For the Portuguese, Algarve is all about sandy beaches and seaside resorts. From West to East, the South Coast has gorgeous beaches that we’ve been eager to explore in a long while. Algarve in May is a great choice, not crowded, with perfect weather to get a tan in a late afternoon, with bath-like water temperature, and equally important, with plenty of accommodation options. May was also our choice for a short sunny gateaway.
One of the best parts of travelling in Algarve wasn’t only the destinations, all those countless beaches…but also being on the road, gaze out across the endless green fields and the blue sky and simply being dazzled by lady Spring. With our Spotify music on board, and therefore with our jazz, classical and chill-out music in the background, we had all the inspiration from visuals to sounds, to live our own movie. Forget TV and Facebook, travelling is probably the best form of escapism.
Whether you’re accommodated in Sagres, or Lagos, or Albufeira or Faro, and you have a car, it’s much easier to travel and get to see a bit of all the places that we recommend.
The Western Algarve + Lagos
In the early days of the Roman Empire, Strabo, the Geographer, defined this coast as “The end of all the inhabited earth”. The Moors, who occupied it from the 8th to the 13th century, named it Al-Gharb, meaning “the West”, as it was the most westerly point of their domain. Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk
This region is also more unspoiled than the rest of Algarve, with plenty of deserted beaches and bays, many of them perfect for surfing.
Praia de Odeceixe
Situated on the border between Alentejo and Algarve and at the mouth of the River Seixe (Rio de Seixe), this glorious beachside retreat is perfect for surfers and for whoever fancies a long stroll by the river till the ocean. The old rock formations carved by the sea are impressive!!!
Sagres is a wild area, with peaky cliffs, where the waves don’t play around, they are serious with serious surfers on board, and there are rocks plucking out of water to remind where the fearless sea once was.
Cabo São Vicente
Cape São Vicente is the most south-westerly tip of mainland Europe, also called “O Fim do Mundo” (End of the world) by early Portuguese mariners, where you can watch the waves crash against the cliffs. One evening we also came here to watch the sun go down. Everyone gathered to have a front row seat at world’s spectale. As we hugged the coast and the sunset we realized how much we’d missed that glowing moment.
Vila do Bispo
We stayed in this small authentic town, and we were lucky to be accommodated in the best garage ever. Yep, you heard it right, we booked our stay in a garage (Casa da Praia) on Airbnb and soon realized we could live there eaaasily. That’s how welcoming and nicely decorated the place is! Congrats to the owners for making real the home-away-from-home experience.
Praia do Amado
Filled with surfing camps and schools, they call it the best surfing beach. Well, we don’t know about that, but we do know that it stays at the crossroad of wild vegetation, ocean and sky…where you can watch the wind sketching utterly beautiful drawings. Follow the road uphill and you’ll find some other breathtaking viewpoints.
Praia do Zavial
As we reached Praia do Zavial, and at seeing the numerous surf buses and caravans, we could guess it was yet another nice surfers’ beach, right by the cliffs.
Praia do Martinhal
This is one of the calmest beach in the western Algarve, with gentle waves that make for a perfect swim.
Praia da Mareta
Praia da Salema
Situated next to Salema village, at the base of green hills and between two cliffs, this beach is long and perfect for walking, jogging and swimming.
Forte da Almádena
On the road we came across a freshly born calf which, I (Diana), am sure it can only mean good luck (it reminds us of this song). After our dear encounter, we headed uphill to discover an old fort that apparently was built during the 16th century on the orders of King João III.
We stopped in this tiny village with steep narrow streets, hoping to find a place to eat. Apart from arriving at a time in the afternoon when the kitchen was closed, we also came to the conclusion that this village is mostly inhabited by English people, the reason we spotted several restaurants with the typical fish and chips dish.
Praia da Luz
A little church fronting an 18th century fortress and the seaside beyond unfold before your eyes as you park the car next to Praia da Luz. The palm trees guarding the beach give it a tropical vibe. We ended here our afternoon lazing and jogging (not necessarily in this order).
Ponta da Piedade
It’s one of the best views you can have in Algarve and in all Portugal. As we stood on the cliff of Ponta da Piedade, we tried to imagine those massive rocks under the water but we gave up immediately, it was a too far-fetched thought…By following the wooden walkway you’ll reach the dock where boats await to take you on a ride through the picturesque cliffs and caves.
Praia do Camilo
Not far from Praia da Dona Ana stays this little cove beach that takes one’s breath away.
Praia da Dona Ana
As we parked the car and headed to the cliff, the brilliant blue turquoise of the sea and a lost rock came to sight, then the entire beach as beautiful as we’d read about before. Its waters are also perfect for snorkelling.
Torre da Aspa Viewpoint
Let’s see, just when we thought we had discovered everything around Vila do Bispo, a knowledgeable friend asked us: have you been to the miradouro (viewpoint)? Oh wait, so there is also this stupendous viewpoint situated on the western side of Vila do Bispo, called Torre de Aspa, which was part of an ancient defensive and watch net that aimed to control navigation and attacks from embarkations on the coast. You cannot miss it!
The Central Algarve (between Faro and Portimão)
Some of the words that describe central Algarve are the quiet bays, stunning rock formations, arches, sea-stacks, caves, blowholes, the enchanting blues and greens of the sea that you can’t get enough of…
Praia de Carvoeiro -> Benagil Cave + Praia da Marinha (Boat tour)
Boats depart daily from Praia de Carvoeiro that will take you in a tour to the countless caves formed by waves crashing into the seaside cliffs, to many hidden between rocks beaches, until Portugal’s iconic Praia da Marinha. We were very eager to see the famous Benagil sea cave. Unfortunately, opting for the boat tour didn’t allow us to step out and enjoy its beauty from all angles. Yet, we plan on coming back and swim till there from Praia de Benagil.
Disclaimer! Don’t be deceived by Diana’s happy face, it was fake through all the panicked screams on the way back.
Praia dos Três Irmãos
It was romantic to relive memories of four years ago, in a warm February, when I took Diana on a surprise road trip to Algarve. Praia dos Três Irmãos was the first Algarvean beach to set our feet.
The Eastern Algarve
Particularly endearing about the eastern Algarve are the vast and flat beaches with warmer water temperatures than in the rest of Portugal, and the chill-out life with a lesser touch of modernity.
Situated at just 30 km east of Faro, Tavira conquered us at the riverfront gardens and houses, the whitewashed churches and the quiet old streets that eventually led us to Restaurante Abstracto where we lunched cataplana fish stew that we’d been dreaming of. It was delicious and the staff extremely friendly. (Note! A Cataplana is an item of cookware used to prepare Portuguese seafood dishes, popular on the country`s Algarve region.)
Ilha da Tavira
The 10km neverending creamy-white sandbar you will find on Ilha da Tavira will thrill you. We took the ferry that runs to the island every hour (Note! in July and August it runs every half hour). When we arrived to the island we expected not more than a seemingly deserted beach. Nonetheless, we were pleasantly surprised to find so many restaurants and bars, with keen prices, and the most promising part: the camping site and the plentiful cabins, perfect for a vacation with Asta. Truth being told, this island reminded us a bit of the Red Island next to Rovinj in Croatia.
Ilha da Tavira is serene, great for family holidays, where you just want to laze on the beach, finish your books and sleep as much as you desire. And the best part: the water was warm so we also took the first bath of the year 😀 .
We’re used to walking a lot and that’s all because of our pooch, but this time, we were hooked on our car. In short, our little adventure in Algarve resumed to beach hopping by car. As expected, we left behind other wonderful beaches like Praia da Rocha or Praia Grande, other small idyllic villages like Olhão or Lagos, other islands like Culatra or Armona, but the whole point was to take it easy and have some more to come back to. Every once in a while all you need is to blissfully do nothing, and what better place to do that than in Algarve!