When a Portuguese friend of mine suggested a trip in the south of Portugal in July I was sceptical. In my head I could picture beautiful fishing villages taken over by crowds of tourists on the beach and youngsters drinking in pubs. After my trip there I can confirm that there is a lot of that in some places, but I also discovered other incredible towns in the area which have managed to keep their charm even during the high season, so it is all about knowing where to go!
Our trip started from Lisbon after a 40 minute fligh from Porto (which only cost 20 euros return thanks to Ryanair!). From there we headed to Setúbal to take a ferry boat to get to our first stop: Comporta. This beach is in the Alentejo region and it is only one hour away from Lisbon but it felt like a hidden gem. The road there was also incredible with long isolated paths around it.
Our trip continued by the coast heading towards Porto Covo. We drove through roads with no buildings around as the area is a protected natural park so we were surrounded by nature most of the time. By the time we got to Porto Covo we needed some dinner so we went to a very popular restaurant in Portugal called O Marquês where we had to have some proper rice with seafood. One of the best things about this country is how cheap and good the food is…and on top of that the portions are huge.
As it was getting late we had to get to our final destination for the day which was a little village called Zambujeira do Mar. Our hostel (called Hakuna Matata! ) was there so it was a great stopover to continue with our route on the following day.
In the morning it was very cloudy so we explored the town a little bit. Its cliffs and little white houses were impressive.
Our new destination was Sagres. We stopped once again in a few beautiful spots to admire the views. As you can see it was foggy, which made the landscapes look even more dramatic. We went through Odeceixe and Praia da Arrifana.
Once in Sagres a mandatory stop was Cape Saint Vincent. This place was considered a magical site for the Romans and they thought the sun sank here into the ocean. It is also believed that Saint Vicent’ s body was brought here. Nowadays this place is worth visiting because of its cliffs and it is a great introduction to the Algarve area.
Portimao was our base for the rest of the trip. We stayed in a beautiful and budget friendly hostel called Portimao Downtown (http://www.portimaohostel.com/). This town was the perfect location to explore some of the other popular towns around, although I must admit that the place itself lacks character. From here you can also head to some great beaches such A Rocha or Alvor.
The next place we visited was Albufeira. This place represented my preconception of the Algarve. Busy beach, busy streets, busy restaurants, busy car parks…Maybe it is a great place to visit in April or May as its white houses and its sandy beach were beautiful but I would not recommend going there in the summer.
On the other hand Benagil was a great discovery. The place is known for its dramatic caves. Many of them can only be seen from the sea so a boat trip is a fantastic and refreshing way to do so! We booked our tickets with Taruga tours (http://www.tarugatoursbenagilcaves.pt/index.php/en/)
Carvoeiro was my favourite town. If I went back to the Algarve I would stay there. There is a nice but not too crowded beach, picturesque white houses on a cliff and a huge path over the sea that leads to some of the typical rock formations of the region.
Ferragudo is also quite unique. This was definitely the most relaxing and calm place we saw, probably beacause the beach is not in the centre of town (but close enough).
Our trip ended in Lagos. This place also reminded me of Albufeira because of the amount of tourists around but the old town is worth seeing as its charming historical centre has retained its unique character. My favourite beach on this trip, praia de Dona Ana, is also there so if you do not have a lot of time to explore the Algarve, Lagos is a great example of what to find in the region.