Curious in the Algarve

Twilight in Salema at full moon

To escape to the Algarve in the beginning of September to extend the summer was a fabulous idea. As sun-seekers we were rewarded with plenty of sunshine, day temperatures as high as 30°C/86°F, and sea waters of 20°C/68°F.

Lucy, the owner of OceanBlue Portugal, where we stayed, was right to suggest that a visit in September would be quieter and more laid back than being there in summer (Jul/Aug). I can imagine that May/June are also pleasant months.   The Algarve offers over 150 different beaches.  As a sample, these two, stunning and pristine (details below) …

Our direct flight from Zurich to Faro took 2h50. To get the rental car from Sixt took us 1h. Finally, after a one-hour drive west we reached Burgau. These mailboxes mark the road to OceanBlue Portugal, located on a hilltop.

Tip:  In Google Maps search for “OceanBlue Active” to get the directions.

It was Sean, Lucy’s husband, who welcomed us on arrival and showed us the property.

OceanBlue Portugal was perfect for us. There are four self-catering apartments. We had booked the smallest, Sapphire, an open-plan studio with a kingsize, a basic kitchen (no oven but a washer, very convenient to rinse all the beachware), and a large bathroom.

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A bottle of local wine, cookies, and coffee ready in the room to kick off the vacation.

Swimming pool and BBQ corner

Lucy and Sean have interesting options if you are into active holidays: bikes, SUPs, surfboards, snorkels, sea safaris aboard their 9m catamaran … All offered by them. Check their website for details.

OceanBlue Portugal was ideal as a base to explore. Being first-timers in the Algarve, we were glad to follow some of Lucy’s recommendations, which were all great.  Thank you, Lucy!  We also made some discoveries on our own.  The food is amazing!  The Algarve has all to make a foodie happy, especially if you appreciate fresh fish and seafood.  These are my foodie picks, covering this time, mainly, the southwest.   Most of them are right on the beach! That is why we are in the Algarve, aren’t we?  Note: praia = beach

BURGAU

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Beach Bar Burgau @ Praia do Burgau – You could say these are the house’s beach and restaurant as you can reach them within a 15-min walk, located in the heart of the little fishing village.

Cabanas Beach Restaurant @ Praia das Cabanas Velhas – A nice menu, fresh ingredients, and a friendly, laid-back atmosphere.

Mais Perto (store and coffee shop / R. Principal 11) – If you are self-catering, come here to grab a good coffee and Tostas Mistas (hot sandwiches prepared with buttered slices of rustic bread) to start the day.  We tried the tomato&cheese and the ham&cheese. They also run a convenience store.  Open daily 08:00-20:00.

BUDENS

Boia Bar @ Praia da Salema – We found amazing seafood and fish in this traditional restaurant facing the beach. Their fish stew is to die for; it made us return! On our second visit we could dine al fresco, enjoying the views of the beach and the full moon.

VILA DO OBISPO

Restaurante Zavial @ Praia do Zavial – As mentioned by Lucy, you find here awesome seafood.

Tips:

  • Praia do Zavial – We called it the surfers’ beach, as there were many surfing when we got there. If you are looking for waves, this might be your beach.
  • Praia das Furnas – Between Zavial and Figueira you will find Furnas beach.  It was already late afternoon, but we decided to stop quickly and have a look.  We were surprised to find this large, beautiful beach, which gave the impression of being non-developed.   We thought we had found Tom Hanks, not with Wilson but with dogs …

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  • Praia da Figueira – Although I like all the beaches we visited, this is my favorite one. After an easy 10-min walk through the pretty valley, you reach this beautiful beach.  It felt like paradise.

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LAGOS

Mar d’Estórias – We had some drinks and coffee on their sunswept, roof terrace. A nice concept that includes a shop, a gallery, and a restaurant.

Tip:  Ponta da Piedade – Mind-blowing cliffs and coastline not to be missed. Not to be confused with the cliffs and caves in Praia do Benagil in Lagoa … still on the bucket.

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Tips:

  • Sunset in Sagres (western Algarve) @ Cape St. Vincent – A magical experience being in the southwesternmost point of mainland Europe.

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  • Loulé Market (central Algarve) – Just 20 min inland from BJ’s Oceanside is Loulé with its quaint, old center. The local market (1908) resembles a Moorish palace. The indoors, local produce and farm-fresh market is worth a visit.
  • Praia do Barril (eastern Algarve) – Note that Barril beach is part of the Ria Formosa Natural Park. Close to Tavira, in Pedras d’El Rei tourist village, where you can leave the car in a parking lot and then walk or take the 1.5-km mini-train ride to the 10-km long, white, sandy beach. When you reach the beach, don’t be dispelled by the lines of beach umbrellas and chairs. Just walk a few minutes to the east or west, and you can be almost on your own. Walk along for 1.5-2 km to the west, and you will reach Praia do Homem Nu (Naked Man’s Beach), which is declared as an official nudist beach.

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This write-up is not complete if I do not tell you about my affection for Pastel de Nata.  It is a pastry that brings back fond memories.  My dad used to buy them in the Chinatown in Lima, and we all loved eating them together at home.  Finding the original Portuguese tarts during this trip was a nice surprise, and I could not resist getting one wherever I saw them!  Comfort food they call it …

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