Getting to know São Brás de Alportel Municipality
Panoramas and Chapels
&In the area around São Brás de Alportel, the viewpoint beside the Pousada (a high-quality, state-run hotel), which commands dazzling views of hills descending to the sea, is well worth a visit, as are the two small chapels of São Romão (Saint Roman) (which date back to the 16th century) and Alportel.
A few kilometres to the north of São Brás de Alportel, situated 330 metres above sea level, the Castanhas viewpoint commands a fine view over the town and the sea. At an altitude of 360 metres, the fine scenery of the Algarve interior can be enjoyed from the Alto da Arroteia viewpoint. In the middle of the Serra do Caldeirão at an altitude of 464 metres, the Alto da Ameixeira viewpoint, to the north of Cova da Muda, is the best place to enjoy the scenery. There is a picnic area where you appreciate the setting and find out more about the geology, flora and fauna of the region from information panels.
A Land of Cork
In amongst the abundant natural heritage of the municipality can be found one of the most important species of tree in the country – the cork oak. In the heart of the ancient Serra de Mú, which in spring is filled with myriad colours, grows the best cork in the world, and history tells us that it was the people of São Brás and Silves who pioneered the trade and processing of this marvellous natural product.
The cork industry, which made a key contribution to the founding of the municipality at the beginning of the 20th century, is still today the quintessential industry of the municipality, and it is currently enjoying a renewed period of growth in connection with fashion and tourism.
Many of the region’s traditional arts and crafts still thrive in São Brás de Alportel. Evidence of this are the items made of esparto grass at Desbarato, the tiles made in Vale das Mealhas, the basketwork chairs of Alportel, the brooms, mats and baskets made from palm leaves in Soalheira, the esparto grass work in S. Romão and wooden toys.
The mill in Bengado, an example of the traditional “moinho de cabresto”, has recently been restored and it is turning once again; using the wind and millstones it is currently milling excellent wheat and maize flour, something that is much appreciated by those who love authentic produce.
Rich in cultural events, São Brás de Alportel has over the centuries maintained a wealth of living history and traditions. The costumes of Carnival, the “Maios” dolls, the festivals of the Popular Saints, folk music, the traditions of festive singing and the harmonies of the accordion, which continues to enchant generation after generation, are just some of the cultural traditions which continue year after year.
Hallelujah Festival / Festival of the Flower Torches
&Unique in the country, the Procession of Flower Torches is an unusual manifestation of popular culture. An expression of faith, on Easter Sunday the ground is covered in flowers and torches are lifted up high to a refrain in honour of the resurrected Christ. The town is bedecked with flowers, the balconies draped with pretty bedspreads. The day is one of festivity and in the afternoon, the churchyard is filled with sounds and flavours, with popular music and the almonds of São Brás.
Cooking that tastes of the hills
Tasty stews, “gaspacho” soups, dishes with chick peas and chicken, “papas de milho” made from maize meal, and eggs with tomato are just some of the typical dishes of the local cuisine that is rich in flavour and tradition. In the hunting season the rich, game flavours of wild rabbit in wine are not to be missed.
The typical sweet dishes of São Brás de Alportel are very tempting. Made with honey and dried fruits such as almonds, figs and carob, they are a real treat. The best known are the “amêndoas tenras” (soft almonds) of São Brás, prepared in the traditional way in a copper pan. Also much appreciated is the spirit slowly distilled from the fruit of the strawberry trees that grow in the hills, and excellent liqueurs made from wild herbs.