Filling in the Holes: Advice on the Algarve
Richard and I have received the details on our stay in Portugal in May and June and are starting to plan our side trips. I’m also figuring out where the holes are in my forthcoming e-book travel guide, which I’m hoping to upload to the Kindle Digital Platform in August. I have a title already, EUROPE’S GATEWAY: THE ROGUE WRITER’S GUIDE TO PORTUGAL AND BEYOND. The e-book will compile for easy access my most useful and informative blog posts related to travel in Portugal along with pieces inspired by our side trips.
Currently, the most visited post on this blog is “Should You Rent a Car in Portugal?” The traffic (haha!) for that post has generated dozens of comments and questions, many of them highlighting one of my biggest holes in the travel portion of the blog — the lack of content on that most popular of tourist spots, the Algarve. The Algarve is one of the places in Portugal where having a car is a huge convenience — unless one plans to remain exclusively in Faro and environs as we did, or signs up for an all-inclusive family resort. These resorts, with organized activities for children and spa time and day trips for adults, seem to cluster near Sagres, in the western part of the region, or in the heavily visited central Algarve.
According to my Portuguese friends, the various towns of the Algarve each have their own character, and one of my goals this spring is to assemble a spreadsheet of information on the topic: Which town in the Algarve is right for you? This is an important thing to know because, for instance, I’ve received emails from older travelers trying to decide between Albufeira and Lagos. Well, Albufeira is a lot easier to get to — trains between Lisbon and Faro stop at the rail station on the outskirts of the town five times a day each way, while the train to Lagos requires a long stopover in Tunes — and there are several rental car offices in the center of town, so one doesn’t have to drive all the way from Lisbon. (This is less of an issue with European travelers, who can fly directly into Faro via one of the discount airlines.)
But, Albufeira is a lively party town, a favorite with young British tourists. The shops, restaurants, and bars are close to the beach. While Lagos also hosts many tourists, they tend to be older and looking for a nice beach and other places to relax. While there are many beachside hotels, the town and the beach are separated. I sent the older travelers to Lagos, even though in their case it meant renting a car at the Lisbon airport and driving the three hours south.
Albufeira and Lagos may be among the best-known Algarve towns for tourists, along with Faro and Sagres, but they’re not the only ones. Some of the questions I plan to answer for each town are as follows:
- Is the beach geared more to sunbathing or to surfing and watersports? (In general, the beaches on Portugal’s western coast, Sagres and points north, tend to be the better surfing beaches, while the beaches on the southern coast, east of Sagres, tend to be better for swimming and sunbathing, but there are exceptions.)
- How crowded are the beaches, in and out of season?
- Is the town/area best known for all-inclusive resorts (family or adults-only), quiet relaxation, lively nightlife, history and/or nature, or specialized travel (such as yoga retreats or cooking classes)? And related to that…
- Demographic breakdown of visitors: age, family status, nationality. Keep in mind that in many of these towns, half or more of the visitors will be from somewhere in Portugal.
- To what extent has each town become home to expats and retirees rather than short-term visitors? (While I do not recommend choosing the location of your future home based on one of my blog posts, there are a number of towns, such as Tavira in the eastern Algarve, where people from other countries have settled because of their amenities and pleasant lifestyle.)
My research will certainly take me back to the Algarve, as well as to Portuguese friends and the growing number of expats from the U.S. and elsewhere that I’ve met online. If you would like more information, or would like me to address additional questions beyond these five, please let me know in the comments. And stay tuned for additional coverage of travel and life in the Algarve!