I’ve missed you so much. That and the sky that reminds me of the Barcelona blue that I had become so accustomed to. I think we are going to like it down here in the Algarve.
Oh how we’ve missed the sun! It’s not til you are without for days at a time that you realize just how much that Vitamin D and how it affects your daily life. We’ve been itching to go on this trip knowing that the sun (and sand) awaited us. I was a little nervous because the weeks leading up to our trip looked quite rainy, but perhaps the Algarve was just getting those gross days out of the way so that we could have a vacation filled with sunshine. And with the exception of one day, the Sun did not fail in that quest.
I’ve got a lot to say about the Algarve and a lot of pictures to show for it. But as each day we went to a new village, I thought it best to do a little summary first. Getting here was easy. While there is an airport in the Algarve, located in Faro, we couldn’t find any flights that met our needs and so we flew into Lisbon. Perhaps the late night arrival (at midnight Amsterdam time) was not our best choice as the kids had a tough time with that. But it meant we could leave on Friday and then drive down on Saturday to our villa rental.
The Algarve is spread along the southern most point of Portugal – from the Atlantic to the Spanish border. Driving down from Lisbon took about 3 hours. It was a simple drive with only 2 highways. There is one highway, the A2 that takes you right into the Algarve. As we are in the shoulder season, the highway wasn’t crowded with much traffic and the scenery was rather picturesque along the way, with lots of rolling hills filled with cows and goats, wildflowers and more. It ends at the Monchique Mountains, a beautifully scenic area, where we picked up the A22 that runs along the Algarve perpendicular to the A2 and was also an equally easy drive. The whitewashed homes are in stark contrast to the blue of the Atlantic Ocean, making for a pretty drive no matter where you go along the coast.
We chose the village of Praia da Luz for our vacation. It was smaller than Faro and Lagos and set a little further to the west, making it a little more remote but yet still accessible to other parts of the Algarve for exploring. Perfect for us. Our villa was in the Reserva da Luz, an exclusive area of gated homes overlooking the Atlantic that was still within reasonable walking distance to the village of Luz. With our own private pool (which was still a little too cold to use more than once or twice), balconies overlooking the ocean and lots of space to spread out, it was paradise. As my pictures won’t likely do it justice, you can check it out here.
As it’s shoulder season, none of the places we went to was overly crowded, but I can just imagine what it’s like here in the peak season. Everyone spoke English. I had just read on the BBC that Portugal has a high level of English proficiency and we definitely saw that here. But then it’s also a HUGE British expat area. Like massive. There are at least 4 or 5 British International Schools down here (that’s a lot for such a small area, trust me) – none of them IB, all focused on the British system. That says a lot to me about how many are here from the UK versus other places. And I can’t blame them for being here – it’s lovely!
The trip was all about relaxing. Nothing was planned. We had looked up some points of interest prior to the vacation that we knew we wanted to see but there was no itinerary. In fact, we didn’t figure out most plans til around 10AM each day and were lucky to be out the door by 11! Each of the places we went to deserves it’s own entry so I’ll be doing just that, but here’s a little summary (eventually I’ll be linking back to each of the locations with the entry that coincides with it)…
Praia da Luz – This is the area we stayed in. A small village along the ocean with a lot more to offer than I expected upon our arrival. There is a beautiful boardwalk that takes you along the ocean’s edge (it takes less than 10 minutes to walk the whole thing – it IS a small village) to a stunning and huge beach that rests along the cliffs.
Lagos – Much bigger than Luz, I imagine this is where many people come to do a lot of their shopping (beyond groceries). Armed with a much longer expanse of boardwalk, you can see that while quaint, it has a much larger presence than it’s neighbors.
Caramujeira – This village is home to the many of the cliffs and grottos that we saw during the trip, one of the most famous being the Praia da Marinha. The beach here is considered one of the top 10 in Europe and also makes the list of top 100 in the world.
Alvor – Lying in between Lagos and Portimão is Alvor. Another bustling small town with a stunning boardwalk that meanders through the dunes taking you on a journey unlike those in other towns. Most boardwalks are concrete and lined with shops. This one was just purely nature, taking you out to a rock covered point with a picturesque lighthouse at the end. There are several different loops you can walk and all are stunning.
Carvoeiro – Located in the Lagoa district, Carvoeiro is home to Praia (beach) Benagil and some of the most beautiful caves we have ever seen. Only visible by boat, we took the tour to see the caves and were not disappointed.
Sagres – Once known as the end of the world (back in the 14th century), this is the most westerly point of the Algarve. A surfers paradise, it’s windy here but like the rest of the Algarve, the views do not disappoint!
We loved the Algarve. Sure, it’s touristy, but in a very quaint way. There weren’t little shops on every corner or people begging you to come to their restaurant like in some tourist traps. This is a place that’s very laid back and their attitude towards tourists seems to reflect that, making for a very relaxing beach holiday, especially in the shoulder season. It’s a little piece of paradise and we are sad it’s time to say goodbye! But now we are off to the second part of our trip – Aveiro!
Knuffels en kussen,