Carvoeiro the village

From quintessential fishing village to flourishing resort town

Standing on the cliff top above Carvoeiro beach, it’s surprisingly difficult to pinpoint the changes that have taken place over the last three decades. The white houses that dot the hillsides still look the same – but there are more of them. The view of the beach below me has changed even less, except for the disappearance of the old fishing boats and the addition of the huge boulders to the east of the bay where part of the cliff collapsed – thankfully when the beach was empty – in 1995. The difference between Carvoeiro and most other coastal towns is that development has been outwards rather than upwards. There are no high rises and most of the development has been sympathetic to the landscape. While the population, both resident and tourist, has spiraled, the “village”, as it is affectionately known to most expats, has managed to retain a good deal of its aesthetic charm.

I moved to Carvoeiro at 11 years of age in 1978 with my parents joining the handful of villa owners from Britain, Holland, Germany and elsewhere who had all discovered their perfect unspoilt seaside village in the sun. Needless to say, change was fast to come and by the mid-80s Carvoeiro was riding the crest of the Algarve’s real estate boom. Fortunes were made and lost, property prices soared and Carvoeiro rapidly grew from a sleepy fishing village into a full-blown resort town.

Anyone who has known Carvoeiro since those early days cannot help but feel the occasional pang of nostalgia. But in some ways, the “village” of today is a better place to live and, not surprisingly, continues to exercise its charm over both tourists and prospective residents alike. One of the most positive aspects of today’s Carvoeiro is precisely the fact that there are more people around. Thirty or so years ago, the last days of September would see the village turn almost overnight into a ghost town for the autumn and winter months only coming back alive at Easter. These days, thanks to a permanent population of over 5,000 and the off-season tourists drawn by golf courses and other facilities, many establishments stay open year round. Another important improvement is in the basic infrastructure: roads have been surfaced, mains drains extended to outlying areas, there is a medical centre, decent supermarkets and a whole range of upgraded facilities in nearby Lagoa.

Carvoeiro has come a long way since it was “discovered” by the first visiting foreigners in the 1960s. The local Carvoeirenses can be proud that their village has moved forward with the times and taken growth in its stride without succumbing to the unsightly development that has blighted so many of southern Europe’s coastal resort towns.

While Carvoeiro has fallen victim to a few cases of tasteless development, namely the area immediately to the east of the town centre which is lined with bars, restaurants and apartment buildings, they are fortunately obscured from view when looking at Carvoeiro from its best vantage points – up on the cliff tops at either side of the bay.

Text & Photo: Patrick Stuart

Author: Inside Carvoeiro

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