I recently took a month long trip to Portugal after quitting my corporate job (more on that later) to experience life on the road. The most asked question was, “Why Portugal?”. After reading the post below you will see why, but just to give you a quick rundown Portugal has so much to offer like stunning ocean views, wine, food, history and so much more.
My month in Portugal was spent in the lovely Algarve which is located on the southern coast of Portugal. Its high season is obviously from May to August with thousands of tourists flocking here each summer to spend time in what some call Europe’s Hawaii. It is sunny most of the year and even has islands off the coast that are popular for surfers. I chose to stay in the Algarve, specifically a small town called Praia da Rocha, for my one month stay during Portugals low season (February to March).
HOW TO GET FROM LISBON TO ALGARVE
There are 3 different ways to travel down to the Algarve from Lisbon. The most popular and convenient way is to travel by bus.
BUS: You can take the metro to Sete Rios (bus station) which takes about 10 minutes and cost 2 euros. Then take Sete Rios bus to the Portimão bus station. This journey will take about 3 to 4 hours and will cost 20 euros. You can, of course, choose to take the bus to Lagos or any other place in the Algarve. Portimao was just where I was staying. More information on the bus stops can be found here.
TRAIN: It is possible to take a train to the Algarve from Lisbon, but nothing is direct and would have to change trains very fast. It is just easier to take a direct bus in the same amount of time.
CAR HIRE: This is another option, but most expensive. You can hire a taxi/Uber or private driver, but this will set you back around 100 euros.
The weather was sunny most days and the temperature averaged 60-65 degrees in the months of February and March. The Algarve is its summer months the temperatures are 80+ degrees. I easily enjoyed beach days on the Algarve’s most beautiful beaches during its low season.
LOW SEASON INFORMATION
I wanted to throw this section in because Portugal has its pros when it comes to staying here on holiday during this period. The weather is just as nice and it is just as sunny but without the crowds. It was awesome to be able to spend time in a small, quiet, and trendy area that would normally be packed with tourists during the summer for half the price.
Normally, the locals know that it’s not a popular season so hotels, Airbnb, and apartment rentals have very discounted prices in these discounted locations, and even discounted rates for places right on the beach. You can ask the host or apartment staff for discounted rates and usually will give you a special price. I encountered this a lot when finding accommodation during these months.
THINGS TO DO
The Algarve is full of small beach towns with beautiful coastlines for hiking and beachgoers. There is a wide variety of things to do for any type of person.
Take a hike down the coast for stunning views of the ocean. There are 3 popular hikes you can do in the towns of Praia da Rocha, Lagos, and Albufeira. I will have more on this in a later post, but my favorite hike was in Lagos.
2. SEA CAVES
Take a tour to see the famous sea caves that the Algarve have to offer. There are so many to see and there are a lot of tours that take you into the caves. These tours usually don’t star up until March. The most famous cave is Benagil Sea Cave and boat tours won’t stop in there. You will have to swim to this cave which I heard was pretty easy. I had planned to do this but when the time came there was bad weather, so the tide was very strong. You can view the tour here, and even combine it with a dolphin watch. There are so many different tours you can take along the coast. When walking around the beach areas you can find small booths on experiences you can book.
3. VISIT A WINERY
Visit a winery! Portugal has two wine producing regions protected by UNESCO as World Heritage: the Douro Valley Wine Region (Douro Vinhateiro) and Pico Island Wine Region (Ilha do Pico Vinhateira). You can visit Trip Advisor for a tour or you can visit a local travel agency (usually located on main roads) to book.
4. STUNNING BEACHES
Did someone say beach day?! Kick back and relax on your holiday on the gorgeous and scenic beaches on the southern coast! Portugal doesn’t get enough credit for their stunning coastlines. During the low season the crowds are nowhere near, so on some days, I had these beaches all to myself to explore and relax!
5. PORTUGALS ISLANDS
If you have extra time (I didn’t but wish I had) visit the islands off the coast. The two most popular islands are the Azores and Madeira islands and you can get to them by flying there from Faro.
6. EXPLORE TOWNS
When traveling between the different towns in the Algarve, make sure to wander around because these small little towns are so pretty! My favorite was Lagos and Praia da Rocha!
The bar and club scene is definitely a thing in the Algarve! Locals love to party here, and I can’t imagine what is it like in the summertime. So, if you always wanted to go to the club or a bar on the beach then the Algarve will not disappoint.
The transportation is okay down in the Algarve. It is better up in Lisbon and Porto, but it is definitely possible to easily get to the Algarve. There are hardly any trains, and they rely mostly on buses to get from town to town. Each region has its own minibus system like the City Bus in Portimao. To travel further for example from Praia da Rocha you will need to book a ticket with Eva Transport. This 45-minute bus ride will cost about 4.50 euros. This price will be about the same if you were going to Lagos to Albufeira. You can buy a bus ticket at the ticket booth or you can buy the ticket when boarding the bus. These buses only accept cash! You can look up timetables and tickets here.
Ubers and taxis are also another options for transportation. I only used the bus a couple of times when I was traveling between the different towns. I used Uber a lot when I was traveling a shorter distance because Ubers are relatively inexpensive over there. My average Uber ride cost (3-5 euros one way). I used a Taxi once to get from the Lisbon airport to the bus station, and it was the same cost as an Uber but taxis in Portugal only accept cash!
Portugal uses the euro and most places will accept debit, credit, and cash. Most grocery stores and restaurants accept cards, but I have experienced a couple of bars and restaurants that did not accept cards or the machine wasn’t working. A lot of the transportation also does not accept cards only cash. Uber is the only mode of transportation you can use a card. In a nutshell, always have cash with you when visiting the Algarve.
There are so many different options when finding a good place to stay in the Algarve region. I chose to stay in an Airbnb (get $40 off your stay) for a month, but if your holiday is way shorter than there are hotels on booking.com you can find.
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