For the second year in a row we planned a visit to the south of Portugal. May is still out of the high season, and the weather is perfect to us in this time of the year.
Last year we traveled in April, with Ryanair from Brussels South (check blogpost here). Now we use our national airliner Brussels Airlines, with departure from Brussels National Airport. Far more accessible, even by train (although you always have to take into account some delay!). And apparently Brussels Airlines now works with automated check-in desks. We are no big fans, can’t see the advantages apart from cuts on personnel costs … But, this is a travel blog, so back to what this is about!
After a bumpy flight we arrive at Faro and pick up our rental car. First stop, as usual, is the supermarket, but then it’s time for our first sight of this trip: Quinta do Lagoa Bridge. The bridge is a bit hidden between the big (for tourists only?) villas and the golf course, but when we finally arrive we immediately have a sense of Australia! The laguna, which is part of the Ria Formosa National Park, can be crossed via the wooden bridge, towards the Atlantic Ocean (360 view). You have to take the noise of the nearby airport for granted.
After this first relaxing stop, we go to a place we missed last year: the church of Almancil (Igreja Capela de Sao Laurenco dos Matos). It’s on the World Heritage List, because of the interior: walls of azulejo’s (the typical blue tiles) and an altar piece of gold. We are a bit too early to visit the church, but now we are here and we wait. Once opened, we are a bit surprised the entrance fee is € 2 per person (but we are in Portugal, people have to make a living out of something), and even worse: you are not allowed to take pictures …
Couldn’t live with that last part, I’m sure my cellphone didn’t hurt the azulejo’s (without using the flash light). At Senhora de la Rocha, at Porches, a bit further, we pick up some memories of last year, before a big shower makes us decide to go to the first hotel. We end our day with a dinner at Porches.
The next day it’s supposed to rain, all day … But when we leave from Porches, the sky is as blue as it can be and we enjoy it at Algar Seco. We don’t leave until midday, skipping a lot of places since we’ve only been to this region last year. One of the few places we didn’t visit then, is Alvor. The town itself is very touristic but the beach with a laguna and a beautiful boardwalk is very nice. We spend our afternoon at this beach until we can see the first thunderstorm coming in. We wait until it stops raining and drive further until the end of the world, aka Sagres.
Sagres is our camp spot (a fancy hotel as camp spot, but nonetheless our camp spot) for the next three days. We go out to find a thousands-year old stone (a menhir) at Raposeira. You’d think a stone this old would stand out, and lots of people would stop here … Nearly missed it again, but we’re the only ones admiring prehistory! We visit some beaches and after lunch we head out to Cabo de Sao Vicente (check post last year).
This still is the end of Europe (at least from the main land)! The beach and fortress of Beliche are also well worth a stop, but people are like herd animals. We decide to take the more adventurous road between the fields and end up at the other side of the cape, alone!
Last year we drove from Sagres all the way to Lisbon, along the west coast. Unfortunately it rained cats and dogs all day, so we just saw the rain drops, no beach or ocean. One of the reasons we came back this year! We drive to Aljezur to visit the first of many beaches (360 view of Por do Sol) along the coast line, to end the day back at Sagres. It’s just astonishing! Can’t say this in words, watch the pictures 😉 (360 view of Ruinas da Fortaleza de Arrifana)
Before leaving this part of Portugal, we go back to the beach of Beliche one more time. No wind at all, we have the beach all to ourselves! When the clouds come to visit, we leave the party. It’s time to check the east coast of the Algarve, but first we go into the hinterland. Mertola is situated along the river Guardiana giving a slight cooling. At the coast we enjoyed moderate temperatures of about 25 degrees Celsius, today we have to take in +30 without a sea breeze.
Nevertheless we visit the church and the old fortress (for free!). From the fortress we have a beautiful view over the river and the old town. At that time we don’t realize ourselves we are actually sleeping at the other side of the river and are watching at our hotel 🙂 Once arrived there, we go back to the centre of the town to eat something. The next day, we leave early, as always.
We drive along the river, which is the border between Spain and Portugal, at least from here. It’s a strange feeling to see the other side, realising that’s another country with a different time zone … First real stop is Alcoutim, where we not only see Spain, but also a river cruise boat bearing the Belgian flag! We couldn’t be more happy to go further south, back to the coast! We stop at Castro Marim, where we should see the biggest flamingo population of Europe at the nature park Sapal. We can’t find them, but we do drive right under the bridge connecting the Iberian countries. And we follow the river all the way to the ocean! The jetty is the only nice place at this ugly beach resort town. Our final destination of the day, and actually of this trip, is Tavira. Yes, there are tourists over here.
But yes, it also is a nice old town. No, we wouldn’t want to come here in high season, but still, it’s a lovely place to visit. We enjoy a very good ice cream at Gelataria Delizia but have to find another place for dinner. We were looking forward to have some proper vegetarian food, according to the positive comments we read, but the place is closed today. So instead we try our luck close to Ilha de Tavira. The beach is accesible via a bridge and a long walking path (even we walked about 30 minutes), but there is also a little train. After dinner we head to the B&B for the night, a beautiful house away from the tourist spots, of two locals who are very eager to share there story with there guests, learning English at the same time 🙂
The salt flats of Fuseta are the very last sight we examine, before heading towards Faro along Olhao. It has been nice again! The Algarve is only a few hours away, and at the right season, an amazing place to visit!
the movie (sound on!):