October isn’t a time I considered visiting Portugal but what a fantastic way to escape the London autumn and cold! The main reason I was going over was to visit my friend, Helena from Lisbon who had some time off.
I flew into Faro on a Thursday night and stayed in Albufeira for 2 nights with Helena’s friends and then Lagos for 1 night with Helena’s uncle. The next few days were spent road tripping to various parts of the Algarve. It has stunning scenery and having a car meant we could stop at any point of interest and gave us the freedom to easily explore this delightful part of Portugal.
On Thursday night, we went out to where Helena’s friends were working and had some delicious frozen strawberry daiquiris to start off the long weekend.
We headed east and stopped by at Castro Marim where we walked around the very small town and went up to the medieval castle.
Just outside Castro Marim is the Spa Salino. They produce flor de sal and artisanal sea salts by hand. You spend at least 30 minutes floating and due to the salt content, you are easily able to float. There are many different types of minerals such as potassium, magnesium and iron in the water. After floating, you cover yourself in the mud and then relax in the sun until it dries up. This whole process softens and hydrates the skin. I highly recommend this as I found this a unique experience and my skin felt SO good! It costs approximately 10 euros in low season.
Afterwards, we headed to Vila Real de Santo António (very close to the Spanish border) to have lunch with one of Helena’s friends. We went to a local hole in the wall restaurant where we had olives, prawns and different types of fried fish and wine. The bill came to a mere 16 euros all together!
We headed to Tavira and went to Praia do Barril. We took a small train which links the mainland to the beach. It was a fun experience and since it is only 1.5km, we walked to the mainland on the way back. We relaxed on the beach and went swimming and there is also an anchor “graveyard” which is really cool!
In the evening, we went to Faro where we walked around the small, cosy town and one of Helena’s friends who grew up here showed us around. We saw the sunset from Hotel Faro which had great views of the main square and marina.
We left fairly early in the morning so we could reach Praia de Benagil in time for low tide. Although the beach wasn’t spectacular, the caves is definitely worth visiting. You swim from the left hand side of the beach for around 100m and although it was a short distance, as was quite rough and choppy so you really had to work hard to fight the waves. You can also see the caves from a small boat, however as you cannot get out of the boat, swimming, kayaking or stand up paddling boarding are the best options.
Praia de Marinha with its amazing cliff faces, was one of my favourite spots in the Algarve. The beach itself is beautiful too!
We headed towards Lagos and grabbed a sandwich from the local café at Praia do Camilo and ate on the beach. The views were picture perfect and it was so nice to just relax, tan and swim. Surprisingly, the water wasn’t too cold!
Afterwards, we drove to the extreme western tip of the Algarve to Sagres for the views of the rugged cliff faces as well as the forts. This part of the Algarve is meant to have some of the best surf beaches and also has interesting history to it.
In the afternoon, we walked around Lagos and went to a café to have my favourite, pasteis de nata (Portuguese tarts). We then headed to Helena’s uncles house and we had a beer on arrival then he cooked us a fabulous dinner with wine!
We said goodbye to Lagos and headed north towards Lisbon. We stopped by at a beach in Praia das Furnas which had both a river/lagoon and the ocean. The rock pools were fun to hang out at but the water here was freezing!
After, we stopped by at a small town called Sines and had a lovely long lunch at Cais da Estação. This restaurant was formerly the old train station and the seafood we ate was so delicious! Definitely recommend this place if you’re stopping by Sines!
The last stop was a beach in Troia where I had my last Portuguese tart in the sun and by the water. We caught the ferry from Troia across to Setubal and drove along Europe’s longest bridge, Ponte Vasco da Gama to Lisbon where I headed to the airport.
I had the best time away in Portugal which was because of Helena’s hospitality as well as just being in the amazing sunny Algarve. I felt so relaxed even after 4 days and being in the sun and by the beach made me feel like I was back in my element. It made me miss being back home in Sydney, especially as they are heading into summer. However, it’s good to know that there always some amazing spots only 2 or so hours from London to escape to!
Obrigada, Portugal – until next time!