You won’t be able to get away once you set your foot in the Algarve. As I write about this mesmerising southern coast i.e. Algarve coast of Portugal, I can’t help but remember my entire time in one of the most beautiful region of the world. The scenic fishing villages, charming stretches of beaches, mouth-watering sea food and of course the pleasant climate was nothing more than a dream come true destination for me. Everyday in Algarve region was filled with a mixture of adventure, relaxation & learning about the Portuguese culture. I remember the time when I first arrived in Faro, all nervous & oblivious of the stunning place that lied ahead of me but since I first began to explore around, the only thing I wanted to do was never leave.
When it comes to the different capital cities of the world, one often imagines it to be filled with people, offices, cars and all the hustle & bustle of a busy life. Although that is true, Faro however is an exact opposite to the above impression. You will be surprised to know that Faro is the doorway to Algarve as no other fishing villages in this region, except for Faro, has an airport of its own. Even then one will find the capital of the Algarve region to be a laid back & peaceful village with minimum commotion.
If you think that’s all then you must know that from the 4th century BC this tiny fishing capital has survived strong & powerful empires of the Phoenicians to Romans, to the Byzantines to the Visigoths to the Moors before finally being conquered by the Portuguese in the year 1249. It’s easy to estimate that the tiny Faro has the most significant history amongst all its Portuguese counterparts. The historical significance of Faro is glaringly visible and is deeply engraved in its well preserved structures and artefacts that can be found in Faro Cathedral, Museu Municipal de Faro & Igreja do Carmo. Apart from the visits to the historical places mentioned above, one must cruise around the UNESCO protected Ria Formosa Natural Park & Faro islands and eat plenty of sea food throughout your time in this village.
The first thing that comes to one’s mind upon hearing Algarve is the stunning Atlantic coastline filled with beautiful beaches lined up around the cities but Monchique proves that Algarve is so much more than just its beaches. This humble town not far away from Faro is blessed with picturesque landscape of the mountains. At 902 metres, Foia is the highest point on the Algarve. One can catch the captivating sight of the Algarve region during a favourable weather. Ofcourse you have guessed that Monchique is popular for its treks like the Water Mill looped trails, the Picota circuit etc. but its even more popular for Aguardente de medronhos, a fruit brandy that’s made from the medronho berries that grow up here in the hills. I highly recommend you to try it out, it’s amazing! But don’t worry if you aren’t keen to because Monchique is also popular for its delicious honey. Many of the shops here sell both these things & believe me both the things are equally good to buy!
With fruit brandy in your hand, head to the nearby spa of Caldas de Monchique for some royal spa activity. This spa was once popular with the Portuguese royalty and currently offers relaxation treatments including water massages, jet-showers, and a steam room. Sounds like a great vacation spot to go doesn’t it?
Considered as the most beautiful town in the Algarve region, Tavira is also popularly known as the Venice of Algarve. Right from the medieval architectural wonders to the rivers & beaches, Tavira has all the things a traveller can ask for. This wonderful town is blessed with warm beaches namely Ilha de Cabanas, Ilha de Tavira & Praia do Barril. Each beach distinctively unique than the other. Right in the middle of Praia do Barril one will find an unique anchor cemetary with over 100 anchors lined up right on this beach. It is believed that these anchors are of the tuna fishing community, which disappeared when the bluefin tuna moved to other waters. The best part about all these beaches is that one will rarely find them crowded during the peak season thus making it an must visit destination in the Algarve.
The town of Tavira is situated on both sides of the Gilão River and is connected with several bridges out of which the Roman bridge is specially designed for the Pedestrians. This highly popular bridge gives spectacular river & sunset views for its visitors and is located in close proximity to Praça da República (the city center of Tavira!). One can find several bars & restaurants lined up in this area & psst they also have plenty of Indian Restaurant like Little India, Kohinoor Indian Tandoori, Punjab Restuarant etc. in this area too.
That’s not all! Tavira is sure to leave you awestruck with the architecture of all the churches in the area. The most beautiful and the national monument in Portugal, the Misericórdia church was built around 1540 and its Renaissance architecture will surely make you go wow. The bell tower inside the church gives a clear view of Tavira and so does the Torre de Tavira which is a former water tanker converted into a view tower. With the help of mirrors and lenses, Torre de Tavira provides 360 degrees panoramic views of the town. Next stop should be to the Moorish ruins of Castle of Tavira located in the middle of the town. Built in the 13th century, it provides panoramic views of the town as well. Well! Tavira definitely has many more churches to explore, many more fishing villages like Santa Luzia (the octopus capital of the Algrave) & Cacela Velha and ofcourse the off the beaten Pego do Inferno (waterfall). Yes you can do so much just in Tavira for over a week! So what are you waiting for?
One of the most visited town in the Algarve and in Portugal, Lagos was classified in 2012 as the number one travel destination, on a list of “15 destinations on the rise” worldwide by TripAdvisor. It’s a complete tourist destination filled with beaches, rock formations, hidden coves, bars, restaurants and hotels providing amazing nightlife especially during summers. Some of the nearby beaches include Meia Praia, Praia Dona Ana, Praia do Camilo and Praia da Batata that provide beautiful beach experience to its visitors out of which Meia Praia being the largest beach in the Algarve region. There are a plenty of water activities lined up especially during the peak summer seasons in the area. The city center is filled with cafes & restaurants that is possible to eat each meal at a different place. If you think that’s it then the amazing cliff views from the Ponta da Piedade will surely grab your attention & transport you to a whole new world. It is a great place to sit & watch the vast expanse of sea from the top.
The architectural wonder i.e. the church sits right in the middle of the city center. This place is majorly popular with friends and also houses fun activities for each type of visitor. It’s an ultimate party destination as the nightlife of Lagos attracts plenty of youngsters and the bars play music all night long.
BEST TIME TO VISIT AS PER THE CLIMATE:
The summers of Algarve region are the peak seasons for tourist influx. It is in the summer season of June to September that one willl find maximum tourists on the beaches of Algarve. It is advisable to avoid the scorching sun and crowds by visiting the Algarve between late April and early June or between mid-September and late October. The season starts to change from Spring to Summer in the month of June and from Summer to Winter in the month of October. You are sure to get tired quickly and easily if you intend to visit this region in the mid-summer months. However, if you are here then do not forget to carry the required summer gear like sunscreen lotion & a cap. Further needless to say that you need to keep yourself hydrated throughout your time in Algarve.
HOW TO TRAVEL WITHIN ALGARVE?
Algarve region is the southern most region of Portugal and is extremely popular around the world for its beaches & architecture. The gateway to Algarve is with the fishing village of Faro that houses an international airport with plenty of low budget airlines that bring tourists in & out of the entire region. Apart from that all the towns in the Algarve are situated in a close proximity to each other and is closely connected by the public transport buses whose frequency is commendable. My suggestion would be to travel in public buses if you wish to explore Algarve on a strict budget. One may also hire personal vehicles to explore the region if you have higher budget.
WHERE TO STAY?
During my time in the Algarve I stayed in the hostels mentioned below and would absolutely recommend the same to my readers as well. These budget hostels were extremely near to the city center and overall had a great vibe. It was easier to walk down to all the places nearby without any hassle.
Faro: HUB 1878 Hostel was built in 1878 and initially was an institution for girls which was later converted into a hostel. Although it’s more than a century old, the owners have maintained its vintage decor as it is. The hostel still has old-wood feels, few original stone artefacts and iron railings and so much more. There is a huge old piano along with guitar for the guests & vintage sofas & chairs in the living room. Apart from that they provide free continental breakfast everyday. This was the first time I lived in such an old portuguese house & overall I absolutely loved it.
Lagos: Gold Coast calm hostel has a calm atmoshpere and yet is near to all the places, bars & restaurants in the area. This hostel wants their guest to be near all the happening places yet believes in giving them a calm & peaceful rest. Their common room contains different DVD’s, books, videogames and much more. Guests staying here can also chill on the open terrace, use their barbeque or kitchen for food. I absolutely will recommend this hostel to my readers who want to live near all the places yet want to cut out on all the loud party noise.
It is advisable to make these two cities as your base and explore the other regions in the Algarve mainly due to the best public transport connectivity and the close proximity of these two cities with the rest of the Algarve.
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