The Algarve is not only beaches and majestic cliffs and rock formations. It’s also a place where there are several other attractions to see, which it’s time to write about.
While in the Algarve, it’s worth getting up off the beach at least for a day and seeing what’s going on outside the hotel. There are several places to choose from – we can head west to the picturesque Cape St. Vincent (Cabo de São Vicente) or to one of the cities, with Faro in the lead.
Table of contents
Cabo de São Vicente
Let’s start with point one – Cabo de São Vicente. While Cape Cabo da Roca, which we visited earlier, is the westernmost tip of continental Europe, Cabo de São Vicente is its counterpart when it comes to the southwest. Historically, it is a symbolic place – it was considered the end of the known world at that time.
Today there is a lighthouse on the cape, whose strong light can be seen from as far away as 60km (some sources say up to 90km!). This lighthouse was built to replace the monastery previously located here. In addition to the lighthouse, here we will also see a museum, a café and a gift store. It is also the beginning of trekking routes.
Also noteworthy is the fact that it is a fairly flat yet high terrain; the cliffs reach 60m in height, and the cape itself looks interesting from the citadel of Sagres, located a piece to the east.
We recommend you dress warmly, no matter how hot it is in the rest of the Algarve. There is a strong wind here, so sweatshirts and jackets are advisable, and you also need to be careful not to get too close to the cliffs, as it can blow very hard and unexpectedly.
Citadel in Sagres
Sagres is a small town 6 km from Cape St. Lucia. The city of St. Vincent is famous for its citadel located on the Ponta de Sagres cape. Although there are buses to the area, the easiest way to get here is by car – parking spaces are plentiful.
The fortifications are open to the public, but only the church remains of the fortress itself. We were more captivated by the views of the cliffs and coastline than by the building itself (especially since it was under renovation).
The city of Faro is the largest city in the Algarve region, and it is at the local airport that tourists arrive in large numbers to experience the sun on some of Europe’s most beautiful beaches.
Is it worth coming here or is it better to just treat it as an arrival and departure point? We couldn’t imagine not coming here, being in this region :) Mainly because of the nearby Natural Park da Ria Formosa, about which we write a few paragraphs below. Faro itself may not be the most beautiful city in Portugal, but there are several places to go here.
In Faro the weather was not particularly good for us, but the important thing is that it did not rain. It was one of the cooler and more cloudy days during our entire stay in Portugal. It was the beginning of the season, so people on the streets as scarce. Throughout our stay in Faro, we had the impression that the city was sluggish, quiet and peaceful.
The main thing to see in Faro is the Old Town (Cidade Velha), surrounded by walls, with several more or less majestic entrances. The city’s most famous gate is the Arco da Vila, favored especially by the storks that make their nests here.
In the center of the old town is a square and the 13th century Sé(Se de Faro), which was the first Christian building in Faro. After a short walk, we walked to the Igreja da Misericórdia and the Igreja de São Francisco (there is ample free parking here, although we suppose there may be a problem with spaces in high season).
We also went to the north of the city to see the newer part and eat something. Unfortunately, we hit the wrong time again – at our lunchtime, a lot of pubs are closed. Fortunately, several were open, so we opted for late lunch dishes. Unfortunately, in addition to local sardines, we got pieces of frozen fish, which were no longer as good as the ones we ate before.
Ria Formosa Natural Park
This protected area is one of the largest protected lagoon areas in Europe – it covers 170 square kilometers. This impressive area of islands, peninsulas, beaches, embankments and spits is home to many species of birds and an important point during migration and they are not bothered by the crowded airport next door ;)
Some areas are accessible by car or boat. We made it by car to the Ilha de Faro spit, where there is Praia de Faro, a long beach with beautiful fine sand. The drive to the spit includes a small bridge where traffic shuttles, but for us the big attraction was also the drive right next to the airport strip ;)
Here, too, you can see that the area is waiting for the season to begin – there are plenty of summer houses here, but they were all abandoned and even neglected.
Walking towards the long beach, we passed various bars, restaurants also locked up with four triggers. This depressing view was rewarded when we reached the aforementioned beach: long, empty, fine sand and the sound of the sea :) What to want more? Better weather – then we would have no doubts about staying here longer ;)
In addition to beachcombing, a number of small boat cruises are popular in the region. They are especially recommended for people who want to get to those less accessible beaches or for ornithologists :)
Although it is a unique place, it did not charm us. Fact, the beaches are beautiful, but the whole area is much more impressive from a bird’s eye view. So if you are the lucky ones who will be landing in Faro, be sure to pay attention to this place :)
There are several small and smaller towns in the Algarve region, but they are not particularly attractive. Ot small tourist destinations or those larger, bustling new cities. If you want to take a break from the sun, eat something other than the hotel’s all-inclusive, or at least do some shopping, you can drive up to Portimão, Lagos or Alvor (we stayed overnight in the latter).
As you can see, in addition to the beaches in the Algarve, there are several other places worth seeing. While they may not be world-class gems, it’s worth at least going to see the impressive cliffs or wild beaches in the western Algarve, and if you want to see more of the old city walls, historic churches then we recommend Faro.