Winter is nearly over (yes that sound you just heard is my huge sigh of relief!) and honestly one of the only things I like about January is sketching out my travel plans for the upcoming year. So I thought now would be the perfect time to dish out a holiday suggestion based on somewhere I absolutely loved when I visited a few years back. It’s affordable, easy to get to and has loads to offer, including plenty of sunshine. I give you… the Algarve in Portugal.
A couple of years ago I visited Albufeira at the end of March with friends and, whilst we probably chose it on a bit of a whim, we all ended up absolutely in love with the place. I have often thought about going back there but almost don’t want to ruin my memory of it because we had such a perfect trip the first time (although after writing this post I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to resist!)
How to get there
One huge bonus about choosing the Algarve as a destination for your holiday is the ease of getting there, not to mention that you can often bag a very low-cost flight. We flew with Easyjet from London Gatwick to Faro in under 3 hours. Ryanair also fly from Luton and Stansted and, if you have the flexibility, you will find a return ticket for under £35 with little difficulty!
Faro is the nearest airport to Albuferia but the journey is quite a way. Although it is possible to catch a bus or train the public transport is limited and does not run on certain days or at certain times. It is best to get a private transfer but rather than hailing a cab from the airport I would highly recommend pre-booking with a company such as YellowFish Transfers for your own convenience and to save money. Our experience with them was nothing but excellent and I would highly recommend their service to anyone visiting the area.
When to go
I think it’s safe to say that you will almost certainly be guaranteed better weather in the Algarve than in the UK no matter what time of the year that you visit, however it will be hottest in the summer months. This of course makes it extremely popular during that time and because Albufeira has a lot of resorts and is a popular family travel destination it is also likely to have a greater influx of people during school holidays.
We visited from the end of March to the beginning of April and I think it was the absolute perfect time. We were lucky to experience beautiful weather, hot enough to swim in the pool (and sea if you’re brave, it is the Atlantic after all!) but not too hot to have to hide in the shade during the early afternoon. It was also quieter than in the summer months, meaning we only had to walk a little way down the beach to have a huge stretch of it to ourselves!
Where to stay
Albufeira is very much a place of resorts, villas and apartments. Whilst I can see the appeal of resort stays, especially for anyone travelling with young children, they are personally not my travel style. As you know I like to immerse myself in the culture of a place as much as possible and that includes interacting with local people and eating in local restaurants. There would be no point in me staying at a resort because I would never want to spend any time there! When it comes to looking for accommodation I’d therefore suggest that apartments and villas in Albufeira are the way to go…
We opted for an apartment in a building with a swimming pool. What is great about when you stay in a villa or apartment like this is that you really get the sense of what it is like to live in the area. We had our own lounge and dining area – a useful addition for socialising if you’re sharing with friends – then separate bedrooms for sleeping in and a kitchen to prepare food. This is great if you are staying for a couple of weeks and don’t want to eat out every day or are looking to save money by preparing your own meals. As it turns out all we really used it for was breakfast, which we enjoyed on our own balcony overlooking the town!
Whilst villas sound (and often look) fancy, don’t let that put you off! They can be surprisingly cheap, especially if you have a big group and are splitting the cost between quite a few people. Similarly they tend to work out cheaper the longer that you stay. You can use a site such as Clickstay to search for accommodation, which is specifically for finding villa and apartment rentals and let’s you narrow your search by selecting the facilities you want your accommodation to have i.e. private pool or close proximity to the beach.
Things to do
The Algarve is a destination where life revolves around the beach… but that’s not to say there isn’t a lot to keep you occupied. I love to be beside the sea but I’m not a sun-worshipper by nature so chilling on a beach is a short-term activity for me. Regardless in Albufeira it’s hard to resist some relaxation time and a dip in the ocean. I feel perhaps I should warn you that, what with it being the Atlantic, it is pretty bracing amongst the waves, but nice for a brief spell to cool down on the hottest days.
On to another sea-based activity, we took a coast and caves boat trip whilst in Albufeira. The catamaran that you sail on takes about 3 hours to go down the coastline and back and will take you inside the cave too! All of this whilst getting a guided tour with information about the area. The best part is that at the end before you head back to shore you’ll be able to jump off the boat and have a little swim… something I am itching to do every time I get on a boat (apart from maybe that time with the Great Whites in Cape Town!)
A short taxi ride from Albufeira is the Salgados Nature Reserve, which is a beautiful area of land to walk around in and will be of particular interest to any bird-watchers. Personally I can just about tell a robin from a sparrow but even I was impressed by the amount and variety of wading birds that we saw! If you follow the raised platforms and walk through the reserve you will also come across Salgados beach, a stretch of sand arguably more beautiful than the beach at the main town of Albufeira and definitely less crowded!
My final recommendation for the area is just to walk around. It may sound simple enough but from Albufeira Old Town you can walk along the coastal path pretty much as far as you like until you get tired. The path has plenty of inclines to keep seasoned walkers interested (but is not too difficult for the less energetic of us!) and sometimes veers off into the back streets of the town so there are lots of opportunities to check out the architecture and places to stop for a bite to eat.
Have I convinced you that you need to visit the Algarve yet? If you have visited Albufeira or any of the surrounding areas let me know in the comments so I can get some tips for my next visit!
This post was created in collaboration with Clickstay but all opinions remain my own.