Portugal has flown under the travel radar for many years, but thanks in part to social media, Portugal’s authentic culture, beautiful architecture and photogenic beaches are being discovered by more travellers than ever. With its sunny weather, budget friendly accommodation, friendly locals, fresh food and cheap wine, it’s no wonder the Algarve in Portugal has shot to the top of many peoples must visit list.
The list of activities available here is as extensive and varied as the country itself and a typical day could include a coastal bike tour, hiking in the cork forests of Monchique, wandering through Moorish castle ruins or just packing a picnic lunch and heading to the beach. Portugal has something for everyone.
My husband and I were lucky enough to recently travel to Portugal for the second time. The last time we visited was on our honeymoon seven years ago and at the end of our trip we knew we had to go back. We decided to forego the crowded streets and sightseeing in the big cities like Lisbon and Porto, for a quiet, rural holiday focused on relaxation and day trips around the Algarve.
Nestled in the rural countryside just 10 minutes outside of the tiny castle town of Silves, Duas Quintas Guesthouse is surrounded by 15 acres of orange trees and is a tiny oasis that many visitors return to year after year. Once an old rundown farm, the guesthouse is now a charming B&B run by an Irish couple Les and Mary. Les tends to the beautiful gardens filled with cactus, lemon and fig trees, while Mary whips up hot breakfasts and fills our arms with maps, parasols, beach towels and information on all the best hidden gems in the Algarve.
Each morning we sit on the terrace outside our room while Mary brews our coffee and cooks up a hot breakfast. Her specialties include pear and goat cheese wrapped in a sizzling prosciutto bacon, or scrambled duck eggs and tomato toast, not to mention the homemade cakes and jams that are laid out each morning. We discuss the day ahead and with nothing booked and no more than a few ideas, we’d set out in our rental car and head out on an adventure.
The Algarve region’s location makes it an ideal starting point for visiting much of southern Portugal and even parts of Spain. With a rental car, most parts of the Algarve can be accessed in twenty minutes and with an endless array of daytrips further afield.
Here are seven easy daytrips in the Algarve
- A 40-minute drive west takes you to Aljezur, a sleepy little market town with a similar laid-back surfer vibe of Canada’s own West Coast. Like Tofino in Canada, Aljezur has trendy sourdough pizza spots with schoolhouse décor and the whitewashed buildings with hanging surfboards and wicker baskets draw wandering tourists into their shops. The large cold waves of the Atlantic at the Praia da Amoreira beach attract crowds of surfers and casual beachgoers alike and for those who don’t surf the tide is strong enough to push you up river as you float.
- At the westernmost tip of Europe, you will find Sagres, a popular surfing town with an impressive fortress atop craggy seaside cliffs. The Fortaleza de Sagres is the main attraction, but we would argue that a trip to the oceanfront restaurant Tasca, for a fresh seafood meal with rose is equally as impressive.
- Each Saturday the town of Loule is host to a vibrant market filled with mountains of fresh oranges, unique seafood, and local ceramics. After a hot day wandering the market, cool down at the beautiful hidden waterfall located just outside of Loule, in Alte. Virtually unknown to tourists this is the perfect spot for a picnic or a quick dip.
- For those wishing to visit Spain while staying in Portugal we highly recommend a trip to Seville. You can expect to drive for about two hours so make sure to time your arrival around the typical Spanish siesta (a time for rest when many businesses close, usually 2-4.) The Real Alcazar and the Plaza de Espana are two impressive sights not be missed.
- With the entire southern coast an almost endless stretch of yellow cliffs and white sand beaches you really can’t go wrong choosing one for a relaxing day in the sun. Head towards Lagoa to the ever-popular Praia de Marinha for its impressive cliff views, but for a lazy day with a book, a short seaside hike from Salema to Praia de Figueira will reward you with a private beach and expansive views. In the old fishing town of Burgau the small beach is the perfect place for a warm swim and a cool beer.
- In Armacao de Pera the fishing boats lining the beaches almost outnumber the sunbathers. Head to Pedro’s Bar to find Pedro and hop on a boat to see a large portion of the southern coast from an amazing vantage point. The boats drive in and out of large caverns and caves created by wave action along the sandstone cliffs. At Praia de Benagil beachgoers paddle from neighboring beaches to relax inside this impressive cave.
- Our longest daytrip was north to Evora and the effort required to get there did not disappoint. We were drawn in by the impressive Roman Temple, a majestic cathedral, and the macabre Chapel of Bones, but the first task upon arriving was to head to Taberna Tipica Quarta-feira to try for a reservation at the famous traditional Portuguese restaurant. We lucked out and ended getting the last table for the night and had the best meal of our trip. The family has been serving the same set menu of black pork neck and local cheese and wine since 2000.
Here is a breakdown of what you can expect to spend when travelling in Portugal
- Average daily cost (per person per day): €95
- Average cost of food (per day): €28
- Average price of accommodation (for two): €85
- Three course meal with wine (for two): €60
- Sandwich in a café: €2.50
- Lunch for two: €13
- Coffee: €2
- 1 Litre of wine: €7
- Beer: €1.50
- Bottled water (6 litres): €0.58
- SIM card with 3 GB of data: €10
- Castle entrance fee: €3-5 per person
- Petrol: €1.6/Litre
- Taxi: €6
- Coastal Boat Ride (for two): €40
So, tell me, is Portugal on your vacation wish list? If so, what draws you in the most? Or do you have another vacation destination in the books? We always love hearing about new locations so let us know in the comments below!