I said on my main Travel page that Portugal was my favorite and I meant it! A friend of mine had travelled there before I, and he simply said “trust me, when you hit Portugal make sure you visit the Algarve“. So when travelling with my sister in Europe we landed in Paris, then travelled to Barcelona, down the coast of Spain, then to Portugal. It was a pretty long backpack to get all the way down to Portugal but well worth the trip.
Picture a colorful marina and clean and peaceful stretches of beach that seem to go on forever with crystal-clear water and a maze of beach-to-beath pathways and you’ve got Portimao, Portugal. This place was amazing. We rented scooters to tear around the town – and although we were rookie-riders and could barely keep the things up-right nobody seemed to care, and the traffic just sort of made way for us like they’d seen worse. We took our scooters from the street to the beach, along the paved bike-paths for the most amazing views of the south coast and pristine beaches. We also rented bikes and walked what seemed like miles through this down loving every minute of it. Even when we got lost we ended up somewhere cool, and there were always friendly locals scattered about to help us find our way.
I remember looking at a map before heading to Portugal and noting that Faro and Lagos were the places to see, given they were bigger dots on the map. However my sister, who at the time was a travel agent with Flight Centre strongly recommended that we stop in Portimao, which we did for almost a week and could have definitely stayed longer.
From what I recall, Portimao was just a small town right inbetween Faro and Lagon, sort of the best of both. There were quite a few beaches in Portimao, but our favorite was Alvor.
We also found a cool little sports bar not too far away called the Alvor Sports Cafe.
The Sports Bar – Alvor Sports Cafe
What had drawn us to this place was the friendly bar owner standing outside greeting people trying to rope in some business. There was also good music coming from inside, and a lot of big-screen tvs. There was an Edmonton Oilers game on one of the satellite tvs, ironic that we arrived at the time the game was on in our home city nearly 5,000 miles away! We met a couple blokes from England in the bar and ended up hanging with them at the beach the next day. And later that night, went back to the Sports Bar. My sister made a comment the night before that her mojito was too sweet and she only liked a specific kind of sugar (“Splenda”, I think?) and this time (the next night) the bar owner had come up to her with a handful of Splenda and asked if he could make her another mojito. He had obviously gone out of his way to accommodate his customer and who knows how or where he found that stuff, but it was impressive. One night had the scotland vs ? rugby game on during the rugby world cup which turned into a pretty fun night – it seemed like everyone but is knew about “that sports bar” so there’s your tip – if you make it to the Algarve, find your way to the Alvor Sports Cafe.
The Pirate Ship
In Portimao, we found a pirate ship called the Santa Bernarda and went on an afternoon cruise. The ship cruised up the coast and also offloaded the passengers into smaller boats to tour iside the many grottos. If you haven’t seen grottos before, check these out.. There wasn’t much to eat on the boat, only snacks and drinks, but I believe there were evening cruises and/or private cruises you could book with bbq dinners.
We rented scooters in Portimao for a day trip to Sagres, Portugal. It was fun ripping down the highway on the little scooters but I probably wouldn’t do it a second time. Getting passed by semi-trucks near blows you off the road, and the bugs aren’t very forgiving. Renting a car is much more practical. As soon as we got into Sagres we headed for a place called Tonel Beach. We had hear this is probably one of the nicest views you’ll ever experience – and rightfully so the most south-western point of Portugal gives you a near 360-degree view of the ocean from about 500 feet. We headed for the Sagres Fortress and from there looked down the cliffs to the beaches and discovered Tonel Beach. This beach was aparently one of the 4 best beaches around, very private and full of surfers.
Travelling throughout Europe by rail is a very fast & conventient alternative to air, but at the time we travelled to Portugal, more specifically all the way to Sagres, there wasn’t much for rail. Meaning, the trains we did ride were old, dirty and slow. I read online that Portugal is building a speed-train from Lisbon to Madrid in 2009/2010, so perhaps they’re catching up. All I recall is that from Seville to Faro to Lagos was full of stops and extremely slow.