It is not my intention to write about the whole Portugal, the culture and customs of its citizens and the monuments. If you want to read about all of that, I recommend you read guides that offer more details about this beautiful country.
However, since Andalusia lies close to Portugal and I had some opportunities to drive alongside the coast from the Spanish border to Porto, I will try to tell you more about the most interesting places I visited there.
It was one of the most beautiful family trips in a VAN. We set out from Malaga, then drove to Tariff and continued alongside the coast… In total, the meter showed that we travelled about 2500 km in 17 days.
We travelled alongside the southern and western coasts of Portugal, as can be seen on the map below.
Algarve is one of the smallest regions of Portugal, but according to the statistics, it offers the largest tourist accommodation in the country. It is situated in the south of Portugal – from the Spanish border, through Sines, to Costa Vincentina. The Algarve Coast was a great surprise for me… yes, I read that it is beautiful and unusual… but I do not always believe in the optimistic descriptions in the tourists guidebooks, and especially the overly manipulated photos…
Traveling from the Spanish border (both countries are divided by the natural border – Guadiana river), our first target on the Portuguese side was Tavira, which is situated 22 km from Spain. At first, it may look like a boring town by the sea and it may be true... but I prefer the not so commercial towns rather than the large tourist towns…
Tavira is divided into two parts that are connected by the characteristic Ponte Romana – a Roman bridge rebuilt in the sixteenth century. We didn’t spend there a lot of time, we ate in a restaurant situated on the left side of the river – of course, we had to try the Portuguese cod called bacalhau a bras and other local specialities. When you walk across the centre of the town, you will notice colourful azulejos beautifully incorporated in the blocks of buildings. Pave roads took us from the centre to Castello ruins from the twelfth century. There is Igreja de Santa Maria do Castelo nearby – the oldest church in the town built in a place that used to be a mosque. The right side of the river is a typical residential area. There are 37 churches in Tavira, some of them are very old and worth paying special attention to. To those of you who are fans of sacral architecture, I recommend visiting:
Other interesting places in Tavira:
We set out from Tavira to Olhao, and there, we spent the night on the campsite called Parque de Campismo e Caravanismo de Olhao – a very pleasant and green place near the Natural Park of Formosa river which I truly recommend. Nearby, there is Ilha da Culatra – an island to which you can get by a ferry – you really should go there!
Our next stop was at Faro – the capital of Algarve region. I was worried that spending there only a day would be way too short, but it turned out that a few hours were enough to see the main attractions of the city. Faro has its own airport, but in comparison to other tourist regions of the south of the region, the city centre is not too crowded. A pleasant harbour, a photo taken near the logotype, a walk across the old town – all were nice experiences for us. From the main parking lot to Cidade Velha – the old town, you can get crossing Arco da Vila from the nineteenth century, a not so old building constructed in a place that used to be a Moorish gate. In the centre, there is a metropolitan cathedral Se, with azulejos from the eighteenth century.
Other interesting things to see in Faro:
After visiting Faro and the local area, we went to Albufeira and spend a night at Albureifa Campsite – quite comfortable and pleasant place. If the capital of the Faro region is not a large city, you can easily guess that Albufeira is not, too. It is a normal city with hotels, tourist accommodations and a municipal beach that invites you to relax. We walked around the city with no plan in mind and then we moved on towards Portimano.
Between Albufeira and Portimano, there are the most beautiful and the most characteristic Algarve beaches of the southern Europe.
On our way to Cabo de Sao Vincente, we passed through Lagos, about which I read lots of positive reviews, but we didn’t have time to take a break there. However, if you have got some spare time – you should really visit Lagos and see its beaches!
Undoubtedly, it is one of the most spectacular places in Algarve. It is located in the southwestmost part of Europe. The cliff of the Cape St. Vincent dramatically falls into the waves of the ocean. In the middle ages, it was considered to be the end of the world that the Europeans knew.
From its edge, you can see the walls of the fortress in Sagres and the lighthouse situated on the nearby promontory. The fortress, due to its strategic location, was supposed to protect the harbour and Sagres. It was destroyed in 1587 by the English, but later, it got quickly rebuilt. Although, it is situated on an over 60 m tall cliff, it didn’t manage to escape the harm caused by a large tsunami right after the great earthquake of 1755. For a few centuries, there were only ruins left, and the fortress has been rebuilt in the 40s of the twentieth century.
The coast connecting Sines with Cabo de Sao Vincente was a great surprise for us, mostly because of the fact that there are no rows of large hotels, and as a result it was nice and empty. The beautiful beaches look virgin, and in spite of the charm of the beaches situated on the south part of Algarve, the western coast became my favourite landscape of the whole trip. Costa Vincentina – it is a perfect place for water sports, both kite and the traditional surfing are very popular here. Beaches in Amado and Arrifana are famous for their welcoming local and international surfing competitions. The ocean tends to be very dangerous and the water is not too warm, so families with children rather go to the southern Algarve for holiday.
To sum up – a list of interesting places to see on the Algarve coast
• Parque Natural da Ria Formosa
• Parque Natural da Ria Formosa islands and beaches
• Spectacular beaches: Praia da Marinha, Praia de Benagil, Praia do Carvalho, Praia de Vale
Covo, Praia do Paraiso, Praia do tres Castelos
• Sagres – a fortress
• Cabo de Sao Vincente
• Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina and its beaches: Praia de Odeceixe
and Praia da Arrifana i Amado
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