3 days across Algarve
Portugal’s southermost region is well known for its sandy beaches and lively nightlife, but the Algarve also entices visitors because of its diversity. Here, golden cliffs drop off into the ocean’s waves below like the picture on top (Praia do Camilo, Algarve) and Moorish ruins remain where entire communities once lived. As a major tourist destination, former fishing villages have been turned into summer resorts, but if you look close enough, its history still lingers amidst high rise apartments and modern developments. However, this beautiful region still has plenty of treasures worth discovering and plenty of activities to hold any traveler’s wanderlust interest. Here are a few tips on activities for navigating the region in three days:
Where to stay
Set in a very tranquil location, with ample gardens and beautiful lawned pool area overlooking Porto de Mós beach, Lagos, the setting of Vivenda Miranda is unbeatable. Ocean views are yours to enjoy from breakfast on the terrace, relaxing by the pool during the day or enjoying some delicious and healthy al-fresco dining. Former private home of a 17th century noble family, Vivenda Miranda breathes truly individual design. Just 24 rooms and suites are styled in either traditional Portuguese or contemporary bohemian chic design and offer beautiful views amongst lush gardens and the ocean. In line with their ethical, environmental and wellbeing policies we host a series of health, fitness and wellness breaks and courses run by leading coaches in their individual fields. Neal’s Yard Remedies (NYR) is our health and wellness partner with their first overseas beauty Spa.
There’s no better way to get an overall feel for the region on your first day than via an off-road safari with Sagres Discovery Tours. This company started more than six years ago, has developed a wide following of international and local clients, and is familiar with even the most remote corners of the countryside. His guided tours by jeep traverses pine and eucalyptus forests, sweeping beaches and undulating hills in an area stretching from Sagres to Cabo de São Vincente (Cape St Vincent), Europe’s most southwestern point. The tour includes a stopover in the rebuilt picturesque village of Pedralva, now a focus of traditional rural tourism, an 18th century Sagres fortress, the lighthouse at the cape, as well as a 30-minute nature walk in the Parque Natural da Costa Vicentina. Sunset, with a glass of wine, viewed from the cliffs near Sagres, is a perfect end to the trip.
After a day’s explorations’ try the Mirandus Restaurant at Vivenda Miranda Hotel. Both its charming inside dining area and its breathtaking terrace enjoy spectacular views along the coastline, against a backdrop of sparkling sea and endless sky. Their menus are crafted by their resident chef from seasonal and local food ingredients, to create fresh dishes that guarantee a taste of the region. There is a tasty choice of vegetarian, vegan and raw food options as well as gluten free and authentic traditional meat and fish dishes.
Renting a car is highly recommended to best see the Algarve. Start your second day with a leisurely drive to historic Loulé about 18 km north of Faro. Try to make it on a Saturday, as the town is famous for its gipsy market at the end of Rua da nossa Senhora da Piedade. It also has a really good daily market in a hall on Praça da República, built in neo-Arabian style with art nouveau interior decorations. From there a network of cobbled alleys and streets leads you to a 13th century castle.
Afterwards come back to Vivenda Miranda for relaxing moments in the Spa. The SPA is Neal’s Yard Remedies first overseas beauty spa providing only their world leading organic, ethical and sustainable skin care products and signature treatments in an oasis of pampering and calm. In addition to an extensive choice of treatments, a sauna, steam room, rasul foot spa and an outdoor pool with jacuzzi set the mood for a relaxing wellness journey. You can enjoy the peacefulness of the elegant reading room with a beautiful panoramic terrace. However a relaxing time at the Spa by NYR can include massages, body wraps, and body scrubs along with aromatherapy and mani/pedis. Vegan options are available on all treatments.
Shells at Ilha Deserta
Having surveyed Algarve’s landscape from a jeep and the comfort of a rented car, perhaps a boat trip is in order. Best bet is the guided tour to Ilha Deserta, Portugal’s most southerly point and part of the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa. The one-hour boat ride, which begins in Faro harbor, passes through six-foot deep saltmarshes, a haven for nature lovers featuring more than 600 species of flora and fauna, including little terns, igrets, redshanks, grebes, flamingos and cormorants. The area is also home to the largest reservation of seahorses in the world. The island has one restaurant, Estamine, opened seven years ago and offers spacious seating and an alfresco, sea-facing terrace. Its menu is made up of seafood including bream, sea bass, tuna, octopus, mullet, as well as fresh clams from the nearby salt marshes. If you’re lucky, you might bump into the island’s sole inhabitant, Alves, a fisherman and guard, who’s likely to offer you a glass of the local firewater (Medronho, a strong spirit) made from local fruits.
Convento de Nossa Senhora da Assunção
Back in Faro, spend a few pre-dinner hours wandering around its compact old town. The domed 16th-century Renaissance Convento de Nossa Senhora da Assunção houses the town museum where highlights include the third-century Mosaic of the Ocean; ninth to 13th-century Islamic artifacts; and paintings by local artist, Carlos Filipe Porfírio, based on local legends. See the tiny, exquisite Italianate Teatro Lethes dating from 1603.
However, from overland safaris to island boat trips, from lively markets in historical towns to fine food, The Algarve offers much more than just sunbathing on the beach.