The other side of the Algarve offers us a vast and rich ethnographic heritage. Deep-rooted centuries-old traditions, enduring customs and legends that continue to populate our imagination deserve to be discovered and shared.
1. Legend of the Blossoming Almond Trees
King Ibn-Almundim married Gilda, a princess from northern Europe who lived sadly missing her snow-covered lands. Not wanting to see her sad, the king planted almond trees throughout his kingdom in the Algarve, so that when spring came, the trees would be full of white blossoms, making it look as if it had snowed. Gilda was cured of her homesickness. Don’t miss the next edition of the newly created “Festival das Amendoeiras em Flor” in February.
2. Legend of Floripes
Legend has it that Floripes, an enchanted Moor, wandered sadly and aimlessly through the town of Olhão every night. She bewitched the fishermen in order to break the spell that imprisoned her. But the poor fishermen died trying to cross the sea. It is said that throughout the night, a beautiful woman dressed in white keeps appearing. Find out more about this and other legends of Olhão on the Path of Legends, a pedestrianized route that runs through Olhão’s old town.
3. Algarve Costume Museum
This museum is located in the interior of the Algarve, in São Brás de Alportel. Housed in a palace from the late 19th century, it offers a collection of costumes, traditional vehicles, agricultural implements, and folk art. It’s well worth a visit.
4. Speaking Algarvian
More than just an accent, Algarvian speech reflects a way of being. Rhythmic conversations decorated with traditional sayings and famous curses, ironic and scathing, with hints of superstition. A heritage that whisks us back in time.
5. Maios or Maias
In many places in the Algarve, it is customary to create Maios or Maias on the first day of May, decorate them, and put them on the streets. These are life-size dolls representing people, filled with straw, rags, crumpled newspapers, and dressed in used clothes. They are made by the local population with simplicity and improvisation, often accompanied by reproductions of animals, objects in common use, staging everyday activities, with appropriate sayings in prose or verse. Puppets or living characters such as the Mayas (now less common) are reminiscent of archaic customs linked to the end of winter and the emergence of spring, which marked the renewal of nature and symbolized the fecundating power of blossoming vegetation.
The leva-leva is a work song used by fishermen in the Algarve when fishing, especially for sardines. As well as the usual gesture of camaraderie that is communal singing, its aim is to instigate and guide and coordinate the movements used by the fishermen when collecting the heavy fishing nets back onto the trawlers, with the fish in tow – which is why it can last for more than an hour, without pausing or resting. To find out more, check out Portugal on a Map website and enjoy an extract from a Leva-leva.
7. Bath festival 29
This festival is held annually, usually on 29 August. It is celebrated in various parts of the Algarve, both in the Barlavento and the Sotavento, and is reminiscent of the old pilgrimage that peasants used to make to the beaches, where they would bathe only once, and which, according to the popular saying, “was worth 29.” The participants usually bathe in their old clothes. Don’t miss this date to go bathing!
To discover the customs of the Algarve and live its traditions is to immerse yourself in memorable experiences.