The Algarve – “Off the Beaten Track”

Mrs. Local Hideaways has her own ways of finding the most authentic places that are not yet awash with busloads of tourists. Or, to quote good old Lonely Planet: I like to go “Off the Beaten Track”.

Last October, I was on a mission in the Algarve – the most southern part of Portugal. There are non-stop flights to Faro airport, the Algarve’s unique airport, from a wide variety of  European destinations. Or you can reach the Algarve through Andalusia, Spain, which is just around the corner. This is a great way to travel if you want to try something different from taking the standard Andalusian tour. The Algarve is often associated with big tourist places such as Albufeira and Quarteira, where many people spend their holidays lying on the beach or playing golf at one of the many golf courses. However, this is not to everyone’s taste, and certainly not to mine.

Luckily, there are other options but, as is often the case, you will have to look a bit further to find the hidden gems. In the Algarve those gems are mostly located east of Faro. Here, you find Ria Formosa; a big stretch of natural park which was declared one of the seven natural wonders of Portugal, Lots of migrating birds settle here on the vast plains and at the lagoons. But you will also find many authentic fishermen’s villages worth a visit, such as Fuzeta, Santa Luzia and Cacela Velha.
The salty air in these villages stimulates your appetite and invites you to settle down at one of the tables of the local eateries to try the most fresh and tasty seafood. Pure and simple is how they prepare their dishes here. A personal favourite are the Conquilhas: small clams stir-fried in garlic and parsley. The employees of the different Local Hideaways can advise you exactly where to go!

The most interesting city of the Algarve can also be found in this part: Tavira. It’s situated at the mouth of the SéguaRiver and is called the “Venice of Portugal”. This is a great city to explore, especially if you combine it with a visit to Ilha de Tavira: Tavira’s renowned beach, which is accessible only by boat and stretches  for 9 miles. Similar sandbanks can also be found in this area. For instance Ilha da Armona, accessible from Olhão or Ilha da Fuzeta, by boat from Fuzeta.

As you can see, there are many places worth exploring in this hidden part of the Algarve. But west of Faro you will also find “off the beaten track” places. This coastline is vastly different from the east coast: majestic cliffs and hidden bays dominate the scenery here. If you turn ‘around the corner’ at Sagres – the most south-western part of Europe – you will find the Algarve’s best kept secret: Costa Vicentina. This stretch of coast is course and spectacular and because the  major part is a designated nature reserve,  it is almost totally undeveloped. Costa Vicentina can be reached easily from Local Hideaway Casa Arte.

With this blog, I hope  to have revealed some of the hidden spots of the Algarve to you. Let me finish with one last word of advice about these hidden gems:
psst, don’t spread the word! Or it’s going to be much too crowded!

Esther van Onna, owner of Local Hideaways. December 2013