The (Not So) Hidden Gem Of Europe

8 July 2019

With miles and miles of sandy beaches, sangria on tap and a flight time of just 2 hours, 40 minutes from London, I hopped on a plane to Faro for my 23rd birthday to explore the Algarve.

The Algarve is Portugal’s southernmost region, known for its Atlantic beaches and golf resorts. I’ve been told by a number of people that I had to visit the Algarve for the dreamy combination of a relaxed beaches coupled with the hustle and bustle of markets in traditional old town squares.

Temperature wise, we went in May so it was around 22 degrees but it was quite windy so felt like 17 degrees at times, however temperates can get up to the high 30s in the summer months of June, July and August, making it the ideal long weekend in the sun. 

Where to stay

After a lot of deliberation on Expedia, we (I) chose the Sao Rafaela Atlantico hotel, and what. a. treat. My taxi driver said our hotel was the best hotel in Portugal. Bold statement, I know.  I always trust a taxi driver, they get around.

Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist resorts, this beautiful hotel is situated about a 5 minute taxi ride from the town of Albufeira, but around 45 minutes from the Airport. The staff at the modern 5 star hotel go out of the way to make sure your stay meets and exceeds your expectations. And not to mention the spa, 2 bars, 2 restaurants, 3 outdoor pools, the most spacious room equipped with a separate shower room, a nespresso machine, fully stocked mini bar, robes and the best breakfast buffet I think I’ve ever seen in my life (the free flowing Prosecco station clinched the title). The hotel is a popular spot for weddings and has a pathway to a private beach. Is there anything they haven’t thought of? Also, the palm trees make the surroundings super luxurious and do provide a good backdrop for the odd one or two pictures, see evidence above.

What to do

We explored the towns of Lagos and Albufeira, passing through Portimao and Faro on our way. Despite being there for 3 days, with a day spent in the hotel, I would say we had more than enough time to see the main sights of the Algarve as well as take in the luxuries of the Sao Rafael Atlantico hotel.

The transport system is super easy to use with buses going from Albufeira bus stop to all the main destinations in the Algarve, as well as Lisbon if you fancy a long drive up north. For those shorter trips, most places in the Algarve are on the Uber network, so you can hop in a taxi within minutes and at a affordable price (I don’t know what I’d do without Uber)

Day 1: Lagos

Lagos is the western Algarve's liveliest resort town.

For those historians out there, Lagos was the birthplace of Portugal's Age of Discovery in the 15th century thanks to Prince Henry the Navigator. Despite having a modern Marina, and beaches for days, the town has a lot of old streets, castle walls and stunning churches.

I was on a mission to find the Batata Beach for its famous cliff edge. Mission accomplished. I’m so glad I did as the beaches in Lagos are something else, they are connected together by cliffs, caves, and grottoes. It wasn’t the right time of year when I went, but the sightseeing cruises and dolphin safaris would be good options for when the sea isn’t as choppy.

Alongside the Marina, there was a market where you can get everything from Football Shirts to Handmade Bags, and a wide choice of caf├ęs and restaurants to provide plenty of culinary distraction in between. Distraction being the key word.

Day 2: Albufeira

Day 2 was spent in Albufeira, which is the mini Britain of the Algarve. Albufeira was once a quiet fishing village. If you have the opportunity to walk around the old town of Albufeira, you’ll find a set of stunning whitewashed cottages, a chapel, and a church. Fast forward to 2019 and the town of Albufiera is full of neon-lit restaurants, nightclubs and the occasional tribute band on the street.

Forever the girl that squints in the sun but doesn't wear sunglasses

It’s more of a family destination with something for almost everyone. Markets, Theme parks, Restaurants - you name it! A common theme of what the Algarve is known for is its beaches, and Albufeira does not disappoint - some of the best stretches of sand in the Algarve and are popular all year round because of the warm, shallow waters.

If you’re looking for good beaches, with quality hotels and to be in the home of Peri-Peri chicken, the Algarve is the place for you.


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