OUR TOP FIVE FAVORITE PLACES IN THE ALGARVE

  1. CACELA VELHA 

Cacela Velha is a joy forever!

Perched on top of a hill with majestic views to the lagoons of the Ria Formosa, this tiny fishermen’s village with at most 20 small whitewashed houses, is the oldest part of Vila Real de Santo Antonio in the Algarve. Apart from a couple of restaurants, there are no other touristic facilities in the village. There is a charming old church at the main square and an old fort which now serves as maritime police station. The village is so tiny you can walk around it in less than 10 minutes. The views behind the church  is like a living painting that changes the whole day. With its serene environment and idyllic setting, it is a great wonder that the village is luckily not yet spoilt by tourism.  And I fervently hope that it wouldn’t!  The village should be left to what it is now – unadulterated, simple, nostalgic and mysterious! There are lots of day tourists who come during the day, but they are only after the views. After taking some pictures, they are gone again. It’s like admiring at a beautiful three-layered chocolate cake, but not actually tasting it!

What makes Cacela Velha even more special is its Beach – the Praia Cacela Velha , also known as Praia Fabrica.  The beach is truly magnificent! This almost 2 kilometer long sandy beach which  is a part of Ria Formosa National Park, is truly one of the most beautiful beaches we have been to in the Algarve. It is a place where we  have lost our hearts to; a place  where we always will be coming back. It is accessible by foot during low tide. There are boats  which depart from Praia Fabrica that bring day tourists to the beach during the summer.

2.  CULATRA ISLAND

A little piece of Paradise in the Algarve – that is how we pictured Ilha de Culatra when we saw it! Away from the bustling city life, the island is a place of solitude; it is a perfect place to escape the noise, stress and business in the mainland. Just an half hour ferry ride away, yet, the island seems to be thousand of miles away!

Ilha de Culatra, which is part of Ria Formosa Natural Park, is a 6-kilometer long sandbar island located south of Olhao. The only way to reach this tiny island is by taking a ferry boat which departs at designated times from the eastern end of Olhao waterfront. Travel time takes about 30 minutes and it costs only 3.70 for a return ticket.

The fishing port of Culatra is  just small, but full of boats!  There are also small fishermen’s huts found on the shore, and a tractor, the only motor vehicle on the island, which the locals use to pull the boats in and out of the water. The sea is rich is marine species such as sea cucumbers, sea anemones, stingrays, mussels, seashells, crabs and other tiny sea creatures. The village is really a fishermen’s village where there seems to be more boats than houses. There is an easy atmosphere in the village; a small community where everybody knows everyone! The houses are all small and have cubic or rectangular forms . Majority are whitewashed, except for a handful which are painted in yellow, orange and green colors. Some bougainvillas and other wild plants adorn the front yards; there is a charming little house which yard is decorated with different shells hanging in an old fishnet. The beach is as long as the length of the extensive island, and with the view of the lighthouse at the western end. It has fine golden sand; the water is calm, clean and transparent in color. On the shore are different kinds of open shells washed away by the tides. It is one of the best beaches we have seen in the Algarve! It has a natural setting, no restaurants, beach bars  and souvenir shops on sight; no sunbeds, sun umbrellas  or chairs! No commercial activity possible! We could imagine ourselves lying  on the beach days after days! The tranquillity and beauty  and the solitude are incomparable!

3.  PRAIA DA MARINHA

We have found the heart of Algarve! And it is in Praia da Marinha!

Praia da Marinha, located in Caramujeira in Lagoa in the Algarve region, is one of the most beautiful and dramatic beaches in Portugal. It has received many notable distinctions  such as  one  of the 10 most beautiful beaches in Europe, öne of the 100 most beautiful beaches in the world”, and “Golden Beach award” by Portuguese Ministry of the Environment. We were literally speechless when we saw the beach! It was stunningly beautiful! The accolades and wonderful write-ups about the beach were all true! Words were not just enough to describe this little piece of paradise in the Algarve!

The beach, which is accessible via a long and winding concrete steps, had a wide expanse of fine golden sand, the waters which have a high quality have light torquise and sometimes almost transparent ; they could also be wild at times. It is sheltered with high cliffs on both ends which protect the area from chilly winds and yet still enjoy the sun the whole day.

At the right far end of the beach is the famous special rock formation, the double arcs rockform which resembles the letter M. It is the most photographed spot in the area, and if you play with your picture taking, you could capture a heart-formed rock in it! It is possible to walk as near to the rock formation as you want, but mind you, you have to walk over a heaps of stones and it would be tricky!

The area around the Praia da Marinha equally stunning! There is a so-called Seven Hanging Valley Trail which begins from Praia da Marinha up to vale Centianes Beach in Carvoeiro. It is a 5.7 kilometer walking trail that follows the winding outlines of the cliffs and offers walkers unique  and fabulous views of the landscape, beautiful and intimate beaches and lots of sinkholes and sea caves.

4.  LAGOS

Lagos rocks with its Rocks!

If you are planning to tour Algarve, make sure you include Lagos in your itinerary! Lagos, situated in the western coast of the Algarve region in Portugal, is not only historic; it is also charming, lively, and beautiful! And what makes Lagos extra special are the rock formations found on its coastline. These rock formations are unique, spectacular and simply breathtaking!

Ponta da Piedade, contrary to what many people know, is not a beach. It is a series of high cliffs that are lined up with beautifully-formed rocks, sea caves and arches. The limestone rocks acquired their almost golden to red yellow due to years of oxidation and physical weathering. There is a steep concrete steps that leads down to the water where boatmen wait for tourists wanting to tour the place (if the weather is good).

Praia Dona Ana is a small romantic beach located about 1.5 from Ponta de Piedade.  It has fine golden colored sand and beautiful rock outcrops which seem to spring out from the water. The best view is from the top of the steps that leads down to the beach.

Situated just less than a kilometre away from ponta de Piedade is the tiny beach of Camilo. It can be reached  by going down  a steep winding  wooden stairs with at least 200 steps! The beach is surrounded by high cliffs and beautiful rock formations which shelter it from chilly wind. There is a small tunnel carved out from the big rock which gives access to the northern part of the beach.

You receive a red-carpet treatment upon walking in in the old historic city of Lagos. Red carpets are lined up at the narrow maze-like  streets of the old center. To explore the old town, the trick is just to walk on the red carpet and you will arrive at most of the old city’s important buildings and monuments such as  the Slave market, the churches of Santo Antonio, San Sebastian and Santa Maria, Governor’s Castle and of course, the Ponta da Bandeira Fort. Lined up on both sides of the old city’s narrow streets are lots of souvenir shops, small cafes, cozy restaurants and some English pubs. So if you want to feel like a star, walk the Red Carpet in Lagos! And if you are tired from walking the red carpet, stretch your legs or take a rest at the long boulevard where you get to see the views of the sea, the fishing harbour, and the marina.

5.  SAGRES

Sagres, situated at the extreme western tip of the Algarve region in Portugal, is a small town with dramatic natural scenery of high cliffs, raging seas, fabulous beaches and a working charming fishing harbour. And on top of these all, the famous End of The World Cabo de Sao Vicente is situated here.

Though Sagres has been associated with rich nautical history, there is nothing much to see about its glorious past. There are no special tourist attractions or historical buildings and monuments inside the town center. However, its location is so dramatic, plus it is home to Cabo de Sao Vicente and its lighthouse and Fortaleza de Sagres that the town becomes a major tourist destination in the Algarve.

The Fortaleza de Sagres  is a site where Prince Henry the Navigator established his navigation school. It offers breathtaking views of the cliffs and of the Cabo de Sao Vicente. There is a pleasant 1.5 kilometer walk along the Cliffside, where you get to see the light house, a grotto/cave where waves crash, a large wind compass, an old chapel, and the fort itself. The cliff sides are popular spots for local anglers who defy death as they show their courage or carelessness in standing so close to the cliff edges just to catch a fish or two!  Entrance to the fort is 3 euro per person (1.50 for 65+).

The Cabo de Sao Vicente is the most westerly point of mainland Europe and till 14th century, believed to be the End of the Known World.  The cliffs where the Cape is (maximum height of 75 meters) is home to ferocious and dangerous waves of the Atlantic ocean. The lighthouse which is constructed in the mid-19th century is open to public on Wednesday afternoon.  No entrance fee, but a tip is appreciated.

The Baleeira fishport  is a working fishing harbour in town, where fishing boats, big and small , come and go, and where fish auction is held daily in the afternoon. It is possible to watch the fish auction from the snack bar above the fish hall.

There you are, our five most favorite places in The Algarve. How about you, what are your favorite spots? Feel free to share.

 

 

 

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