After last year’s mid winter escape in search of sun, which was only partly successful, we decided to stay closer to home this year and head south as far as the bottom tip of the Algarve. Our research showed that this is a land of wild, windswept beaches, dramatic cliff top walks and fabulous local cuisine. “Let’s go” the family cheered. And we were not disappointed. If anything, we found out of season to be a spectacular time to visit. We found a rugged land where the wind blows wild, where surfers brave the sometimes ferocious waves, where fishermen dangle their lines down huge vertiginous cliffs. We loved it!
Here are some of our highlights:
First stop the lighthouse. Obviously at a cliff edge, being a lighthouse. But until we saw this, we didn’t realise quite how close to the edge!
From Lagos to Sagres, the coastline is simply littered with spectacular golden sand beaches. Hire a car and take your pick, you won’t be disappointed. The only thing to note is that the waters here remain cool all year around, missing the warmer currents that swirl around to the Med so it’s likely you will need a wetsuit if you plan to go in and stay there for a while.
Surfers love it here. Those in the know bring their wetsuits and boards. For others who are keen to try to catch a break, you can hire longboards, boogie boards and wetsuits in town.
If you are dining out head to Vila do Bispo and enjoy the great cuisine that chef José Pinheiro cooks up at Eire do Mel. There is seafood, of course, and some great meat dishes. We shared their house speciality of prawn cataplana with chorizo and devoured their homemade lemon and ginger ice-cream ice-cream. Superb, friendly dining and our waiter, noting the flu ridden health of my husband, mixed up the local firewater, medronho with a touch of honey and ginger promising he would be a new man by the morning!
With a spot on location on the Baleeira fishing port, A Tasca in Sagres is unsurprisingly a seafood place with fresh fish from the catch that morning. With an atmospheric interior with wine bottle mosaics on the wall and, we guess, a fabulously sunny terrace when the sun shines, this ticked all our gourmet boxes.
For somewhere to stay then we have two brilliantly family friendly options. Just up the coast a little is the fabulous Monte da Vilarinha, which combines rustic simplicity with fun, contemporary style. It’s the creation of Joao Cunha who spent his childhood in the Algarve, and is arranged around three distinct casas, each built with local materials and all very well equipped for self catering (if you choose).
The other is Martinhal Beach Resort, another excellent family friendly place to stay with plenty of activities for the kids, and a spa for the adults. Perfection some would say.
Algarve, you surprised and charmed us with your warmth, your friendliness and your wilderness. As a winter break it was superb, and we will be back for more!
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