Located in the Southern coastline of Portugal, the Algarve region is known for beautiful beaches with impressive rock formations, white-washed fishing villages, and great Portuguese cuisine. Depending on where you visit, it is only 2.5 to 3 hours from Lisbon by car. During the summers, this is a super popular tourist destination so be prepared for some company. We traveled here in March and it was empty - just how we like it. The drawback was that we caught the occasional shower. For us, since we're more of the hiking type than the sunbathing type, the trade-off was well-worth it. There are many towns to choose from but we recommend our randomly picked town of Lagos as a home base. We just loved this small fishing village and because it was centrally located, it worked as a perfect launching point for the entire Algarve region. In terms of getting around, you can either rent a car or hire a driving tour-guide, or both. Portugal does not have a good train system in this Southern region. Note: Our blog post links below have more information on specific sites we saw in this region.
Lagos: Lagos is a medium sized coastal town has a lovely City center, with the traditional tile streets within the City's historic district. Our adorable AirBnB was located just a couple blocks from the central square. It is also just a few blocks from a coastal pathway, which makes for a beautiful morning walk. Highlights include Praia do Pinhão, a popular beach located right in Lagos and Forte da Ponta da Bandeira, a late 17th Century fort that served as a defense post for the City.
Drive to the Southwestern Most Tip of Portugal: Visiting Cape St. Vincent, the Southwestern most tip of Portugal, involves a gorgeous drive along the coastline with plenty of things to see along the way. We stopped at Ponta da Piedade, a beautiful beach, Fort of Santo Antonio de Belix, a 16th Century fort, Fortaleza de Sagres, a 15th Century fort, and Salema Beach, another one of the Algarve's picture perfect beaches.
Hiking Seven Hanging Valleys Trail: This 3.2 mile trail can be hiked, point-to-point, or double the distance with an out-and-back, 7.4 mile hike. It was one of the most beautiful hikes we have ever done. The hike itself is relatively flat and accessible to modest hikers. Getting there: From Lagos, we drove approximately 35 minutes to the start of the trail just outside Carvoeiro at Praia de Vale Centianes, though in hindsight it would have been easier to park at Praia de Marinha at the other end of the trail.
Visit the Lazy Coastal Town of Tavira: On the Eastern side of the Algarve, nearly to the border of Portugal and Spain, sits the small fishing village of Tavira. Truthfully, we picked our visit here nearly at random. We knew we wanted to head East for the day and this white-washed quant town seemed good as any to stop and explore. As it turns out, it's a bit of a hidden gem located just 75 minutes from Lagos.
Coastal Drive to Lisbon: Mainland Portugal has over 800 kilometers of coastline. One way to experience at least a part of this famously beautiful coast is to take a road trip between Lisbon and the Algarve. From our AirBnB in Lagos, we took an unplanned drive, stopping at random along the way in the towns of Vila Nova de Milfontes and Sines.
Where We Stayed
Air BnB Listing: If you're staying in Lagos, you must find out if this little AirBnB is available. It is perfect for a family or a set of couples traveling together. Thing we loved about this place: Roomy, bright, amazing back patio space, centrally located, with a cute classic Portuguese entrance. Photo credit: Air BnB listing.
Where We Ate
Central Lagos: Old town Lagos has several restaurants to choose from, including tappas bars and places to enjoy a nice Sangria. We have no specific recommendations here.
Doce & Arte Pastelaria: In the town of Monchique, we stopped for a snack at a local pastry shop, Doce & Arte, where we enjoyed coffee and Portugal's signature pastry, Pasteis de Nata. All sweets are handmade here and off the charts good, all at "locals only" prices.