The coast of the Algarve is filled with sunshine, breathtaking cliffs and sandy beaches. This summer holiday destination has gorgeous scenery, but at the same time, has sold its soul to tourism — holiday villas, brash resorts, restaurants, beach bars, discos and children’s activites are all plentiful.
Coastal Algarve is just a small part of the region, but given I only had two days (the weekend was cut short due to an upcoming business trip), it was all we could fit in. I’m sure the inland areas are just as gorgeous though – castles, historic villages and hiking trails along the hillside are all reasons to come back again!
We decided to make Albufeira our base for this weekend. This town, once a small fishing village, has developed into a major tourist destination. The told town has charming cobblestone streets which are now concealed by gaudy neon signs, bustling bars and a vegas-like atmopshere, where the party just doesn’t seem to stop.
Neverthless, we spent Friday enjoying our local beach, Praia dos Pescadores, which was a short stroll down from our flat, and the perfect place to have lounge, relax on sun loungers and go for a swim.
And while the nightlife was an unexpected surprise for us, we decided to dine locally and take in the experience on ‘The Strip’. As the night falls, the restaurants are filled with British, Dutch and German tourists who are focused on cheap drinks and loud music. It’s a strange sight, especially since the bars don’t seem to mind if they have their little children tagging along, many of which are falling asleep in the bar!
We started Saturday with a relaxing morning, indulging in coffee and pasteis de nata from a local bakery. We then jumped into the car and drove 30 minutes down the coast to Lagos.
Lagos dates back to 2000 years BC and was a village originally visited by the Phoenicians and Carthaginians. In the 15th century, it became famous due to the Voyages of Discoveries, where trade between Portugal and Africa helped the region prosper. The older part of the town is still surrounded by its 16th century walls and filled with churches and piazzas.
That said, we came to Lagos less for the culture and more for the scenary. There are stunning views and amazing beaches all around the area. From Ponta de Piedade, the views of the sandstone cliffs and nearby islands is spectacular.
The views were well worth it, but given the 32 degree weather, it was time for a swim. We made our way to Praia do Camilo for an afternoon swim along the natural caves, and also for a chance to relax under a parasol on the beach.
Perched on a cliff just above the beach was O’Camilo, a restaurant with a light and airy terrace overlooking the sea. The fresh grilled fish and salads were a perfect light lunch to tide us over until the evening.
Before heading back, we drove back into town to the marina, where we jumped into a little motorboat to explore the grottos by sea.
In the evening, we were extremely lucky to have secured a table at Vila Joya. There was a last minute cancellation at this two-Michelin-starred restaurant, and the table was ours! The restaurant is situated on the lovely terrace of the Vila Joya boutique hotel, and it overlooks the lush gardens and pool, as well as the beach.
The chef, Dietar Koschina is famous for changing his menu daily, and combining the finest ingredients from the local markets and Algarve fisherman with Northern European cooking. The eight course tasting menu is absolutely an experience — a gastronomic paradise.