The Algarve? Algarve, Portugal? Where is that, you say??
Let’s look at handy-dandy Google Maps…
The Algarve is a that highlighted region on the map, in southern Portugal. I know. You had to scroll down a bit to even find it on the map! I wanted to include all of Portugal so you could see where it is and how big an area it encompasses.
(If you’re looking for places to eat in the area, be sure to read Where To Eat In The Algarve, Portugal!)
Even though we, technically, stayed in Albufeira during our 4 nights in Portugal, we didn’t stay only in Albufeira everyday. We covered quite a bit of ground, all within the Algarve region. So, it only makes sense for this post to be about A Day in The Algarve! (This is a continuation of our recent trip to Spain and Portugal over Easter Break. Be sure to read A Day Out in Marbella, Spain and Where To Eat in Marbella, Spain!)
Let’s move on…
Here’s another map, the marker indicating where Albufeira (al-bu-FAIR-a) is.
The drive from Marbella, Spain to Albufeira is about 5 hours. And did you know that Portugal is an hour behind from Spain? So we ended up gaining an hour once we crossed the border! Speaking of the border…
…this marks where you leave Spain and enter Portugal. No fancy border crossing. No immigration. Just drive on through and you’re in another country!
Albufeira is a large seaside town with no shortage of restaurants and beaches. We rented an Airbnb apartment, a few blocks from the main strip, and about a 15 minute walk to the closest beach. It was the first Airbnb experience for us and it was great! If you’re thinking of visiting Albufeira, consider staying here!
This apartment was the perfect size for the four of us…one bedroom, and the boys slept in pull-out beds in the living room. The kitchen is small, but fully-equipped and just right for the amount of time we were there. The owner thought of everything for visitors to her apartment…portable heaters if it got cold, extra linens if we needed them, and a binder chock full of information about the area. She even had butter in her fridge, thinking that short-term guests wouldn’t want to spend money on butter, only to have to leave it there when they left! Those are the sorts of small details that I appreciate!
The apartment also has a small patio with this view…
How pretty is that?? Big blue sky and you can see the ocean in the distance. Can’t complain about that!
Here is another view, looking in the direction of the main strip in Albufeira.
And speaking of the main strip…
This is a daylight photo of part of the strip, so it doesn’t effectively illustrate how lively the area gets in the evening. And I forgot to take photos when we visited in the evening. (I know!! I obviously wasn’t thinking!)
The main strip, also known as Avenida Dr Francisco Sà Carneiro, is a few blocks long and is lined with several restaurants and bars. At night, the crowds are out and loud music is often playing, making the area quite lively. Restaurants are not limited to the main strip, however. The streets surrounding the main avenida also play host to several restaurants, so you never have to go far to find something to eat!
If you want to buy your own groceries, there are a few grocery stores, all within walking distance of this area. We took advantage of that convenience and bought fresh fruit and food for breakfast. It was all very handy.
One interesting thing about this area: because we were there in early April, or “slow season” some shops and restaurants were still “closed for the winter”! Temperatures were about 20 deg C (70 deg F), so it wasn’t super warm yet. Because this is a town that relies heavily on tourism in the warmer months, it is not worth it for many businesses to run in the winter when there are very few visitors. So the town literally does not “wake up” until April onwards! Apparently, it gets really crowded and busy once the summer months arrive!
I mentioned that the apartment we stayed in was a short walk to the closest beach…
How picture perfect is that??
Similar to Marbella, Spain, this part of the Algarve has several beaches along the coast that you can visit. This one is Praia dos Alemaes, and it is considered a “blue flag” beach, meaning it meets high standards for water quality, safety, and services provided for tourism. It is, apparently, a much sought-after flag for beaches in the European Union.
We didn’t get to enjoy this beach, unfortunately, for all it has to offer. We simply went for a walk to find it one early evening before dinner. But we could see that it was a beautiful beach, definitely worth visiting again on a future trip.
Another part of Albufeira, about 15 minutes from where we were staying, is where the main town is. This area, closer to the water, is where you see more of the old-style European charm. One thing I learned while on this vacation is that just about every major town has an “old town” section. The area either has very narrow lanes for vehicles or pedestrian-only streets.
Pretty houses that are primarily white, but with a splash of bright color for accents…
Another distinguishing feature of Portugal? Cobblestone sidewalks. All hand-laid. Pretty to look at, not always so great to walk on because of the unevenness!
So I mentioned visiting other places outside of Albufeira. Where did we go?
There is Lagos (la-GOOSH), about a 20-30 minute drive west of Albufeira. Lagos is another seaside town that is incredibly scenic, lively, and full of old-town charm. It boasts a big “old town” area which is pedestrian-only and is full of restaurants and shops. Again, because we were there so “early” in the season, it wasn’t as crowded as it is in the warmer months.
Church of Santa Maria in the town square…
The cobblestone streets here in Lagos are an example of the more decorative mosaic patterns you can see in Portugal.
There are no shortage of street-side cafes and restaurants in these charming lanes…
And then there are so many of these incredibly ornate doors, all over. No boring doors here…the way to go is with color and detail and ornateness! I loved seeing doors like these.
It also isn’t uncommon to see buildings that use ceramic tiles for the exterior! It is so different and more interesting looking than plain stucco! Lagos is definitely a charming place to visit.
Keep driving westward through the Algarve from Lagos and you reach Cape Saint Vincent in the region of Sagres (SA-gress).
Cape Saint Vincent, or Cabo de Sao Vicente, is the southwestern-most point of Portugal, and the westernmost point of mainland Europe. When the Europeans first reached this point and looked out towards the Atlantic Ocean, they thought they had reached the “end of the world”! There was no land to be seen!
Cape Saint Vincent offers incredible views of part of Portugal’s coast and the vast Atlantic Ocean. The rugged coastline and the crashing waves are spectacular sights to see. Keep in mind that because this is the southwestern-most tip of Portugal, it is incredibly windy! But it’s worth braving the winds to see this amazing part of the world. These photos don’t truly capture the awesome views, but they can give you an idea.
There are people on the edge of that cliff!
About a five minute drive going back east from Cape Saint Vincent is the Sagres Fort. This is another amazing place to stop for a look around.
There is a small fee to enter the fort area, but price is minimal and it is worth it once you pass through the walls and get to view like these…
Looking back at Cape Saint Vincent in the distance…
Looking out the vast, seemingly endless blue skies and ocean… (We saw a number of local fisherman, perched on the clifftops, waiting patiently for their catch of the day.)
It seemed as if every few steps offered a new beautiful perspective of the amazing ocean scenery. I took soooo many photos…
This was a scene I could watch over and over and over again (and I did!). I loved watching the waves come rolling in and tumbling over themselves as they crashed into the shore. The translucent Mediterranean blue-green over the bright white foam and the billowy white ocean mist was mesmerizing. How is that for a vivid color description? The perceived strength of each wave and the beauty of it all was awesome. I just loved it.
Before we knew it, our time in the Algarve was done and it was time to drive back to Marbella, Spain where we would spend the rest of our trip. We spent only four days in Portugal, but a it was a very full and enjoyable few days. (Be sure to read Where To Eat In The Algarve, Portugal and check out the restaurants we visited in the region!)
If you are thinking of visiting Portugal, I hope you’ll considering the Algarve region. With everything from old town charm, rich history, and spectacular scenery to good food and a relaxing atmosphere, the Algarve is a perfect stop on your next European vacation.