A Lusitano-tastic day out

A visit to the Estoi “Confest XXII” via Vilamoura Marina

We are big horse fans so when we saw the Estoi Confest in the Portugal News we decided that we had to go. Particularly as our daughter (horse enthusiast and qualified instructor) was staying with us at the time.

Since the Confest was not scheduled to open until 7 PM we decided that it would be nice to have a quick turn around Vilamoura Marina on the way.

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As a result, we give you a quick guide to Vilamoura Marina and the Estoi Confest XXII

Getting There

As we were going east to Estoi from Porches, we decided that Vilamoura would make a good stop along the way. Somewhere to spend a few hours gazing at boats, having a drink or two and maybe an early dinner.

a very large luxury yacht at Vilamoura Marina, Algarve, portugal

We had plenty of time so we avoided the A22 and took the national EN125 road east to Vilamoura. Arriving at Vilamoura we noticed further evidence of an alarming trend in the Algarve, a large part of the free parking had vanished!

Nevertheless, our top parking tip for Vilamoura still worked

Follow the McDonalds (yes McDonalds) signs and you will go up a ramp, past the McD´s drivethrough and out on to a large (though now somewhat reduced) free car park.

walking in to Vilamoura Marina near the Olympus hotel
Walking on to Vilamoura Marina near the Olympus hotel

Leaving the car park just look up until you see the Olympus Hotel, it is hard miss! Keep the Olympus on your left and head towards the road. Cross at the crossing and you walk straight on to the marina about mid way around the north side.

Vilamoura marina from the north side quay
North side of Vilamoura Marina

Here we are at the mid point of the, essentially “U” shaped marina. We are on the north (ish) side of the marina which has weterly and easterly “arms” surrounding the harbour transit. In the picture above, we are looking at the westerly arm (going right from this location)

Top Tip: Visit Vilamoura beach

We wanted the beach first so we turned left and walked along the rows of designer shops and restaurants in the direction of the Tivoli hotel. Walking past the front of the Tivoli we reach the end of the easterly arm of the marina where we can walk another 500M or so to pick up the beach bars.

Buzios Beach bar at Vilamoura
Buzios Beach Bar Vilamoura

Vilamoura´s flagship bar Puro Beach is also located on the beach here just behind the Tivoli´s gardens. We opted for a slightly less expensive option and had drinks at Buzios Beach Bar with excellent views along the beach. Buzios offers reasonably priced Algarvian style food and drinks with a view of its more upmarket neighbour.

It is easy to overlook the beach when visiting the marina but it is well worth a visit with long sandy stretches, beach bars and a view of the boats moving through the harbour transit.

Vilamoura beach looking west towards the marina transit
Vilamoura beach looking towards the East Mole of the Marina

After a relaxing hour and a drink or two at Buzios, we walked back along the beach boardwalk to rejoin the marina at the easterly arm under the Tivoli hotel.

It´s a reasonably long walk around the full length of the marina, maybe a kilometer or slightly more. It is however, flat, not covered with calcadas, accessible for wheelchairs and mobility scooters and relatively traffic free. The only vehicles allowed on the the marina are those belonging to berth owners and official vehicles so it is a good place to walk.

The marina is an upmarket development with, who knows just how much floating hardware berthed there. Certainly heading for the billion euro mark. Accordingly the marina is served by higher-end restaurants, shops and bars. If you are not a boating enthusiast you will be able to find one or two nice examples from world-class automotive brands scattered along the quays!

Shops here are, unsurprisingly, boutique and high-end. The quays are populated by purveyors of designer clothing, bags, sunglasses and watches alongside a couple of boat dealerships.

Many of the bars have a deck area close to the water. Some of these are very expensive but there are plenty of options along the quays for a nice cocktail overlooking the super-yachts without breaking the bank.

Our top pick for a nice drink or lunch by the water is News Bar Deck at the northwest corner of the marina. An upmarket bar with reasonable prices. There is an inside restaurant which is excellent on a cooler evening.

Football fans won´t want to miss Figo´s place Figo e China on the north side of the marina just to the right of where we came in from the car park.

We decided to stay for an early dinner and then headed back to the car to continue or route to Estoi along the EN125

Estoi and Confest XXII

It would be a world class understatement to say that there was something of a contrast between Vilamoura and Confest! Separated in reality by some 30 kilometers, the two places are worlds apart. One of the most appealing features of the Algarve is the contrast between developed and traditional places.

Estoi is a small town located just inland of Faro. Every year (for the last 12 years at least) Estoi Confest ( conferaria equestre) have held an equestrian event in which many equestrian societies meet to compete and participate in traditional Portuguese equestrian disciplines.

Like many local events in the Algarve, this one was not particularly easy to find. There was an event notice in the Portugal News and there is a Facebook page but like many events of this nature, there was little actual information. The Facebook page did list the days on which the event ran and some times, but only had a location map showing Estoi. Estoi isn´t a big place by any means but we had no real idea where to look for the event.

We thought that there would be some signs up locally but we were wrong! We did eventually find a large display board for confest on some railings, unfortunately, this was on a three-way road junction almost a kilometer from the event! After a couple of attempts we did eventually take the right road from this junction and fond the event.

Things are getting better but there are still many local events that are not well advertised or have Facebook pages with little or no information, you just have to make the effort! The event was actually located at a fairly big showground near to the cemetery! We added it to the map below (red pin). The showground is located where the fortnightly market is held and you need to take the “Rua do cemiterio” or “Cemetery St” in english.

There was plenty of parking opposite the showground. Parking was free and entry to the showground was €6 making it more expensive than our own huge FATACIL show in Lagoa!

We went on the Friday night which was the second day of the four day (Thursday to Sunday) event. It was well attended despite there being absolutely no agenda or program! Typical of this type of event there were some agricultural dealership stands, some incredible custom trucks from some of the stables involved and of course, a large number of horses.

There was a small “fairground” with this bucking bull and “horse” bouncy castle. The standard “stage” that many regular´s in the Algarve will have seen at “camera” (local authority) sponsored events in town squares throughout the region. A large open food-court area offered barbecued chicken, a traditional pork stew and the standard “bifana” (sliced pork with garlic in a soft roll). Draft beer, various mixers, red wine and white wine were available at “local” prices (super cheap!)

Like many events here in the Algarve in August, things did n´t really get going until well after dark because of the summer heat. Whilst waiting for things to get going we were able to watch some of the buggy teams practicing around the arena along with one or two of the traditional riders.

There was a large practice menage at the back of the showground with something happening almost continuously. As we are in Portugal, personal safety is still deemed to be the responsibility of the individual (we don´t have health and safety and lawyers preventing us from getting involved) and accordingly we could wander freely around the many stables at the event.

A lusitano horse at Confest Estoi Algarve Portugal
getting to meet the locals at Confest, Estoi, Algarve

There really were a large number of horses at this event. The various stables around the showground are owned by different breeders and various horse societies. There was a real family atmosphere with large groups of owners and exhibitors cooking and eating in groups around the stabling area.

traditional riding and display of Lusitano horses at Confest, Estoi, Algarve, Portugal
Picador display at Confest XXII Estoi, Algarve, Portugal

We were able to see some of the buggy driving competition and this was followed by a traditional show with choreographed picador displays, lighting and music. A great traditional night out. We left around 11pm before the band had even started on the main stage.

Highly recommended for horse enthusiasts and anyone who wants to experience something of the “real” Algarve

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