There are multiple facets to the Algarve: pristine, championship standard golf courses; bustling holiday resorts; historical towns and villages rich in culture; delectable cuisine; great surf; over 300 days of sunshine per year, and some of the best beaches in the world. It’s not hard to see why the Algarve is one of Europe’s most popular destinations.
I vaguely remember holidays in Portugal as a child- days wiled away on the beaches, exploring the caves and rocks scattered along the coast, being bowled over by huge waves rolling in with the Atlantic swell. The sun. The sand. All fond memories of a carefree childhood. When the opportunity to return to the Algarve this year arose, I couldn’t have been keener.
Like other Mediterranean holiday destinations (Costa del Sol, Canary Islands, Balearic Islands) the Algarve has been drastically over developed to cater for the millions of visitors that descend on the region each year. The towns of Lagos and Albufeira are teeming with holiday makers and travellers – the former a lively town with good nightlife. However, travel 20km away from the crowded towns and you’ll find hundreds of kilometres of untouched, rugged coastline.
The limestone coast has been carved by the unrelenting battering from the Atlantic Ocean resulting in an impossibly beautiful shoreline. Towering sea stacks, caves and hidden beaches are plentiful along this stretch of coastline. Benagil Cave gets the most attention as the most beautiful, however there are hundreds of other caves to explore: Smugglers Cave, The Cathedral, Elephant Cave to name but a few. These sea caves are best discovered from the water as they can be difficult to access from the land, and seeing the coastline from a boat is fun regardless.
Taking full advantage of the natural form of the coastline, Restaurante Caniço near Alvor has been built directly into the rock. The combination of a stunning setting which is connected to the landscape with fresh food from the local area puts this family run eatery at the top of the list of places to dine out in the Algarve.
For anyone after a bit more adventure, an hours drive along the coast or through the mountains will take you to the west coast. The west coast is much more wild when compared with the south as there is no shelter from the Atlantic winds. The surf on this coastline is arguably the best in Europe and is well worth the trip. Being on the west coast, the sunsets on offer are pretty special too.
How to get to the Algarve?
Flights to Faro go from all major airports. From the airport there are regular connections to the larger towns. Car rental in Portugal is very reasonable and gives you freedom to explore.
Where to stay in the Algarve?
There are thousands of accommodation options to suit every traveller and every budget. Try renting a private villa with a pool a little further out from the main towns.
How expensive is Portugal?
Portugal on the whole, is relatively cheap. Food and drink bought from the supermarket is very reasonable and alcohol is cheap in general too.