After exploring Lisbon and Sintra, we headed South via train to see the Algarve region and get in some beach time. We stayed in Portimão (in my mind, that sounds like Port-a-meow, a cat filled beach. Sadly, that is not the case).
SIGHTS TO SEE:
Benagil Sea Caves! When researching for this trip, I kept coming across the iconic photos of a sea cave with a big hole in the top. I knew it was a must-see and booked a boat tour to check it out. Most of the sea caves are only accessible by boat. Our guide spoke both Portuguese and English, although I think we were the only people who didn’t know Portuguese on this excursion!
I took about a million pictures of the sea caves and rock formations, but I’ll save you the camera roll and just show the highlights above.
Here are some more activities what we considered doing, but didn’t get to:
Cape St. Vincent, which is the southwestern most point of Europe, also known as The End of The World. We probably would have if we could drive there, but decided it was too much of a hassle and we were settled in vacation mode relaxing at the beach that was within walking distance.
Fiesa: the largest sand sculpture event in the world.
If you rent a car, you can easily access these spots. The train is an option, but not very convenient if you are staying right on the beach.
WHAT TO DO:
Praia da Rocha, aka the beach! We went during high season in August, but didn’t find it to be too crazy. Go early to snag a spot on the beach and set up your umbrella. Take a stroll along the water in the morning while the tide is low. You’ll discover hidden rock formations that were previously underwater!
How cool is this pattern in the sand?
You can see on the rocks how high the water will rise.
Sunset beach yoga: I usually consider vacations a break from working out, especially since I insist on walking everywhere to take in the sights. However, when sunset yoga on the beach is available, you go! The class was small; just me and one other girl from London. It was incredibly relaxing. Did I mention the class was taught by Nelly Furtado’s sister?? Remember her? Bonus points for the studio name, Bend It Like Buddha.
WHERE TO EAT:
This is a tourist hotspot, and not exactly a culinary haven, however we did manage to eat well. My favorite spot was La Dolce Vita.
Cletonina: This Italian spot has a huge roof deck and delicious food.
If you walk down the main drag, Avenue Tomas Cabreira, you’ll find a number of little cafes to get your caffeine fix or quick breakfast.
There’s a grocery store within walking distance of the beach, so we stocked up with breakfast and lunch staples, and snacks for the beach.
WHERE TO STAY:
After researching the other beach towns, we settled on staying in Portimão, toward the middle of the Algarve region. Other areas are known for the party scene, very rustic, or off the main train line, which didn’t make sense for the length of our visit.
AirBnB success! The place we booked was connected to the owner’s house, and we had shared use of their pool. Lazy afternoons overlooking the ocean while laying in a hammock was pretty much perfection.
This was, by far, the most relaxing vacation we have ever been on. I could definitely live the Southern European relaxed way of life every day!
Our host was kind enough to provide towels and an umbrella for the beach, which was right across the pedestrian street. The view truly could not be beat! The dogs sealed the deal as best AirBnB ever.
Dog photo overload. They were so photogenic!
There is a train station in town, but it is not walkable from the beach. Uber is few and far between in this area, and cabs late at night are hard to come by. In hindsight, we should have rented a car from Lisbon so we could get there faster and have the ability to see other small beach towns easily.
And now, a photo dump of Portimão’s beautiful scenery.