“A good holiday is one spent among people whose notions of time are vaguer than yours” John B. Priestly.
We have had friends and family staying with us in recent weeks, and it is a time of exploring the area we now live with fresh eyes – the ‘tourist’ holidaymaker will naturally look for different things from the Algarve as a holiday destination than someone living here. So I thought it would be useful to compile a 7 day plan for things to do, areas to go and explore, and places to eat out – all based on the things we have been doing lately. It’s not an exhaustive list, and I am sure if we planned another week for friends we would do it all differently again – and of course it depends on whether you have children and how old they are – and I’m going to assume you have a car for your holiday – and have been saving up (recommend you have at least 60 Euros per day to spend for a couple – more if you have small people too)
But the following ideas might give you a good starting point – or even give you some new suggestions if you have been here before… and if you want to add your own ideas then please add a comment at the end of the post…
Day 1 – hit the beach!
Well we’re a bit biased here as we love Ferragudo so much – so for us it has to be buckets and spades on Praia Grande beach. It’s such a lovely sheltered beach with safe bathing and soft sand, and plenty of snack bars to choose from for a drink and an ice cream. Or wander back to the square in the late afternoon and enjoy one of João’s yummy ice cream crêpes at Café Marina. (The other half has just told me off for promoting our local beach in case too many people find it… so ssshh! keep it a secret!)
For dinner why not stay in Ferragudo and enjoy O Velho Novo’s traditional Portuguese cuisine (closed on Sundays); or try Toc Toc (closed on Mondays) (both are just off the square towards Bela Vista) - José at Toc Toc does great Picanha (Brazilian steak) or Secretos do Porco Preto.. and his wife’s mousse caramel for dessert is SO good (I always get caught licking the bowl!)
Day 2 – Zoomarine
Not a cheap day out by any means – 25 Euros each for adults and children aged 5-10 are 16 Euros each (Book online and save 10%) via their web-site (link)
The park is located in Guia near Albufeira; and gives a great whole day experience. Take a picnic, and make sure you get a free leaflet guide as you enter as it gives you all the timings of the shows and events. Everything runs at least twice in a day, and you have time to move between the shows quite easily. The main shows are the sea lions; the dolphins and two bird shows. There are rides, swimming pools, a picnic area, animals and lots of food outlets. This is a great family day out though and worth the entrance fee.
Day 3 – The West Coast
Take the main road to Lagos then follow the signs for Aljezur. It’s a very pretty drive and there are so many small beaches and villages to enjoy all along the West Coast. We love Burgau and Arrifana beaches and Aljezur is a nice village too.
Head on up further west and you will arrive at Odeceixe, or even carry on up to Zambujeira do Mar. You’re in surfing territory, with unspoilt soft sandy beaches and the views are incredible.
Day 4 Lagos and Praia da Luz
If you can go to Lagos on a Saturday – arrive in the morning and make sure you visit the Market – great sights and smells and lots of fresh food! There are also street vendors and buskers to enjoy and lots of small independent shops, with a nice marina. Check out this web-site (link) for more on Lagos.
From Lagos it’s a short drive to the lovely Praia da Luz. Park your car on the open ground opposite the Spar shop and walk down to the main village area. The church is beautiful and well worth a look, then drop down onto the promenade and enjoy the beautiful views to the beach. And don’t miss the bubbly Hanna selling her gorgeous jewellery along the front – check out her web-site here (link) And then it’s buckets and spades again on the beach – with another ice-cream of course!
Day 5 Silves and the Monchique
One of our favourite places to wander round and enjoy the history and culture is the city of Silves. Park along the roadside and wander through the fountain and garden area and into the town, with its narrow cobbled streets and small shops.
The 18th Century Santa Misericórdia church with its amazing Manueline wooden entrance and the Cathedral are a must see, and there are Moorish influences all around.
We can recommend Cafe Ingles for lunch – sit under the trees in the shade of the Castle after the steep climb to the top of the Castle hill. After lunch you can explore the 8th Century Castlelo (Castle) which has been excavated and restored and is well worth its 2.50 Euros entrance fee.
From Silves you can take the back roads to the Monchique area, with its beautiful mountain areas to explore and a pretty village. Take your time heading back down the main road back towards the A22 and enjoy the sun as it begins to set.
Stop off half way down at Caldas de Monchique – its a small spa town, with an exclusive hotel resort, but the main cobbled town area has steps down to the very pretty 1692 restaurant (named after the year they first let the public enjoy the spa waters) – try the spa water alongside a lovely relaxing meal under the red umbrellas, after exploring the craft shops.
Day 6 – Praia da Rocha and Portimão shopping
Back to the beach today – why not try Praia da Rocha for a more commercial but still enjoyable experience, the beach is wide and impressive and there are lovely snack bars and restaurants along the boardwalk for lunch – we can recommend the salads at Casalino. And a holiday wouldn’t be complete without some tourist shopping – there are plenty of little shops to choose your ‘I love Portugal’ T-shirt from!
Every holiday has to have some shopping time – why not try Portimão – and the new Aqua shopping centre in the afternoon (link) rather than the more usual Algarve Shopping at Guia? There are three floors of shops and lots of coffee shops and cafes to keep you going.
If shopping isn’t your thing, why not head out for a lovely walk around the lake at Fontes de Estõmbar. It’s a place where locals go for a walk and a picnic, and even a dip in the freezing cold lake water! Head for Estõmbar village and take a turning in the middle of the village signed Fontes – follow this road round and out of the village and watch out for a left turn signed Fontes – over a little bridge and then a big car park is signed on the left.
For the evening why not head back to Portimão and go for a walk along the river front and don’t forget to find the amazing warehouse sized Chinese shops (turn right by the Repsol garage!) – you could then have a Chinese Buffet evening meal (try the buffet restaurant opposite the big Chinese shop)- all you can eat for 12.95 Euros adults and 7.95 Euros for children; or pick one of the sardine restaurants on the waterfront and enjoy watching the world go by. Followed of course by an ice-cream by the fountain!
Day 7 – take your pick!
For a really nice gentle and interesting final day out try a drive to Tavira in the Eastern Algarve. This is a fascinating place, nicknamed ‘the Venice of the Algarve’ with lots of restaurants, shops and pretty views. For more information on Tavira check out this web-site (link)
The stretch of river front along the Gilão River is a great place to sit at one of the cafes and enjoy the views across the Roman bridge, the pace of life here is very gentle and relaxing.
Or if you are feeling more adventurous visit the Slide and Splash park at Estõmbar- another all-in-one day out – it costs 21 Euros per person (children under 5 are free) – but we would recommend you take teenagers and adults to get the most out of the park as most of the rides are not suitable for younger children). On a nice sunny day this is a great day out and the staff are very helpful too (we left a window slightly open on our car and they tannoyed us and waited at our car until we returned to sort it out). Take a picnic and lots of towels (a sun umbrella is not a bad idea too as there is not a lot of shade in the picnic areas) and stay for the day. Find out more information at their web-site (link)
For your final meal why not go to a traditional Portuguese restaurant – try ‘A Paleta’ (closed Sundays) at Lagoa (turn towards Carvoeiro at the main traffic lights and it is on your right (just after Pingo Doce) – a nice menu and friendly staff – and a place frequented by locals – always a good sign!)
So – there it is – our 7 day guide to holidaying in the Algarve. I’m sure we’ll have missed out your favourite though – so why not add a comment on the blog and let me know where you would recommend… and happy holidaying!
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