5 Activities to do in the Algarve

Scrolling through my feed on Instagram seems like Portugal is the place to go this year! The coastline of southern Portugal, known as the Algarve which means West in Arabic, has endless sandy beaches and is the perfect place to go for a sun-soaked holiday in Europe. There you’ll find breathtaking cliffs, castles, churches, palm trees, charming small towns and delicious cheap wine. I just got back from a 2- week trip to Portugal, my second time there. After seeing all the major cities, I took the train down to the Algarve to spend 3 days there, taking it slow to soak up all it had to offer. Here’s my list of top things to do in the Algarve.

 1. Explore the old town of Lagos, an Iberic word which means lakes, also the name of the capital of Nigeria. In Portuguese it is pronounced “La-goosh”. The narrow cobble stone streets of this small town are best explored by foot. The buildings are painted colorful colors or have mosaic tiles. The Moors settled in Lagos 2000 years ago as part of their maritime trade network. It was also through Lagos that the African slave trade entered Europe in the 15th century, you can visit the slave market museum in Lagos to learn more. The Church of St. Sebastian (Igreja de Sao Sebastiao) has a small chapel where the monks lined the walls with sculls. See the Castle of Lagos and the Fortress of Ponta da Bandeira which was used to guard Lagos by protecting the river from an attack. Sit in a cafĂ© and enjoy some Portuguese wine while you people watch. Wine was cheaper than bottled water (they don’t drink tap water).

 2. The walled city of Lagos is also known for its fascinating rock formations, sea cliffs, grottos, and lighthouse that offer amazing views of the rocky coastline and Atlantic Ocean. I visited two beaches in Lagos: Dona Ana and Camilo which offer amazing scenery from the top of the cliffs. There’s a walking trail from cliff to cliff with picturesque views of the cliff formations and beautiful blue green water. If you want to go swimming, just be warned the water was quite cold in June. Surfing and kayaking are popular here. This was my favorite town and I would love to go back!

 3. Tour the coastal grottos by boat. I visited the Benagil Cave which is the most beautiful sea cave that only small boats can enter. The cave is so large it has a beach inside, but it’s not dark because there’s a hole at the top of the 100 feet cave that a huge ray of sunlight comes through. The water is a crystal clear turquoise color.

 4. Visit the town of Silves which has an amazing Moorish Castle. Throughout the town you’ll see tons of storks with nests on top of vacant buildings. It was quite a sight to see!

 5. Experience the nightlife in the lively town of Albufeira.

Practical Info How to get from Lisbon to the Algarve 
We took the train down to Tunes which was a 3-hour ride in an unconditioned car for only 12.5 euro since we bought our tickets in advance from the Portugal's rail website. The train station was very small so we were lucky to find a taxi. We flew home from Faro's airport to Lisbon.

How to get around the Algarve 
We didn’t rent a car, instead we utilized the local bus service Eva Transportes. We traveled from town to town for less than 5 euro. The drive time was between 30 minutes to 1 hour and only tourists were on the bus. Taxis between towns will run you 20 euro. Each town has a tuk tuk that is basically just a cheap transport around the town. Bring cash because a lot of restaurants don’t take credit cards. Lagos has money exchange places but other small towns do not. English was widely spoken in Portugal.

Typical tiled buildings

These purple jacaranda trees were all over Portugal and so fragrant!

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