Have you noticed the dramatic cork oak groves that line many of the Algarve’s country roads? They’re the clusters of trees with stripped trunks, where the cork has been collected for use by wineries, for furnishings, or even by industrious fashion designers such as Lisbon-based Fatima Lopes. São Brás de Alportel, a 30-minute drive from the Conrad Algarve, used to be one of the biggest producers of cork in the country (and was also the birthplace of the famous Moorish poet, Ibn Ammar, in the 12th century). To understand the evolution of cork in the region—and its importance to Portugal—we suggest a visit to São Brás de Alportel and its cork factory. Large merchant houses dominate the typical cobblestoned alleyways of the town, but you’ll also see quintessentially Algarvean whitewashed houses topped with latticed chimney pots. A visit to the factory showcases the history of São Brás de Alportel, as well as the processing of the cork stacks into the variety of finished products, including wine-bottle corks.
The last stop of the day (via a 4x4 ride through the dramatic cork groves), is at Quinta do Freixo, a farm where you can taste the traditional jams made with fruit produced at the farm according to the organic production methods. You can also taste the Algarve traditional Fig spirit distilled in the farm. It´s an essential and powerful taste of the Algarve.
QUINTA DO FREIXO: Benafim, Loulé; +351-289-472-185; quintadofreixo.org