest coast.
Stroll the Promenade
First off, this relaxed activity obviously comes with outstanding ocean views and a pleasant breeze. It runs along the top of the cliffs with the beach below and a nice row of restaurants, bars and apartments set just back from edge. A large part of the promenade is pedestrian-only, making it an even nicer walk. There are pine and palm trees, aloe vera plants and seating areas where you can settle in and watch the incredible Atlantic sunsets.
Among the specific sites on the Armacao de Pera malecon is the Fortaleza de Armaçao de Péra, a 16th century fort built to protect the town from pirates. Inside the fort is the Capela de Santo Antonio, a tiny chapel built in 1720 in honour of the patron saint of the fort. Today it is known as the Chapel of Our Lady of the Afflicted. You should be fine, though.
Just in from the promenade on a pretty little plaza is the Igreja de Nossa Senhora dos Navegantes (also known as the Igreja Matriz de Armação de Pêra). Built in the 1950’s, it is the main church in town.
Eventually at the east end of town you’ll reach the large collection of fishing shacks, boats and nets of Praia dos Pescadores.
Wander the Cliffs and Countryside
This was by far our favourite Armacao de Pera activity. We spent hours every morning exploring the trails running along the cliffs or just meandering through the pastoral countryside in behind the town. It is possible walk as far as you want west, passing dozens of excellent viewpoints en route to the famous Benagil Caves along the 7 Hanging Valleys trail.
Lesser known, but fascinating it their own way, are all the little paths criss-crossing the fields and valleys in behind the town that you can wander for hours without backtracking. For detailed route descriptions and maps, check out Walking in the Algarve: Armaçao de Péra.
Then, if you want to hike the best trail Portugal has to offer, check out the epic Rota Vicentina, an exceptional coastal hike that starts near Porto Covo and continues all the way to Lagos. There are a number of variations but normally the entire route will take around two weeks, or you can pick and choose your favourite sections.
Watch the Fishermen
At the eastern edge of town just across the road from the RV parking area is Praia dos Pescadores, with its fishing shacks, nets and traditional boats. Armacao de Pera does not have a dock or marina so the boats need to be towed in and out of the water by tractor. Coming in from sea they take a vigorous run at the beach to hit the ground running, so to speak, making it as far up the sand as possible. Then the tractor hooks up and pulls it safely up past the high tide mark.
It is also enjoyable to chat with the local fishermen while they clean and prepare their boats, mend their nets and haul in their catch.
Explore the Old Town
Full of colourful buildings lining narrow, cobblestoned streets, what Armaçao de Péra’s old town lacks in size it more than makes up for in character. Many of the small apartments are the homes of local fishermen and these are interspersed with an eclectic collection of shops, bars and restaurants. Tiny Beço das Lanchas, in particular, just across from the malecon, is barely wide enough to walk down but exceptionally photogenic.
Visit the Benagil Caves
The phenomenal Benagil Caves provide some of the most iconic images of the Algarve. These picturesque caves with the sun shining in through the ceiling are fascinating at both low and high tide but are really only accessible by sea. A variety of companies run boat tours to visit the caves and other highlights along the rugged coastline. We’d recommend choosing one that uses a smaller boat since you’ll be sharing with fewer people, they go a bit faster and are usually more agile maneuvering among the narrow cave openings.
Another fun way to visit Algar de Benagil, as it is known in Portuguese, is by kayak or stand up paddleboard. You can either rent them and go on your own schedule or take a tour with Blue Xperiences. These options allow you to choose the timing yourself as well as get right inside the caves for great vantage points.
Keep in mind, the caves get busy so it is best to go early or, even better, visit in the off-season (the caves are accessible all year-round).
Birdwatching at the Salgado Lagoon
Lagoa dos Salgados (Salty Lagoon) is located just behind the sand dunes backing Praia Grande close to the nearby village of Galé. Filled with migrating birds, it is one of the most important freshwater wetlands in the Algarve. It is located at the confluence of a pair of small rivers, Vale Rabelho and Ribeira de Espiche.
Also known as Pera Marsh, it is a beautiful, unique place where you can stand on the dunes listening to the birds behind and the waves crashing in front. There are also some well-maintained boardwalks with good viewpoints that allow you to explore the lagoon more closely.
Walk to the Fort of Nossa Senhora da Rocha
Combining a beautiful beach with some scenic historical attractions, the medieval Nossa Senhora da Rocha (Our Lady of the Rock) Fort sits looming over the ocean and a beach on either side (Praia Nova and Praia da Nossa Senhora da Rocha). Also known as the Castle of Porches (Porches being the name of this small parish just outside the main part of Armaçao de Pera). In its heyday, the fort protected maritime access to the beach and at one time helped secure the entire coast from Ossonoba (Faro today) to Lacobriga (Lagos). The focal point of the fort is the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Rocha.
Many people start the main cliff hike to Praia da Marinha and the Benagil Caves here or, if you start in town, this is where you will return to the coast after detouring inland to avoid the Vilalara Thalassa Resort that completely, and quite inconveniently, blocks off the cliff path.
See the Cliffs and Beaches from the Water
Many of the activities we have already discussed involve taking advantage of the amazing views from the cliffs. However, getting a look at the cliffs from the water instead provides an entirely different perspective on this fantastic coastline. You can rent a kayak or paddleboard from Moments Watersports and explore to your heart’s content.
Or, for something a little more adrenalin based, there are a variety of options in Armacao de Pera where you can rent jet skis and surfboards, or hire someone to take you waterskiing, wakeboarding, flyboarding or just drive a boat in very aggressive circles while you flail around behind on the tube or, ideally, an inflatable banana. Most will even take close-up photos of your panic that you can cherish for a lifetime.
Armacao de Pera Restaurants
Casa de Pasto Zé Leiteiro is well known for its great grilled fresh fish at reasonable prices and is a great choice for local atmosphere and food.
If you are looking for American food, Fabio’s Road Stop is a tasty choice with a diner feel. A burger with onion rings is the way to go here, in my cultured opinion.
An excellent beachfront option is the Palm Beach Restaurant near the Holiday Inn – they are known for great seafood, gazpacho and prawn curry.
Armacao de Pera Hotels
Holiday Inn Algarve – a classic Armacao de Perahotel that has an outdoor pool overlooking the sandy beaches, two restaurants to choose from and good parking.
The Vilalara Thalassa Resort is a bit out of the main part of town but is along the cliffs with truly outstanding views, a spa and 6 pools. Worth it for a bit of a splurge, even if it did mess with our daily cliff walk.
The Marsuites has a very good included breakfast and is just a quick walk from the beach. It is a popular midrange choice.
Armacao de Pera Camping
Armacao de Pera has 2 good camping options and one basic (but free) alternative.
Camping Praia de Armaçao de Péra
Located about a 10-minute walk from the beach, Camping Armaçao de Péra is next to a busy road but has 3 shower blocks and lots of trees and decent spacing. There is a wide mix of RVs, vans and tents or you can rent one of their bungalows or tents. The park offers some interesting facilities such as two pools (adult and child) and a playground, market and laundry.
This nice spot in the countryside is more tranquil but is about a 5-minute drive or 30-minute walk to the beach. Camping Canela’s (which translates to Cinnamon Camping) is very well-equipped with a pool, playground, restaurant, pub, market, laundry and wifi. There is even a tennis court and car wash. They have both RV and tent spaces, plus apartments for rent.
Parking Armaçao de Péra
This is really just a section of the main beach parking lot that is designated for RVs and vans to park and stay. There are no facilities but if you are self-sufficient it is a fantastic location right behind the fishermen shacks.
How to Get to Armaçao de Péra
There is no bus station in town but there are two main stops where you can catch a ride. The nearest big centre is Portimão, just 30 minutes away by car or 45 by frequent bus.
Lagos, which is even larger and more popular, is only a bit farther – 40 minutes by car and 1.5 hours by bus.
The nearest international airport is the Faro airport, around an hour to the east. A number of low-cost airlines and a few major ones run flights in and out of here. Of course, you’ll find by far the most flight options in and out of Lisbon, which is 270 kilometres north of Armacao de Pera – roughly 2.5 hours by car and 4 hours by bus, usually changing in Lagos.
The nearest train station is Alcantarilha Gare, which is about 12 kilometres from the centre of town. A taxi will normally take about 15 minutes and cost €5-10. Trains runs east to west throughout the Algarve.
Armação de Pêra Portugal is a beautiful, relaxing destination. So much of the Algarve is incredibly scenic but it can be difficult to find a spot that isn’t overly developed or completely teeming with tourists. While it certainly hasn’t escaped development, as the many bland apartment style buildings can attest, the laid-back vibe and authentic feel of Armacao de Pera and the truly spectacular variety of beaches make it the idea spot for those looking for something ever so slightly off the beaten path in Portugal.
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