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Moorish Al-Gharb, The West

Returning for a second time to one of the most beautiful and visited regions in Portugal, the southernmost region of Algarve. Where nature meets the Atlantic ocean along the west and south, with idyllic Moorish style villages and beaches, caves, cliffs and mountains. A truly fascinating region not so heavily tourist faced as the nearby regions of Huelva or Cadiz in Andalusia, Spain, but instead more laid back and traditional, yet at points, old-fashioned. Nevertheless, tourism can be massified during the peak season of the summer months, therefore knowing the accommodation capacity is somewhat limited, prices can really go up dramatically as opposed if coming during low season where you will enjoy most of the places at your own peace pretty much alone.

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. Afterall, distances are not big at all and driving from one place to another is matter of few minutes. Talking of driving, this is without doubt the best option you have in order to travel around the area and get to the more secluded locations, otherwise if considering only public transport, while there are 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, it would not be possible to easily reach the coastal villages as railways are more inland and not right by the coast.

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 time what you are staying as was the case in the first time I came here merely a weekend yet still managed to enjoy everything I wanted from that trip, plus the delicious food almost anywhere. Not to mention one of my favourite pastries ever, the pasteis de nata found in any patisserie and coffee place freshly made.

As for this occasion, the trip was several days with some different hotels and even a full villa at various bases along Algave, split between Faro, Albuferia and Lagos. Plenty of time to get to absolutely every place in the region down to Sagres and Castelejo before heading back towards Seville where we came from by car. In the other hand I really need to add in here that not everything was as pretty and nice as it looked. The villages indeed all have a small historic old town, but that’s all, nothing else, the rest of the cities are in general hideous apartment blocks constructed without any regulation, some of them really shadowing the beauty of the coast line, all except Albuferia, perhaps the most beautiful of them all.

And sadly if we are to speak about how the people treated us during the whole of our stay, then I’m sorry but I have to say I do not feel like returning over here any time soon. There’s no need to get back to a place where all you find is rude, unhelpful and impolite people, from the hotel staff, to the restaurants and bars, supermarkets and everywhere, and to say, it’s not a personal feeling at all, it is the experience of 7 of us on this 2022 trip, and the same experience back in 2015. The few people we found to be nice to us was so rare that we could nit give any credit. What seems to be certain is they do not like at all Spanish people, and that is already shocking considering we are their neighbours, the nationality we visit this region of Portugal the most. Fortunately, this is only an opinion applicable to this region as for the rest of Portugal is impossible to have such thoughts, where you will find some of the friendliest and happies people.

Aside from the cities, villages and natural landscapes, another of the highlights on the recent trip was kayaking towards the Cathedral Cave in Benagil, and while every visitor had the same idea in mind, it did not matter how busy Benagil Beach was with hundreds of kayaks for rent and doing the same. I would recommend going early as this place gets extremely busy so you can avoid having to wait long for a kayak become available especially under the sun. The most common is to hire for an hour, although you can hire for longer time, however, an hour is well more than enough to reach the cave and other natural rock formations along the coast. This was without any doubt one of the best choices we did while in the area, coupled with another kayak tour in Lagos, longer this time, where you depart in a group from near the castle, and make your way towards the south along the incredible rock formations, caves following a leader making the way ahead of you, then you return everyone linked to a motorboat and relax the super pleasant trip back to the castle. For this tour, make sure you book the tour ahead of time as it is very popular and while there are plenty of departures, might be the case everything is already fully booked especially if considering doing in the day you arrive. From experience, we booked the tour some 2 weeks ahead of our arrival.

Some few notes about food, drinks and party, this region has it all everywhere you are. And while it could easily be more expensive than elsewhere in Portugal, it is fair and easy to find nice places at great prices. Even the plenty chiringuitos (beach bars/restaurants) you will find in many beaches are absolutely gorgeous in terms of food and drinks. We can strongly recommend while in Faro Beach, Elementos. Here, once you arrive to the beach, get there to ask for a table later in the day then rest at the beach until your booking time. Otherwise it will be pretty much impossible to get a table without booking earlier (of course, talking about the summer months peak hours). For some nice clubbing, music and cocktails, head to Rooftop Eva in the port. In Portimao, one of the best clubs where you can get stunning food, drinks and fantastic lounge music is Nosolo Agua Beach Club. Coming here for dinnertime is the best option as thereafter you can enjoy some dance with the live Dj, but come a bit more dressed up. A shirt and shorts is good enough, I do only mean refrain from coming in your beach cloths that’s all. And when in Lagos, in Meia Beach, try the beach bar Por do Sol serving great and cheap fast food style (hamburgers, hot dogs, fresh salads) with plenty of Sagres beer.

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 Famous for the chapel decorated with skulls and bones, the Capela dos Ossos. There is an entrance fee of 2 Euros, paid right by the entrance.

-City Hall Small and cute aligning one of the sides of the main central square.

-Ria Formosa Lagoon Where it is famous to take a boat ride along this nature reserve. Fares around 20 Euros for a 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. Do not miss the chance to stay here for the sunset, incredible!

  • Albufeira The next important city to the west of Faro some 50 minutes by train, half an hour drive. It is without doubt, the most beautiful in the region.

-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.

  • Benagil Just in between Albufeira and Portimao, this place is best reached by car. And what’s this place all about? Home to the famous Cathedral Cave, one of the famous images of the whole of Portugal. A secluded beach inside a natural cave with an opening in the roof as an oculus. While you can reach the cave swimming from nearby Benagil Beach, the best to do here is renting a kayak and make your way around this cave and other beautiful rock formations all over. Be aware this is an extremely popular tourist attraction and the congestion of kayaks is serious. Nevertheless very funny and enjoyable even with that many people having the very same idea.
  • Portimao To the west of Albufeira, 1.5h by train from Faro, 1 hour drive.

-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 Albufeira.

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

-Old City Walls While not complete, these are a nice feature across the old town in the sections they still exist.

-Churches Santo Antonio and Sao Sebastiao within the historic centre.

-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.


You can reach Faro either by plane, where the airport is literally next door to the city and buses 14 or 16 drive towards the city centre in few minutes with tickets paid directly to the driver. Or you could be coming from nearby Spain by bus or elsewhere in Portugal by bus or direct trains from Lisbon for example, taking approximately 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 centre of the towns most of the streets would not allow the space for a car to pass by.


With so many kilometres 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,, Expedia,, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms, Ebookers or TUI.

In the most recent trip, we rented an apartment through airb&b in Faro considering we were 7 of us coming together. It was the best decision as otherwise staying in a hotel would have been way more costly and would not have enjoyed the great huge terrace we had in the roof where we enjoyed our own freshly cooked breakfasts and dinners for the length of our stay. The name of the property is Anya Apt. Our next base was Portimao for 2 nights, where we stayed at the Squash Club Apartments and all we can say about this place is, avoid it. What a horrible experience with the most unhelpful and disgusting staff across any department, not to mention how ugly and dirty everything was. We are shocked on why Expedia or to name the big ones, do still list this place after the bad reviews that only keep pilling up. Lastly in Lagos, we again rented via airb&b. It turned out to be a spectacular huge villa with gigantic gardens surrounding it, but only reachable by car. Such a friendly host and absolutely every facility we needed, for what we ended up going to the supermarket and making the shopping for breakfast and dinner for the 2 days we stayed, including making a BBQ in the night enjoying the music and friendship in the porch and extra large living room.

Back in 2015, we opted to be in Faro, mostly because of the short time I was counting with, therefore making the base there was the best decision. Not a big choice of hotels in the city centre, but the ones are very good and any of them totally recommended. As example, 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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