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The 5 spots to stay in the Algarve – Secrets from our road trip

The Algarve features 155 kms of gorgeous coastline and at first look, every beach seems as good as the next. So for our road trip, we found it next to impossible to shortlist the beaches in the Algarve. And figuring our where to stay in the Algarve was a daunting task indeed. Until we did our research. Now if you’re a regular reader, you know just how deep and thorough our travel research can go. Taking our desk research, and adding our on-ground research (hey, lying on those beaches, checking the conditions of the sea, sand and sun was tough work!) here’s our list of the top beach spots in the Algarve!

  1. Tavira

Our experience of the Algarve began with the quaintest little town. If the Algarve has a notorious reputation for being Europe’s party strip Tavira will prove that theory wrong. This quiet little spot straddling the river had a retired locals vibe to it, and was perfect for our quick drive from Faro Airport to begin easing into the Algarve experience. Tiny little ancient churches, cobbled streets and a bustling open air scene in the summer evenings made this such a peaceful yet lively holiday spot. The vacationers would rush to the beach by day, and return to the promenade for live performances, markets and more by night. While we didn’t explore any of the old sights in town (we’d had a bit of an overdose in Lisbon and Porto just prior to this), there were several Churches  and towers from medieval times. However, we discovered an even better secret. A secret beach which could only be accessed by boat. Ilha de Tavira was the best find ever, and we enjoyed our first ever beach day in Portugal in absolute bliss.

Stay in the Algarve

Stay in the Algarve

Stay in the Algarve

 

2. Albufeira

“It’s that pretty white town you see in photos on the internet”, I exclaimed when we first googled Albufeira. The Santorini-esque style of Albufeira is even more stunning in person we discovered as we first spotted it from afar. With white-washed cottages tumbling down a steep slope, the town literally slides down to the beach. We skipped down to the lowest cliffside for a wonderful sunset dinner overlooking the Atlantic. Three bottles of wine later, I huffed and puffed (with considerable assistance from Charles) to make the climb back up to our hotel. The town has a beautiful walkway with a lookout (with a large population of cats who have been officially adopted by the town) and an elevator that goes down to the beach. By day we watched airplanes trailing signs advertising parties and by night we realised there’s definitely a loud, intense party-side to Albufeira as we watched the sparkling lights on the strip and heard the unmistakeable boom of dance music through the distance of the quiet, still night.

stay in the Algarve

stay in the Algarve

Stay in the Algarve

Stay in the Algarve

3. Alvor

After all these quaint towns (well, two in all, but we pit-stopped in quite a few), we were in the mood for a bit of luxe R & R and the stunning beach of Alvor and Portimão seemed like the perfect option. We booked ourselves into a lovely sea-facing suite, and then proceeded to enjoy a series of long naps in the air-conditioned comfort of our room, alternating with ones in the shade of our canopied beds on the beach. By night we devoured every shellfish the restaurant had caught, with copious quantities of wine, which we’d continue with into the night on our verandah. Fuelled by bottles of Rosé, we looked up at the clearest view of the Milky Way we’d ever seen.

Stay in the Algarve

Stay in the Algarve
Stay in the Algarve

4. Salema

Salema will always be the most special Algarve destination for us. It’s the best place to stay in the Algarve for couples. This tiny little fishing village was a wonderfully quiet find on the Algarve. All those cliches about friendly locals in tiny places came to life as we skipped down to the beach for the most beautiful sunrise we’ve seen in a while. We walked around taking photographs (accompanied by a couple of other photographers, and a couple of fishermen). We watched as they brought their catch to the shore, and seeing as we were so intrigued, they invited us to the little shed where they weighed and measured out the day’s catch. I marked out the one’s I wanted to devour for lunch (and given that the whole village has about 3 restaurants, the odds were pretty much in my favour). We enjoyed our meals on the beachfront, and I took a few hesitant dips in the freezing Atlantic, glad for the hot blazing sun as I sat thawing out for a couple of hours each time. By the end of the two days, we knew pretty much every local around, and discovered if there’s a spot to feel like a local in the Algarve, Salema is it.

Stay in the Algarve

Stay in the Algarve

Stay in the Algarve

Stay in the Algarve

Stay in the Algarve

Stay in the Algarve

5. Lagos

Lagos is notorious as a bit of a party town, but after all the peace and quiet we’d had, we didn’t mind things getting a bit lively. We drove into Lagos, returned our rental car and proceeded to walk around town to familiarise ourselves with its sites and history.  Walking around, we visited the site of Europe’s first slave market, almost slipped on the beautiful and well-polished cobbled stone streets, checked out the church of St. Anthony, and the incredible statue of Henry the Navigator in Praça Infante Dom Henrique. We popped out at night, discovered a hidden restaurant (through local connections) and tasted Percebes for the first time. Enjoyed some great food, wine and cocktails on the party strip. But the piece de la resistance was something that happened quite by serendipity the next morning. We were due to leave by train for Lisbon (to catch our flight back to India) but our local hosts insisted we postpone our departure, and take a boat our to see the famous caves at Ponta La Piedade. It did not disappoint. A fantastic hour long boat ride took us into a magical wonderland of caves with sparkling shimmering water and we’re still gushing about it!

Stay in the Algarve

Stay in the Algarve

Stay in the Algarve

Stay in the Algarve

Stay in the Algarve

Stay in the Algarve

Stay in the Algarve

Stay in the Algarve

So those are our favourite points of interest in the Algarve when it comes to specific towns. Of course, since we were driving through, we stopped off at a lot of small beaches, the countryside and some hidden Michelin restaurants along the way, but we’ll leave those (and our top tips for driving the Algarve) for another post.

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“The 5 spots to stay in the Algarve – Secrets from our road trip”

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