Did you know that I really love Portugal, and that together with France it's actually among my favourite countries in Europe and the one I’ve revisited the most? If you've been following me and reading my blogs for a while, you might have seen my previous 4 blogs about Lisbon and the Alentejo region. But although I have also been to the Algarve 3 times before, I had never written a blog about it yet, so it was about time to change that!
Half November I had the privilege to visit Portugal for the 7th time in my life for 3,5 days and this time I had the best guides from the tourism board with me! Even though the Algarve is beautiful in any season I prefer to visit it in autumn because of the mild, and often still sunny weather and quiet settings with less tourists.
When I think of it all of my 3 previous visits to the Algarve were in October and November. Of course it's less hot during those months (in between 15 and 25 degrees Celcius) and can occasionally rain, but it's the perfect time to really enjoy the pure beauty of the Algarve with its tranquil towns, stunning beaches and colorful nature, catch some extra vitamin D and escape those dreary Dutch autumn months and go for a swim in the (preferably heated) pool.
Get a small taste of some of my Algarve highlights through my own pics:
Highlights of the Algarve
As the most southern, and one of the most developed and wealthiest regions of Portugal, it’s no wonder that tourism is booming here.
Next to tourism, the production of food, with mainly fish, seafood and different kinds of fruit, figs and nuts have the most importance here. Besides the Lisbon area the Algarve is considered one of the biggest tourist regions of Portugal, as its population triples in the peak season and it was also concluded to be one of the world's best places to retire from an American study in 2016!
I loved being back here last month and was surprised how fast we arrived at our hotel.
How to get there?
From the Netherlands the easiest way to get to the Algarve is by flying to Faro with Transavia. Even in autumn and wintertime Transavia flies there 5 days a week on direct flights of only 3-3,5 hours. Our flight left quite early at 7.30 am, which was a challenge for a non-morning person like me, but did get us fast and smoothly in the Algarve so we could check into our hotel at 11 am already. After a 45 minute drive from the airport to our hotel (do note it's one hour earlier there) we could still benefit from the Portuguese sunrays as much as possible.
Where to stay?
As a touristic region naturally there are plenty of accommodations to choose from when visiting the Algarve. But if you truly want to relax, benefit from the abundance of holiday facilities and luxury of a 5 star resort, I can recommend the Vidamar Algarve Resort near Albufeira where we stayed. More about this classy hotel in my next blog.
Most people think of sun, sea, beaches and coastlines with rugged cliffs when they think of the Algarve, however this region has much more to offer which I’m happy to share with you. Algarve is perfect to explore by car, and as you know I love a good road trip, so here are my top 9 recommendations for the Algarve by car, which I will share with your through many of my own pics and experiences as usual:
9 Authentic & photogenic things to see & do
1. Tour Monchique with Geographic Algarve
The Serra de Monchique is a chain of mountains in the western part of the Algarve. We visited this unique nature area and the highest point on our first day with the Belgian Kim Hornix of Geographic Algarve, who showed us a whole other side of this beautiful Portuguese region.
If you like nature I can highly recommend to visit Monchique and do an Authentic Algarve Tour with this tour company that will take you to all the best and most unique spots, while passing through stunning forests of cork oaks, past pine-, orange- and fig trees and vineyards to get above the clouds on the peak of Fóia, at 902 meters with views like this (slide to see more):
This protected nature area also has several hiking trails through the rugged nature and past rocky settings which are unique for this area. Monchique is also well known for its rare and healthy mineral water, geothermal springs and Spa town.
2. Vineyard visit & wine tasting at Quinta do Françês
This local vineyard near Monchique is also worth a visit if you want learn more about the authentic production process of Algarve wines. Find out more on their website and get an impression of the beauty of this Quinta in this gallery (slide for more):
3. Medronho tasting & olive oil production
I love authentic sites and restaurants, so I was happy that after a lunch at the Malhada Quente restaurant, owned by Kim’s partner, they took us to 2 of the most authentic local factories to see how their traditional delicacies: medronho liquor and olive oil, are made and of course to taste;)
A visit to Ti´Alice's and the quaint olive oil factory Lagar de Azeite Pardieiros is authentic for this region, and can exclusively be visited through this tour company. Find out more about this and the other tours they offer to explore even more of the Algarve: GeographicAlgarve.
4. The Seven Hanging Valleys walk with PT4U
Algarve’s coastline is truly spectacular and can give Australia’s and Western America’s renowned nature sites a run for their money. We found this out on the second day during the iconic Seven Hanging Valleys walk with Diana Nunes of Portugal4U, known as ones of most beautiful walking routes of Europe as you can see here:
We started at Praia da Marinha and walked by several stunning beaches and different impressive viewpoints through an easy and safe hiking trail.
We passed by Praia das Gaivotas, the popular Benagil Caves from above, and ended up at the beautiful Praia de Lagoa, from where you can do several boat tours to see the cliffs and caves from below as well.
These limestone cliffs are more than 150 million years old, are still being eroded by the sea, creating spectacular shapes and caves, and ancient fossils can be found at several spots. Even though the weather was a bit rainy and we were caught in a shower during our walk, our guide Diana made it easy, super fun and the viewpoints more than made up for it. Find out more about this tour company here.
5. Ponta da Piedade
After this we drove on to the quaint city in western Algarve, which also has a spectacular coastline and several stunning beaches like Praia Dona Ana. But one of the most spectacular ones to visit is the Ponta da Piedade, see why in this gallery:
This old city is very quaint and one of my favourites in the Algarve. It’s also one of the most visited and therefore offers many nice restaurants, hotels and shops.
This ancient maritime city has over 2,000 years of history and many Moorish architectural influences, being occupied by the Moors for decades.
It has an infamous history of slave trade, many beautiful churches and historic sites which are worth a visit.
7. Praia da Senhora da Rocha
This viewpoint is very stunning and certainly worth a stop for sunset, like we did on our drive from Lagos to Albufeira.
8. Food Tour Loulé
We visited this beautiful Portuguese town on our 3rd day with António Guerreiro of Eating Algarve Tours starting at Café Calcinha, one of the oldest café’s in town still serving the traditional folhado de Loulé. A quaint straw workshop at Projecto Tasa was also included in the tour for a real authentic Portuguese experience. And when in Loulé a visit to the photogenic Mercado Municipal de Loulé should not be missed.
You can read even more about this or any of the other food tours with Eating Algarve Tours on their website and some extra foodie recommendations and more food pictures of Loulé are coming up in my next blog.
9. Shops, sights & viewpoints Loulé
But what I liked even more in Loulé was the shopping and sightseeing, with its quaint streets, authentic pottery shops, cute cafe's and beautiful small churches like Ermida da Nossa Senhora da Conceição, get an impression through this gallery:
For the best viewpoint in town the Museu Municipal Castelo should not be missed either!
Besides sightseeing I love hiking and cycling, if you do too and are looking for different trails throughout Portugal I can recommend: CyclingWalkingAlgarve.
Of course there are many more beautiful areas and towns to visit in the Algarve which we didn’t have enough time for on our 3,5 day visit. But if you go for more days these are some other photogenic spots that are worth a visit;
Silves, the old capital of the Algarve for 18 centuries, located in the north with stunning architecture and an impressive fort on the hill.
Sagres with Cabo de São Vicente, the most southwestern tip of Europe with its iconic lighthouse, beautiful walking trails and rugged cliffs of 75 meters height.
The 2nd biggest and famous harbor town of the Algarve: Portimão,
the quaint and photogenic Faro,
the most eastern town of the Algarve: Tavira, near the border of Spain
and Olhão with its unique nature reserve called: Ria Formosa.
If you visit the Algarve I would recommend to avoid the high season and to go for at least 4 days or more from April to June, or between September until November, when it’s more quiet, but usually also warm😊
For more info and to plan your visit to the Algarve, or anywhere else in Portugal you can check the websites of VisitAlgarve and VisitPortugal. Or ask me anything here or on social media, via the direct links at the bottom of this page!