Creative Travel in Portugal: Pottery, Painting, Weaving, Cooking & More!

I have really come to love “my” Portugal. The people, the soul, the culture of this land, last but not least its beautiful, melodious language, have completely drawn me in. Already in my first article about creative travel in the Algarve region, I have shared with you some alternative travel tips in this sunny southern district of Portugal. Now, the time has come to dive even deeper. We will therefore go on a journey into the interior of the Algarve, the small town of Querenca, also known as “Aldeia da Querenca” in the local language. Even though Loulé too is a small town counting only 30.000 inhabitants, travelling into a historic village located on the nearby hilltops is another experience altogether. I have come here with my local expert guide Susana, who works as part of the “TASA” project developing creative travel in the Algarve through a series of workshops named “Painting with Earth Colours“. Part of this experience includes landscape walks learning more about the history and culture while interacting with the land as a first-time visitor.

Die Kleinstadt "Aldeia da Querenca" im Hinterland von Loulé liegt nur rund 25 Kilometer von der portugiesischen Küste entfernt.

The small town “Aldeia da Querenca” in the backcountry of Loulé is located only 25 kilometres away from the southern coast of Portugal.


Wasser kommt in dieser trockenen Gegend hier im Süden Portugals eine besondere Bedeutung zu, wie das Dorfmuseum für Ökologie und Wasserwirtschaft eindrucksvoll zeigt.

Water plays an important role in this dry mountainous land in the very south of Portugal, as this museum for local agriculture shows.


Susana öffnet mir Tür & Tor zu den Besonderheiten der einheimischen Architektur, wie dieses Portal hier im Maurischen Stil.

Susana is a “door opener” in the most literal way possible, explaining what Querenca has to offer in terms of history, Arabic legacy and architecture.


Bei der Wanderung in die umliegende Landschaft ...

Talking a walk through the landscape surrounding Querenca …


... "ernten" wir diese Erdfarben als ursprünglich rötlich gefärbtes Gestein vulkanischen Ursprungs ...

… we “harvest” those coloured rocks whose origins date back to millions of years of volcanism in the area …


... im Mörser zerstoßen, haben wir unsere erste Basis für Farbe gewonnen.

… crushing them in the mortar we carry, we gain the first base for our unique earth colours.


Als Snack zwischendurch bietet sich diese Frucht von heimischen Bäumen, genannt "Alfarroba" an, welche unter anderem auch zu süßem Mehl für die typischen Kuchen aus der Algarve verarbeitet wird.

“Alfarroba” plants provide a great snack on the way, tasting sweet and juicy and providing a healthy, natural alternative to say cereal bars. Its flour is also being used for baking cakes here in the Algarve.


Mutig ist, wer kreativ reist – und dabei köstliche fremde Früchte nascht, genannt "Medronhos" die zudem zu "Aguardiente" – Schnaps! – verarbeitet werden!

Brave are those with a creative travel spirit at heart: Tasting local “Medronhos” fruit that the local people then distill into “Aguardiente” …!


Auch die Farbe Gelb können wir der Region hier mühelos abringen ...

A little further, we are ready to harvest some more “yellow” from the land …


... und im Kulturzentrum der Kleinstadt Querenca weiter verarbeiten.

… turning them into colours for painting at the culture centre of Querenca.


Mit diesen natürlichen Farbmischungen ...

Those natural colour mixes …


... lässt sich allerhand anstellen – vielleicht solch bunte Kühe wie diese hier kreativ bemalen und gestalten?!

… certainly lead you to become creative, as this cow statue outside of Querenca culture centre shows?!


Zu guter Letzt zeigt mir Susana noch ein ganz besonderes Kleinod inmitten der Landschaft rund um Loulé: Dieser Steinofen hat schon viele Jahrzehnte lang als natürlich errichteter Brennofen für Ton in der Region gedient!

Last but not least, Susana shows me another treasure located right round the corner in the middle of the Querenca landscape: An old stone furnace used to burn calcium as a base for mixing with different Earth colours during many decades past!


Speaking of ceramics, earth colours & creative crafts in the Algarve, let me introduce you to a most welcoming local character: The ceramic artist Armando Martins!

Armando is truly mischievous. In the sweetest way possible. He appreciates me taking my first steps in Portuguese – only to talk to me in the fastest way possible during our creative pottery lesson, accrediting my language skills. I take on the challenge of our quick-witted verbal exchange, rising to become even more creative with words, and pottery of course. João & Graca, of ProActiveTur, a company set up to develop creative crafts initiatives in Loulé and in the Algarve, have taken me to meet local ceramic artist Armando Martins. Armando has already worked thousands and thousands of pots in his life time – “since times immemorial, including both my father and grand-father before me”, he laughs, brightly displaying his mischievous smile. All those pots have once played a big part in the local fishing industry, being used by fishermen to catch octopus. According to Armando, one of his pots even made it all the way to Spain, travelling as a shell to an octopus and identified by him again as one of his pots! Stories and stories … 😉


Creative travel here in the Algarve means: Unveiling countless local tales. Understanding, and living, many forms of traditional cultural expressions. Painting a real image of the marriage of past & present in a local area. And one thing, above all: Meeting unique local characters that live to tell the tale!


Zu Gast in der Keramikwerkstatt von Armando ...

Meeting Armando and his pottery workshop near Loulé …


... heißt überaus freundlich empfangen zu werden!

… means being welcomed in the sweetest way possible!


Armando l(i)ebt seinen Beruf und möchte, so will man meinen, am liebsten nichts anderes tun als Tonkrüge herzustellen ...

Armando truly lives his passion and loves to share it with his visitors …


... diese Kunstform hat er wahrlich gemeistert und stellt diesen Krug in weniger als einer Minute auf seiner Drehscheibe her, wie er uns eindrucksvoll demonstriert.

… having truly mastered his art over the years and perfectly demonstrating how to make this perfectly shaped pot in less than one minute on the potter’s wheel.


Kurze Zeit später bin ich an der Reihe, mich hier zu versuchen ...

A little later, he invites me to have a go on the wheel myself …


... es gelingt, wie ich Euch mit dieser einfachen Schüssel hier stolz präsentieren darf!

… and I must say that I am quite satisfied with the result: My first ever bowl from the potter’s wheel!


The city of Loulé itself merits a closer look when travelling in the Algarve, too. Check out Coreto Hostel for a great place to stay, centrally located for a culture walk through this quaint little town.

I just love Loulé. What a pretty little town full of light. Perhaps it is the agreeable size, neither too big nor too small for my liking. Its unique Arab heritage, both to be found in places such as the Old Baths as well as the historic market square in the heart of town. And that being in Loulé allows you to meet truly special, local people that all have one thing in common: They are open. Friendly. Welcoming. Full of light, as the city as well as southern Portugal, the Algarve itself.

Beim Rundgang über den Marktplatz von Loulé ...

Strolling around the historic market square of Loulé …


... gelangt man wenig später in das Herz der maurisch geprägten Altstadt.

… we end up entering the very heart, and old town, of Loulé – picture postcard style.!


Hier treffen wir noch heute auf einen der letzten Schuhmacher der Stadt!

Here, it is even possible to meet one of the last shoemakers – “sapateiro” in town!


Von diesem Turm aus bewachten die frühen Einwohner der Stadt ihre Umgebung, genannt "Al-Ulyà", das heutige Loulé, was so viel bedeutet wie "leichter Hügel, Erhebung".

From this tower, the original inhabitants of “Al-Ulyà”, or Loulé, roughly translating into “slight elevation, hill”, checked for foreign invasions from afar.


Die Gassen von Loulé halten viel historischen Charme bereit ...

The cute little alleys and passages of Loulé offer a lot of charm and southern sun light …


... ebenso wie diese Dame hier, mit der ich Loulé kennen lerne!

… as much as this lady, who offers to take me round Loulé!


Vielen Dank auch an die liebe Mafalda, welche ihren Lebenstraum mit der Eröffnung dieses gemütlichen Hostel Coreto verwirklicht hat: WiFi, Lounge, internationale Gäste, gelebte Flexibilität, Ruhe & Gemütlichkeit erwarten Besucher hier.

Last but not least, a word of Thanks to dear Mafalda, at Hostel Coreto who has realized a life dream here welcoming national and international visitors to a cosy lounge, free WiFi, international flair, personal care, flexibility and good vibes. Check it out on your next visit!



Disclaimer: I have been invited by João Ministro and his team to discover and explore creative travel in the Algarve region of Portugal. All opinions are my own.

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Danielle Casey 19 November 2015 - 23:49

Hello Elena
My name is Danielle, my daughter Tenzin and I are currently in Barcelona.( my first time in Europe)
Recently (10 days ago) I met up with my daughter who had been travelling since July abroad from Australia on her gap year.
We have had the unfortunate experience of being in Paris very close to the attacks that took place last week, all too sad for words really.
My reason for contacting you is that I was very close to,returning to Australia (2 1/2 weeks early) but really didn’t want to waste the opportunity and $ when I could instead head south to the Algarve possibly Loule and calm down with a pottery course beforehand? I’ve read with joy what you have said about this region and would ask if you had a contact that I might speak to about this?? The hostel looks a treat so maybe that’s where I start and go from there?
Kindest regards,
Danielle Casey

Elena 20 November 2015 - 01:55

Dear Danielle,

Thank you so much for contacting me here! For sure, please go to Mafalda Peixoto from Loulé Coreto Hostel for further tips about the area; in addition I recommend you to get in touch with the team of (João Ministro, among others) in order to arrange your pottery course. Very sad to hear about the Paris attacks too, I hope you still have a nice (creative travel) experience in Europe!

Cheers and all the best,

Elena 🙂

Diana 25 January 2017 - 19:05

Great article! If you ever find yourself in Portugal again, be sure to visit Barcelos as soon as you can, it’s a small town but really lovely with a huge history 🙂 If you’d like to see and learn more about pottery it’s definitely the right town to do so!
The Rooster of Barcelos is one of the most common symbols of Portugal, therefore pottery has been a popular handicraft activity in Barcelos.

For anyone who appreciates this kind of activity I recommend you to visit the The Pottery Museum in Barcelos where you’ll find excellent examples of pottery from almost every regional styles of Portugal. It’s definitely worth to check it out!

Elena 25 January 2017 - 23:19

Dear Diana,

Thank you so much for reaching out. Yes, I would love to see Barcelos (again), as I have recently been there walking the Portuguese Way of Saint James. Amazing !!! Please check it out here:

Hope you’ll find yourself back in Portugal any time soon again, too. Love your enthusiasm!



Edward Schilling 27 April 2020 - 17:08

I like to find different crafts people. To
Make product for me. Ceramic.  Leather.    Weaving blankets  rugs etc.   glass.  Metal.  Lace.   The crafts Portugal is best known for.   Can you recommend  crafts people. And areas       Thanks Ed. 

Elena 28 April 2020 - 08:03

Dear Ed,

Thanks so much for reaching out, and for taking the time to read through my blog about Portugal. I suppose the area I describe in this article is best suited to what you are looking for: The city of Loulé, and surroundings, in the Algarve region, not far from Faro in southern Portugal. The Alentejo region is known for its food, wine and crafts culture, too, as is the area around Porto in northern Portugal.

Best wishes and have a great time getting creative,



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