There’s so much more to Portugal than a sliver of delicious Iberian sunshine caressing the Atlantic coastline.
I’ve seen many changes since my first visit 26 years ago but the authentic Algarve is still a delight and check out this site visitportugal.com before stepping on the airplane to Faro.
Here are my top ten tips for the Algarve.
1. Hire a car: It’s not expensive and taxis are generally cheap too but ask the price first. Organise your airport transfers before you leave home and you can save a lot depending on where you are staying.
Take the time to visit one of the traditional villages and towns and you’ll be pleasantly surprised to get coffee and a glass of wine for as little as €1 away from the larger resorts.
2. Pego do Inferno: This oasis is only a 20-minute or 8km drive from the beautiful town of Tavira. Destroyed by a fire three years ago, nature has made a full recovery at this beauty spot and lake.
3. Caves and Cliffs: The best way to explore the majestic coastline formed by gold and ochre cliffs is from the sea. AlgarExperience offers boat trips that will excite the entire family on high-speed catamarans. Based in the newly finished, purpose-built Marinha de Albufeira, which has a touch of South Beach, Miami, about it, options include sunset BBQ involving buffet on a secluded beach.
4. Monchique: The Thermal Baths at Monchique are among the finest in Europe and have been for over 2,000 years.
5. Slide and Splash, Aqualand and Zoomarine: Save money by picking up vouchars at the airport with discounts or book online. The summer months are busy so get there early in the day to make the most of the time.
7. Cacela Velha: Cacela Velha is still very much a secret and probably the only sound that you will hear in the town is of gulls flying overhead. Oozing character and charm, you’ll be impressed by the panoramic views and feel like a local.
9. Golf: For many, golf and the Algarve go hand in hand so it certainly deserves a mention. Prices vary greatly but I recommend checking out with your tour operator for great all-inclusive deals.
The seasoned golfers, especially the Irish who come here in their numbers, can be found in Quinta do Lago and the purpose-built marina of Vilamoura pretty much all year around!
10. Villa Real San Antonio: Set in the most south-eastern corner of Portugal, I love this residential town which is bustling with locals and real Portuguese life. In summer the markets open until late in the town’s square, Praça Marquês de Pombal, and handcrafts and food are priced cheaply.
The fish market is a real experience and close by beaches like Praia Verde in Castro Marim are the most beautifully sandy and accessible in the Algarve. Take a day trip to Spain but remember it’s one hour ahead. Seville is only two hours’ drive from the eastern Algarve, and Ayamonte is a short ferry ride across the Guadiana River from Villa Real San Antonio in the south-eastern corner.