Last year, my partner Tom and I spent five glorious days in the wonderful southernmost region of Portugal, called The Algarve. Known for its Atlantic beaches, low cliffs overlooking sandy coves and resorts, it’s not only beautiful but also very affordable. If you’re like us and wanted to get away for the summer without burning a hole in your pocket, I highly recommend going to The Algarve.
While we were only there for five days, we managed to pack in a lot of activities and I came back tanner than ever. We definitely had our fill of sangrias and cataplana, a traditional seafood dish unique to the region (which I highly suggest you try if you’re visiting the region!).
We started our journey in Faro, the capital of the region. It’s where you’ll start your journey too if you’re flying into The Algarve. Faro is beautiful and compact, with its old cobblestoned streets and neoclassical buildings. There are plenty of bars to wet your whistle and plenty of restaurants to fill your bellies.
Faro central is easy to get to from the airport if you’re catching a bus. There are two buses you can catch: the number 14 and the number 16. The number 16 is the most frequent of the two and heads towards Praia de Faro (Faro beach). It’s easy enough to catch; when you get out of the airport, follow the pink lane to get to the bus stop. The trip will cost you €2.30 and the driver takes cash.
We stayed at an AirBnB for our first night called Surf Vibe. It’s a 15-minute walk away from central Faro and it’s quite clean and cosy. Our room was spacious and the area was quiet and breakfast was provided which was a bonus.
After settling in, we explored the Old Town that was filled with Roman passages and centuries old archaeological finds. It’s also filled with lively restaurants, all reasonably priced. We decided to stay within the confines of the Old Town for our first meal in the Algarve and I can assure you, we weren’t disappointed with our first sangria pitcher and cataplana of the trip. We ended the day by grabbing a couple of beers and heading back to our BnB and enjoying them on the little balcony.
The next day, we caught a train to Lagos. Faro train station is quite easy to get to – it was a 20-minute walk from our accommodation so it’s not that far from the city centre. The journey to Lagos takes 1 hour and 30 minutes and tickets cost €6 one-way. The trains are air-conditioned and can get quite packed but the journey is comfortable enough and the views along the way are spectacular.
Not to be confused with a city in Nigeria with the same name, Lagos is a beautiful and characterful city located in western Algarve. The city boasts plenty of boats, cliffs, rock formations, beaches and a great nightlife.
Once in Lagos, we ended up catching an Uber to our AirBnB because we were just way too excited and wanted to drop our things off and head straight to the beach!
Our second AirBnB was a huge house with rooms rented out to other guests so you share the bathroom, kitchen and common areas with them. It’s called the Lagos Inn and I highly recommend it. Our room had french doors leading directly to the pool so Tom and I had plenty of swims (usually in the morning as soon as we got up because it was boiling!). It’s also quite close to some beaches and about a 25-minute walk to the city centre.
The first beach we went to was Praia do Camilo. To get to the beach, you walk down 200 wooden steps and there’s a sandy cove with a hand-dug tunnel which takes you to the other side of the beach. It’s quite a small beach and only just accommodated the 60 to 70 people that were there. We found a spot to plonk our stuff and into the crystal blue water we went. Yes it was freezing but it was incredible! Don’t let the 200 steps deter you from going. It was well worth it and it didn’t even feel like I was walking back up 200 steps (this is coming from someone who is ridiculously unfit!).
For our second day in Lagos, we decided to go on a kayaking tour. I’m a huge fan of kayaking even though I don’t do it often. The company we went with was EZRide and those guys are great! They take you through the hidden caves and around almost all the beaches along the coast of Lagos such as Pinhão and Ponta de Piedade, but the highlights were definitely weaving in and out of caves. At the end of the tour, you stop by a private beach where you get the opportunity to snorkel or paddle board (both provided for free!) and then a boat takes you back to shore. You can choose to kayak back if you want to but they recommend going back by boat. During the tour, a photographer takes photos of the entire experience and you can access these for free on their Facebook page. All of this cost €35 which I personally thought was quite reasonable given what you got!
These images are a mixture of the ones taken by EZRide and ones taken by Tom using our waterproof disposable camera (because apparently keeping it retro is cool!).
We spent the rest of the afternoon chilling by the beach before venturing back to the BnB for another dip in the pool, shower and then back into town for dinner. Yes, there was more cataplana and sangrias… so much so, we got a bit tipsy, ran around the Old Town watching musicians play divine music before heading back for bed.
On our last day in Lagos, we decided to go on another adventure: dolphin watching. The company we went with was Dolphin Seafaris and they charge €40 per person. As part of their terms, they don’t offer a refund if you don’t see any dolphins which I thought was a bit sucky but I guess when you really think about it, there’s the cost of fuel used for the boat and also the tour guides time and efforts. I told myself that if there are no dolphins out on this trip, at least I got to go out into the Atlantic on a boat.
Lucky for us though, we got to see not one but two dolphins!
Not gonna lie, I’m actually quite terrified of the ocean and what lies within it. Particularly sharks, whales and dolphins but I really wanted to conquer my fear and whilst it was terrifying, it was also quite exhilarating seeing the dolphins swim around us. It was truly a magical experience and a great way to end our last day in Lagos. Do I think it was pricey? Yes. Do I think it was worth it? Hell yes!
Once back on shore, we wandered around the marina, grabbed some lunch and then caught the train back to Faro.
Our last day in Faro was spent staying in our last AirBnB which was a hostel called the Lemon House and it had a rooftop terrace. We also met a lovely German couple on their last day of a two-week adventure around Portugal. We had our last meal of cataplana and sangria (probably the most expensive meal too…) and then headed back and went to sleep as we had an early morning flight to catch back to base.
All in all, we had an amazing time. I absolutely enjoyed The Algarve and would rate it as one of the best places to go to in summer. It seems somewhat underrated so it’s not as busy as what I’d imagine somewhere like Majorca or Ibiza would be. The fact that it’s extremely affordable was also a bonus.
Have you been to The Algarve? What was your highlight? I’d love to hear about it!