You already know that I love beauty, perfume and style but you may not know that one of my biggest passions is traveling. I have to thank my parents for the travel bug – they have been taking me on trips both in Poland and abroad since early childhood, what I couldn’t be more grateful for. I love being on the road, seeing new places, meeting people, experiencing local cultures and food. Mid-October I was lucky to visit Portugal and this post is about it’s beautiful region of Algarve.
On a sunny afternoon October 22nd we arrived to Vilamoura, a pretty holiday town in the middle of the Algarve coast. If you travel to Portugal this time of the year, please keep in mind it’s not beach holiday weather anymore – the temperature oscillates between 24 – 16 degrees during the day. We stayed at the Vila Gale Ampalius which I highly recommend – the standard was exactly as promised, I loved the restaurant-quality food, more sophisticated crowd than usually in holiday resorts and friendly staff.
Vilamoura is perfectly located for sightseeing in Algarve – close to anywhere you’d want to go. Within walking distance (around 5km) you can see the beautiful Praia da Falesia or go the other way to residential Quarteira with amazing seafood market and picturesque nature – kilometres of beaches, cliffs and greenery. Vilamoura itself is a great place for those of you who like more elegant atmosphere, good restaurants and calm crowds with no stag-do’s or clubs. There mainly 4 and 5 star hotels in the town as well as a marina with impressive yachts.
Apart from Vilamoura, nice and well-located places to stay are Lagos, Albufeira and Portimao, among all.
One of the most popular places to visit in the Algarve is Cabo de Sao Vicente, the farthest south-west spot in Europe where you can enjoy seeing the cliffs and the lighthouse. However, having seen many such views in my life, I’m not sure it was worth spending almost the whole day on. However, I still recommend seeing it, especially in May when it’s covered with blooming flowers.
Another popular view is Ponta da Piedade near Lagos. Again, it’s a nice view, however there’s a place much better than this one, which I will talk about later. If you visit Ponta da Piedade, it’s good to step by Lagos, see the old town and have some amazing burritos at Beats and Burritos.
An absolute must see is Praia da Marinha and please don’t stop at the main view only, by the parking lot, there’s much more to discover! I highly recommend walking around (first left than right, all the way to Benagil, from the main stop) – the views are breathtaking, there are cliffs of all colors and shapes, mysterious caves, turquoise and deep blue sea as well as wild beaches accessible only by boat. Tip – good walking shoes are recommended, it’s a trekking experience of approximately 2hours. It’s just magical, you can see yourself!
Not many people reach the mountains in the east of the Algarve, however, if you’re a traveler, it’s an amazing experience. Guadiana Natural Park has stunning views and nature, very different to the one you can see by the coast. The air is crisp, the nature untouched and local people were really surprised seeing us. I highly recommend visiting a one-of-a-kind town of Mertola, which was built by Phoenicians – there you can see unique architecture being a mix of different styles, such as Igreja Martiz – a church which used to be a mosque and didn’t change much since then.
On the way from Mertola I recommend stepping by Cacela Velha village with beaches that made it to Conde Nast Traveler Best Beaches in the World list. The church in Cacela Velha is also a popular spot for weddings (not surprised, with such scenery!).
If you’re in Algarve, missing Tavira would be a huge regret. Its amazing arhcitecture is very typical for Portugal – small houses covered in azulejos (colorful, painted tiles) of all possible colors and patterns, and decorated with cast-iron balconies and artsy knockers. I simply couldn’t stop staring, you can see a few examples below.
A foodie like me was also extremely excited for new culinary adventures. Of course, Portugal is most famous for plethora of seafood, which I highly recommend trying, from shrimps, squids and lobsters to all kinds of fish, including the famous bacalhau (cod). One of the most typical seafood dishes is cataplana, a stew usually ordered for two people. I was pretty much in heaven, enjoying all the above but also fresh fruits, delicious olives and desserts. Algarve is famous for almonds so most desserts are based on them, from cakes to creams. Be careful – they are very sweet! A dessert that you can find everywhere is pastel de nata – small pastry with egg cream that tastes a bit similar to creme brullee.
Overall, visiting Algarve was an unforgettable experience. It was my first holiday in Portugal and for sure not the last. I was amazed by the stunning views, kilometres of beaches, beautiful architecture being a work of art and the simple but highest quality food. I could just walk along the shore, listening to the ocean everyday, then enjoy fresh seafood in a cute marisqueria and have an evening walk in the marina… I already miss it!
Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed the post! If you have been to Portugal, please share your experiences in the comments!