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Sun-Chasing Weekend to Algarve Portugal

Updated: Jan 27, 2022

(January 21-24, 2022)

On a hunt for sun, Nick and I decided to fly to the “edge of the world!” The gorgeous region of Algarve Portugal is the most southwestern tip of continental Europe. It boasts spectacular views of the Atlantic, with a Mediterranean feel and landscape. The golden age of the region was between the 15th and 16th century in the time of explorers Vasco de Gama and Ferdinand Magellan. Before Magellan proved otherwise, the thinking at the time was that the earth was flat, and this coastal region was the edge of it!

The winter is definitely the off-season and the majority of the boutiques, restaurants, and hotels close up shop and relocate elsewhere, which meant we largely had the place to ourselves. If you enjoy hiking, the colder months are a really fantastic time to go as most of the walks we did were rather easy in 60℉, but wouldn’t have been nearly as pleasant in the full heat of summer.

We flew into Faro airport and picked up a rental car. We stayed about 45 minutes away from the airport in the small beach town of Carvoiero. However, our very first stop was at a local bakery in Faro for a cafe com leite and pastel de nata (of course). Carvoiero is a beautiful whitewashed mountain side town surrounding the tiny beach of Praia do Carvoiero. Nick had a few work calls he needed to take so we grabbed a quick lunch on the beach and then I read in the sun while he worked. After his calls were finished we checked into the apartment we rented for the weekend and immediately returned to the sun, enjoying the small deck that overlooked the beach and dramatic rock-face above it.

Just before the sun set we headed over to Bote beach bar to watch it from their terrace and enjoyed some Portuguese olives and a port tonics. Bote looks a bit like a tourist trap from the outside but feels surprisingly Portuguese once inside and is the best spot in town for sundowners. There were slim pickings for dinner, and one of the only open restaurants in town was Donia Maria. Don’t let the “Italian restaurant in Portugal” and extensive menu mislead you (as it did me); this was not the tourist trap it appeared to be and the food was fantastic! I enjoyed a grilled fresh turbot while Nick had a delicious veal with sage.

On Saturday morning we drove over to the port town of Lagos. It was quiet today but not hard to imagine it full of tourists as the town is full of souvenir shops and British pubs. Luckily we got to enjoy the pretty cobblestone streets, charming squares, churches and Portuguese-tile covered buildings in a tranquil environment. The town itself is surrounded by 16th century walls, a long golden-sand beach and a port that launched Prince Henry the Navigators large fleet of ships and set the stage for the Age of Discovery. From town we drove to Ponta da Piedade (a stared lonely planet rec) for a breathtaking walk along some incredible sandstone cliff tops. The colors seem technicolor as they go from lush green wild flowers to golden cliff faces above the crystal-clear turquoise water crashing below. Reportedly there are hundreds of wild orchids in the spring that I can only imagine is a most magical sight! The tail and boardwalk are beautiful maintained and is a very easy accessible walk, a must do for anyone in the area.

We stopped for a fantastic lunch at Eira do Mel. The lauded “slow-food” restaurant is atmospherically set in a rustic former farmhouse. The wife of the owner and chef waited on us and could not have been more charming, humbly accrediting her husband for all the magic. Ever since learning about “slow food” cooking in Italy, it is an automatic must-do for any restaurant practicing it. For me, the dedication required to source all the very best ingredients is a true testament to a chef's passion for his work, and you can’t go wrong eating there! We had the chef’s recommendations: A) Local eel air dried and fried, it took a little convincing for me to order but being a local delicacy there was little way Nick was going to let me out of it, and it was in fact delicious. B) Local mussels cooked in white wine and olive oil, which were some of the best mussels I can ever recall having. C) Wild Atlantic shrimp cooked in a cataplana. (a copper cooking vessel shaped like a clamshell and hinged on one end and sealed on each side, functioning like a rudimentary pressure cooker) D) all paired with a delicious local organic orange wine “Monte da Casteleja- Classico Banco.

Fat and happy we headed to Cabo de Sao Vincente, the barren cliff side that was the last piece of land Portuguese explorers saw before sailing of into the great unknown. We drove by but didn’t go see the large Fortress of Sagres.

Still full from lunch we opted for a beautiful sunset walk along the boardwalk at the top of Carvoiero instead of dinner. This is a very easy walk that is a must-do if you are in the area around sunset.

Sunday morning we had breakfast across from our apartment and headed out to do the Percurso dos Sete Vales Suspensos walk. This clifftop hike was absolutely spectacular! It is on the east side of town and starts at Praia Vale Centianes and goes all along the coast until you reach Praia da Marinha.

When we got to the view of Praia da Marinha the eroding coastline has created the most beautiful and incredible beach. Gigantic rock formations appear to me floating on the sand and sea!

On this walk we go to see the Bengali Caves. This is a huge natural seaside cave with a hole in the ceiling, and very famous in this region. The only way to get inside is by sea, unfortunately we were unable to go inside as the waters were very rough and the tour boats were not running. However, seeing the hole from above was beautiful, the sunlight illuminates the sandstone walls all the way down to the water and sand below. The rough seas also added incredible drama as the large waves crashed up though the ceiling!

Also at Praia da Marinha we learned about an apparently “Instagram famous” photo that can be taken to form a heart out of two arches. We discovered this when a Russian couple asked us to take a photo of them kissing and holding up their hands in the shape of a heart...... Unfortunately Nick wouldn’t re-create the shot with me 😂. but the heart shaped formation can be seen in the photo to the right. The entire hike (there and back) took us about 3 hours. However we spent 2 hours on the way there and only 1 on the way back, as we stopped quite a bit for pictures and to take in the incredible views!

We showered up and let our hair dry in the sun on our deck before catching one last sunset at Bote.

For dinner we went to restaurant O Barradas, another converted farmhouse whose owner is a winemaker. The setting is lovely and relaxing, you enter under a canopy of trees and dine with a crackling fire. The food was delicious but I must say the wine was outstanding!

We drank the Quinta do Barradas - Reserva Syrah 2016, an amazing full bodied red with notes of red fruit and balsamic from the owner’s vineyard. Now just need to figure out how to buy it back home!


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