Every little whitewashed village across southern Portugal has an equally whitewashed church, its bell tower rising high up above the characteristic Algarvean chimney pots that top the town’s single-story houses. (Look up: more often than not, the bell tower will be graced by a stork’s nest.) In contrast to the stark exteriors of the churches, the dimly lit interiors are always richly decorated with painted tiles, gilded altarpieces, and statues clad in rippling velvet cloaks. The best example in the region is the early-18th-century São Lourenço Church in Almancil, a 10-minute drive away (off N125), or a 40-minute bike ride away (if you’re feeling fit). The small church is unusually pretty from the outside, but nothing prepares you for what lies within. The interior is breathtaking, with every inch covered by striking blue-and-white azulejos (painted Portuguese tiles) depicting the life of St. Lawrence of Rome, after whom the church is named. These were created in 1730 by Policarpo de Oliveira Bernardes, considered one of the masters of this art. The Algarve’s greatest sculptor of the time, a Manuel Martinez, was responsible for the carving of the Baroque gilded wooden altarpiece. Stop for a typical pasteis de nata (a custard tart dusted with cinnamon) and a bica (the Portuguese espresso) or a galão (similar to a latte) at any of the little cafés in town.

IGREJA DE SAO LOURENÇO:​ Rua da Igreja, Almancil; +351­-28­9-395-451; 3pm-5:45pm, Monday to Friday