Looking for the perfect summer getaway? Look no further ...
The Algarve is easily one of the most stunning coastlines in Europe, and its not hard to see why. With breathtaking limestone cliffs, crystal clear waters and irresistible sunshine what more could you want? This stunning coastline sits on the southern edge of Portugal and is easily accessible for the perfect summer getaway.
How to Get There
Much to my surprise when I initially looked into visiting the region, it is extremely accessible. Frequent coaches, trains and flights service the area.
The major airport of the region is located in Faro, operating a multitude of international flights. Prices tend to be rather affordable, however peak travel times will still, as always, have higher fares. I would suggest travelling a little further from Faro to Lagos, where you will find some of the most stunning coastal scenery. Hire a car (quite simply the easiest option), book a transfer or jump on a public bus from the airport to Lagos, but you will have to change multiple times, ie. Faro airport to Faro town and then Faro town to Lagos. Personally, I didn’t take this route but I would recommend either hiring a car for your stay in the Algarve or taking a shared transfer if you don’t want a car. The public bus doesn’t run frequently and takes a number of hours so you’re better off paying that little bit extra for a transfer.
Coach travel is super easy throughout Portugal and really rather comfortable. I had already used the service between Porto and Lisbon and had a really positive experience. Plus, if you’re already in Portugal, like I, myself was, it is by far the most logical transport option. Tickets can be pre-booked online or purchased on the day at the coach station. Summer months are peak travel season, so I’d recommend pre-booking. Rede Expressos is the major coach operator and their website is user friendly, just be aware that tickets cannot be purchased further than thirty days in advance.
Lisbon – Lagos, 3hrs 45mins, €16
Note: Lisbon has two major coach stations, Sete Rios and Oriente. Make sure to check which is closest or most easily accessible to your accommodation.
Note: Individuals under 29 years are eligible for Youth Tickets, which can be purchased at a reduced rate. Every little saving counts when you’re on a budget!
Naturally train travel is slightly more pricey than coach travel. Reservations can be made online two months prior to departure or booked at the train station.
Lisbon (Oriente) – Lagos, 3hrs 45mins, €26 (not direct)
Where to Stay
The Algarve encompasses a number of towns across the region, I personally chose to base myself in Lagos, namely for the close proximity it has to a number of enticing beaches. It is very backpacker friendly with a number of great hostels and a lively nightlife. Browse through Hostelworld and you will have a world of choice! Personally, I opted to stay at Top City Hostel. The facilities were great, the staff were very friendly and there were plenty of activities/tours available to book through their reception.
If you want to explore the region and not just the immediate area around Lagos you are going to need a car. I only spent a few days, so happily spend my time exploring the beaches around Lagos. Walking is by far the easiest way to get around and always my favourite way to explore.
What to Do
Beach time! Well, really isn’t that why you’re here? Lagos is within walking distance of numerous great sandy beaches, all very much worth a visit. They do all tend to get quite busy, so don’t expect to find yourself having your own private beach. Mornings are quieter, with the beaches getting crowded around midday. Pack some snacks, a beach towel, some sunscreen and a book, and you’ll be set for the day. Some of the beaches are nearby to cafes that sell cold drinks and ice cream, but definitely bring some water with you.
Must visits include:
Praia do Pinhao
Praia Dona Ana
Praia do Camilo – the prettiest in the area in my opinion. Walk down the stairs and continue through the man-made tunnel to the second part of the beach, where you’ll find it far less crowded.
Praia dos Pinherios
Benagil Cave – not walking distance, you can book onto tours that sail there or drive there and you can swim the remaining distance. I booked onto a tour with Vagabundo through my hostel which drove us to Bengail beach, from which we could swim into the cave. I’d only recommend to strong swimmers, although it isn’t a far distance the waves can be challenging.
Watch the sunrise/sunset
If you’ve read a few of my posts, you will have figured out already that I am an absolute sucker for sunsets and sunrises. So, it’s no surprise that I made sure I enjoyed a few during my time in the Algarve.
By far my favourite sunset location was above Praia Dona Ana. And its not hard to see why, especially paired with a bottle of wine and a delicious picnic. Plus, there was hardly another soul in sight, most people were settled into restaurants in town.
If you’re motivated to get up for sunrise, walk out of town to Ponte Da Piedade, which should take roughly thirty minutes along the road. Head down the steps to get the best view, plus you’ll likely have it all to yourself.
A popular activity offered in the area, and a great way to explore the coastline. Plenty of tours operate and advertise along the main road in Lagos, as well as from the hostel receptions. You don’t have to look far to find further information.
Ponta Da Piedade & the Blue Grotto
A great spot for sunrise, but more commonly known for small boat cruises to the blue grotto. Locals were charging €20, which in my opinion was rather steep, so I opted not to visit, having previously visited Malta’s blue grotto, but it was still popular amongst the majority of visitors.
Lagos is quite known for being a party town, so if you’re after a good night out, you won’t have to look far. Most hostels organise pub crawls and are happy to help you with recommendations. Unfortunately, it did not interest me so I can’t give any personal recommendations.
Where to Eat
Find this gem in the centre of town, well priced and delicious food. Stand out Peri Peri Chicken.
Adega Tipica A Forja
Local recommendation for quality, fresh seafood. Generous portions and well-priced.
It’s easy to understand why Portugal is becoming quite the popular destination. With some of Europe’s best beaches and delicious food, what are you waiting for? Book that summer escape now!