5 historic sites in the Algarve steeped in legend and mystery

Vue sur le phare et les falaises du cap St. Vincent au coucher du soleil, Sagres, Algarve, Portugal

Want to discover a little-known side of Portugal? Here are 5 fascinating historical sites in the Algarve, for a holiday of legend and mystery!

The Algarve, an emblematic region of southern Portugal, is brimming with historic sites steeped in mystery and legend. From ancient ruins to haunted castles and enigmatic monuments, each site has its own story to tell. Let yourself be enchanted by the local legends and mythological tales that animate these must-see places in the Algarve. Are you ready to discover their age-old secrets?

Aljezur Castle and the mysterious Lady Maira

Ruines du Château d'Aljezur, Algarve, Portugal

Shutterstock – Daliu

Nestled on a hill overlooking the town of Aljezur, this impressive castle offers a breathtaking view of the surrounding area. Dating from the Bronze and Iron Ages, it was used successively by the Roman Empire, the Muslims and then the Portuguese, demonstrating its strategic importance. Its main function was to control the Aljezur river, which was vital to the region at the time.

Aljezur Castle is shrouded in mystery, giving it a special aura. According to local Mareares legend, the Portuguese succeeded in recovering the castle thanks to the help of a Moorish lady named Maira. She helped the man she loved, who was Portuguese, to reclaim their castle.

She reportedly told him that the Moors had left the castle on the morning of June 24, as they usually bathe in Praia da Amoreira every year on that morning, leaving the castle almost empty and unprotected. Taking this information into account, the Portuguese army organized to defeat the Moors and take the castle. During the night, they hid in the woods near the castle and waited to see if the Moors would leave the castle, which they did, just as Maira had told them.

Salir Castle and the enigmatic stone princess

Ruines du Castelo de Salir

Wikimedia – Kolforn

Between coast and mountains, discover the castle of Salir in the Algarve. Built in the 12th century, this Almohad castle takes you back in time with its adobe walls, or taipa in Portuguese, and its four well-preserved towers. Explore the ancient residential quarters, kitchens and even silos cut into the rock, bearing witness to the castle’s past life. And to learn more about the archaeological finds, visit the Polo Museológico de Salir, located on the site itself.

As well as its historic remains, Salir Castle is also famous for its intriguing legend. The « Enchanted Moor », as she is known, tells the story of a princess turned into a stone statue by her own father. On certain evenings, she is even said to appear among the ruins of the castle!

The fortress of Sagres and the miracle of Saint Vincent

Forteresse de Sagres, à Vila do Bispo, Algarve, Portugal

Shutterstock – Viagens E Caminhos

Built in the 16th century to protect the coast from Moorish pirate attacks, the imposing Saint Vincent fortress stands on the remains of an ancient medieval convent. It is said that this convent housed the remains of Saint Vincent, a Christian martyr, which were placed on a drifting ship before running aground on the shores of Cap de Sagres. As you explore the site, you’ll marvel at its remarkable polygonal architecture and its entrance portal, magnificently adorned with a royal shield.

Inside the fortress, be sure to visit the lighthouse, erected in 1904, which offers a panoramic view of the surrounding area. The promontory of Cap Saint Vincent is also full of surprises. A temple dedicated to Hercules once stood on this land. Over the centuries, it has witnessed pagan, Muslim and Christian worship.

The Benagil cave and the missing princess

Intérieur de la grotte de Benagil, Algarve, Portugal

Shutterstock – Rad Radu

This spectacular grotto, located in Benagil, was formed over time by the erosion of limestone rock by the sea. Its roof, collapsed in places, lets in the sunlight, creating a magnificent play of light between the golden rocks and the blue of the sea. This hidden cave, with its unique natural arch and inner beach, is a place full of magic.

The Benagil cave takes its name from the Moorish princess Benagil, known for her kindness, who is said to have disappeared at sea during a storm while trying to save the village’s fishermen. For an added touch of adventure, don’t forget that this historic Algarve site is only accessible by boat!

Silves Castle and the lamentations of Queen Moura

Château de la ville de Silves - Algarve - Portugal

Shutterstock – Tatiana Popova

This majestic fortress, located in the heart of the Algarve, overlooks the town of Silves and bears witness to the Moorish influence that is omnipresent in Portugal. Let yourself be captivated by the legend of Queen Moura, imprisoned in the castle’s cistern, whose spirit still haunts the walls following her tragic death. It is said that her cries still echo down the centuries.

Meet the « Enchanted Moors », charming princesses imprisoned to protect the treasures left behind during the Christian reconquest. And if you want to free them, you’ll have to break a magic bread roll and whisper their name on a specific date!

These 5 historic sites have captivating stories and fascinating puzzles in store for you! Please feel free to share your own suggestions and experiences in the comments. So, what are you waiting for to experience the legendary Algarve?