The south of Portugal, known as the Algarve, is lined by the Atlantic ocean with incredible rock formations and beautiful fishing towns. Many of the impressive beaches along the coast make lists of “top beaches in the world”. There is both lots to explore and equally enough places to sit back and relax. A holiday place for everyone, we had friends there with a 9 month old and toddlers so very family friendly, perfect for couples and beautiful homes [casas] to rent for family/group getaways.
Flying into Portugal, we landed at Faro airport. A short walk from the terminal, we picked up our rental car and set off on the 10 minute drive into Faro. We had some lunch on the port and had plans to explore the old town, but ended up heading from lunch straight to Sao Lourenco . Its a small church that has an impressive interior of blue tiles. No photos are to be taken inside the church but there are 50c postcards by the entrance to buy. Entry is 2euros.
Once we were done in Faro, it was time to head along the Algarve to our accomodation.
We stayed a few minutes from Benagil beach, situated in the middle of Faro and Lagos which was my plan as we had lots to explore along the coast. Staying in the middle made getting from place to place less time consuming each day. I’ll link where we stayed here. Its a really nice, clean, cheap, boutique hotel with a pool. Being in Covid-19 times, we weren’t allowed to use the common areas but the pool was still open for use. We arrived early evening so had a swim at our accomodation before we fell asleep for the night.
Our first stop of the day was to Praia da Marinha. I particularly wanted to go there for its famous heart shaped rock formation, viewable from the top of a cliff looking down. We parked in the carpark and followed the cliff walk for about 5 minutes. You first see the “M” shaped rock and then when you’re close to it, find the edge of the cliff that makes the bottom of the heart. I’ll put in a picture for reference. We were there taking photos around 8.30am, Ihaia and I were the only ones there and the lighting was fine.
Next, we drove a couple minutes up the road back to Benagil beach. We were actually aiming to get there earlier to have the Benagil cave *hopefully* to ourselves but we parked just after 9.00am and there were already a few cars there [tip – theres a free parking lot up the hill from O’Pescador]. Making our way down to the beach, theres a snack shack called Benagil Beach Bar that we stopped at to have a quick bite to eat at and were surprisingly impressed! We had the best iced coffee that we went back numerous times throughout our stay to get again and a comforting, filling, ham and cheese toastie… breakfast of champs haha! There are plenty of tour kiosks around the beach for kayaks, paddle boards and boats but we opted to hire our own kayak and set off by ourselves. The kayak was 30euros for 1hr [or 50/60euros for 2 hours]. It took us less than 5 minutes to get to Benagil Cave and once we were there we were mind-blown! Inside the cave, the water is turquoise blue and the walls are white, yellow and orange. At the back of the cave there are lots of little rock formations and theres also a big rock just off the centre of the eye that you can stand on for good photos in the cave. We stayed awhile in there, taking it all in and taking lots of photos before struggling to kayak out again. There are 2 big entrances to the cave but the water is still a little rough and you also have to dodge boats, paddle boarders and other kayaks. Once we were out of the cave, we continued to the left of the cave to a secluded beach and had a swim and little rest before heading back to Benagil beach.
Third stop of the day was a 15 minute drive to Carvoeiro, a stunning former fishing village now a popular tourist destination with a sparkling blue beach and shops and restaurants behind the beach. We parked on top of the hill near the Algar Seco Cliff parking and walked down the hill to get a good view of the beach front and colourful old fishing shacks. We then went into the town for a walk around and got a ice cream. I still hadn’t had a Pastel de Nata so got the ice cream flavour of that which was sweet but yum.
After our busy morning, we headed back to our accomodation for a swim in the pool and a few hours to relax.
For the evening, I had planned to go to another fishing village called Ferragudo for dinner. I’d seen photos of a cliff of white houses with the sea below and thought it gave off some Greece vibes. However when we got there and I’d taken a similar photo, we decided not to eat there and try somewhere else. We did try to get seated at a couple of beach clubs nearby [Club Nau and a few next to there] but couldn’t get a table so we ended up going back to Carvoeiro and having dinner but it was average and I won’t be recommending it.
After dinner we headed back to where we had parked earlier in the day, the Algar Seco Cliff walk, and decided to go check out the sunset there. We parked in the carpark and walked down the stairs [not along the boardwalk] that headed down to a restaurant/snack bar. Right after that, theres a hand painted sign that I can’t remember what it said but through the rocks near the sign there is the most beautiful rock formation of two holes looking out onto the ocean, its named the Algar Seco Boneca Eyes. You can walk all along and through the rocks around there, its the coolest place to discover and watch the sunset.
A day in Lagos. It was about a 40 minute drive from our accomodation so we left just after 7.20am. Our first stop was to Praia do Camilo, famous for the picture of the stairs leading down to the beach. There were plenty of parks in the car park but it had just gone 8am and there were already a couple of people getting their pictures on the stairs and some people set up on the beach for the day. The sun was rising right in front of the beach so the photos we took weren’t my favourite. Also having to deal with the people on the stairs was a mission, there was one couple taking their time, getting pictures on pretty much every stair while people were walking down to get to the beach as well. Once on the beach, turn left and there are a few different coves connected by walking through tunnels in the rocks, which is pretty cool.
Second stop of the day was to Beach Estudantes, a beautiful little beach known for a bridge connecting two rocks above and the clear blue ocean below. We parked in the Batata Beach carpark, walked down a few stairs to the beach, turned right at the bottom and walked through the rock tunnel to Estudantes beach with the bridge. We got there just before 9am and there was quite a bit of shadow but the photos turned out ok. After that we headed into the town centre for breakfast, we went to Coffee & Waves and loved it! Really good coffee, iced chai, avo toast, açai bowls and I also had my first Pastel de Nata [Portuguese egg tart pastry dusted with cinnamon]! I honestly thought I’d be having 20 a day but here we are… day 2 and only having my first. Which also ended up being my last, what the heck. Afterwards we wandered around the town soaking in lots of colourful houses, steep streets and boutique shops, we headed back to the car to go explore another beach.
We went to Ponta da Piedade which has an amazing lookout over the rocks to the ocean. There are two walks – a long walkway across the top of the cliffs and a shorter walk down the cliffs to a clear water grotto. We did the short one down to the grotto and I got some nice photos of the rocks in the ocean, it’s really picturesque down there! Theres no where to lay on the beach as such so we headed back to Batata Beach, had a swim and lay out for awhile [tip – you need coins for parking here].
We had planned on staying in Lagos until dinner time but it was only around 2pm when we decided that we’d seen everything we wanted for the day and was a little tired so we went back to our accomodation for another swim and to relax.
For dinner we went to a restaurant really close to where we were staying that looks over Benagil Beach. O’Pescador has nice set up and the food and drink were really good too. Highly recommend eating there! To sit on the side of the restaurant that looks over the water, you definitely need to book in advance.
Watching the sun set into pink and orange skies, we headed back for the night.
We had friends in the Algarve at the same time who booked a private group boat trip for a couple of hours. This is the company we used. We left at 11.30am and got back at 2pm. We were taken into many caves and told facts and history as we went along. We actually saw dolphins near the start too which was a massive bonus! There was also options to cliff jump and snorkel. It was a really fun few hours on the water and I enjoyed seeing and taking photos of the rock formations, coves and beaches from the ocean side as well. I highly recommend you do a boat tour.
When we got off the boat, we had late lunch at a beach club in the same port called NoSoloAgua which was a really cool spot with a restaurant, pool and day lounges. The food just took a loooooong time and by the time we left it was already late afternoon.
Once we had said goodbye to our friends, Ihaia and I went back to the free car park by Benagil Beach and walked to the back of the car park, though a *kind of* closed off fence and along the cliff edge to get to the top of the Benagil cave hole. We followed the path left until we came across the hole. Its fenced off but easy to jump and look down into. That is a must do! Its crazzzzzyyyy looking down into the cave!
We then headed back to our accomodation for a swim, shower and some down time before getting takeout for our last night and watching the sunset.
We had an 8.30am flight so it was a 5.30am start to drop off the car and drop our bags on time. As we drove towards the airport while the sun was rising, I appreciated the place once again. The Algarve is such a little pocket of paradise, easy to get around and explore in a few days, lots of adventures to be had and many beautiful places to relax. Thank you Portugal! Its been amazing.