The Algarve is well known for its tourist resorts and family fun holidays with lots of water parks and bars and cut price breakfasts, but have you ever wondered if there is more to the Algarve?
The weather is fantastic and the coastlines, scenery and sights are amazing, but sometimes you would like to enjoy it with out a large crowd, can you imagine strolling though countryside, visiting a castle, buying your produce with the locals at a market or eating real Portuguese food? Well this is all possible on the unspoilt Algarve, don’t get me wrong, we love the tourist spots and can understand why you would want to go there with a family, afterall the kids need to be entertained and being entertained is an art form on the Algarve, but sometimes, just sometimes you really want to appreciate the the bits that are not like this.
So we are providing an alternative, an off the beaten track tour to areas that retain the real feel of Portugal.
Many of the places we visited are are not in the tourist books, these are beautiful and unspoilt areas that are definitely worth a visit, we have had a whistle stop tour and there are so many other sights to see, for example Estoi has a beautiful Palace, which we did not get a chance to visit.
But if you are looking for the busy beaches, night life and crowded bars they are probably not places you would want to spend your entire holiday in. But Public transport is easy to use and inexpensive, so a day trip to any of the following places places are within easy reach.
Olhao is a working fishing town, there is no beach but there is a harbour and you are able to get little taxi boats to local beaches.
All along the harbour are restaurants, and every one we tried was fantastic, the food was plentiful and the fresh fish was amazing. We managed to try a number of restaurants with local dishes and were never disappointed.
There is a large market hall on the harbour selling fresh fish and food and a weekly market selling traditional goods, souvenirs and even chickens!
There is a taxi boat that can take you to unspoilt beaches, it does not have a beach itself but the town is based on the Ria Formosa lagoon system.
Olhao is perfect for sitting and watching the world go by, whilst enjoying good food.
Fuseta is approx 10 km from Olhao and is again a traditional fishing port; however Fuseta does have a beach. Again this is part of the Ria Formosa lagoon system. Fuseta is much smaller than Olhao but there are still many restaurants to enjoy.
Our favourite was on a Sunday lunch where every restaurant was over flowing with customers and many sell a set menu which includes fresh fish cooked on the traditional outdoor brick stoves (our meal with a starter and wine cost 10 Euros)
As the beach is part of a lagoon it has safe crystal blue water, but walk a few minutes and you will be almost alone, luckily it has not attracted mass tourism yet and seems to be far more a place for locals.
Silves is an inland town which was the capital of the region during the Algarve’s Moorish era (700-1200). The old walled part of the town has not changed in hundreds of years.
There is a castle overlooking the town (there is a charge to visit the castle) but we enjoyed a stroll around it and a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice at the Cafe Ingles.
Estoi is approx 10 km form the coast and is a pretty little town, we stayed near here and drove through regularly, we stopped a few times for a drink at the cafe by the church. This is the perfect place to sit and feel a part of real Portugal. It is quiet and not rushed, small and not spoilt. Sit with the old men and women on the benches and just watch the world go by, you really would not believe you are on the Algarve and as we said there is a beautiful place here, we just didn’t have time to visit.
Tavira is yet another amazing fishing town on the Algarve that has not succumbed to mass tourism.
If you are looking for a holiday or somewhere to visit and really want all the benefits of the Algarve but without the mass tourist trade, then Tavira is one of those towns. There are traditional Portuguese restaurants and cafes, amazing architecture and a real feel of the customs and traditions of Portugal
We sat by the river Gilão and watched men in the river moving stones and trying to catch something, we had no idea what, as the water was very shallow, a passerby joined us and explained they were collecting clams. It was so interesting to sit and watch such traditional fishing methods still in use.
It is worth taking the walk to the church and the castle (though not a walk for those with mobility problems) the castle gardens are fantastic and the view over the town is not to be missed.
We have all heard of Faro in Portugal
It is where you get your flight to and from the Algarve for a holiday. But this city is so much more than just an airport, we were really surprised, it is such a beautiful small city, with so much to offer.
There is architecture, cafes, shopping and so many sights to see and visit.
It is not a beach resort, even though it is coastal. But if a beach is important then there are many within easy reach.
As we headed towards the cafes we passed Igreja de Carmo, Faro, this is a small 18th-century Catholic church with a baroque façade, unfortunately we did not enter but have since found out that it is definitely worth a visit and has some fantastic art pieces and a small chapel built out of the bones & skulls of monks
Once you walk towards the town centre you will see a large variety of street cafes and shops to sit and enjoy watching the word go by
We headed in to the old town which is enclosed by the old city walls. While you are wandering around you can easily forget that you are in one of biggest cities in the Algarve, the whole area has a relaxed feel and even though we visited in September, there were not the crowds expected in a city.
We hope you enjoyed our tips on visiting the Algarve, off the beaten track.