History. Culture. Food. Hospitality. The Algarve region, in the very south of Portugal, evokes many different sounds, smells – and memories, in my case. Last year only, I had an opportunity to visit the historic city of Loulé, home to a cradle of creative minds and artisans working to develop creative travel in the Algarve region. Find out more through their website LouleCriativo.pt, which does a great job in marketing the myriad of travel activities there. Just recently, my travel writing colleagues Julie Dawn Fox & Nicole Barnes, among others, have visited too, recommending “Lovely Loulé, Another Unspoilt Gem in the Algarve” or “Kreativ an der Algarve: Loulé Criativo“. I just love it.
This time, let me share my favourite, personal hotspots for art & history, fresh seafood, food markets, and sunset / beach magic with you. After all, 40 million (!) visitors a year cannot be wrong about one thing …
… and that is this: The Algarve, besides its beautiful beaches and successful sun / sea formula, is a haven of Portuguese hospitality. Not only does it offer an eventful history that spans many millennia, boasting fascinating traces of the many peoples that transited through here. It also breathes with the humble pride of its people, so welcoming and warm-hearted in their nature that once again, it makes your heart melt leaving you with a desire to come back any time soon.
Here thus are five hotspots on how to structure your trip to the Algarve.
1. Albufeira for a walk on the beach. Ditch the tourist craze and opt for its magic swath of natural coastline instead.
Albufeira has had its share of tourist clichés, noisy bars & overrun cafés. Try Sal Rosa Wine, Cocktail & Tapas Bar for some of the best views across the coastline (less tourists involved!) and stop for the sunset any time you can … Amazing that one, and truly worth your while.
2. Loulé, Estoi & the Roman Ruins of Milreu for history & culture travel.
The city of Loulé combines well with any kind of travel activity, especially related to culture, creative travel and simply to relax and enjoy its pretty city centre and old market hall. I am just so happy going for another walk here after visiting for the first time more than a year ago. A little later, my friends Susana & Marco take me out to visit the Roman Ruins of Milreu, near the small town of Estoi whose main Praça & Castle are equally worth your visit. Check this out.
3. Olhão for a morning at the fish & food market right by the Strait of Gibraltar.
If you don’t mind the smells & crowds of a true fish & veggie market atmosphere, then this is the place to go to in order to mix & mingle with the locals. Check out Olhão, just some 20 minutes drive from Faro, for its lovely market place right by the sea (and fishing boats).
4. Tavira for a foodlover’s fish feast at Ilha da Tavira, complimented by a lovely boat excursion on the calm Tavira estuary.
Next up further down the road towards the Spanish border is the seaside town of Tavira, offering an interesting fortified castle dating back to the Moorish age, as well as a calm, natural estuary home to sea birds, peace & quiet along the coast. Check out Tavira and its lovely little streets beckoning for a walk.
5. Faro beach for a final farewell, before “leaving on a jet plane” … It literally is two minutes from the airport only.
Before dropping me at the airport, Susana & Marco make a point of bidding me farewell at Faro beach. “If you walk 200 metres, you will be guaranteed less tourists around you during summertime”, Susana laughs, taking the popularity of the beach easy. “We like to come here, and we know where to go to avoid most of the crowds”, she winks. Must come back to the Algarve next year then …
And if you really, really crave some more … Here are some final tips and images on why & where to go for love, food, or else out here in the Algarve region.!
Disclaimer: Thank you dear team at INATEL ISTOForum2015 for putting together the excursion programme around Algarve, and for Susana & Marco for taking me out on their Sunday leisure time. All opinions are my own.