This article takes us to the Algarve region of Portugal, to explore not only the beautiful beaches, but also the hidden backwaters, such as the inland walking trail of the Via Algarviana and the Costa Vicentina nature reserve.
Until last year I thought the Algarve was all sun, sea and golf. A sort of rich man’s Costa del Sol where people came to fly and flop and cultural adventure was extended from the hotel bar to the beach and back.
This I now realise was not only misguided and unfair but widely off the mark. Sure, you can come to the Algarve for its sandy beaches and comfortable apartments but for those wanting slightly more from their get-away Portugal’s most southern region offers up more than enough to satisfy those itchy feet.
Day one of my Algarvian retreat and I joined my guide just outside the pretty hillside village of Alte where I was to begin a stretch of the regions popular walking trail – the Via Algarviana. This 240 kilometre path stretches from Lower Guadiana to Cape Saint Vincent and takes in some of the region’s most picturesque countryside along the way. As someone who has been known in the past to be somewhat navigationally challenged I was more than pleased to discover the paths were clearly sign-posted and the wooden posts with their red painted ring were all I needed to monitor in order to ensure I didn’t end up aimlessly walking into Andalucía…
In terms of seeing the ‘hidden Algarve’ you can’t get much more off the beaten track than this. The paths wind their way through fields and meadows, forests and tiny little villages where dogs bark with gusto as you pass through their little pocket of tranquillity. After a couple of hours our guide brought us to a small clearing by a house where she promptly laid down a blanket and an elderly lady from the cottage scurried over with a basket heavy with fresh breads, olives, Portuguese meats and delicious homemade chutneys and jams. Needless to say our small group devoured this mouth-watering picnic before gathering our things together and carrying on to meet our vehicle which would drive us out to the coast to our designated lunch spot (yes, that was just a snack…)
Food in the Algarve is another very good reason to come here and away from the tourist hot spots there are numerous local restaurants to slip into for a traditional meal. Bread, cheese, cooked meats and sweet potatoes were all firm favourites of mine – while the seafood was without doubt some of the best I’ve ever tasted. Fresh, beautifully cooked in light sauces the fish, prawns, mussels and scallops we feasted on overlooking the Costa Vicentina on the Algarve’s rugged and idyllic Western Coast.
As well as nature lovers (the Costa Vicentina is a protected Natural Park covering over 74,000 hectares and boasting over 750 different species – 12 of which are not found anywhere else in the world) this part of the Algarve is a surfers haven. Sandy inlets, rugged coves and deserted stretches of wave scattered sea and sand make this an ideal place to come and bring your board. Or, if like me you’ve eaten far too many mussels to risk straining your own, a great place to sit and digest…
Heading back later that evening to the nearest largest town, Lagos, where we would spend the night (a mini bus had helpfully taken our suitcases that morning – well, I was on holiday:) I checked into the Quinta dos Caracois full of respect for a region so undeniably appealing yet also in some parts so untouched I almost want to keep my new found knowledge to myself. Enjoy…
Author Bio: Roberta Summer loves exotic locations, cocktails and Japanese food. She hails from Madrid where she learnt flamenco and has since travelled extensively to explore her passion for dance and languages.
More Things to Enjoy in Portugal
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