Normally over Easter, the weather is nice in the Algarve. Year round the weather is already quite mild and Spring usually brings along some added heat.
Easter is a big event all over the country, especially in smaller towns and villages, where traditions such as processions are held by the local parishes. In bigger cities, you also have processions but these are organized by each parish, which means you can have several in the same town, so you can take your pick.
These old celebrations are now maintained by the younger generations and of course, some modern celebrations that they have brought along also.
The first village we suggest you visit over your Easter holidays in Tavira. This small town is beautiful any time of the year but is that extra bit of special during these celebrations. Tavira is a town crossed by a river which has maintained its traditional charm.
During Easter celebrations, there is a procession to recreate the Via Dolorosa (Stations of the Cross), the path Jesus took to the crucifixion and it has fourteen stations, around Igreja de Santa Maria on Maundy Thursday. This procession has been registered as far back as 1879 by the Carmelite Order of Tavira.
In Tavira, you will also be able to attend Eucharist at Igreja de Santa Luzia, Santiago, São Paulo and Santa Maria, which has a service in English. You can also attend the celebration of the Lord’s Supper at Santa Luzia and Santa Maria churches. The Lords Burial Procession can be followed on Good Friday and it is organized by Santa Casa da Misericórdia of Tavira, from which it departs.
On Good Friday there are also celebrations of Passion of Christ at Igreja de Santa Maria and Morning prayer on both Good Friday and Good Saturday at Igreja de Santiago.
On Holy Saturday there is Easter Vigil at Santa Maria Church and on Easter Sunday you can attend Eucharist at churches of São Paulo, Santa Maria (which has an English service) and Santa Luzia.
Also on Easter Sunday the Procession of resurrection departs from Sao Paulo Church to Santa Maria Church, ending the Easter celebrations.
As for Tavira itself, you can visit the Roman Bridge which crosses the River Gilão. This bridge is said to have been built as far back as the third century and has been rebuilt several times of the years, most recently in the seventeenth century.
Tavira also has a Castle that dates back to before the Christian Reconquest and you can visit it inside. If you prefer to have a look into the Algarve’s photographic history, visit Casa de Fotografia Andrade, where you will be able to see over 100 years of pictures of lives in the Algarve documented by three generations of photographers and all the materials used.
Tavira has also an array of beaches close by that you may visit, all more beautiful than the other one, but if you prefer a more off the beaten track and more adventurous experience, we’d suggest Pego do Inferno, a natural spring waterfall part of River Asseca, just ten minutes drive away from the centre of Tavira. This is an unsupervised area so please be mindful to collect your rubbish and be safe in the water, the depth is around 3 metres.
If you visit the Algarve during a celebratory season, you will get to experience an amazing side of the culture that is dedicated only to these times: the sweets. Tavira is very close to Olhao, which is famous for its Folar de Olhao. This Easter cake is a dough twisted around a caramelized mixture of wonderful spices such as cinnamon and fennel, orange and aguardente. It is purely unmissable.
Alte belongs to the Council of Loule, also the council that includes Quarteira and Vilamoura, however, Alte is inland instead of coastal and because of that offers a more traditional view of Portuguese customs.
This small village has a beautiful main church that dates back to the thirteenth century and the Parish organizes several services throughout Easter.
On Palm Sunday there is the Blessing of the Palms service at Igreja de São Luís and Eucharist, Lord’s Supper Mass on Maundy Thursday, Celebration of Passion of Christ on Good Friday, Resurrection of Lord Vigil and Renewal of Baptismal Promises and Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday and Easter Mass on Easter Sunday.
In Alte, you can also visit the ruins of a Hermitage dedicated to Santa Margarida and a religious art museum next to the main church’s building. There is also Capela de São Luís and Igreja de N.ª Senhora da Glória in Benafim, which belongs to the same parish.
The main church in Alte, Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Assunção, is also the main attraction, even if you don’t attend any services, make sure to have a look at this beautiful church.
Alte is very well known for its springs which are environmental heritage. There is Fonte Grande and Fonte Pequena (Big and Small fountains). The river waters were used in older times as sustenance to the whole town. It was used to water the orchards and farms, to wash clothes and as drinking water for the local residents. Nowadays it is a true gem, the river has been made into a pool that is surrounded by natural vegetation, creating a postcard of natural beauty. Picnic tables and barbecues allow families to enjoy these crystal-clear waters on hot summer days. There are also tributes to Candido Guerreiro by the fountains, where you can read some of the poet’s sonnets.
Queda do Vigário is the end of a series of waterfalls along the Alte river. This beautiful waterfall is 24 metres high and is said to have been commissioned in the seventeenth century to help irrigate the surrounding lands.
Also in Alte, is the Casa Rosa Museum, this museum is located at Sitio do Malha and holds a collection of daily utensils such as farming tools, ceramics and traditional furniture. If you fancy trying some regional treats, you can pop into Pastelaria Agua de Mel in town. This cake shop is family run and cakes are made in the house above it. You can buy regional products such as honey, almonds and carob flour.
Lagos has Easter celebrations in two churches: Santa Maria and São Sebastião. At Santa Maria church, there is Blessing of the Palms, a procession and Eucharist on Palm Sunday, Lord’s Supper Mass and Washing of the Feet on Maundy Thursday, Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday and two services of Easter Eucharist.
At Sao Sebastiao, there is Celebration of Christ and Via Dolorosa between Praça de Armas and Ponta da Piedade on Good Friday, Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday and Eucharist of the Resurrection On Easter Sunday.
During Easter week, Lagos offers also the Feira do Folar e Artesanato Barão de S. João, a fair that celebrates local customs and traditions as well as food and craft. Here you will be able to try all the local foods such as regional sweets, bread, honey and drinks such as local liquors, see regional products and their producers and enjoy music throughout the evening. There is also traditional regional folklore dancing to the sound of great music. This year it will be the 18th edition of this fair and among the three days of music is the inauguration of the all terrain bike centre.
The great thing about spending your Easter holidays in Lagos is that you can experience both traditional celebrations but still enjoy the more relaxed things about a holiday: sun and sand. Lagos is a coastal area so while you are there you can enjoy a kayak tour, a catamaran cruise, a snorkel trip around the caves, dolphin watching, sunset tours or a food tour. There is something for every pocket.
Vilamoura is a very well known place in the Algarve, mainly for its tourism industry. What was once a small village of privately owned lands is now the hotspot for both locals and tourists. Vilamoura is the home to the most famous marina in the Algarve and one of the biggest in Europe.
Here you can experience the glamour and liveliness associated with yachts, beaches and bars. But like any other town, there are also locals in Vilamoura and those locals follow traditions that have their own charm.
Easter in Vilamoura brings you the best of both worlds, a day spent at the beach, a traditional Holy service and a night out by the boats and sea. Vilamoura offers on Palm Sunday the Blessing of the Palms and the Eucharist, the Celebration of the Passion of Christ on Good Friday and Easter Mass on Easter Sunday all at Vilamoura’s Church.
In the neighbouring town of Quarteira there are a few more services as there are also more people attending. On Palm Sunday you can attend Blessing of the Palms and Eucharist at the main church of Nossa Senhora da Conceicao if you prefer an early service, Blessing of the Palms, Procession and Eucharist at both S. Pedro do Mar church and Pereiras church.
On Holy Tuesday and Wednesday, the main church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição offers the Eucharist. On Maundy Thursday Nossa Senhora da Conceicao offers two services, the Lauds service and Eucharist Adoration and the Lord’s Supper Mass is celebrated at both Pereiras and S. Pedro do Mar churches.
On Good Friday there are several services in Quarteira, namely Lauds and Via Dolorosa at Nossa Senhora da Conceição church, Celebration of the Passion of Christ at Pereiras and S. Pedro do Mar churches. Holy Saturday sees both the Lauds Prayer at Nossa Senhora da Conceição and Easter Vigil at S. Pedro do Mar. Easter Sunday concludes this holiday with the Lord’s Easter Mass at Nossa Senhora da Conceição, S. Pedro do Mar and Pereiras churches.
While you are in Vilamoura you might want to try something different and try a fishing trip? You can charter a boat and deep fish, or try your luck at the Casino. If you really just fancy the sun and beach, you can always pop round the marina for an evening cocktail after… Did you know there are a couple of bars on the marina owned by famous footballers?
Last but not least, Algarve’s most famous town, Albufeira!
This town will definitely give you both a lively holiday experience and a traditional view of the culture of this coastal town. A lot of the Algarve’s history comes from the Christian reconquest and most coastal towns have deeply traditional religious values due to their connections to the sea and the vulnerability it brought to fishing families. Albufeira, like its neighbouring towns, holds several services through the Holy week, here are a few you might want to attend.
On Palm Sunday you can attend Blessing of the Palms and Procession starting at Santa Ana church to the main church and then the Eucharist at the main church, Blessing and Procession of the Palms at the Olhos d’Agua Pastoral Centre followed by the Solemn Mass.
On Maundy Thursday there is a Vespertine Eucharist of the Lord’s Supper, Adoration of the Lord and Procession of the Altars of Misericordia’s Church ending at the main church with a closing Adoration Eucharist. On Good Friday there is Lauds service, Celebration of the Passion of Christ and the Procession of the Burial of the Lord at the main church. On Holy Saturday the main church holds a Day of Silence, Prayer of Lauds and Easter Vigil. Concluding the Easter celebrations there are the Lord’s Easter Mass at the main church and Olhos d’Agua.
Albufeira truly has an array of activities to keep you busy, you can take the popular boat tours of the caves and dolphin watching, go diving or snorkeling or even an off road tour.
But for something a bit different you could take a traditional Portuguese cooking class, there are classes for kids also at Mimo Algarve, take a riding class, rent a scooter and explore, or try out parasailing.