The Algarve is the southern most region of Portugal and with its sweeping golden beaches and over 300 days of sunshine each year, is popular with holidaymakers. This post focusses on the western Algarve, the corner of the Portuguese section of the Iberian peninsular from Alvor to Cape St Vincent.
Chris and I recently spent 4 days in Lagos, a small coastal city with narrow cobbled streets which wind their way down to its historic centre and marina. My parents retired to Lagos a few years back so we have been fortunate to have visited several times.
The Algarve is a fantastic location for a holiday at any time of the year. The hot summers offer a traditional beach holiday where you can relax on one of the pristine beaches and spend your evenings in one of the many quaint bars or restaurants. The Atlantic coast ensures you have a lovely consistent breeze rather than sweltering in the intense heat and humidity of the Mediterranean.
Spring and autumn, the shoulder seasons, usually mean warm and pleasant weather which is ideal if you enjoy outdoor pursuits such as golf or hiking.
My favourite time to visit is in the winter where you can experience the ‘real’ Portugal with locals going about their day-to-day business and without the crowds of holidaymakers. I’ve visited the Algarve several times in January and February and have mostly experienced sunny weather and blue skies, a welcome interjection between the long, grey winter months at home in the UK.
Lagos Marina is lined with bars and restaurants and from there you can take one of many boat trips offering a range of different tours with dolphin spotting, fishing and caves and rock formations to see.
As mentioned there are many hiking opportunities which are covered more fully in our Algarve trekking post.
Lagos has a small zoo which contains many different birds, mammals, reptiles and fish. This is a great little zoo to take your kids to.
Odiaxere is a small traditional town near Lagos and each year is host to a carnival. This lasts for 5 days and usually starts on the weekend before Shrove Tuesday which is apparently known as Fat Tuesday in Portugal.
Alvor is a fishing town with a large sandy beach and lots of bars and restaurants. There is also a wetland area in the river estuary where you will find both resident and migatory birds. This is a popular place to take a walk and ensure you bring your binoculars!
The Barragem da Bravura is a dam which is about 15 minutes drive from Lagos. There is a cafe and some walking trails around the reservoir. This is also a good stopping point on the way to the Monchique mountains.
For a change of coastal scenery and cooler temperatures Monchique is a great day trip in the mountains that overlook this region. Monchique is a small traditional Portuguese town and is famous for its handicrafts.
Cape St Vincent is the most westerly point of Europe and as such has seen many historical battles. Due to its remote location it can be windy and chilly even in the summer.
There are many magnificent expanses of large windswept beaches along the west coast of Portugal where even in the summer, are never crowded.
Sagres is a small town at the very western end of the Algarve and close to Cape St Vincent. There are wonderful beaches in this wild and rugged area, a few cafes and some stunning sunsets!
As you can see, there are plenty of activities in this region of Portugal at any time of the year. The coastal towns of the Algarve are easily connected by either the coast road or the A22 motorway. Driving is a pleasure with fairly decent signage, well marked roads and relatively low volumes of traffic (that is compared with the overcrowded roads of the UK).