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  • Writer's pictureVanessa Valenti

Algarve: Portugal on the road pt. 3

Algarve is the southern region of Portugal, a unique place thanks to its 150km of coastline overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Many of the natural sites are protected areas and are part of the UNESCO world heritage: beautiful beaches with fine golden sand, crystal clear water even if cold, high cliffs, breathtaking sunsets over the sea, parks and nature reserves, these are just some of the wonders that you will discover if you continue your holiday with us towards the south. Algarve is characterized by a mild climate that makes it ideal to visit at any time of the year: long hot summers alternate with pleasant springs and autumns, although unpredictable in terms of weather conditions. The rains are always rather scarce and the maximum temperatures fluctuate between 30 degrees in summer and 16 degrees during winter. The tourist season begins in April and continues until the end of October; for those looking for tranquility the best months are June and September, in fact between July and August it is quite crowded with tourists.

Praia dos Tres Irmaos

But let's resume our journey on the road, which has now come to an end. To resume our journey from the beginning, click here for the first part (Porto and Coimbra), click here for the second (Lisbon and Sintra).

Thursday 07.01.2021

Vila Nova de Milfontes - Cabo de Sao Vincentes

We left from Lisbon: after a morning full of the last laps in the center, we collected our suitcases and by bus we headed to the airport to retrieve the car we had rented (if you need info on vehicles and rental auto discover the dedicated article).

After collecting our racing car, we left for Algarve, crossing the Alentejo, a region of Portugal between Lisbon and Algarve, with a rich historical heritage and considered one of the most authentic areas of the country.

After about two hours of travel we arrived in Vila Nova de Milfontes, where we stopped to stretch our legs and have lunch, even if a little late. Vila Nova de Milfontes is a town located in the heart of the Alentejo coast, on the estuary of the Mira River. In summer it is always crowded, while outside the summer season it reveals its Portuguese character and will allow you to enjoy it in peace. The town is delightful: small, but very typical, with warm colors and small streets full of shops and inviting places to eat. We had lunch at Ca Piramin, some sandwiches, a salad and two inevitable beers to cool off (the heat was higher in the south) and then a short walk through the alleys to the beach: here we found golden sand and a sea crystal clear and very few people. Unfortunately we didn't stay long because we wanted to get to the South in time to see the sunset. If you can get a longer stop in Milfontes, this area offers the opportunity to do many activities: the waves are ideal for surfing and there are a lot of hiking and cycling routes along the coast.

Heading south towards Cabo de Sao Vicentes, Enri gave in to my pleas and we made a stop to Ceramica Paraiso Mo Algarve, just in time before closing time. This is a giant ceramic craft shop right on the way to Cabo. If you pass it you must absolutely stop. The exterior is full of ceramics glued to the walls, creating a picturesque and colorful spectacle, which in any case cannot compare with what you will find inside. If you are a lover of ceramics, this is the place for you: I would have bought everything but Enri prevented me because we had little space in the suitcases.

We set off again towards Cabo de Sao Vincentes, located on a steep cliff at the southwestern tip of Portugal, a finis terrae that defies the might of the ocean. The show is breathtaking, really, and luckily we managed to get there in time for sunset, definitely the best time to visit the place. In my pre-trip research I read it is a very windy place, so we had some sweatshirts in hand .. luckily! To say that it is windy is very little: it is the windiest place we came across on the whole trip: it was very cold and almost carried away. But still it was worth the show. While you wait, you can also visit the former convent and have a drink in the little bar inside, from where you can also enjoy the sunset, otherwise, as we did, bring some beers and snacks and arrange a picnic on the cliff. By the time the sun went down we jumped back in the car towards Lagos, where we stayed for two nights as a starting point for the day's excursions.

Friday 07.02.21

Burgau - Praia dos Tres Irmaos - Praia Dona Ana - Lagos

On Friday morning, after a good restful sleep, we headed to Burgau. Burgau has always been a fishing village, but now it lives almost entirely on tourism. Its most important attraction is the small beach (Praia de Burgau) surrounded by hills that protect it from the strong wind of Barlavento. Let me tell you, it is a real gem, a small and delicious Santorini, very colorful, absolutely deserves a stop. We went to the center, enjoying the narrow streets and buildings in full Mediterranean style, then a couple of hours in Praia de Burgau, a long beach of fine golden sand with very blue water. Here I took my first swim in the ocean and I must say that the water is, yes, very cold, but I thought so much more..

Before lunch we moved east to Praia dos Tres Irmaos, in the Porimão area, the most beautiful of all and one of the least crowded. It literally means beach of the three brothers, and is famous for its rock formations and numerous caves to explore. The water is wonderful, very blue, almost transparent, and is very affected by the tide during the day: the ideal is to go there in the morning. We settled to the left because there were less people and we enjoyed exploring the rocks and caves that lead to breathtaking deserted coves. If you need it, on the right, you will find a small snack bar. The road to the car is not very short: to reach the beaches it takes about ten minutes on foot, and remember to get off with some gym shoes.

A few hours before sunset we approached Lagos, stopping at Praia Dona Ana, located between the limestone cliffs of the Ponta da Piedade promontory. The beach itself is very beautiful and very convenient: it has an adjacent car park with public toilets, bars and will allow you to choose an equipped area but unfortunately when we went there were a lot of algae with flies and bad smell. We stayed an hour and a half and then we reached Ponta da Piedade. It is a limestone promontory whose golden cliffs drop sheer to the water, allowing you to enjoy a breathtaking view. There are two ways to visit the place: go down the steps to reach the caves or by sea with small boats. We went for a walk and went down the stairs to the small caves: splendid! Absolutely unmissable.

After sunset we went back to the apartment, we settled down and walked out to the center of Lagos for dinner. Lagos is a pleasant town, very quiet when we were there, easy to explore it by foot. The old town is known for its traditional architecture and its quaint houses, typical of the region. After a tour we randomly chose the Taberna da Mo for dinner. For 52 € the two of us ate a Salda de Tomate in Algarvia, a Sopa de Peize, a Bife da Vazia in Portuguesa, and Polvo no forno al batatinha. Everything was delicious, the staff very friendly and helpful: we ate on the alley enjoying the evening and the lively atmosphere of the place. After dinner, if you are not too tired, Lagos offers plenty of places to have a few drinks and music. Click here to read more about where and what to eat when in Portugal.

Saturday 07.02.2021

Benagil Caves - Praia das Fontainhas - Albufeira - Praia Sao Rafael

Woke up early on Saturday morning, closed the suitcases and loaded them into the car because the daily program involved moving east without going back. First we went to the famous Benagil Caves to which I reallyrecommend that you go early in the morning, like at 9-10 in the morning, because later it fills up with tourists and it is more difficult to enjoy the place. The parking is large and free, and will allow you to walk to Praia de Benagil, where you can rent kayaks even without a reservation: 1.5h for € 30 for two. Leave everything you can in the car, just bring your phone to take some pictures and the money for the rental, better if you can put everything in a waterproof bag. I was hesitant about the duration of the rental, honestly I thought it was a short time, but actually it was absolutely fine. The caves are located a few minutes from the beach, on the left. They are a surreal sight, literally breathtaking and definitely worth the effort. We arrived early in the morning so we were able to visit them when there were very few people, even if as we were returning there was already a crowd. After a first stop at the cave, don't go back: I advise you to continue to the left to the numerous coves among the rocks. We spent the rest of the time available on a deserted beach in tranquility, something that will not be possible in Praia di Benagil, which is always full of bathers and kayaks that come and go.

Back to the car we headed to Praia das Fontainhas, definitely one of my favorites with Praia dos Tres Irmaos. To reach it you have to walk a little way in the middle of nature, ending with a steep descent of about 10 minutes, but I swear it is worth it. Praia das Fontainhas is small, the sandy area is surrounded by two large cliffs, which make it secluded, uncrowded and wonderful, a real paradise. The waters are very calm and clear, here we enjoyed a few hours of relaxation and beautiful sun (the shaded areas are very few and the sun was beating down a lot, I suggest you bring something to shelter, such as an umbrella if not you are used to being under the sun for a long time).

At around 3pm we headed to Albufeira to check in at the hotel: due to Covid restrictions, shops, restaurants and supermarkets closed at 3pm, so we went shopping and settled in the hotel to be able to spend the rest of the day quietly without worrying about anything. We ended up in the best place: our hotel was very nice, equipped with a wonderful kitchen and a roof terrace with a greatview of the city. Due to these restrictions, we didn't visit anything in Albufeira as everything was closed in the evening, but for the little seen in the afternoon I can tell you that it is a nice village, very touristy and full of young people, with many shops, bars for drinking and restaurants. A little too commercial and touristy for our tastes, but the location certainly makes it a good base for day trips.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in Praia Sao Rafael, just outside Albufeira: here you can choose whether to stay in the equipped part, with bar and restaurant or in the free one. The beach is nice but very crowded and a little windy but it remains very close to the center of Albufeira. As mentioned earlier, we stayed at the hotel for dinner: we cooked in the shared spaces (the concept of the hotel was comparable to that of a hostel, but each room had its own bathroom and was private) and ate on the splendid roof terrace , with a nice view on the city at sunset.

Sunday 07.04.2021

Falesia Beach - Parque Natural de Ria Formosa - Faro

Last day in Algarve and in Portugal but we are only halfway through our trip! Even today wake up early, suitcases and leave for Falesia Beach, a beach as long as beautiful, that overlooks very steep cliff rocks. Here you can settle in the various equipped areas or choose the free ones. It is perhaps the slightly windier beach we have been to, but still pleasant and never annoying. The water, on the other hand, is definitely the coldest so far, but simply because for the first time we were in the open ocean.

After lunch we moved further east towards Faro, our last stop on Portuguese soil. It is a quiet town, fishing port and tourist resort separated from the sea by a lagoon.

We stopped for a visit to the Parque Natural de Ria Formosa: a natural park of almost 15,000 hectares that includes a system of lagoons between many long sandy islands parallel to the coast, rich of particular vegetation and fauna. The entrance is purely symbolic, a contribution for the maintenance of the park will cost you just € 2.80 each, and the visit will take you about 1.15h, for a total of 3km. If you go, I recommend that you bring a hat and sunscreen, because the walk is almost totally exposed to the sun. We really enjoyed the tour surrounded by nature, very relaxing and different from what we had done so far. If you have a few hours available, and you are a bit tired of the usual sea, this is an excellent alternative.

At this point we drove to the hotel for check-in, left our suitcases and immediately went to the Faro airport to return the vehicle. With the bus in 35 minutes (€ 2.4 each) we then went back to the center, settled in our room and moved by foot for dinner.

The city of Faro is particular: the Vilha Adentro is the old part, enclosed in the ancient walls and is very pretty, here you can also visit the Sè, and explore the narrow streets full of ancient buildings. Honestly, we found the place a bit desolate: there were very few people, and many buildings and restaurants were closed. However, we managed to find a delightful place for dinner, an old, super rustic and easy-going tavern: the Old Tavern. We ate in the square, definitely exceptional and typical food, with a different menu every day based on the availability of the products. We tried the Mixed Board (very large and very rich in cold cuts, cheeses, bread, olives and jams) and a Pica Pao (Portuguese-style beef), the usual two pints of beer, all for € 20 each. The waiter was very kind, engaging and very funny, he also made a shot of honey rum with us, offered by him. Click here to read more about what to eat in Portugal and where!

For the dessert we moved to O Castelo, more for the location than for the rest: here we ordered 1l of white sangria (I was super curious because I've always seen it in the classic red version) and two delicious desserts, spending only € 15 . But the real gem of this place is the terrace overlooking the lagoon and a part of the city, which at sunset offers a priceless view.

And here we are at the end of our Portugal on the Road tour. We arrived in the Algarve from Porto, in the north. But our journey does not end here, in fact we kept going to Spain towards Seville, where we stayed for two days, and then ended the holiday in Lanzarote.

To find out more about our trip and understand how to best organize it, I refer you to the dedicated article.

To read more about the Portoguese cuisine and to discover what you must eat when traveling in Portugal, click here.

In case you missed the first steps, the links to read them:

If I forgot to tell you something or you need more information just comment below, I'll be happy to help you!

P.s: if you travel to these areas let me have your feedback! Have a nice trip (:

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