Algarve – Portugal
Algarve - Portugal
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Moorish Al-Gharb, The West

After such an unfortunate end of December and beginning of January where we had to cancel an entire 23 days holidays across Central America due to personal injury, let’s better don’t talk about it and hope for the best in being able to repeat that trip in the near future. For now, onto the first of the usual weekend trips for the year where many are already planned and booked. It’s time for Algarve in Portugal. Some winter sun why not!.

Not that you would expect me coming here during the summer high season, which I would definitely avoid as I am not that type of tourist who “enjoys” the crowds of mass tourist in the beach and unnecessary high prices, but instead coming in winter at the lowest possible season, where only cultural city-break people come over and enjoys the other side this region south Portugal has to offer: the incredible architecture blend with Moorish, its rich history, the people and the great food everywhere.

You will need to know that although Faro will most likely be your entry point as it is the main city and where the international airport is located; the more to the west you go, the better and nicer the landscapes become all along the coastal cities and villages, up to the south-westernmost point of mainland Europe, Cabo Sao Vicente.

A good point in all of this? A weekend is definitely worth and enough to visit all those places, and specially if you get a rental car where you can go and stop anywhere you like. But not necessary since there is a good rail connection with very frequent trains all the way from Faro to Lagos in the west, or from Faro continuing to the east up to the Spanish border in Vila Real de Santo Antonio. Trains do not cross into Spain however.

The charm of the villages by the Atlantic, the cliffs and rock formations you will see everywhere are really worth the trip itself, even if it’s as short as mine where I barely had a day and a half, yet still we managed to enjoy everything I wanted from this trip, plus the delicious food almost anywhere. not to mention my favourite pastry ever, the pasteis de nata found in any patisserie and coffee place freshly made.

In the other hand I really need to add in here that not everything is pretty and nice. The villages indeed all have a small historic old town, but that’s all, nothing else, the rest of the city are hideous apartment blocks constructed without any regulation to my eyes, some of them really shadowing the beauty of the coast line.

For more information about the Algarve region check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites, where further links to each of the cities as Faro, Portimao, Albufeira o Lagos can be accessed. Portugal’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.

What to see and do in Algarve

  • Faro The current capital of the region, named after the original Phoenician settlement Pharaoh.

-Old City Cidade Velha is the historical part of the city where traditional cobblestone streets retain Portuguese and Moorish influence constructions.

-Cathedral Sé de Faro Consecrated in the 13th century, and seat of the Diocese of Faro since 1540, is a National Monument of Portugal.

-Carmo Church

-Governmental Building, City Hall

-Ria Formosa Lagoon Where it is famous to take a boat ride along this nature reserve. Fares around 20 euros for 2.5 hours trip.

-Praia de Faro Is the most famous and longest beach in the vicinity of Faro, very near the airport. The airport bus has a stop in there too.

  • Albufeira The next important city to the west of Faro some 50 minutes by train.

-Almoada Castle The 12th century Moorish castle.

-Clock Tower Built in the 19th century.

-Byrn Beach Is the most famous beach where you get the best views towards the old city perched on top of the rock.

-Praia dos Percadores Translates as the Fisherman’s Beach, right next to the old town.

-Praia dos Arrifes Not far from the Marina, is famous for the rock formations standing in the sea.

  • Portimao To the west of Albufeira, 1h by train from Faro.

-Castle of Santa Catarina

-Praia da Rocha Which means rocky beach is the most famous for it’s white sand and rock cliffs.

-Arade River Where you can see a replica of a Caravel sailing from time to time.

  • Lagos Located 1h by train from Albufeira, is perhaps one of the most historical and beautiful city in the entire region together with Faro.

-Old City Cidade Velha is the historical part of the city where traditional cobblestone streets retain Portuguese and Moorish influence constructions.

-Old City Walls

-Churches: Santo Antonio, Sao Sebastiao

Slave Market Built in 1444 was the first European slave market.

-Praia de Batana Located by the main road in Lagos along the coast.

-Praia Dona Ana Famous for the amount of rock formations along the coast.

-Praia Meia Is the most famous beach in the city, one of the longest in Europe, but also the most crowded.

  • Sagres/Cabo Sao Vicente The south-western most point in Portugal. Can be reached by bus from Lagos, taking around 1h. The views of the wild Atlantic are worth to come here.

Transports

You can reach Faro either by plane, which airport is literally next door to the city and buses 14 or 16 drive towards the city center. Tickets can be paid to the driver. Or you could be coming from nearby Spain by bus or elsewhere in Portugal by bus or direct trains from Lisbon, taking around 4 hours. Once in Faro, transportation is easy with the regional rail line or buses, both very frequent to anywhere in the Algarve, or the easiest and fastest way, having a rental car.

As for how you move within the cities, the only way will be walking. Distances are really small plus around the old city centers most of the streets would not allow the space for a car to pass by.

Accommodation

With so many kilometers along the coast through the region, it is guaranteed you will find a great deal to your satisfaction since there is a great amount of hotels for anyone’s likes. If either you prefer a more quiet spot, or a busier one is up to you. The choice is there. A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms, Ebookers or TUI.

In our case we selected to be in Faro, mostly because of the short time I was counting with, therefore making my base there was the best decision. Not a big choice of hotels in the city center, but the ones are very good and any of them totally recommended. We stayed at the Hotel Eva, a 4 stars property right by the port with nice views overlooking the old city from the roof top terrace, swimming pool, sauna and everything needed, with nice included breakfast. Very friendly, welcoming and helpful staff.

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