Last week I took a cheap flight to the Algarve, Portugal’s southernmost region.
This was my first solo trip so I wanted a fair mix of straight chillin, some exploring and some social activities. I started my short time in the Algarve with all the reading & relaxing I could handle before getting cabin fever and certainly finished with social wine’s at sunset, fish with new-found friends and being able to share in some of Europe’s special hidden gems.
If you only have 72 hours or less, here are the things you’d be crazy to miss…
Unmissable Unique Experiences
- ‘The End of the World’ – (Well.. Europe’s answer to the end of the world.) Thankfully, the world isn’t flat so it’s just Cape St. Vincent in Sagres, Portugal’s & Europe’s most southwesterly point which is also home to one of Europe’s strongest lighthouses with a range of 18 to 21 miles. With absolutely stunning views of the ocean and a few cheeky beaches perfect for year-round surfing, this is a ‘must-see’ for all travellers. Even if it’s just to be able to say you’ve touched a corner of Europe or already seen the end of the world. If you can arrange to be here for sunset, you won’t be disappointed. Just to note – there are toilets here, however they’re not free to use at around 20 cents per person. Oh, and it’s always windy here.
- Benagil Caves – If you ask any traveller what their favourite thing about the Algarve was, chances are “Benagil” will most likely be their answer. In the high season, it’s so busy here that there are actually traffic lights for boats outside the entrance to the largest cratered cave. Boat traffic lights mounted to a heck cave, like seriously. If you’re going to take the trip, the best way to see the caves are via ocean in a boat or paddle-board but if you’re not a fan of the water, you can hike up to the top of caves or (even better) if you’re feeling extra adventurous, how about a snorkel or scuba dive right into the action? However seeing the caves is best suited to yourself, I promise you they’ll be a tour for it.
- Zip & Trip – ‘The Unknown Village’ Sunset Cultural Tour. One word… WOW. This really is the tour that has it all. Fancy a cheeky wee vinho (wine) at sunset? Check. Want to eat like a local in this forgotten village? Check. Interested in history & art? Check. Never seen a waterfall in the middle of someone’s house? Well, you will here. Tour guide, Ines, was truly amazing. The kind of person you feel like you’ve known your entire life and she made us all feel so welcome to her beautiful home. If you can only spare 4 hours in the evening and you’re looking for something to do, I would highly recommend this tour in historic, picturesque Ferragudo. (cover photo was taken as part of this tour too!)
- If you can’t make it to the end of the world, here’s a recommendation to a solid second best viewing point instead; Mount Foia, the highest point in the Algarve at 902 meters. It’s quite the drive to get up there, but at the top, there is a lovely little restaurant, souvenir store, and even a bar at the top. Just watch out for the weather being poor, it’s pretty hard to see directly in front of you when there’s that thiccc mist, and you’re kinda at the top of a mountain.
- Lagos Salve Market (Mercado de Escravos) – believed to be the first slave market in the western world, this museum depicts the tragedy of black African slaves that were brought in from the West Coast of Africa from as early as the 15th Century. Henry the Navigator played a substantial part in logistics of this route, and profited largely from the selling of all slaves coming into Lagos. His statue can still be seen in the Praça do Infante D. Henrique square to this day, a topic of great controversy. Entry is €3.
- The Bone Chapel (Capela dos Ossos) is located to the rear of Igreja da Carmo and is very much as it’s name suggest… a Chapel filled with bones (primarily skulls!). The skulls & bones are from thousands of monks, whose bodies were exhumed from nearby graveyards due to overcrowding. To add to this creepy experience, the entrance to the Chapel is through a beautiful wee garden where children can be heard playing from a nearby school. The entrance reads, “Pára aqui a considerar que a este estado hás-de chegar” – “Stop here to consider that you will reach this state too”. Entry is €2 with an additional €1 to take photographs inside.
Unmissable Local Foods
“O que deseja comer?” – What would you like to eat?
- Silves Local Market. If you’re feeling peckish for a quick snack before exploring Silves, I picked up possibly the best oranges I’ve ever tasted (sorry California) just at the local market. There’s a huge selection of locally grown, fresh fruit & veg, a fish counter and even pastries and cakes!
- Sardines – I don’t care where you get them from, especially due to them being available everywhere, but make sure you try this local speciality. For extra credit, see if you can spot any of the many abandoned canneries across the Algarve that only the Storks call these building ‘home’ to now.
- Doces finos – Sweet marzipan treats made from almond paste. These also can be found all over the Algarve. If you’re a coffee drinker, make sure to pick one up to enjoy with your afternoon caffeine hit. They come in all different, wonderful shapes, sizes and designs. Traditional meals in the Algarve will see coffee and doces finos served after your main course.
- Dom Rodrigo – As part of the ‘unknown village’ tour that I mentioned earlier, our first stop was to a locally produced ice cream parlour (most ice cream is imported from Italy) in Ferragudo and I chose to try the don rodrigo ice cream. I can only describe the flavour of this ice cream to be similar to carrot cake and to an extent, it looks to have carrot in it too. You may be able to imagine my surprise when I found out that it was actually EGG. YES, EGG. Stringy heckin orange egg yoke right in the middle of my dam ice cream. Dom Rodrigo is actually a traditional desert made from egg, sugar, almond and cinnamon. It may sound gross, but it was DAM good.
Unmissable Local Drinks
“E para beber?” – And to drink?
- Vinho Verde (Green Wine) – Although translating directly to ‘green wine’, vinho verde actually means ‘young wine’ and can be red, white, or rose, but usually has a greenish tint due to being bottled shortly after the grapes are harvested and short be drank thereafter. You can find vinho verde in most local restaurants and bars, however, it was sparse in hotels.
- Aguardente de Medronhos (Fire Water) – This one, I’ll leave as a surprise for you to find out for yourself, but let’s just make sure you’re not due to drive or operate any heavy machinery after consuming…
From Portugal, with love, ‘happy travels, bucketlisters!’.