Algarve is the region at the south end of Portugal. Its over 200 kilometres of coastline offer up sandy beaches, rocky cliffs, white hillside towns and historic fishing villages. With decent year-round weather (warmer and drier in winter than other parts of Portugal and not too hot even in the hottest month of August) and more than 300 days of sun a year, the Algarve is very popular with immigrants from other parts of Europe, USA and Canada.
Our time in the Algarve was separated by a week in Seville, Spain, in the first week of January, so the posts will be similarly separated. We spent 10 days based in Lagos in the west and then another week based in Faro in the east (post to come). We arrived in the Algarve by way of a bus from Lisbon.
Our accommodation in the western Algarve region was a housesit in Almadena, a small village about 10 kilometres west of the center of Lagos and close to Luz and its beach, Praia da Luz. We were caring for an elderly cat who could come and go as he pleased, and we had the use of a small car, so we were able to get out and explore the area quite freely.
We visited Lagos several times while we were staying nearby. In December there was plenty of parking right along the river (paid, but very cheap) and there was at least one parking garage just outside the walls of the old town. After the steep hills and busyness of Lisbon, Lagos was a breath of quiet and easy wandering–probably not the case in the summer when the population doubles.
Lagos tiles (calçadas)
We haven’t tired of these beautiful mosaic pavements. Every town seems to have its own patterns and colour combinations.
Ponta da Piedade
The rocky cliffs at Ponta da Piedade are spectacular to view. The rock formations can be viewed from several points along the coast. Some spots, like this one, are set up to allow deeper exploration with stairs dropping down to the water. You can also tour this area by boat from the marina in Lagos.
Sagres is at the most western point of the Algarve’s south coast. It is dominated by the Sagres fortress which, according to its website, was supposed to be open the day we drove out. The point of land with the lighthouse and viewpoints is, in fact, blocked off by the fortress and can only be accessed when the fortress is open. Sadly, it wasn’t.
There is plenty of parking nearby, including what looked like an area for RVs complete with washroom. Sagres is apparently very popular with surfers, though the day we visited was definitely not a surfing day.
Cabo de São Vicente, also on the Sagres peninsula, is kilometre 0 for the 214-kilometre bike route, Ecovia do Litoral, which runs the full length of the Algarve coast (litoral). It is also the western-most point of the 300-kilometre Via Algarviana hiking trail. If we return to the Algarve, we would love to experience some of these pedal and pedestrian routes.
A smallish beach resort town, Carvoeiro flows down from atop rugged cliffs to sandy beaches. You can take in the views from the boardwalk that runs along the tops of the cliffs or head down to poke around the caves and rock formations below. We could imagine sure-footed kids having loads of fun exploring.
Ferragudo and Portimão
Ferragudo is just one of the many towns we drove through but didn’t stop in as we meandered along the coast. A quick check-in at a miradour (viewpoint) provided a lovely view of Portimão across the Arade River, a city we later drove through as well.
Another smaller beach resort town, Alvor has beautiful beaches and an active marina. Boardwalks provide access across low sand dunes to the beaches.
Almost as big as Lagos, Albufeira is known as the party town of the Algarve. In late December, it’s just a pretty town with beautiful expansive beaches, rock formations, and an old town to wander. We didn’t get to the new town “strip” though a party street in the middle of a December day probably wouldn’t live up to its reputation. We did see a big bandshell being constructed on the beach, likely for a big New Year’s Eve event a few days hence. So, perhaps, for that winter evening, this city took the opportunity to show off its wild side.
- Bus from Lisbon to Lagos: Flixbus, €10 per person (3 1/2 hours)
I so enjoy reading of your adventures and the photos are amazing! Life is certainly treating you both well. Carol
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So glad to hear you are enjoying the blog. It is always great to know people are getting to see what we share in our adventures. There are a few more blog posts in the works so stay tuned. What about your travels? We would love to hear about Iceland and any other adventures you’ve been on.
Coral, this is gorgeous! I think Ponta da Piedade is my favourite, but I would take any of them!! Maggie
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Agreed. I’m not sure you could go wrong in the Algarve, at least in the off season!