HOW TO DO... THE ALGARVE
The Algarve , Portugal
Sunburnt British tourists on the lash?
The Algarve’s got a rep. Every Tom, Dick, Harry and Sue want a piece of Portugal’s shimmering southern coast. Sun-cream, English breakfasts, cheap cocktails and middle-aged golfers blend together in one predictable package holiday….
But there’s gotta be a reason even the Portuguese visit the Algarve… Stunning coastal scenery, beaches for days and quaint fishing villages are there for the taking, you’ve just gotta outsmart the masses. This is how to do The Algarve…
1. Go east or westYou’ll fly into Faro. Good. There’s a medieval old town and some great restaurants to explore. But this is also where EVERYONE flies into. Your best bet is to head east, or far west past the resorts, golf courses and waterparks.
The little fishing towns of Tavira and Olhão (east) are all about the quiet life. Think winding streets filled with whitewashed villas, flower baskets and Moorish architecture. This area is also known for serving the world’s best octopus dishes - go to Casa Do Polvo Tasquinha in Santa Luzia.
The far west is all rugged cliff walks and wild beaches (like Salema beach). Hike part of the Via Algarviana to really escape the crowds. It spans 300km - the whole length of Portugal’s southern region. You might not see another person for hours on this mountainy track.
2. Stick to the shoulder seasonsEveryone likes a holiday between June and August. But nobody likes wrestling sweaty beach neighbours for towel space. Instead visit in April/May or September/October. It’s still hot, hot, hot and you get the best beaches (mostly) to yourself.
Like the colourful Praia da Falesia Beach in Albufeira, the aqua lagoon at Ponta da Piedade and the famous Benagil Sea Cave which is packed at high season.
3. Do the culture thingPeople usually go to the Algarve for one thing and one thing only: to sun themselves on golden beaches like walruses from a David Attenborough doc.
Shake the sand out of your crack and head for the blue tiled Church of São Lourenço. You’ll find the 17th century beaut in the little town of Almancil.
The Moorish castle at Silves is also worth a peek. The best preserved castle of its kind in Portugal, get a 360 view over the town from the top of its ramparts. If you prefer your castles in ruins then it’s off to Cerro da Vila with you. It’s all Bronze Age grave sites and crumbling Roman villas.
4. Be adventurousHead to the wild Costa Vicentina for some serious surf action. The waves separate the noobs from the pros and decides who gets the beach that day.
Or go off track on a quad bike. There’s plenty of vast rolling hills for everyone.
If that seems a little rowdy join the golf brigade on one of 40 courses around the region.
5. Give in to the glitzy nightlifeIf you can’t beat em…
Yep it’s all a bit tacky, Calvin Harris is blaring and ‘gentlemen’s clubs’ go against every moral fibre in your body...
But you’ll find plenty of swish cocktail bars and beach clubs like Vilamoura’s Purobeach where DJs rule and everyone looks like they're straight out of a 90s music video. For something a little more authentic Stevie Ray’s Blues Jazz Bar (Lagos) and Atlantic Piano Bar (Vilamoura) do live music every weekend.