It is far too early in the morning when, with a sleepy look and a huge cup of coffee in my hand, I take a plane to Faro. For me it is the second time that I travel to the Algarve. For my friend Caro , it’s a journey back to childhood, spent almost every year on the Portuguese Atlantic. Together we are on the way to search for the blog of the Tui the not so touristy places of the region and to put together my Algarve tips. I’m looking forward to four days of surfing, sunbathing and Super Bock (yes, I am particularly proud of this alliteration), and at this point I do not even know how many great, surprising moments the Algarve has in store for us.
The base – Praia dos Três Irmãos
Since we want to explore as much as possible of the Algarve in no time, a central location, from which we can swarm out star-shaped into all corners of the region, seems to us optimal. The Tres Irmaos is the most eastern end of Praia do Alvorand is divided by the rocks into a total of four accessible bays. In Alvor, there are countless hotels, ours is fortunately right on the beach, so we did not have to move much the rest of the day of arrival. A walk along the long bay over to the cliffs, through crevices and tunnels, gives us a first overview. It is surprisingly quiet, although in many places there are autumn holidays in October. For the evening it is worthwhile to look at the whole from above and to explore one of the trails above the rocks. Here you can sit romantically on the cliffs between the seagulls (shit), watch the spray and arrive properly.
Day 1 – Surf lessons and the wild west coast of the Algarve
Of course, surfing always depends on the weather, which is why we have agreed our surfing course for the first day. So we have – if the waves make a dash through the bill – still some air to the rear. There are countless surf schools in the Algarve, either located directly on the beach on the west coast, or from Lagos or Sagres with you where good conditions for beginners prevail. We looked for a private surf teacher through friends, because we wanted to stay as flexible as possible. We spend a great day with Olli and his girlfriend Nicky at Praia do Amado, Caro is directly her first wave and I am also fully hooked on my third time surfing again. Every time I’m surprised how something so exhausting and so frustrating can be so much fun. I really can only advise everyone to give it a try. Alone for a whole week to feel all the muscles of whose existence you did not know anything before.
Because we are already on the west coast anyway, after surfing we take the small coastal road from Praia do Amado to Praia da Bordeira . The adventurous gravel road is lined with great rocks and bays, past lonely camping spots through the National Park Costa Vicentina to the beach where I once had my first proper surf lesson. We spontaneously decide to watch the sunset on the ‘ass of the world’. More precisely, at the southernmost point of mainland Europe. Of course we are not the only ones at the lighthouse at Cabo de São Vicenteshow up to watch the spectacle. But that’s why there’s a great atmosphere here: we’re sitting on the rocks, like in a natural amphitheater, the seagulls are circling above us and right next to the lighthouse the sky turns deep orange. The salt on our lips and an ice-cold bottle of beer in our scrunchy fingers make the end of our surfer girl’s day perfect.
Day 2 – Walking with happy donkeys in the Serra de Monchique
On the first evening we are completely flat in the hotel bed and can barely move thanks surfing, when I suddenly bump into the depths of the Internet on Robert. Robert is a donkey shepherd and has five of the fluffy animals in his care and offers hikes with them on a donation basis. We LOVE donkeys and of course we roam the next day with our rental car through the serpentine of the Serra de Monchique , the mountain range in the north of the Algarve. The Happy Donkey Sanctuaryis a secluded at the end of a dirt road, about 30 minutes from Portimão, surrounded by eucalyptus trees. At the sight of the sweet-sweet animals, we first give many gurgling “Awwws” and “Ohhhs” from us. After we have calmed down, we make our way to a three-hour hike, which not only makes me forget my bad muscle soreness. Voracious and obstinate, playful and with a deep connection to the person they have been accompanying for years – this is how we experience the little donkey family. We listen to Robert’s stories, sniff the wild rosemary and the sun burns on our shoulders. All in all, a very special encounter that would go beyond the scope of this article and about which I will soon report extensively and with video.
Once in this beautiful area, make a quick detour to Fóia , the highest mountain in the region, with spectacular views. We still explore the very small picturesque village of Caldas de Monchique and the town of Monchique itself, before we pull back to the sea.
Day 3 – Roadtrip through pretty villages in the hinterland of the Algarve
Bad weather days, there are not many in the Algarve, but since we are traveling in the off season, we have a bit expected. On the third day it gets us and so we decide on a road trip through the hinterland. The road from Alvor to Silves leads through a landscape that seems almost grotesque in gray clouds, past a riverbed and funny shaped trees. Silves itself is known for the Castelo dos Mouros (‘Moors’ Castel’), an impressive fortress overlooking the city. But we prefer to drive a bit through the many small colorful streets, photograph and drink Galão. From Silves we go via São Bartolomeu de Messines to Altea small, cute hillside location with a few antique and craft shops, lots of wine and a hidden waterfall.
Our last point in village hopping is Loulé – our destination: the market hall, which dates back to the Arabian period with its pink Sugar Loaf turrets. We arrive at point 14:58, the market is just closing. Ups. But what would a trip be without one of my typical travel details ? Loulé is definitely worth it without the market. Even more pretty streets and many small nice souvenir shops that do not lead the typical tourist-Klimbim, but real craft or products by Portuguese young designers. From a friend I got the tip, at Projecto TASAstop by and this should turn out to be a similar stroke of luck, like our donkey walk. Here, some dedicated designers work together to support local crafts by inventing new products from old materials. The tiny shop has beautiful terra cotta and bast bowls, modern cork lamps or practical bamboo utensils – all at reasonable prices. While João Ministro explains the designer pieces, he suggests spontaneously visiting two artisans in their workshops. Of course we can not say no.
Day 4 – Beach Hopping around Lagos
We want to spend our last day on the beach. We explore the creeks around Lagos and spend the morning at the famous Praia Dona Ana , which is lined with steep cliffs and small rocky islands and at this time of year not so crowded. Pro tip for swimming in the Atlantic: Watch out that a shaft not full tube pulls the feet under the body, otherwise you land a bit clumsily in the shell sand and is branded for the next few days once. Again “ups”.
In the afternoon we scramble down the countless steps to Praia do Camilo , which is especially popular with divers. Here, the sea is a little quieter and in the rocks there are all kinds of pretty sea creatures. Through an opening in the rock to reach the neighboring bay, in a crevice to the sea, people make selfies.
Just around the corner is the Ponta da Piedade , a headland with a lighthouse and cheesy rocky backdrop. We are lucky and alone at the lighthouse for a while and have the view for us and our super buck. If you have a little more time you should definitely go kayaking here.
Although it is quite touristy, Lagos is probably one of my favorite places in the Algarve. Tiled houses, street art, nice surf shops and a good mix of restaurants and bars. My tips for Lagos: The Restaurante Don Sebastião for traditional food, the Arribale for great grilled fish and chicken Piripiri, Casinha do Petisco for Cataplana and seafood and London Tiger Coffee, if you want a Flat White instead of Galão.