Honestly, I really can’t recall how exactly Portugal got onto the travel adventures bucket list, but I’m so glad it did. The annual adventure started in in Ireland (surprise) and so the logical (cheapest) path at the time was Dublin to Paris, Paris to Portugal (then on to Madeira and Spain). What a great place, full of charming and light hearted people and a few expats who came for an escape and never left~ They’ll encourage you to dive right into their “fresh” waters (fresh meaning holysh&*^$that’s cold~). I prefer the warmer waters, but I jumped in and survived the initial shock and then jumped in again and again. Fresh (the best kind of) and well prepared seafood, quality wines and bevvies and lots of great excursions to keep anyone busy.
When to go.
I’m told from March to May or September to October, because the weather is still warm, but accommodations are cheaper and there are fewer crowds than in summer (I hate crowds). We went in mid September and it was shorts and summer dresses by day with a light sweater and capris at night.
Where to Stay.
We stayed mainly on the southern coast and in hotels, but met a couple friends who were annual visitors and highly recommended renting an apt within walking distance of whichever town you make your home base (in their case, Algarve) then bus or drive to other places.
Alvor: Pestana Alvor Praia. Again, you’re kind of spoiled for choice on great hotels at great prices ($100 or less for 2ppl per night). The room was great with patio that opened up to huge shared open courtyard facing the sea.
Carvoeiro: Tivoli Carvoeiro. If you dream of having an open air massage on a cliff overlooking the atlantic ocean, followed by a complimentary drink on the sea view terrace, then this is your hotel.
Where to Eat, Drink and Be Merry.
The majority of the restaurants we found there were really reasonable with great food, wine and ambiance, but these stood out.
Alvor: Restaurante Atlantida. At the eastern end (or beginning) of the beachside boardwalk with indoor/outdoor dining and really fresh dishes.
Alvor (Faro District): Sereia Restaurante. After a day of sailing, quick change and a few steps away was this little gem among gems. We got a cozy little table just inside the door. Two words: Au Gratin.
Portimao: Maria do Mar. It’s a sardine shop with rows and rows of brightly decorated sardine tins and serves a light and tasty lunch. More than that, it’s a little piece of historical and local conservation. Find it or take the side car tour. It’s one of the stops.
What to Do (when you’re not eating, drinking and being merry).
Alvor: Sailing with Trigana Boat Trips. This was one of my absolute favorite excursions (and thus, made it into the 12 Adventures series intro)
Carvoeiro: Chu…Chu…Tourist Train. Couldn’t find a lot of info online, but if you head to the beach, the train is setup there at the roundabout. It runs daily and takes you into the village with a couple nice stops. Fun and nice way to see a little more of the area.
Carvoeiro: Walk the long Carvoeiro boardwalk. Miles of coastal boardwalk with breathtaking views and oodles of restaurants, bars and cafes to pop into.
Portimao: Side Car Tours. This is such a cool way to see the area and guided by a sweet, family man who loves people who does pick up and drop off at your accomodations.