A walk from the centre of Carvoeiro to Benagil beach. The walk goes along quiet roads and is an alternative to the more famous, but also more challenging cliff walk which is part of the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail. There are a few hills, including the very steep descent down to Benagil (and back up again on your return) but on the whole it is moderately easy. The walk is approximately 5 km and takes 1 hour 10 minutes each way.
From the centre of Carvoeiro (with the Carvoeiro Sol Hotel on your right and Smiler’s Bar on your left) walk up the Estrada do Farol. At the top of the hill continue straight on. Walk past the Tivoli Hotel on the right and then the Pestana Palm Gardens and Baia Cristal Hotel on the right.
Walk past the entrance to Centianes beach on the right, which has a signpost to the O Stop restaurant.
Walk past the turning to Vale Centianes on the right.
Walk past the turning to the Vale de Milho golf course on the left.
Walk past Julio’s restaurant on the left. Walk past Rafaiol’s restaurant on the right.
After Rafaiol’s restaurant take the next turning on the left, following the sign to Benagil (at the Rocha Mar restaurant).
Walk past Clube Golfemar, with the sea on your right in the distance. You will see the Alfanzina lighthouse on the right from here.
At the fork in the road take the road on the right.
At the junction turn right, following the sign to Benagil.
Walk on with the sea in front of you in the distance.
On the way you will walk past the Sul Mar restaurant on the left. You will also walk past a lot of impressive villas.
At the mini-roundabout just after the sign telling you that you have arrived in Benagil turn left, following signs to Albandeira and Marinha.
Walk down the very steep hill to the beach.
The bigger beach is to the left of where the boats are moored via a wooden walkway. From here you can take boat trips into the caves. The highlight is a trip to the Algar de Benagil, which you can read more about in our blog Carvoeiro boat trip to the caves.
There is a café and a couple of restaurants near the beach.
If you prefer not to walk back to Carvoeiro there are two buses a day between Lagoa and Benagil (departing from Benagil at 09:40 and 15:20, Monday to Friday only). A taxi is a better option, but be prepared to pay 10 euros one way.
A walk from the centre of Carvoeiro to Ferragudo via Monte Carvoeiro resort, Quinta do Paraíso resort, Sesmarias, Presa da Moura resort and Colina da Lapa resort. The walk is along quiet roads and for some of it there are views of the sea. There are a few hills, but it is moderately easy. The walk from Carvoeiro to the centre of Ferragudo is approximately 10km. Allow 2 hours each way.
From the centre of Carvoeiro walk up Estrada do Paraíso (behind the back of Jan’s Bar and Martin’s Grill) until you reach the Monte Carvoeiro resort. When you come to Mama Mia restaurant turn left.
Follows signs to Sesmarias.
Turn left into Rua de Angola at the Quinta do Paraíso sign.
Pass Trattoria Oliveira on the left and a mini-market on the right and follow the road round to the left going uphill.
Turn left at the T-junction with the stop sign, just past the Casa de Pasto Escondidinho on the left.
At the next stop sign turn right. Go past the Restaurant Branco on the left.
At the T-junction turn left, following the sign to Sesmarias (the water tower is visible directly in front).
At the roundabout immediately after the junction turn right following the sign to Ferragudo.
Go past Vale da Lapa resort on the left. A signpost showing you have arrived in Sesmarias is directly in front. At the Sesmarias sign turn right, heading towards the water tower.
When you reach the water tower (at the restaurant Da Donato) turn left. Continue along the road until you come to the entrance to Presa da Moura resort and the Hexagone restaurant. Turn right.
Walk past Colina da Lapa resort on the right. You will see the distinctive Portimão Bridge in the distance on the right.
At the roundabout turn left, following the sign to Ferragudo.
Go straight on (past a turning on the right). Keep walking with the sea on your left and exclusive villas on your right.
Follow the road round to the right heading downhill and then uphill. (The road to Caneiros beach is at the bottom of the hill on the left. A bit further along is a turning on the left to Molho beach and Pintadinho beach.)
When you reach a T-junction (with a car park on your left) you have reached the outskirts of Ferragudo. Turn left following signs to ‘Miradouro‘ (viewpoint) and ‘Igreja‘ (church).
Take the first dirt track turning on the left, which leads to a fishing beach (Praia da Angrinha). You will see a castle, the Castelo de São João de Arade, on the left and Praia da Rocha harbour directly in front across the water. The Castelo de São João de Arade was a fortress built in mediaeval times to protect the River Arade. In the early twentieth century it was turned into a private home and the renowned Algarvean writer Joaquim José Coelho de Carvalho Júnior lived there until his death in 1934. It is still privately owned and not open to the public.
Walk past some fishermen’s huts on the beach.
Walk past the lifeboat station (Socorros a Naufragos) on your left and through a passageway behind it to take you to the quay where you can get the water taxi to Praia da Rocha and Portimão.
From the quay you will come to Praça Rainha Dona Leonor, a riverside square of bars and restaurants in the centre of Ferragudo.
Once you have had a refreshing cold drink make sure you spend some time wandering around the pretty fishing village of Ferragudo before returning to Carvoeiro following the same route that you came by. If you prefer not to walk back to Carvoeiro, unfortunately there aren’t any direct buses between Ferragudo and Carvoeiro. There is a bus from Ferragudo to Portimão and from there you can get a bus to Lagoa or, occassionally, directly to Carvoeiro. A taxi is a better option, but be prepared to pay approximately 15 euros one way.
Ferragudo is still a working fishing village, made evident by the rows of fishing nets lining the small harbour. There is also a small monument by the harbour with azulejos (traditional blue tiles) showing village scenes, along with a statue of a fisherwomen proudly positioned on the top. The small river, which starts at the estuary of the River Arade is surrounded by attractive gardens and pretty wooden bridges. As you would expect from a fishing village there are several fish restaurants near the harbour. From the riverfront the narrow streets of traditional whitewashed fishermen’s houses climb the hill to the photogenic church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição at the top. There are some good views of Portimão and Praia da Rocha across the water from here. Near the church is an incongruous mural of Baden-Powell, the founder of the scout movement, created by the local sea-scout group in memory of their founder. The castle, Castelo de São João do Arade that you will have passed on the way into Ferragudo, is actually a former fort, built in the sixteenth century to protect Portimão. It is now privately owned and not open to the public. If you are interested in forts, the one on the opposite side of the estuary in Praia da Rocha is open to the public. Although there is a beach near the centre of the town, the best beaches are a little way from the centre. The nearest, Praia Grande, is on the other side of the castle.
Despite reading several travel guides to Portugal and looking at pictures of one of the most photographed churches in the country, nothing had prepared me for the sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte (Good Jesus of the Hill). Part shrine, part extravagant folly, symbolic of King João V’s (‘João the Magnificent’) reign (1706 to 1750), which also saw the building of the enormous convent at Mafra, Bom Jesus do Monte is ornate, theatrical, allegorical and totally compelling. It is a wonderful example of the baroque style (grand structures, curves, ornamentation and symmetry), particularly the staircase. Bom Jesus do Monte was commissioned by the Archbishop of Braga in 1722. The staircase and church were designed by the architect Carlos Amarante and took 60 years to complete. The site is now a important place of pilgrimage, particularly during Lent, when on each Sunday of Lent there is a religious celebration which takes in the 14 chapels and culminates with a service in the church.
We caught a bus from the railway station in Braga which went all the way to the bottom of the sanctuary. After getting off the bus we made a major mistake and followed the other tourists onto the funicular, which is a quick and easy way to get to the top of the sanctuary, but misses the main reason to visit Bom Jesus do Monte, namely the Via-Sacra (Way of the Cross) staircase. The funicular is impressive. Built in 1882 it retains its original charm and the gradient it climbs is breathtaking. But unless you have problems with walking, I urge you to climb the staircase. Yes, there are a lot of steps, but it is so beautifully set out that there is something of interest on every part of the steps and the walk becomes a leisurely one with surprises at each turn.
After realizing our mistake we rather embarrassingly returned to the bottom of the hill by funicular and this time walked through the archway which marks the entrance to the sanctuary. The archway leads to a long zigzag flight of steps through a wooded area, but before we started climbing the steps we were drawn to two chapels either side of the archway, containing life-size statues. These chapels line the staircase, depicting scenes of the Easter story from the Bible, beginning with the Last Supper at the start of the Via-Sacra and culminating in a moving scene of Jesus on the cross inside the church at the top of the hill. Further up the hill from the church the chapels continue the story after the crucifixion. Sadly, the chapels are a bit neglected and they are not lit inside, so it is hard to make out the impressive detail that the original sculptors included in the scenes.
We continued along the zigzag section until we were suddenly afforded one of the most famous views in Portugal: looking up the granite and white plaster staircase, showing the ornamentation and symmetry of design, to the church at the top. There are three levels to the staircase and each level has fountains built into the wall and symbolic statues line the staircase. On the first level is a fountain which symbolizes Christ’s wounds. The second level represents the five senses (sight, smell, taste, touch and sound) and the third level represents the three virtues, Faith, Hope and Charity. To my astonishment there were very few people on the staircase, suggesting that most people go up to the top of the hill without seeing this amazing piece of architecture. There is so much to admire on the steps, in the detail of the statues and fountains, as well as spending time at each chapel to find out the next instalment of the Easter story, that reaching the top almost seemed anti-climactic. The area at the top of the steps has a church, a gift shop and two hotels. In front of the church are statues of more Biblical characters. From here there are lovely views of the city of Braga and the surrounding valley.
The highlight of the church of Bom Jesus do Monte is the aforementioned crucifixion scene over the main altar, which is large, theatrical and very moving. There is also a glass case containing the gory remains of a distinctly unwell-looking Saint Clemente, a statue of Jesus on the cross graphically depicting his wounds and, in contrast, a tasteful statue of the Virgin Mary surrounded by doves. The chapel of prayer is photogenically decorated in gilt.
As we had already suspected, most tourists visit the church and go no further. This means that the areas around the church are very quiet. Behind the church is a lovely shady area with trees, a stream and grottoes. It is a lovely quiet place to escape the heat of the sun. A little higher up is a boating lake and picnic area, which gets busy at the weekends when families from Braga come here to enjoy some cooler air, but on this hot weekday in June there was no one else around. We wandered a bit further and entered a wood with lots of enticing pathways and again we had it to ourselves. Even the chapels beyond the church, which continue the Easter story after the crucifixion, were devoid of tourists and we could enjoy views over the Braga area below in silence.
I think I would have been disappointed by Bom Jesus do Monte if I had only experienced the funicular and the church, as many tourists do. However, the baroque extravagance of the staircase, the unfolding of the Easter story through the statues in the chapels around the sanctuary, the theatrical scene in the church and the hidden grottoes and areas behind the church combined to make this one of the most remarkable and memorable places I have visited.
The number 2 bus runs from Braga railway station and from the Avenida da Liberdade in the centre of Braga to the bottom of Bom Jesus do Monte. It takes approximately 20 minutes and costs €1.65 one way. Buses run every half hour.
The funicular runs from near the bus stop at Bom Jesus do Monte to the top of the hill. It costs €1.20 one way or €2 return.
The films of Pedro Costa do not necessarily make comfortable viewing; they are definitely ‘art house’ films, which will put some people off. However, they are worth investing time on. Costa is a well-respected director who depicts the lives of the under classes of Lisbon, in particular the immigrants from Cape Verde. Using the same central character, Ventura (played by Ventura), as in Costa’s 2006 film Colossal Youth (Juventude em Marcha), Costa’s 2014 film Horse Money (Carvalo Dinheiro) depicts the immigrant experience as a nightmare in an existential hell and, as with nightmares, it doesn’t work in a linear way and a lot of it doesn’t make sense. At the beginning of the film we see an elderly man in his underpants, Ventura, walking down a dark narrow tunnel. He looks dazed and frightened. At the end of the tunnel he is blinded by a very bright light. We then see a man in a white coat put some clothes on him. Is he in hell or in a hospital? Are the Cape Verdean men who visit him, who all have tales of being exploited and mistreated by their white employers, real or ghosts? It is not clear why Ventura is in the hospital. There is talk of a knife fight with another Cape Verdean man, Joaquim de Brito Varela (Tito Furtado), who keeps reappearing in a bright red shirt, but it is not clear whether the fight took place recently or in the 1970s and who stabbed whom. Varela’s widow, Vitalina (played by Vitalina Varela) visits Ventura in the hospital. Talking throughout in a pained whisper, she has come to attend her husband’s funeral, although Venture insists he is alive. In one scene we hear Vitalina reading out her husband’s death certificate, both their birth certificates and their marriage certificate, but even these certificates bring an element of uncertainty.
One of the more accessible scenes is a musical interlude showing a series of vignettes of the daily lives of Cape Verdean immigrants in the slums of Lisbon, while a famous Cape Verdean song, ‘Alto Cutelo‘ by Os Turbarões is played over the top. The pretty Afro-Latino melody belies the lyrics of hardship experienced by the people who emigrated to Portugal. These vignettes refer back to the Jacob Riis photos shown at the very beginning of the film, of immigrants in the New York slums at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. The parallels are clear and nothing needs to be said.
Soldiers from the 1974 revolution appear in flashback scenes, culminating in a long scene set in a lift where Ventura meets a living statue soldier (António Santos), with whom he seems to have had some history. The statue refers back to something that happened 38 years ago, but we don’t get satisfactory answers as to what happened. Their conversation is conveyed through thought rather than speech and the voices of other characters, including Ventura’s wife, add to Ventura’s turmoil. The tension that builds up during this scene climaxes with loud, unexpected chords of organ music (‘Apparition de l’Église Éternelle‘ by Olivier Messiaen) and the film almost enters horror film genre at this point.
Despite the lack of linear plot, the film is a tightly constructed tour de force by Costa. Beautifully shot in almost photographic half-light, with half-images and sparse dialogue, the film is not an easy one to watch, but it stayed with me for a long time afterwards.
Tabu (2012) is a multi-layered film which is distinctly different to director Miguel Gomes’ previous film, the charming docu-drama Our Beloved Month of August (Aquele Querido Mês de Agosto) (2008). In Tabu the tone is darker as Gomes focuses on the past and the present and how they are intertwined. From the opening scene, which acts as a prologue, themes and images which will appear later in the film are introduced. A nineteenth-century explorer (Telmo Churro) is shown walking through somewhere in Africa. Over this section a narrator (Gomes) tells the sad story of this melancholic, recently widowed explorer who jumps into a crocodile-infested river to an early death. The film then unexpectedly moves into the present day in a section entitled ‘Paradise Lost’. The story in this part of the film focuses on three women who live in a claustrophobic block of flats in Lisbon: Pilar (Teresa Madruga), a middle-aged women who lives alone, her demanding and cantankerous elderly neighbour, Aurora (Laura Soveral) and Aurora’s African maid, Santa (Isabel Cardoso). Gomes expertly conveys the sense of loneliness through the black and white photography, the miserable weather and joyless lives the three women lead. The very religious Pilar’s life is spent fighting for causes and being on call when Aurora has a crisis, such as when she gambles her allowance away at the casino. It is also Pilar that Aurora confides in when she says that Santa has been sent by the Devil as a punishment for something terrible she did in the past.
It is this past that is depicted in Part Two of the film, ‘Paradise’. Many of the themes that have been presented in Part One are repeated in Part Two. Set in the 1960s, this part of the film is filmed in grainy black and white and bravely Gomes chooses not to have any dialogue. It is narrated by Gomes himself, in the character of Gian Luca Ventura, an old man (Henrique Espírito Santo) who appears at the end of Part One. We learn that the young Aurora (Ana Moreira) led a privileged but lonely life growing up in one of the Portuguese African colonies (possibly Mozambique). Even when she marries, her isolation continues as her husband (Ivo Müller) is away a lot. The impractical presents he buys her, such as a baby crocodile, highlight her lonely existence. Aurora’s disregard of the danger of the crocodile is just one example of her doing whatever she with no awareness of the consequences, but as we know from Part One, she is later punished for her reckless behaviour.
It is no surprise that she embarks on a passionate affair with her handsome, charming neighbour, Gian Luca Ventura (Carloto Cotta). Their affair is set against a background of rising tension among the native Africans who are demanding independence, although this doesn’t really touch the lives of the white colonials, who continue with their cocktail and garden party lifestyle. Also, in the background as a constant threatening presence is the eponymous Mount Tabu. One of the characters has had a near-death experience on the mountain and it acts as a symbol of how precarious the colonials’ lives are and, on a more personal level, how precarious the relationship between Aurora and Gian Luca is.
As with Our Beloved Month of August, music plays an important part in the film. The fact that Gian Luca plays the drums in his friend Mário’s (Manuel Mesquita) band allows Gomes to put the music to the forefront and as with music of Our Beloved Month of August, it is pop music (this time from the 1960s) that acts as the musical soundtrack. Gomes introduces in-jokes, such as Mário’s Band in the 1960s performing the song ‘Baby I Love You’, where the band is shown miming to the Ramones’ 1980 version of the song. In Part One we see Pilar crying while listening to the 1960’s song ‘Tú Serás Mi Baby’ (‘Be My Baby’ sung in Spanish). We then realise she is watching a film while her male friend dozes next to her oblivious to her tears, but her tears seem to be much more than just an emotional response to a film. In a parallel scene in Part Two we see a distraught Aurora crying while listening to the same song, this is made more poignant due to the fact that she is pregnant with a baby she doesn’t want. Is this the film that Pilar was watching and is Gomes therefore creating a film within a film?
Tabu is a carefully constructed film and is beautifully acted by the main actors. Ana Moreira and Carloto Cotta, in particular, portray their characters convincingly, despite not having any dialogue to help them. There is a sense of watching two separate films rather than one unified one, as the two halves are very different, but they complement and inform each other on many levels. It deservedly won several awards, including Best Film at various international film festivals.