Every year, tens of thousands of people flock to the Algarve’s golden beaches. With over 300 days of sunshine a year, gorgeous coastlines, picturesque scenery and affordable prices, it’s little wonder that Portugal’s diamond, the Algarve, is so popular with tourists and perfect to add to any Portugal road trip itinerary. However, there are some hidden gems to explore so don’t be put off experiencing one of Europe’s most beautiful destinations.
Here are some of the best ways to spend your holiday in the Algarve off the beaten path, without feeling overrun by other people.
Explore the old traditional town of Lagos
Unlike some of the more metropolitan Portuguese towns, Lagos with its cobbled streets is a step back into traditional Portugal. Although still a popular destination, Lagos has plenty of quiet and unusual spots to explore.
Aside from visiting the wide variety of historical monuments at the centre – castle walls, churches, traditional houses – hire a bike and explore the quiet and scenic roads nearby. There are plenty of pretty villages nearby and the coastline is wonderful to ride beside.
Something not many people realise is that Lagos has a train station, right in the centre of town, and the tickets are affordable and bikes go free!
Secluded Beach of Praia da Barreta (aka Ilha Deserta)
Anyone visiting the Algarve is aware of its famed picturesque beaches, such as Praia da Dona Ana. But not many people know about Praia da Barreta. This stunning beach is located on a deserted island near Faro, and is only accessible by boat. The boat leaves from Cais da Porta Novo, costs €10 return, purchasable from the ticket office on the pier, and takes around 30 minutes to get there. With a 10km coastline largely untouched, it is one of the least developed Portuguese beaches and one of the Algarve’s best-kept secrets.
Coastal Walk Along Trilho dos Pescadores
Trilho dos Pescadores, also known as the Fishermen’s Trail, is a challenging but very rewarding hiking trail that is mostly used by locals to get to the best fishing spots in the area. This means you can easily make the full walk without seeing anyone else, bar the odd goat.
The footpath itself is divided into different sections that cover around 120km, these take you through river valleys, along the beach and even over clifftops. Keep in mind, you’ll be faced by harsh ocean winds and rough terrain that is only accessible by foot, so wear sensible clothing.
Stay in a Local Portuguese Home
One of the easiest ways to avoid the stampede of tourists is to avoid the big, popular hotels on the strips. Instead, truly immerse yourself with the locals by opting for a home rental. In western Algarve, the beaches are quieter, the cost of living is lower and there are hundreds of local homes on offer – some by the beach, some with private pools, some with a Mediterranean garden. Or you could even venture into Couchsurfing to take the full plunge! The Portuguese locals are very friendly; so expect to be welcomed into the family.
Surf in Odeceixe
The Algarve’s western coast is full of sleepy villages and wild coastlines, which are adored by surfers. Visit the picturesque village of Odeceixe, where cottages are dotted down the river valley beside cobbled streets. Take a casual 4km riverside stroll to the wide and secluded Odeceixe beach with its strong Atlantic winds, perfect for surfers. There’s also a lagoon ideal for swimming for those that don’t want to surf.