Sunshine, endless amount of caves, green hills overlooking one of the most beautiful sceneries. The fresh sea breeze on my face, sand between toes, surrounded by a vibrant atmosphere and lively people. These things all describe what our trip to the Algarve was all about. Nature, exploration, beaches, and above all, staying in touch with what is essential for me and getting inspired amid despair. Having hope for, that we will be able to travel again freely.
Algarve is a magnificent part of Portugal and worthy of exploring more. The best way to do this is by car, although there are options for public transportation when you get there. Algarve also has their own airport: Faro Airport (Aeroporto Internacional de Faro). You can also fly there if you want to spend time only around the Algarve region. Since we flew to Lisbon, we decided to use a car, went to Sintra, and continued to Algarve.
Getting around the Algarve region
The easiest and fastest way to get around the Algarve region is by car. I found the roads comfortable to drive, and the traffic wasn’t too bad either. Then, again, we visited in a low season, so this also affected. There are parking lots available around the town and cities, and also nearby most beaches. Without a car, we wouldn’t have been able to visit as many places in a week as we did. We rented a car from this company: https://www.amoita.com/ and had a great experience with them. Everything worked out smoothly. We rented the car from Lisbon, but they also have a service point in Faro. Otherwise, you can get around the area with local buses, trains, and taxis or Uber. There is also a ferry service between Portimão and Silves, as well as Ferragudo and Portimão. Please refer to the latest updates and timetables for these public services.
It is also good to keep in mind that there are many tolls on the highways when using the car. Usually, car rental places have an automatic toll payment service from VIA VERDE in the car, registering the toll fees automatically. It makes driving smoother and faster because you don’t have to stop at the tolls, but you can go through green lanes. The system registers your credit card and will charge the fare after you return the car. The toll fees from Lisbon to the Algarve region are around 25€ per way. There are also options to avoid the tolls, but this takes more time since they are usually smaller roads. On the other hand, it’s an excellent way to explore a little if you want to drive through local towns!
We stayed in Portimão, and I have to say I absolutely loved the town! There was surprisingly a lot to see and do, even within walking distance. There is also a big lovely beach called Praia da Rocha with an excellent viewpoint and a cave connecting to another beach – Praia dos Très Castelos. There are also restaurants and cafes along the coast to enjoy drinking and eating while watching the beautiful views! A gorgeous viewpoint is also in Forte de Santa Catarina, where you can have amazing views from across the river to the shore – a must-visit if you are looking for beautiful views of the town. There is also a cute little town called Silves, a 20-minute drive away from Portimão, also worth making a stop.
Albufeira is a combination of many things: great beaches, bars, and clubs, good restaurants, and activities. It’s indeed known for its lively atmosphere that you can genuinely feel! If you are looking for one place to stay and an indulgent holiday, Albufeira is a good pick. There are two areas in the town: the Old Town and the New (the Strip). The Strip area is better suited for partying holidays and has many bars from day-drinking to nightlife. Whereas the Old Town is more family-friendly. I have to that the Old Town was so gorgeous with unique buildings showing its history. In general, however, Albufeira is the ultimate party destination, especially in the summer season.
Lagos has the most beautiful coastline, offering beautiful beaches and caves one after another. Lagos is a town that I wished we could have stayed and explored a bit more. Everything about it was just full of charm, character and beauty. The amount and quality of the cafes, restaurants and bars are just tremendous. One of the best restaurants we visited was Casa do Prego. The food was beyond delicious! I would recommend making a reservation since it can get packed. Not to mention how incredible are all the beaches, viewpoints, hiking paths, and natural scenery around Lagos. Must-see places in Lagos are the historical center, the marine side, Bonta da Bandeira Fort, the Praia Dona Ana beach, Batata beach, and cliffs and viewpoints in Ponta da Piedade.
Faro is an interesting city full of history, and it is the capital of the Algarve region. Faro is not a beach destination since there are no beaches within walking distance, but it is excellent for a day trip. You can, however, reach some beaches by car or by bus from the city. If you are not a fan of beaches and prefer the history part more, Faro is a great option. It’s also close to the airport, and you can quickly move from Faro to other towns in Algarve. We made a day trip here, and we got to cover many of the main places. Sadly, some of the sites and cathedrals weren’t open for a visit that day. If you are interested in visiting historic buildings, make sure they are open so that you won’t miss them! The main things to see in Faro are the fishing harbor, the landmark center (the Cidade Velha), the Gothic Sé Cathedral, the gate to the city and Faro city walls (Muralhas de Faro) and the Bone Chapel (the Capela dos Ossos).
Gruta de Benagil
There are tens and tens of caves in Algarve, and Gruta de Benagil (Benagil cave) is probably the most known and visited of all of them. The cave is only accessible through the water, and you can visit it by boat or kayaks. It’s impossible to go there by yourself; you have to have a local guide to take you there. You can purchase tours in advance or directly from Benagil beach. We bought the ticket to a 30 min boat tour since the water was too cold for kayaking in January! However, we heard that the lines could be painful in the peak seasons, taking up to 2 hours! I would recommend buying a ticket well in advance because they might get sold out fast due to the popularity of the site. In my honest opinion, the cave was beautiful and unique, but you don’t get to have much time inside it to enjoy the experience fully.
Is one week enough in Algarve?
Overall, I think one week exploring Algarve wasn’t enough. There are so many magnificent places to see and visit! We did quite a lot during our holiday but still missed out on quite many sites. More than the sites listed above, other places to visit are the village of Lagoa (a small, quiet village near Carvoeiro), Cascata de Alte (waterfall, a bit further away), Ferragudo and Carvoeiro. Ferragudo is just accros the river from Portimão, and has amazing views as well, with a castel by the beach (Castelo de Saõ de Arade). Carvoeiro is a beach town on the coast with a great scenic walk along the coastline. You can walk along the boardwalk and access beaches and caves along the way. A perfect way to spend a relaxing day in nature! There are also beaches in Carvoeiro, Praia de Carvoeiro and Praia do Paraíso. They are pretty small but charming with lovely views.
Although traveling is not at the moment entirely possible, I do believe that there will be better days ahead. It is essential to stay positive in this situation. I hope my post will spark that hope again in you, sooner or later. Keep inspired, stay positive, and take time to appreciate this beautiful Planet Earth and its breathtaking places waiting for us – the wanderlust hearts. ❤️
Please drop a comment below and also read my previous post about Sintra! https://www.herpassportlifestyle.com/blog/2021/02/26/road-trip-in-portugal-part-1-sintra/