Must-do’s of the Algarve

What are the things you really should do in the south of Portugal? The nicest beaches, the coolest activities and the unspoiled places? In other words: how to make the most of your time in the Algarve? 

The best answer: read all 27 issues of Enjoy the Algarve magazine. The second-best answer: ask the people who live here for their favourite spots. No, you don’t have to do that, we already have. Here are the seven best secret tips (which actually aren’t that secret anymore now we’ve splashed them all over the internet…) by our Algarve expats. Enjoy.

See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine August 2017


1. Explore the countryside

Go beyond the beaches. Hard as it might be to drag yourself away from cool ocean breeze and golden sands, there’s so much more to discover in the south of Portugal than the beautiful coastline and the busy tourist towns.

Marelle Boersma: “Don’t only stay on the beach. Leave the touristic coast and visit the hills which are just over 40kms to the north. Here you’ll find the authentic Portuguese people, friendly little villages and a very relaxing nature.”

Joya Derrix and Har Klunder: “Visit Bemparece. That’s a small village in the hills close to Santa Catarina, surrounded by magnificent nature. The landscape there is so rough and huge; it gives you a sense of eternity.”

Dan Birch: “Definitely get up into the hills. There’s is so much to explore when you go for a short drive north or even west where the people are lovely and the food seems to get better. The mountains in Alte are great for walking.”

Marianne Hoesen: “Step out of your comfort zone and do something different, even if it’s only for a day. Go to the countryside for a change and feel how it is to be a local in the Algarve. Observe their way of life, make your pace as slow as theirs for a while, and see how content they are with the few possessions they have.”

Alyson and Dave Sheldrake: “Go for a walk at Sítio das Fontes, near Estômbar. It’s a fresh water pond, just off the river; unspoilt woodland countryside with a great river walk. There’s also an area with about 15 BBQs where people share food. Do take mosquito repellent, especially when visiting this place in the summer months.”

Elly van Hulst: “Consider visiting the roads less travelled. Take for example the old road from São Brás de Alportel to Lisbon. It has about 365 curves and it takes you an hour to drive 50km, but it’s worth it as it’s just gorgeous.”

Marga van Schendel: “Go to Alcoutim. The city makes for a great day trip and its location is very romantic; getting there over the mountain roads is half the fun. It also has an interesting history: when Spain and Portugal were at war, there were fights between cities everywhere along the border, apart from Alcoutim and its Spanish neighbour, Sanlúcar de Guadiana. Because they were so remote, these cities depended on each other to survive.”


2. Go island hopping in the Ria Formosa

Is there anything better than spending time on an almost deserted island? If there is, we haven’t found it yet!

Willem van Woezik: “Catch the ferry in Fuseta to the other side of the lagoon. Walk across the island to the sea and sit down in the sand. Spot storks, herons and flamingos and get up close to the wildlife. See the fisherman at work, have a coffee and just relax. This is life as it’s meant to be.”

Paul Rees: “For my birthday I went on a boat tour for a sunset trip to the Ria Formosa’s Isla Deserta. This was just about as perfect as you can get: warm sand, cold drinks, good friends and plenty of laughter.”

Chris White: “Get on the boat to Armona Island in the East Algarve for a long weekend. On Armona, there are hardly any shops, no cars and you can be totally ‘off the grid’ for a few days.”

More island style.


3.Learn about the Portuguese

If you’re living here, definitely do make an effort to speak the language. But also if you’re only on holiday it helps if you try and understand the Portuguese.

Arthur van Amerongen: “Read the book ‘The Portuguese’ by Barry Hatton. It’s a great read, full of fun things you need to know about the people and the culture. And it only costs 8 euros.”

Rik Dejonghe: “Do your best to submerge yourself in the local culture. Learn from their good habits and mix them with the ones you already have.”

More about the Portuguese rural way of life.

4. Canoe on the Guadiana River

Or go surfing, stand up paddleboarding or kayaking. Whatever floats your boat, do something more active than just lying on that beach.

Jürgen Sandkühler: “Go for a canoe ride on the Guadiana river. Either up to Alcoutim or all the way to Mértola (in the Alentejo), which used to be one of the biggest trading ports in Portugal. It’s a nice trip to do in a couple of days. However, make sure to paddle upwards when the tide goes in, and back when it goes out!”

More Algarve activitiesactive stuff for daredevils and perfect paddle places.


5. See the coastline from the water

Too hot on land? Get on the water. Another plus: a different perspective will give you a different view. 

Lewis Moulson: “Get on a boat during sunset with family and friends and watch the world go by. Exploring the Algarvian coastline is beautiful and will give you endless photographic opportunities.”

Paul Rees: “Anyone claiming the Algarve to be overdeveloped should look at the Algarve coastline from a boat on any spot off the coast and see the amount of green space we have, especially when compared to the concrete cities along the Spanish costas.”

More about water in the south of Portugal and the fun you can have in the ocean.



6. Eat like the locals

Sardines, cataplana or porco preto. The Algarvian cuisine is very yummy indeed. (Hint: if the menu is in five different languages or the restaurant has golden arches, it might not be typically Portuguese food).  

Alyson Sheldrake: “Eat where the locals eat and where the menu is in Portuguese. They do the best piri-piri chicken in the Algarve, especially in the Monchique area, plus amazing black pork.”

Sarah Hendrickx: “When you shop at the regional Saturday markets, buy from local people who sell small amounts of their own produce. It’s more likely to be organic and it supports the local community directly.”

Rupert Kirby (see page 9): “The food in the markets forces you to think seasonally. I enjoy the challenge of using what is best today, and creating dishes that are inspired by the traditional Algarvian cuisine, as well as the history of the region and the local suppliers.”

More food.


7. Visit the best beaches

OK, we get it, you want to go to the beach. Logical. It is, after all, one of the Algarve’s most awesome attractions. But which one to choose? These are the favourite beaches of our expats.

Vitthal Bernd Füchte: “The lagoon in Cacela Velha. It’s an especially nice place, it looks tropical and mankind hasn’t changed it in all these years.”

Chris White: “Armona Island for peace and relaxation; and Aljezur in the West Algarve for surfing, water sports and activities.”

Dan Birch: “The west coast with its wild ruggedness. Go for a walk along the cliffs at Bordeira; there’s a great coastal track and amazing beaches to explore.”

Arthur van Amerongen: “Odeceixe beach; the part where the river turns into the sea to be precise. It’s full of rocks and in my opinion the most gorgeous piece of the whole Algarve coastline. From Faro to Lagos, the Algarve is horrible, with the piece between Albufeira and Portimão being the ugliest. But many people don’t know that the rest of the region is absolutely beautiful.”

More beaches


See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine August 2017

Posted in Activities, Features.