Visit Algarve - Not all about beaches
Browsing the internet for Algarve (south of Portugal) you may be misleaded by what you find. Probably you will find tons of photos of the west of the Algarve with beautiful small beaches of pristine waters surrounded by rather menacing and imposing, although magnificent cliffs, or, strangely enough, if you head to the East of Algarve, the opposite, beautiful beaches of pristine waters, but spacious and flat and all linked together, then, there is, obviously the night. And about that you'll also find a lot of info and inviting photos, videos and the likes. And let me tell you, it is all rather amazing, but that it's not what Algarve is all about. That's just the postcard. Let me tell you about really getting to know Algarve.
When talking about the Algarve one has to divide it in two. The first Algarve comes alive from June to August every year. The second and last is around for the rest of year.
From June to August you get the Algarve of the tourists, the queues, the streets filled with people all through the night, bars with music pumping, a lot of drinking, bodies swaying, beaches filled, no place to park cars, supermarkets raided. It´s a mess.
Don't get me wrong. Some people love it or I should say, a lot of people love it - and it's fun and nice, but I think what I just described you can get in a lot, and I really mean a lot, of places.
The other Algarve
For me and for many others, Algarve starts when everybody leaves.
I heard someone say a few weeks back that he'd been to the Algarve in May and he was absolutely disappointed, because there was no people, no noise, no mess.
Well, that's just it... You will not have people or noise or confusion, but you will have everything else, in the Algarve, for the rest of the year. It's true magic. It's nothing grand or exciting. It's all about all the little bits and pieces here and there.
Once the last person leaves you can feel it in the air. It seems everything slows down. A calm descends over the ones that remain. It's as if the person that was visiting your house left and you had the place to yourself all over again.
The roads are once again free, there is always room for parking, the queues disappear and you can get everywhere so fast that nothing seems far away.
It's all about the weather also, it's getting up in the morning and seeing the sun shining bright. Yes, the weather is amazing all through the year. It does rain and it does get cold, but most of the year the temperature is aggreable and the sun shines, so it's possible that in the middle of February or March you are having lunch at a promenade overlooking the sea or the river or the mountain... Because here we have it all.
Then, obviously, there are the beaches, but they are very different if you can appreciate them without a bundle of people around. You can truly look at the landscape, you can really smell the sea and you can do it all year long.
Most people take the weekend for walks on the beach in the morning time or at sundown. One can always choose a seafront cafe to enjoy a cold beer or, in the winter, a warm tea or coffee, while reading the newspaper or reading a book or even - why not - surfing the web. All these, always overlooking the sea. Or if you really want to get away from people, just sit on the beach and enjoy the quiet. Some of our beaches are among the most beautiful in the world, such as "Praia da Marinha".
Some people prefer the mountains. S. Brás de Alportel is a small town up-country favoured for the pureness of its air, which we're told is the best in the country and because of it there is a hostel searched by those with weak lungs.
Monchique is another favourite, not only for its air, but also for all its green and its water and the treatments one can find at the hot springs in Caldas de Monchique.
And where better to eat than in a place that has mountain, beach and sea, all so close together. You can experience fresh seafood and shellfish cooked everyway imaginable- although we do favour the most natural flavours - or you can try a wild boar casserole or wild mushrooms.
Dishes like "ameijoas à bulhão pato" - clams -, rice or beans with "lingueirão" -razor -, conquilhas - cockles -, a lot of grilled fresh fish are a must and are not at all expensive.
But another time I will get into Portuguese Cuisine, which I think is subject for many, many articles.
Basically, this place has everything in the right doses, it has enough people, it has enough human motion and it has a lot of the good things, sun and beautiful landscaping, quiet, lovely food and obviously nice people with interesting traditions. People that are eager to invite you in and show your their land and their ways. And sometimes I find myself thinking, how come so little people are aware how great the Algarve is to live in.
So, here's my opinion: don't visit the Algarve from June to August, come any other month and stay two, three or four weeks, then rent a car so you can get around. Start in Sagres, for instance, the small fishing village and its surf spots and nice restaurants and don't forget the nights in the bars. Don't forget to visit Lagos and its wild nights. And then, all the other places, Monchique, Silves and the castle, Alte, S. Brás de Alportel, Praia Verde, Faro, its island and its river (Ria Formosa) with its various islands, like Fuzeta. So many, many places. And also get to know the people. And who knows, maybe you'll even move to the Algarve.
Algarve - Map
ideal for summertime; great nightlife;
nice village with great views;
old city with castle; moorish past;
some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe
Great food and wine and the best Algarve's views
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