Discover a Hidden Faro, Portugal Beyond the Beach: Skeletons, a Waterfall, and Roman Ruins

Faro offers several off-the-beaten-track attractions for travelers with an appreciation for the unusual and a desire to leave the tourist crowds behind. Here we’ll look at 3 amazing sites that are easily accessible by car.

Chapel of Bones

If you’re feeling a bit tired or jaded, you might pass by the Carmelite Church, Igreja do Carmo, assuming it’s just another example of the long history of Catholicism on the Iberian Peninsula. Bypassing this church however, would deprive you of the opportunity to visit an actual ossuary or structure made of bones—not something that most of us encounter every day. Look for a side room past the church’s main altar, leading to a courtyard which gives you access to another small chapel—the Capela de Ossos.

This 19th chapel was built almost entirely from the remains of over 1,200 monks. The chapel is intended not to be spooky (although many visitors may experience it that way), but to serve as a reminder of human mortality. The chapel is literally constructed with human bones, not merely decorated with them. Femurs and mortar make up the chapel walls, with skulls and other bones placed at intervals.

Address: PT Largo do Carmo, Igreja do Carmo (aka. Nossa Senhora do Carmo), Faro, 8000, Portugal

Milreu Ruins

Just a few km outside of the city center are the Roman ruins of Milreu, uncovered in the late 1800s. Archeological evidence indicates the original structure at this site was a farm house built in the first century. However in the third century, the building seems to have been converted into an upscale villa, featuring a gallery of columns surrounding a central courtyard. Parts of the villa apparently served as a private spa and a family temple. The ruins contain Roman mosaics, some in geometric designs and others designed to create the illusion of colorful fish swimming through pools. Take the short drive from Faro into the beautiful Portuguese countryside to let this site give you a glimpse back through time.

Address: Rua de Faro, Estoi, 8005-463 Faro

Pego do Inferno

In spite of the diabolic associations of the name (literally “Hell’s Pool), this site is actually a natural gem, comprising a small but beautiful waterfall and pond surrounded by trees. The lovely location earned its ominous name due to local legends which tell of a carriage falling into the water, never to be recovered. The stories do not seem to deter the locals, however, who often come for a brief, refreshing swim.

Pego de Inferno is only a short drive (approximately 35 km, 30-40 minutes drive) from Faro in the scenic Asseca Valley. Due to vandalism, the site was closed in 2012 and the nearby village of Tavira announced plans to turn the site into a living museum with an admission fee which would cover the cost of maintaining and cleaning the location. In late 2012/early 2013, a fire destroyed the walkways and stairs which formerly led from the parking area to the waterfall. Contact the Tavira Tourist Office to learn the status of plans to re-open the site.

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