Being marked with a powerful Moorish influence, various features are commonly found in most Algarve houses, giving the region its quite distinctive face.
Common to all houses, and one of the great prides of their owners, is the whiteness of the buildings’ walls. Not only is this an effective means of reflecting back the bright light and heat of the summer sun, but the limewash of the walls is also frequently reapplied as it represents a symbol of cleanliness and pride.
Contrasting with the purity of the white are the green, blue and ochre borders painted around the doors and windows. The architectural details vary depending on the region and location, with the key differences being noted between the houses built in the hills, those of the inland plains and those built along the coast.
In the Serra do Caldeirão, the traditional houses were built of stone or local clays, being circular in shape and surmounted by a cone-shaped thatched roof. More recent constructions now have a rectangular format and are made from schist and red sandstone.
In the hills of Serra de Monchique, houses are built out of blocks of cut granite, giving the region a particular dark greyish tone.
Down on the plains, the typical house of the central part of the Algarve is small in size and built out of limewashed stone, with roofs that are covered with either Moorish or Portuguese-style tiles surmounted by narrow, but finely carved and patterned chimneys.
Along the coast, houses tend to be built in several storeys with roofs that are accessed by outside staircases leading up to a terrace from which the boats can be seen returning to the harbour at the end of a day’s fishing.
A characteristic feature of the coastal residences, the Moorish-influenced roof terrace is a place where a little cool and rest can be sought, but it is also used to dry the figs, almonds and corn. Being both useful and highly decorative, the fascias protect the terraces and complete the main facades, taking on different geometrical shapes and brightening the houses with a wide range of different colours.
As far as the chimneys are concerned, these are the very symbol of the Algarve region, for they are found on all the houses and are always finely carved and patterned.