After three days in Lisbon, my brave friend Katherine rented the smallest car we could find and drove us down the coast to the Algarve region, which is the southern most part of the country.
Think of it this way: if the whole country of Portugal is a face in profile looking west and Lisbon is its nose, Algarve would be its chin.
And we’re off!!
We were headed to Albufiera, a town in the middle between Sagres and Faro, where we booked four nights at Hotel Sol e Mar. We took the slower, more scenic route, staying close to the coast in the Alentejo region and stopping at several points along the way. It was a wonderful drive, once we figured out the GPS and got going south instead of north across the Ponte 25 de Abril!
Sines and Porto Covo
Our first stops were the small fishing villages of Sines, birthplace of the famed explorer Vasco da Gama, and Porto Covo, a haven of blue and white buildings with red tile roofs.
We climbed down to the beach to view the town above the rugged coastline.
Vila Nova de Milfontes
We stopped at Vila Nova de Milfontes, with its “vast beaches, dramatic coastlines, and unspoiled rural countryside”. At the lighthouse beach was an iconic sculpture “The Archangel” by Aguiar Aureliano, portraying an ecological message, an angry warning that the planet is being destroyed. Then we took a small detour to explore the rugged coastline of Praia Zambujeira do Mar.
To us, every one of these villages was picture-postcard perfect. We kept pulling over to marvel at the scenery …cows! …a wall! …and everywhere blue skies and ocean.
Although the weather prediction was not favorable (we left home with raincoats and umbrellas) it only rained lightly and just when we were driving. Adding to our delight, we were treated to a rainbow… dictating another stop for photos. Thanks given to the goddess Iris. ❤
MANY, MANY roundabouts later, we reached Albufiera, checked in (to the hotel) and checked out (the local area). We were on a quiet street that led down to a big beach, several blocks from the lively spring-break crowd, and strategically located to explore the coastline of sandy beaches, red limestone cliffs, natural arches, and caves we’d seen on so many Instagram accounts.
We made it!
It was a beautiful place to stay, serving as our “base camp” for the adventures we hoped to have. Our ambitious agenda included: Lagos, Cavoeiro, and (most importantly) the Begal cave, plus any cliffs and beaches that struck our fancy. Just getting to the Algarve was such a wonderful experience; we couldn’t wait to get back out there!