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Estoi Portugal as a day trip and excursion
Estoi is a pretty little town that makes for an enjoyable half a day excursion for visitors who are on holiday in Faro. Estoi is situated 10km north from the coastline and has two interesting tourist attractions: the Palácio de Estoi and the Milreu Roman Ruins.
There is a regular and inexpensive bus service connecting Faro with Estoi, which means that this delightful town is easily accessible for all travellers. This guide will detail the major sights of Estoi, explain how to travel there and provide useful tips for a day trip.
The beautiful azulejos tiles of the Palácio de Estoi gardens
Why Visit Estoi?
Estoi is the location for one of the Algarve finest 19th century “Rococo” styled palaces. The Palácio de Estoi is painted a distinctive pink colour and is surrounded by beautiful and decorative gardens. The palace, only a few years ago, was a semi-ruin but is now back to its former grandeur, having been converted into a luxury hotel. The exterior and gardens of the palace are the main attraction and non-hotel guest are free to explore the palace grounds.
The Roman Villa of Milreu contains some of the best preserved Roman remains found in the Algarve. The site was originally an agricultural settlement during the 1st century AD but was converted into a luxury villa during the 2nd and 3rd centuries. The Roman villa included a large temple and a bathing complex of which the mosaics images can still be seen. A section of the Roman villa was used as the foundations for a 13th century house, which floors were excavated to reveal the original building.
A traditional Portuguese house was built on top of the Roman Villa
At the centre of the town is the neo-classical Igreja Matriz de Estoi church. The church dates from the 15th century but was significantly restored after the devastating 1755 earthquake. There are two fascinating peculiarities with the church; all of the wood used for the construction of the alters were previously used for ships and boats. One side alter has farming equipment as the decoration above the religious statues.
The Matriz de Estoi church
The final attraction of Estoi is the atmosphere of the town itself. Estoi is how the entire Algarve was before the advent of mass tourism; old men sitting in cafes (or benches) all day long, women gossiping and nothing much happening during the heat of the day. Estoi has a very different atmosphere than the popular coastal towns, a relaxed atmosphere that is best experienced in the cafes and open air restaurants.
Practicalities for a day trip to Estoi
All of the sights of Estoi can be seen within a matter of hours, this is not a full day excursion. The Roman ruins are shut on Mondays and bus services are almost non-existent on Saturdays and Sundays – so our recommendation is to plan your trip between Tuesday and Friday.
The gardens of the Estoi Palace
It is suggested to visit the tourist attractions of Estoi in this order: the church, the palace and then the Roman villa. The reasoning for this route is that the main bus stop is in front of the Matriz de Estoi church and it is a downhill walk from Estoi (and the Palace) to the Roman villa. There is a second bus stop at the crossroads, close to the Roman ruins, so there is no need to walk up the hill. The only issue with this route is that the Milreu Roman Ruins are closed for lunch between 13:00-14:00.
Roman 2AD mosaics in the bathing complex of Estoi
The entrance fee for the Milreu villa is €2.00. There is no entrance fee for the Palácio de Estoi but there is a very pleasant café in the grounds and the custom does help maintain the palace – as this is a luxury hotel expect to pay 50% more for your drinks than if purchased in the village. Food and drinks are very cheap in Estoi’s cafes and restaurant, as the prices are designed for locals and not tourists.
The palace is surprisingly well hidden considering how small Estoi is. When walking to the palace do not follow the road signs, these signs are designed to navigate traffic around the narrow streets and one-way system of Estoi. If you need directions pop into a café or shop and ask – most locals know what visitors are looking for!
Bus travel from Faro to Estoi
A return bus ticket from Faro to Estoi costs €6.50 and the journey time is 25 minutes. When departing from Faro bus station the bus ticket must be purchased from the ticket office as tickets cannot be bought on board (at all other bus stops tickets can be purchased from the driver).
Inside the bus station of Faro
The Faro-Estoi bus route terminates at the town of São Brás de Alportel and the sign on the bus will state “São Brás de Alportel”. When purchasing the bus ticket ask for the departure location, as Faro bus station has been newly expanded. In Estoi there are two bus stops; the first is “Estoi cruz”, closest to the Roman Villa but at the bottom of the hill, and the second is “Estoi”, which is in the centre of the town. There is no train service between Faro and Estoi.
A convenient set of departure/return times is (correct summer 2015 and Monday to Friday only) - Departure from Faro at 10:15 and the return from Estoi at 12:55.