That Portugal is a beautiful country, we have no doubt: from North to South, including the wild Island of Madeira, Portugal praise a good reputation.
Today though, I would like to alight you the most Southern side of the country and show you why this should be your 2018 summer holiday destination: Algarve!
Measuring only 160km x 50km, covered mostly by Paradise beaches, Algarve has been for years family holidaymakers destinations. Although this is a very much family-friendly destination, I have discovered the huge potential for a different target of traveler. From surfers to beach bums, from nature lovers to history nuts and why not also a very romantic couple retreat!
Let me list for you 6 top places and things to do that will make you fall in Love with Algarve.
Lagos: a window on history
After the dramatic African’s trade run by Henry the Navigator, Lagos as afterward become an important historical destination due to its gorgeous Old town and the surrounding ruins. This gives the town a big pride to the sacrifice of Africans and hopefully will give us an open-minded on being more respectful of people with different culture and religion.
Perfect location where to spend few days, trying to get to know each corner (if ever possible) of its white old town, walking through the little hallway, contemplate the history that comes from the many streets and walls and enjoying the characteristic houses.
Furthermore, you cannot miss the beach side of the city: following only some of them:
- Praia Dona Ana: sandy beach surrounded by steep colorful cliffs
- Camilo beach: all the 200 wooden steps are worth the view of this little sandy beach and its cove, still surrounded by ochre-colored rocks
- Farol da Ponta de Piedade : viewpoint to the whole coastline, where your eyes will melt in admiration. I suggest going here early morning, as it can get busy with local tourism
Middle Ages feeling and flamingo watching in Tavira
A little town just 40 km, away from Faro (a very pleasant drive), you will encounter this gorgeous little town of Tavira. Now, park your car and start your
stroll from the Tavira Castle (the origin goes back to 2000 B.C), right by the parish Santiago Church down to the town center upon the River Gilao.
I have found it amazing to cross the bridge and just relax on the other side having a nice cup of coffee and slice of dessert. You can also be lucky to spot some flamingos if you go to a place called “Quatro Caminhos“.
Last but not least, don’t miss a visit to Tavira Island (only reachable by boat), which belongs to the Ria Formosa Natural Reserve.
Ria Formosa Reserve
60 km long reserve, stretching from Garao Beach in Faro to Manta Rota Beach in Cacela, including channels and islands. A real treasure and biodiversity based on fauna and flora, the Park has been a Reserve since 1978, becoming a National Park in 1987.
You can start to get to know the park from Olhao, at the Passeios Ria Formosa (Av. 5 Octubre) on a 3 km trail, indulging in this beautiful nature and fresh air. You have also other option, such the boat islands tour from Olhao Pier (very reasonable price starting from EURO 10-15 ) or visit the islands by Ferry. The ferry is definitely the cheapest option, but you have limits on time, as they run few times per day (you can find the slot at the same Olhao Pier). From here you can opt to visit the following islands: Culatra, Farol, Desert Island, Armona, Tavira.
Glorious fish in Olhao
Not only famous for hosting part of Ria Formosa, Olhao is the perfect place where to get freshly grilled (and much more) fish, a decent price!
You can go from eating as you can to more highly rated restaurant, both ways, your palate and your wallet
won’t be disappointed.
Many good reviews on TripAdvisor, you can trust them as I used some: I can suggest for a nice lunch who won’t break the bank to go to Vai E Volta, both the Owner and its amazing staff will treat you like a king!
Also, don’t miss to visit the Port , the fish market and The Strett Art who shows an old yet fascinating Olhao, when used to be a little fisherman village.
Visit a gorgeous underrated Faro
Perhaps you will think that after all the beauty around Algarve it would be a waste to spend some time in Faro, well in this case you are wrong! Faro is not just the best gateway where to fly in to visit Algarve but also the house of a lovely old town and a beautiful harbor.
I would suggest to visit the old town on foot and lose yourself through the many little streets surrounded by old wall, historical little corner and many cafe and restaurant where to stop for a local meal or drink. Pass through the Arco da Vila the door that opens the entrance of the Old Town, off to enjoy the beautiful architecture of Faro cathedral and Se’ Square.
For the less sensible, you can also visit the Chapel of Bones, for only EURO 2.5 tickets. Last but not least, a nice walk from Park Ribeirinho down the Harbor will end your day with a beautiful sunset treat!
A good option where to stay if you are on a budget is Ria Terrace: nice option to feel at home, but still on your privacy and make new friends on their fantastic terrace!
Benegil Cave and Portima’s beaches
You don’t need to be a caveman to enjoy the beauty of Benagil cave, one of the most beautiful marine cave in Europe! Probably the picture will speak itself, and no such words are necessary here, this cave is a must visit at least once in your life! You can either choose to reach the cave on a Tour boat for a price that goes from 20 to 30 euro, with Kayak or Paddle or a nice 20 minutes swim. I can’t recommend the boat due the short time you will spend in the cave. The Boat enters the cave for 2 min. then you are out, you don’t even get out of the boat. You can choose this option, if you perhaps the weather is not too friendly, or maybe you are too afraid of high water or if you like your comfort. Also, You can hire a private boat for 300 euro.
Best way ever would be swimming to have all the time to spend in the cave, or your private Kayak, paddle, and Lilo 🙂 although you can still hire them.
Either way the view inside the cave it’s breathtaking, with its blue water. You can also have a view of the cave from the top side. Go to the car park (quite big for at least 100 or more cars) free of charge and then you can walk bit further away to see the upper side of the cave.
Last but not least you can also take a Portimao’s beach tour 🙂 I suggest to hire a car and stop on each beach take your attention, as all of them are extremely beautiful on their own. They are mostly cliff-beach, with rocks and caves and hidden tunnels, from small to huge strands of sandy beach.
Here to mention only same, then I would love to go and explore them.
- Praia do Burraco: my favorite ever, with its unique rock formation, you can have a closer view going down to Praia da Marinha.
- Praia Da Marinha: with this natural rock arch and turquoise water, you can indulge the fresh Ocean water and get some nice tan.
- Praia da Senhora da Rocha: one of the biggest beach of Algarve divided by a natural rock bridge and the best viewpoint for a great coastline view.
- For a best local experience, I suggest hiring a car, as the price is very affordable and you can decide where and when to stop, on this big natural park of Portugal.
- Choose to go from May until June and from the end of August until September, to avoid the big crowd and high heat
- Try to eat fish in local little villages, to promote the local commerce and for the best fresh organic flavor
- Try the local oranges: lots of streets sellers sell them on the fast way, on safe points where you can stop.
- The change in the banks is not the best ever, from a UK credit card I lost quite a good amount of money, so check on the change and commission before you leave your country. This time might be more convenient to change cash in advance.