Ten years ago I never would have guessed I’d be writing an Algarve blog. (What’s a blog for starters). Mainly though I’m referring to the fact that most young Brits associated the Algarve with old retired people on a package holiday. Well, I did. Since then Portugal’s had somewhat of a resurgence in popularity (based on assessment of my facebook feed).
The Algarve surprised me with its staggering number of golden hidden coves. The landscape is incredibly dramatic and definitely rugged. I was pleased that it was possible to totally avoid the excessive development and Brits Abroad that I know exist there in certain built up resort areas.
3 THINGS YOU REALLY CANNOT MISS:
PRAIA DO BELICHE | this sweeping beach with white sand is on the very West coast of the Algarve. It’s definitely up there as one of my, maybe even overall, favourites.
Also check out: there’s a cool red lighthouse and vertigo-inducing cliffs at Farol do Cabo de Sao Vicente, Europe’s most south-westerly point.
PRAIA DO CARVALHO | as you’d probably expect the almost unavoidable theme of this Algarve blog is beaches. Or ‘praia’ in Portuguese. This is the first one we hit up following the drive south from Lisbon. It was a great choice. Visitors descend through the carved cliff face to a largely empty beach. There’s no cafe or accommodation directly on the beach here, which is refreshing.
CARVOEIRO | a cute yet undeniably tourist-filled town nestled in the deep cove of Praia do Carvoeiro. To the north is Praia do Paradiso. We parked ourselves at the look out point in between the two beaches and enjoyed an alfresco glass of wine in the setting sun. Highly recommended from this Algarve blog!
3 THINGS WORTH A SNOOP:
LAGOS | I assumed Lagos was going to be a tragic example of Costa-del-Sol-esque high rises and pubs blaring with the Euro games. The old town is actually lovely. In June there was more of a family/couples restaurant vibe than a party crowd (although there are plenty of bars). The streets are cobbled and dotted with old churches and tiled buildings.
Also check out: Praia da Dona Ana was probably the best of Lagos’ beaches. Take a drive to the lighthouse on the peninsula, Farol da Ponta da Piedade.
PRAIA DA SENORA DA ROCHA | in my mind I had big expectations from this spot, from multiple articles (Homeaway, The Guardian, Globotreks, an Algarve Tourist Guide) all recommending it. On retrospective reading turns out the latter three had actually meant a different beach, Praia do Rocha. Whoops. Still, we had a great lunch of fresh fish in the beachside Restaurant Vilarinho.
PRAIA DA MARINHA | this beach also popped up a few times in my prior research. It’s a goody. Another surprisingly small cove with towering yellow orange cliffs either side. There’s a basic café serving snacks, softs drinks and alcohol when you need a break. With it being sheltered, the beach itself gets really hot! Bring a brolly if possible.
3 THINGS TO STEER CLEAR:
FARO | I wanted to give Faro a chance. LP’s comments made the Old Town sound vibrant and worth a stop, despite rumours from other travellers to the contrary. I’m sure there are some lovely spots if you scratch below the surface. However we were surprised (on a Wednesday night) just how dead it seemed.
Also check out: found a great Airbnb option on Praia do Faro, which enjoys water on both sides.
PRAIA DA BATATA | is one of a handful of beaches in Lagos itself. This one is walkable from the Old Town. We arrived on a windy and wild morning of waves so strong you couldn’t swim.
ATLANTIC OCEAN | brace yourself…. This isn’t the Med! Before this Algarve blog I hadn’t appreciated just how icy the sea was going to be (and rough too; perfect surf I guess). Portugal’s cities and towns were fantastic, as was the weather-beaten coastline. However I’d probably plan a swimming holiday elsewhere.
1 THING I WISH I’D DONE:
PRAIA DO PORTINHO DA ARRABIDA | apparently this beach is nestled in a calm bay within the Serra da Arrábida Natural Park. As such it is one of the most tranquil beaches in the Lisbon area. You can hire canoes, spend a day sailing or go diving.
AND KNOW THIS: Portuguese Water Dogs are native to the Algarve. They were fishermen’s main companion and were often taken with sailors during the Portuguese discoveries.
GETTING THERE & AWAY | we flew in to Porto and out of Faro – a route I’d highly recommend, in either direction. Definitely hire a car as it will allow you to visit more of the hidden coves and explore inland. For more information check out useful sites like Car Hire Faro Airport.