Read about which places and activities you can’t miss. And which you can skip.
Portugal was never on my bucket list and I always thought it must be similar to the Spanish south coast. But it is totally not. It is so much better, so much less touristy, the beaches are so much wilder and hidden and places off the mass tourism still exist. Well at least if you don’t go in high season between the end of June and August. Here my personal best activities at Algarve to make the most out of your trip.
Take breakfast at Faro beach before heading from the airport to your hotel
…instead of starting your holidays in a rush.
What I dislike the most when going on a trip is the traveling time. The stress at home to catch the metro to the airport, the one hour ride to the airport, the waiting time at the airport and so on.
But this time we decided to arrive relaxed in our destination! After landing at the airport in Faro and picking up our rental car, we didn’t start our 1,5 hours ride to Praia da Falésia. Instead we were heading straight to the beach in Faro and had a wonderful breakfast at the beach – it was only 7:30 a.m. when we arrived and the beach was almost empty and very peaceful. Just head south from the Airport to Praia de Faro. A good pick was WAX resto bar, a relaxed little terrace which belongs to a stylish hostel. They offer different kind of breakfast, good coffee for cheap – including sea view and the first sea breeze of your holidays. I promise this little stop will transfer you in holiday mood in 2 seconds.
Try the seafood
…instead of filling up on low quality food of the your all inclusive hotel buffet.
I love seafood, but I hate frozen seafood from german supermarket. If you have the same problem, you’ll love Portugal! All restaurants offer fresh, delicious seafood in any style, fish from the grill, baked, steamed, shrimps,…- you’ll find what you were craving for. Portuguese seem not to consider offering international cuisine, which a appreciate a lot, as it is very authentic. But don’t worry, in more touristy places you’ll find your Pizza or Schnitzel, but let me warn you: it will be bad.
Rent a Camper or Bulli
…and release the hippie inside you!
For surfers this is the only option: sleeping, living and traveling in an old Volkswagen bus, called „Bulli“ from one beach to the other – and benefit from the flexibility you’ll have, the freedom you’ll feel, the remote places where you can just park and stay and the relaxation you will reach only after few days!
Algarve is probably the most popular place to live a nomad life for some weeks and it will definitely help you to completely skip your normal life, switch off all your problems and concerns and enjoy life! Be aware that in the hot summer months, like July and August, it might become very hot in your camper or Bulli. Better consider cooler months like May, September or October for your hippie trip.
(…no instead here ;))
I’m the worse surfer in the world, actually I would not even call myself „surfer“, more „surfboard paddler“. Anyways, the various beaches of Algarve will make you want to surf as well. The waves are so inviting, the beaches so pretty and rough at the same time, the surf spots a bit hidden off from the mass tourism and waves range from beginner’s to pro’s. Most surfers go to Costa Vicentina, the Atlantic coast of Algarve, especially Praia do Castelejo und Praia Odeceixe.
Eat out at the pretty beach restaurants…
…instead of hiding in your all inclusive hotel.
Let’s keep talking about food. I really hate all inclusive hotels. I tried it once in Fuerteventura and realized that my inner explorer can’t deal with staying in a hotel for one week and not even leaving for going to a restaurant. In addition wandering around in a new town and discovering cute places to eat forms a major part of my travels. And Algarve is a totally easy place to find good spots. They range from small authentic restaurants, to fancy cafés and cool surfer bars as well as beach restaurants and bars. At the more wild surfer beaches of the west coast you’ll find more basic surfer spots and in the southern beaches they are more classy. However the beaches are never stuffed with restaurants. Or try out this roof top bar in the middle of Lagos with a DJ, good cocktails and a pretty view at the streets of Lagos – we discovered it by accidents. And that’s the reason why you really should go out of your hotel and have the real Algarve cuisine and experience
Take a kayak tour through the cliffs…
…instead of taking an overpriced boat to Benagil Caves.
Algarve is mostly famous for its waves and cliffs. And I guess all of you know the picture of Beagil Caves, the impressing cave with whole in the ceiling which allows the sun to shine into the cave. I agree that it is quite impressing but in reality you will go there with 20 other people in one boat and 10 other boats will be there at the same time. So better take a kajak tour from Lagos to some other caves apart from the mass.
Another spot where you can enjoy the impressive cliff landscape is the viewpoint Ponta de Piedade. Located up a hill it offers impressing views on fantastic cliffs which surround the view point.
Praia do Camilo in the morning…
…instead of Praia de Rocha in the afternoon with the rest of Algarve’s tourists.
My favorite beach is Praia do Camilo. It reflects the typical Algarve beach, and also covers my most important attributes of a good beach: small, a bit hidden, not too crowded. But be aware that in high season this little beach will be crowded as it is not a secret place. You should go there to see the sunrise and enjoy the early hours of the day there until noon before more people are coming. The peaceful atmosphere of the colorful sunset is the perfect start in the day. Getting up early is totally worth it, I promise! Find more beautiful sunset and sunrise spots here.
Practice yoga at the beach of your choice…
…instead of missing out the golden hour.
Actually this is an advice I could give for all sea destinations. But at Algarve it is especially worth it from my point of view as it offers many beaches off the path and far away from big hotels. Use the early hours of the day for a good sun salutation session. For me the sound of the sea rushing, the sea breeze and a beautiful sun rise give me so much peace of mind and calmness for my yoga session. Try it! Namaste!
Go for a cliff hike
…instead of lying at the beach for one week.
Cliffs, cliffs, cliffs! There are so many different kind of cliffs and beaches the Algarve region which makes it especially worth it to have a easy hike there. Starting from Praia da Bordeira you can walk all the way along the Atlantic and the view offers nothing more than the wide wide blue sea. During the whole walk there are little paths to the boarder of the cliffs. After approximately 2 hours you can see Praia do Amado far away. Pass the Restaurant O Sitio do Forno an approach to the stunning Praia Amado with its big waves. Take a little break and watch the surfers. At the parking of the surf camp the path is turning towards the countryside and leads through soft sand dunes. Follow all the way to Carrapateira where you can have another rest before heading back to Praia da Bordeira.
For another great cliff experience head to Ponta de Piedade close to Lagos. It is a wonderful view point, see:
Check out the streets in Lagos
…instead of busy Albufeira.
Albufeira is a very touristy place which is marked by happy hour bars, top less beer bellies of tourists and tourist shops everywhere. After spending 10 minutes in the center of Albufeira we had the urge to leave this place as soon as possible. Lagos instead is a very nice Algarve town. Of course there are tourists. But little alleys, fancy coffees, little roof top bars and street art in hidden corners form the charm of this town. Lagos is a perfect spot for wandering around and discovering new spots.
Eat the last Bratwurst at Cabo de Sao Vincente (and watch the sunset there!)
… instead of being hungry 😉
Alright, this is for the Germans. You can eat the last Bratwurst (German sausage) before America at Cabo de Sao Vincente, which is the most western point of Portugal and also Europe. Some crazy Germans had the great marketing idea of selling German sausages there and call their little sausage caravan „Last sausage before America“ which is actually true and people love it. You can choose from all famous german sausages like Nürnberger, Frankfurter, Thüringer and whatever else there is.
But even nicer there is the sunset. Make sure to be there in the evening. Somehow the sunset there is more magical and more pink than at any other beach of Algarve.