From Lisbon, we’ll be heading south to Algarve. If you are planning to go straight there, it is good to know that it is about 260 km on the A2 motorway. However, there is plenty to see in between.
This region is mostly countryside, and a good area to relax. But being on Portugal’s south coast by the Atlantic Ocean also means there are plenty of sandy beaches, yet not as warm or calm as the ones you will find in Algarve.
We will start by visiting the Badoca Safari Park . To get there, you should take the A2 exit Grândola/Sines, and the park is a further 34 km on the IC33 (GPS: – 38º2´29´´N | 8º44´36´´O). This is not a safari park like the ones you would find in Africa, but I promise you’ll have tons of fun! Especially if you include a visit to the lemur habitat. The little ones will love it! The park is well equipped with lots of attractions, restaurants and facilities, so you can easily spend an entire day there.
If you wish to stay a couple of nights, I suggest two very different options in the little village of Zambujeira do Mar. Herdade do Touril is a countryside homey hotel, not far from the beach. It is a great place to relax and enjoy the dolce fare niente (“sweet doing nothing”). (Phone: +351283950080) Zmar Eco Campo is a modern campsite concept for tents and caravans, but you can also rent a comfortable eco bungalow. This very family friendly site offers plenty of activities, from playgrounds and wave pools to luxurious treatments in the 5-star Spa.
A must among the locals is Tasca do Celso Restaurant, in Vila Nova de Milfontes (Rua dos Aviadores, Vila Nova de Milfontes. Phone: +351283996753). It’s just a 35 km drive away, and you can taste typical cuisine from Alentejo. You should definitely try lagartinhos (pork meat) with traditional sericaia (egg sweet with cinnamon and lemon) for dessert.
Pedralva and Sagres
From Zambujeira do Mar, you should take the N120 (old route), direction Sagres, Algarve. Near Vila do Bispo, you will find the Pedralva village, a rebuilt old village where you can experience a truly mystic atmosphere, living like the locals used to live a long time ago. (Rua de Baixo, Casa da Pedralva, 8650-401 Vila do Bispo. Phone: +351282639342)
Next, take N268 to Sagres (10 minutes). This picturesque fishing port has a strong connection to the Discoveries, through the frequent presence of Prince Henry the Navigator during the first days of Atlantic navigation, and the Discovery of the African coast as far as the Gulf of Guinea.
On Ponta de Sagres, a giant rock finger points to the ocean, commemorating the Vila and the fortress founded by Henry the Navigator. Nearby, at one of the most western points of the European continent, is the Cape of S. Vicente (a sacred place for the Romans who named it Promontorium Sacrum).
Known as a romantic spot to stay overnight in Sagres is Memmo Baleeira Hotel (Sítio da Baleeira, Sagres. Phone: +351282624212). The hotel is surrounded by stunning deserted beaches. Worth a visit are: Beliche, Ponta Ruiva, Cordoama and Barranco beach.
Continuing our journey through the Algarve, there are plenty of great beaches where you can spend a week or two. Personally, I prefer the area between Albufeira and Spain, just because the sea is a little warmer. If you are looking for fun, lots of people and parties, you should definitely choose Albufeira or Vilamoura.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a quiet and relaxing time in the crowded Algarve summer, you should give Manta Rota, Praia Verde or Altura a try. These villages are crowded in the summer too, but they are always less busy than the rest of Algarve.
For daytime fun, besides the white sandy beaches, there are also several water parks and the very special Zoomarine theme park. It is located just a few kilometres from Albufeira. Here you can watch shows (dolphins, seals and sea lions and even tropical birds), visit an aquarium with sharks and other sea animals, as well as 4D cinema, swimming pools and slides.
As for hotel choices, you’ll find almost every international hotel chain in the area, but these are some personal recommendations:
- For golf lovers, Pine Cliffs Resort & Sheraton Algarve. Although it is in Albufeira, the hotel is far away from the village and has its own private beach, plus the comfort of a luxury collection hotel and even plenty of activities for kids.
- If you are travelling with teenagers or enjoy all inclusive packages, you will love the Club Hotel Riu Guaraná in Olhos D’Água, near Albufeira.
- The Blue & Green Lake Spa Resort for a unique and luxurious experience in Vilamoura.
- For a quiet beach holiday, you would enjoy the Eurotel Altura, Suite Hotel Praia Verde or Pestana D. João II Hotel.
There are plenty of good restaurants in Algarve, most of them with a good selection of fresh fish and meat:
- Pézinhos na Areia Restaurant in Praia Verde (Praia Verde, 8950-414 Castro Marim. Phone: +351281513195).Literally on the beach, this place is fantastic to chill out with friends or family. It’s a little pricey, but at the end of the day you get what you pay for.
- A Chaminé Restaurant in Altura (Avenida 24 de Junho, 8950-411 Altura. Phone: +351281950100). A family restaurant with great food, and not only fish and seafood. Altura is a quiet village, but in the summer everyone goes to Chaminé.
- O Arco da Velha Restaurant in Alvor (Largo da Ribeira, 6 A, 8500 – 023 Alvor. Phone: +351282458468). Very typical restaurant, no fancy dresses allowed! Just relax and have fun in this picturesque place, particularly good for fresh fish.
- Vila Joya Restaurant in Albufeira is ranked as number 37 of the 50 best restaurants in the world. Excellent food and presentation, excellent service, excellent view, excellent staff, excellent wine menu without having to worry about very high prices. (Praia da Galé, 8201-917 Albufeira. Phone: +351289591795)
- São Gabriel Restaurant in Quinta do Lago is also considered one of the best restaurants in Algarve. One of Portugal’s finest chefs, Leonel Pereira, makes sure the food is exceptional. Weather permitting, you can enjoy your meal outside in the lovely garden. (Estrada Vale do Lobo, Quinta do Lago, 8135 Almancil. Phone: +351289394521.)
Portugal is all this and much more. From the countryside of Alentejo (with one of my favourite cities – Évora), to the north of Portugal (Oporto, Douro vineyards, Serra da Estrela and more), to the Madeira Island and the Azores.
Do you want to learn more about Portugal? Let CLEW know, and there will be more!
By Rute Vendeirinho, May 2013