It’s been a month since our trip to the Algarve in Portugal and I kind of can’t believe how quickly it’s all gone by. One minute I’m soaking up the sun in the Algarve, the next I’m bundling myself up in cosy jumpers in London.
C’est la vie.
So I’m looking through my photos, realising I haven’t edited them. Realising I never even told you guys how freaking AWESOME Portugal was.
Because it was. And it was just what we needed.
After a summer of traveling around to the states for weddings and finding ourselves pulled in every direction, me leaving my job, well, we needed a little down time.
Bring on sunshine, the ocean breeze and a big ole’ pitcher of sangria.
We always like to go on holidays around Joe’s birthday. The Premier League season has just started and if we time it well, there’s an international break that we can take advantage of. Seriously, anyone with a partner who works in football, or plays every weekend, will understand my joy at having a couple of days to ourselves.
And speaking of our Portuguese holiday, Joe has been trying to get me to go to Portugal ever since we’d met. He used to holiday there as a kid and has been desperate to get back. To be totally honest, it wasn’t that high up on my list. There are still loads of amazing places that I’d thought more about first.
But hey, it was his birthday and a little R&R on the beach sounded like one hell of a plan.
Despite my reluctance or excitement about hitting up the Algarve, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The Algarve was a brilliant place to go and visit. So if you’re looking for a beach, a little adventure and a ton of sunshine, here’s why you need to book a trip and travel there. Like right now.
5 reasons you need to book a holiday to the Algarve
1) To stand at the end of the world… or Cabo De Roca
The furthest point west in Portugal is Cabo De Roca (ahem, Wikipedia says it’s: a cape which forms the westernmost extent of mainland Portugal and continental Europe. Don’t say I don’t treat you to that good ole’ MLA format every once in awhile.) and if you’re visiting the Algarve, you need to make it a ‘must-do’ on your list. It’s about an hour and a half drive from Vilamoura, but completely worth the trek. We hired a rental car specifically because we knew that in between all our lounging by the pool, we’d need to inject some further exploring into our bones.
You drive down a super long road to get there, and you’ll start to see rows of cars parked up on the side. Avoid the temptation, if you’re truly lazy like me, because you’re likely to find a spot in a little makeshift parking lot or alongside the road a hell of a lot closer.
While at this point, you have the option of heading towards the Lighthouse… we didn’t. Because I was slightly more enamored with the sea. It isn’t called the end of the world for nothing.
Tips: 1) Wear comfortable shoes. I stupidly wore gladiator sandals. Silly! But also, slightly clever because they laced up around my ankles and didn’t slip off. So I guess, worst case scenario, chuck on the gladiators. 2) It’s also surprisingly cold there. As it’s the furthest point west in Europe, you can imagine that it can get a little bit chilly. And windy. I should have taken a jumper but it was so hot in Vilamoura, that I thought I wouldn’t need it. Wrong. So. Wrong. Take a cosy knit and you’ll be all set. My denim jacket was not the one.
2. To see the colourful town of Lagos
We eventually made our way to Lagos, post all our exploring at the end of the world. And you know what? A couple of miles closer to the rest of Europe and it’s like a totally difference place. And it’s beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. The town of Lagos is vibrant and thriving, filled with colour and set against a backdrop of dusted city walls. From tiny cafés and bistros through to fully booked restaurants, it’s a city that leaves you spoiled for choice.
Which is a nice thing, because along the coast, the towns aren’t necessarily very large. In Lagos, there’s something for everyone. We decided to go to a cute little burrito spot called Beats & Burritos. It’s cute and even caters for veggies and vegans if you’re after something less meaty. That’s about all the time we had for Lagos town however, because we were off to explore one of their natural coastal scenes…
2b. See the Lagos caves from a boat(!!!)
A short drive from Lagos town you’ll find yourself with a complete plethora of cave and beach options. We decided to do the furthest point first and went to the very tip, the Ponta da Piedade. After taking a million photos on the top of the rocks, we decided to journey down a stairway towards the water. This isn’t one for someone who can’t handle a climb or steep steps by the way. I consider myself marginally in shape, and we were pretty out of breath. But at the bottom, we discovered that you could get a boat around the caves for about €15 for a half hour. Not too bad, but also, once you’ve done the walk down, you’ll pay just about anything to get closer to that water.
The views from the boat are incredible. I’d 100% recommend doing it if you can. Equally, we immediately thought that it would have been great to go on a kayak adventure or to hang out on one of those bigger boats that stay there all day here. But hey, we were sort of crunched for time and days on wanting to see it all and balance relaxing, so I was ALL about that boat ride as my ‘get the whole experience in a shorter amount of time’.
4. Drinks and dinner in the Vilamoura marina
Vilamoura is where Joe used to go on holiday as a kid, so he’s been telling me about it for too long. We had to go, it had to be done. It’s a buzzy sort of place and definitely a mix between holiday makers and those who’ve left the UK to live there full time instead.
I liked the marina. It’s kind of like going to a carnival because it’s just so ridiculous. An unreal amount of English and Irish sports bars surround you and then equally, you can find some of the best seafood restaurants mixed right in. My favourite part was our dinner at Restaurante O Marisco. We ordered a bottle of wine, oysters and shared a giant paella while watching the sunset over the marina.
We also happened to spend our last evening in the marina as well, where we went for dinner at Il Lamparo. At this point in time, I’d been fully introduced to the concept of Portugese rosé wine. I didn’t know it was a thing, but it is. They’re famed for it. So on our last night, we ate a lovely meal and drank all the rosé. Could not have been better you guys.
5. Climbing (okay, walking up) the Carvoeiro coast
Holy moly this one is such a winner. I’m going to be totally honest with you. We didn’t explore too much of the town. We were really all about that coast. And with beach views like these, could you truly blame us?
There are two sides overlooking the beach that are great view points. I’d recommend checking them both out. It’s not too laborious to get up to either… but um, I’d definitely have a water bottle on hand! Actually, as a good rule of thumb, visiting the Algarve in the summer means you should always have a water bottle on hand.
After climbing to the top, we decided to sit ourselves down on the beach and take a dip in the ocean. I have a hard time going in ocean water because I tend to break out in hives (I know, take me on vacations, I’m super fun!), but it was so hot that I had to dive in.
And maybe there’s something a little bit magical about the coast of the Algarve, because for the first time in years, my skin felt OK after. Phew!
Pro-tip, the Bote beach club makes delicious homemade lemonade! And also apparently makes cocktails to go. Apparently.
If there was ever a place to visit to relax and nab yourself a cheeky little adventure, while you know, capturing the epic Insta shot, it truly is the Algarve.
But ahem, just to throw a little sumthin sumthin at you…
What’s not to love?
While I loved our trip and I had a fantastic time soaking in the sun and exploring a new country (yay!), I wanted to tell you about a couple of things that you might want to know ahead of time. I’d still recommend going, because the scenery is truly some of the most out of this world I’ve seen yet, but hey, like anyplace, you’re going to want to know a few tips on what maybe isn’t the greatest. The more you know and all that, yeah?
The sports bars.
I mentioned in Vilamoura’s central marina (near where we stayed), there’s at least 10 English and Irish sports bars… At one point as we passed one, they were belting out songs and I felt like I was suddenly in a very hot city of Dublin. Which isn’t great if you can get that at home. I can never understand why people go on holiday to another country and then congregate around what they experience in their home life. Maybe it’s for the people who have moved overseas there though, so I’ll try to hold back my judging eyes.
Hot hot heat!
Naturally, you’re expecting hot weather. I’m down for this. But we went at the start of September, and I’d recommend holding off on visiting then. It was around 90ºF daily (30ºC), which for this chica was too much to handle without any AC. Like the kind of heat where all my clothes were soaked and my thighs were the enemy. Maybe October or November is the right time to go? Or the spring? Think about it.
It’s the best airport to fly in and out of, but when we visited the town… well, there’s not much going on. We had a few hours to kill before our flight so we took a wander around, but honestly, you can skip this one. Or if you must see it all, only schedule out an hour to have a walk around. That’s all you’ll need.
A last do for the trip? Do buy a cheeky bottle of that Portuguese rosé for the flight home.