The best independent guide to the Algarve
The best independent guide to the Algarve
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 as a day trip. This article will detail the sights of Estoi, explain how to travel there and provide useful tips for a day trip.
Estoi is the location for one of the Algarve finest 19th-century Neo-Rococo styled palaces. The Palácio de Estoi is painted a distinctive pink colour and is surrounded by beautiful ornamental 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 able to visit the palace grounds and ground floor.
The Ruínas Romanas de Milreu are the best-preserved Roman ruins of southern Portugal. 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.
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 altars were from ships and boats. The second novelty is the altar decorated with farming equipment.
The final attraction of Estoi is the atmosphere of the town itself. Estoi is how the 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 pace of life to the coastal resort towns, and the relaxed atmosphere is best experienced in the cafes and open-air restaurants.
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 limited on Saturday (5 services) and non-existent on Sundays (3 bus services).
Our recommendation is to plan your trip to Estoi between Tuesday and Friday.
It is suggested to visit the tourist attractions of Estoi in this order: the church, the palace and then the Roman ruins. 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.
The entrance fee for the Ruínas Romanas de Milreu 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. Food and drinks are very cheap in Estoi, as the cafes and restaurant are designed for locals and not tourists.
The Palácio de Estoi is surprisingly well hidden considering how small Estoi is. When walking to the palace, do not follow the road signs, as these signs are designed for cars to navigate around the narrow streets and one-way system. If you need directions pop into a café or shop and ask – most locals know what visitors are looking for!
The bus from Faro to Estoi is the number 65 service operated by Eva buses. The journey takes 25 minutes and a return ticket is €6.80 (single €3.40). There are 14 services Monday to Friday, 5 on Saturday, and only 3 on Sunday. The latest timetable can be seen on the Eva website:
Note: This timetable says 2016 but was still correct at Feb20
When departing from Faro, the tickets 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).
Note: Check the departure location as some buses depart from inside the bus terminal and others from the road outside.
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”. In Estoi there are two bus stops; the first is “Estoi Cruz”, close to the Ruínas Romanas de Milreu but is at the bottom of the hill, and the second is “Estoi”, which is in the centre of the town.
A convenient set of departure/return times (Monday-Friday) leaves Faro at 10:15 and the return from Estoi at 14:30 or 15:35. At the weekend a later trip is better leaving Faro at 12:35 and returning at 17:30. (correct Feb20)