Just over a half hour drive from Albufeira, Silves is a small town at the foothills of the Serra de Monchique (Monchique Range). It’s an area with large hillsides of orange and other citrus groves and the native Crimson-Spot Rockrose, a large evergreen bush with large, delicate white flowers. We drove a bit North of Silves and hillsides lined dirt roads and flowers. It’s possible that this plant was being cultivated here as the resin has some use in the perfume industry.
The town of Silves has a rich history dating back to Paleolithic times, but was established as a larger settlement during the 8th century. On top of the hill in the heart of the city is a red brick castle that was build during Moorish occupation. But as with most castles and fortresses, they were added on and refortifying a previous fortress, likely Lusitanian.
Jesse and I parked pretty close to the center and walked up to visit the castle. Just outside the main entrance is a statue of Sancho I of Portugal. He was the second king of Portugal and reclaimed Silves from the Moors in 1188, it was lost again to the Moors only a few years later. Sancho I was also responsible for further fortification of Silves. The Castle of Silves is now a National Monument.
Inside the castle we could see the ongoing excavations of some of the previous fortresses below the exterior walls. We walked along the wall and got a real taste of the area with the expansive views in all directions. Be sure to watch you step though! Also inside the castle there was also a small cafe and a educational display about wild cat species in the region. There was also a garden that was representative of what they likely had in the castle during the Moorish occupation.
Unlike the big coastal cities that have morphed into resort towns, Silves has a lot of character and rustic charm. There were pleasant outdoor cafes near the Silves cathedral, we drove around some very narrow, steep and windy streets within the city center. It was a very good thing that Jesse was driving, our rental car barely fit down some of them! I would suggest walking around the beautiful town instead 🙂
On our way out of town we stopped to see one more bit of history. Silves lies along the River Arade, which was used historically for transportation and trade. There is a 13th century bridge spanning the river, and apparently there are often open markets along the river bank during the week. We didn’t see any of the markets there, but we did find a marketplace on the northern edge of town. We stopped and bought several cow and goat cheese to enjoy throughout the trip.