Portugal

Ten Days Itinerary to the Algarve, South Portugal

Ten Days Itinerary to the Algarve, South Portugal

Ten Days Itinerary to the Algarve, South Portugal

The South coast of Portugal is a beautiful part of the country that offers so many beaches and a lot of them are big enough to fit everyone that's visiting. The harder it is to find the beach however, the emptier it is going to be.

Beaches are only one part of it, it's always great for nature hikes, historic sights and lots of relaxation. I came to the South mostly for a surfing and yoga retreat, but I found so much more beyond that as you I'll see in this post. If you get the chance, then do make an effort to visit, especially, in the off season or the start of the season to get a more authentic experience. 


Is Algarve Muslim Friendly?

With the spread of Islam after the 7th century to North Africa, some of the regions around those areas such as the Southern Spain and Portugal were influenced by the religion of Islam. Some of the cities like Silves were fortified and that protected them longer. In the 12th century, Portugal were ruled by the Christian ruling again. A lot of the Islamic sights have been lost because of the The 1755 Lisbon earthquake.  

Further Reading: Arab Memories in Portugal By: Habeeb Salloum 
Tiles in Portugal

The affects of Arabs can be seen in the tile work and some of the Portuguese language. Tiles are called "azulejos", which sounds almost exactly as the Arabic word " Al Zellige" that is used to describe Moroccan tiles. Even the word "Algarve" goes back to the Arabic word "Al Gharb" meaning West. Referring to South of Portugal as the area West of Spain, where the Islamic Kingdom extended. 

On my trip to Algarve, I found it very muslim friendly. All my visits to Portugal have been really good and I am very thankful that is the case. Sometimes people are curious or just interested. A smile and a conversation usually break the barriers and the isolation. 

Algarve trip route

Weather in Algarve

Weather in Algarve

When I visited in April, the weather was a mix of rain and sunshine. That possibility of rain makes the South a less crowded place. The summer gets so busy that the ocean waves are not enough for everyone and the roads are filled with parked cars and vans. The start of Fall is a good time to visit especially that families are back to their home countries for their kids school. 

For weather predication through out the year check this graph from Holiday Weather. The predictions aren't very accurate, so it's better to use this as a general guidelines. It might be worth asking some locals too.

Ten Days Itinerary to Algarve

Ten Days Itinerary to Algarve - Trip Route

I started the trip from the furthest point of the South coast in Budens, which is an hour and a half from Faro airport then I made my way back slowly to spend four days in the Chicks on Waves yoga and surfing retreat. I then took a bus to Lagos and stayed there for three days. During the Lagos stay I did a day trip to Silves to trace some Islamic heritage in Portugal. I took a train from Lagos to Faro. I spent the last three days in Faro and took another day trip to Albufeira. Taking my luggage with me and using public transportation resulted in some back and forth, but it was still comfortable enough. If you are driving in the Algarve then your trip will be much smoother than mine.  

Highlights of Algarve Cities

Budens and surrounding area is a great place for yoga and surfing. There are so many retreats there such as the women only one I went to, Chicks on Waves, or I heard Good Feeling is supposed to be good. In short, it is a good place to relax and enjoy the beach life. 

Burgau and surrounding area is a great place for yoga and surfing

Lagos had a great little city vibe going on and they had the best vegetarian restaurants in Algarve. The cliffs and walking on them and next to them was the highlight of my entire trip! 

Lagos Cliff Walk

Silves is a cute little town with the famous Moroccan castle and I liked some of the tiled buildings there too! 

Moroccan Castle in Silves

Faro is underrated because most people leave it for the other interesting beach towns, but it also had a nice vibe. The main attraction is the park   

Faro City Break

Ten days were enough to see all the highlights, but there are more quaint villages and gorgeous nature to see. I could have spent three weeks there easily. My favourite city was Lagos and I would go back again for another visit for sure. 

Packing Tips for Algarve

If you are planning to go to Algarve in April or November then make sure you pack an umbrella and a rain jacket, but if you are going on the sunny months, then pack a sunhat instead. The water is VERY cold, so whatever season you are going, I would pack a little sweater or a cardigan to wear right after you come out of the water. If you are modestly clothed traveller like me, I would avoid the super hot months from June-August because being there under the hot sun, wearing layers can be slightly overwhelming unless you are planning to spend the majority of your time in the water then you are good! 

Food in Algarve

The food in the Algarve was okay. I mainly liked the food I had in Lagos, but Faro was not too bad either. Both of those two bigger cities had a few nice options. The great thing is that there is a lot of fresh vegetables and sea food. I think staying in a rented flat with a kitchen might be a good idea so you can use their delicious fresh produce to cook for yourself! 

Food in Algarve

Needed Budget for Algarve

Since Algarve is very touristy, the prices there can get expensive when added up. My budget aim there was mid-range; comfortable, but affordable. 

  • Flight from London to Algarve & Return in April on Ryan Air £180 (I booked it the same week I was flying, but you can find cheaper flights if you are more organised. 
  • Shuttle Service Faro airport (FAO) > Burgau 27.50 euros
  • Retreat (my retreat was work, but if you were to pay for it, it's between 650 to 800 euros)
  • Lagos Accommodation - Two Nights £45 (€ 50)
  • Lgos food and activities £60
  • Silves Day Trip £25
  • Faro Accommodation - Four Nights £125 (€ 140)
  • Faro food and activities £80
  • Albufira Day Trip £40
Muslim Trip to Algarve

Get a travel guide for Algarve: 

Over to you: What are you planning to do in the Algarve?


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Things to do on a weekend in Lagos, Portugal

weekend in Lagos, Portugal

Lagos was my second stop after the Chicks On Waves retreat since it's the closest main city. I had big plans for the city until it started raining heavily and continuously. Online guides and other posts all mention the sunny days of the Algarve. A lot of them failed to mention that the Spring here has a strong chance of rain. On the one hand, April is very quiet in the city and there are only a handful of people around, but on the other, people aren't there for a good reason! The rain in Lagos doesn't play, it's serious and heavy. If you are going to Algarve in April at least pack a rain jacket or an umbrella. Thankfully, I got some dry hours of sunshine and it was glorious. Lagos was actually one of my favourite parts in the Algarve. All the cliff photos that you see in adverts about Algarve come from Lagos. My only regret was not staying there longer! 



Things to do in Lagos

Explore the architecture of Lagos

The first thing I noticed coming into Lagos was the stone city wall. During my walk, I went to the two main churches there: Igreja de Santa Maria and Igreja de Santo António. They follow the traditional Portugese style of architecture and have some lovely geometric tiles inside of them. Another place I visited was the Forte da Ponta da Bandeira, which is the stone building facing the harbour dating back to the late 17th century. 

Ps. There are some nice walking maps online. I downloaded an offline walking map of Lagos from GPS my city

Spot the Graffiti

One thing that I enjoyed about Lagos was all the cool graffiti they had on offer. I spotted a few really cool pieces when I was there walking around the old centre. 

Join a yoga class

Thankfully, right next to my guesthouse was the InLight yoga studio and they offer various classes daily, so the walk in the rain wasn't too bad for three minutes. It was nice to pop down to a session and use my time wisely rather than staying in the guesthouse the whole day. 

Walk around the cliffs from every side

I saved the best for last. This was my absolute favourite activity in Lagos and it is really worth the hype. The second, the sun came out, I headed there and because beginning of April is still the off-season, I had the cliffs for myself. I led myself from the old town to the further one and I started from the beach all the way up. It took me about four hours and I could have stayed longer, but I didn't want to be alone in the middle of cliffs at night. There are so many fun options to do kayak and stand up peddling. Sadly, the weather was not on my side and could not do either, so please do it for me and tell me how it is!   

Where to stay in Lagos, Algarve? 

I happened to stay in the cutest little guesthouse in the old centre of Lagos. Having various spaces gave me a good way to spend my rainy morning indoors. I think I would have suffocated if I was staying in a hotel room. I cooked breakfast in the kitchen and stayed there reading from the balcony. The other thing I loved that this guesthouse is located in the middle of old town, which meant that everything was close by. The only down side was that the old town is full of bars and party spots and it meant some loud noises at night. 

Booking.com

Vegetarian Food in Lagos

I LOVED the food in Lagos. Although, I didn't find any halal options, I really enjoyed the vegetarian options they had! Below are the restaurants that I ate in because they were a walking distance from me and they had good reviews.  

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Silves: Tracing the Islamic Heritage in Algarve, Portugal

Silves: Tracing the Islamic Heritage in Algarve, Portuga

Silves: Tracing the Islamic Heritage in Algarve, Portuga

When I finally got some sunshine in Lagos, I decide to go on a day trip to Silves to trace the Moorish heritage in the area. The main thing that is left from that heritage is the castle walls that you can see standing with all their might in the middle of the city. Not much else is left of it though, but it is still good to go and see their influence that is clear through the little chimneys on top of the houses and the tiles inside and outside buildings.

I tried to find the mosque that appeared in Google maps, but after a log walk all over, I came to a regular locked house. It could be the mosque sight, but who knows. I asked some of the locals, but no one knew either. 

How long do you need to see Silves?

The total time of the trip including public transports, sights and a sit down lunch was five hours. 

How to get to Silves from Lagos or Faro by Public transports?
There are two ways from Lagos to Silves: by bus, which is cheaper and stops you closer to the sights, but it takes longer. The other way is by train, which is the way I used. 

The Lagos train station is on the other side of the old town and there is a pedestrian bridge over the marina you can use to cross. I bought my return ticket from the counter at the train station for €5.90. The journey was about 40minutes. It is the same train line coming from Faro, so you can come from Faro to Silvas by train as well, but it will take a little longer.

Ps. Note the time of your returning return because they are every two hours. 

The train station in Silves is 20-30mins walk from the beginning of the old town depending how fast you walk. I did not see any taxis outside the station. There was a bus stop, but I didn't the timing, so I walked. The walk from the station is near a highway/Motorway, but it wasn't too bad. There weren't many cars and I walked by the side on the little pavement. There were other people following the same path so we all walked in one line. 

If you want to visit Silves alongside other locations, it might be worth joining a tour that takes you to them like the Silves, Caldas and Monchique: Full Day Tour (setting off from Lagos)

Silves Train Station. How to get to Silves from Lagos or Faro by Public transports?

It's also worth noting the other stops the train stops at in case you want to combine this trip with another city. My suggestion will be Portimão since a lot of activities and boat tours depart from there. You can even get a boat from Silves to Portimão . I was taking it easy on my trip, so I only stopped at Silves.

The benefit of walking from the train station is the lovely view you get of the castle and the cathedral. 

The lovely view you get of the castle and the cathedral when you walk from the train station

The lovely view you get of the castle and the cathedral when you walk from the train station

Five Things to do in Silves

Stopping by the Market in Silves

One of the first things to see when you walk from the train station is the little traditional market they have there. It was a cute little thing with fresh fish, fruit, flowers and some local produce. It took me five minutes to look and photograph the whole thing.

Market in Silves

Going back in time and visiting the Moorish Castle

If you continue on walking, you will get to the town centre and start seeing the castle walls. It was only five minutes walk from the start of the old town. The only thing that remained is the walls and you can walk around them. They had three exhibition spaces; one with a few old objects, one about animals and one with black and white photos of the castle. I didn't like any of them and it would have been better to use the spaces with historic exhibitions that really transport you through time and gives the place an added value. It took me about an hour and a half to walk around the castle walls slowly and photograph the things I liked.

Wandering to Silves Town Hall

I did not even think much of the town hall and did not intend on visiting it but by chance I stood in front of it and was blown away by the tiles so I went in and loved the architecture of the main hall between the staircases. I must have stayed there for 20 minutes taking photos of the tiles any of myself next to them. The ground floor has the tourism information and a toilet.

Resting in the church

From the train station I saw the church in the skyline of Silves and I headed there to see how the inside is. It was a nice church and it took me 10 minutes to see every corner of it. It was good for a sit down and to see the religious symbols of the city.

Exploring the cute streets of Silves

Silves is a cute little town and the old town has so many little streets and alleyways that were mostly empty at 1pm in April. I was actually walking around to find the mosque, but it must have moved somewhere else without Google Maps being updated, but I just continued walking and photographing the tiled buildings.

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Eating in Silves

The old town is mainly touristy, so all the food spots I found were over priced restaurants and I had to eat in one because I was starving. The price of the fish was based on the weight, so check how much it is before it comes to your plate. Half of the Dorada fish I ordered was €17. If I knew, I would have had lunch back in Lagos and then came to Silves to see the sights. I would sugguest only having a beverage there and getting the train back if you are on a budget. If not, enjoy yourself! 

Eating in Silves

Budget for Silves: 

Train ticket return 5.90 euros
Activities:
Cathedral Entrance: 1 euro
Castle Entrance (student ticket) 1.40
Museum Entrance (student) 1.05
Lunch 20 euros (half fresh Dorada fish)

Books about Algarve and tiles you might like: 

Over to you: What are you planning to do in this destination?


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Albufeira in one day

Albufeira in one day 

Albufeira in one day 

I heard mixed reviews about Albufeira some people really enjoyed it and other friends of mine completely hated it. It is one of the most mentioned cities in Algarve, so I decided to go check it out anyway for the day just to see it for myself. Let's just say that after visiting it, I won't be rushing back there. It really depends on the type of traveller you are and your purpose going there. If you just want to go for beach and resorts then this will be so much fun for you. 

I found it extremely touristy and very built up. Going around it needs a car or an uber. The buses within the city take ages to come and I got really confused with the stations. It I a big place not like all the cute smaller towns I visited in the Algarve. 


From Faro to Albufeira by Public Transports

I took the train from Faro to Albufira for the day and the return ticket was just over €6. You get a cheaper ticket if you are younger the 26 and have an ID with your age on it. The train station is far away from the old town and the marina, so you can either get a taxi from outside the station, book an uber or get the bus. 

I got the bus from outside the station since it was only 15 minutes away. I knew this from the nice old man who was sat outside. I still cannot understand the bus times and stops. The station bus takes you to the main bus station and you have to get the bus from platform 17 (though check on the day) and that will take you close to the old part of town. I was following the direction

On the way back from Albufira however, I took an uber from the Marina to take my train on time and it was over €12

Things to do in Albufeira

There are a few things that can be done in Albufeira a lot of them involve relaxing on the beach since they have so many beautiful sandy beaches. On the one day I spent there I didn't have time for that and I am glad that my beach day was not there because there were too many people. I got to try a few other things though that you might like!

Walk by the beach 

After spending few days in Algarve and seeing the half empty beaches further up the coast. The beach in Albufeira was a bit of a shock because it was the most crowded that I have seen on my trip. Getting to the beach was difficult to figure out just by using Google maps, but I got there at the end for a little walk. 

Albufira Beach

Visit the church 

There is something lovely about Portuguese churches and there was one on the way between the old part of Albufeira and the beach. I went inside to cool down as well! It was small, but pretty especially the blue tiles. 

Get some lunch

I found a nice halal Indian restaurant called Indian Night Tandoori that is a short walk from the beach. The food was very tasty and I liked resting in a nice air conditioned place for a little bit.  

Walk to the Marina

It took me half an hour from the restaurant mentioned above to the marina. The walk was really pleasant and quiet. You can see the ocean from above. 

Marina in Albufira, Algarve

Get on a boat tour

Going on a boat trip was my main motive to go visit Albufeira. I really wanted to go into the caves, so I booked a seat in the coastline and cave boat tour , which didn't turn exactly as I hoped. It was on one of those massive boat tours with at least 70 on board. It was a comfortable sail, but the number of people made it difficult to see some of the sights and we only spent 2 minutes or less inside the cave. It should be called glance at caves tour. I think the tour as an idea is really worth it, you would just have to do some research and go on the smaller boats because I think they would be more rewarding. In April there is a risk of not seeing the inside of the caves all together because of you

Get a travel guide for Albufeira

Lonely Planet Pocket Algarve (Travel Guide)
By Lonely Planet, Andy Symington
Lonely Planet Portuguese Phrasebook & Dictionary
By Lonely Planet, Robert Landon, Anabela de Azevedo Teixeira Sobrinho

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Two Days in Sintra, Portugal

If you have read my six days Portugal itinerary, then you know I spent two days in Sintra. Sintra is a UNISCO world heritage site. It has a very different vibe from Lisbon and it's very relaxed. It's really great for the summer as well because it's much more mild than Lisbon and the evenings get a little cold. You can do Sintra in one day for sure, but you won't be able to see more than three sights because each one would need two-four hours depending how fast you want to be. In this post, I am sharing the activities I have done and the places I have visited in Sintra. 

Palaces and Castles Visited: 

  • Palace of Sintra
  • Castle of the Moors
  • Pena Palace
  • Quinta de Regaleria

Other Points of interest in Sintra: 

  • Cabo De Roca
  • Praia De Ursa beach
Two Days in Sintra
Sintra, Portugal
By Richard Matevosyan, Naira R. Matevosyan

The great thing is the city knows what people wants to see and they have three possible bus routes that goes from the city centre. Each bus has a specific route that passes by different castles. You might be tempted to walk since the distances aren't huge, but I wouldn't advice you to do so because the hills are very steep and the roads are not big enough for cars and people. 

The 435 bus takes you to the Quinta de Regaleria. It's a good idea to start with this bus because it stops by the sights located in the lower hill. It only costs 2.50 euros for each stop. 

The 434 bus takes you to the more popular sights and the queue to get on it is long. We had to wait for the second bus because the first one filled up quickly. It's every 10-15 minutes. It's affordable! It only costs 5.50 euros and it's a hop on and off style. 

There is a payment bundle that enables you to use all buses and there is a very easy to follow route plan on the bus. One of the buses also stops at the famous Cabo De Roca. That point forms the westernmost extent of mainland Portugal. From there you can walk to the beach! More infromation on that below. 


Sintra Palace/ National Palace

This is just facing the historical centre of Sintra and it's the first thing you would see when you get to the city from the bus stop. Hence why I started with it. It was interesting inside and had very detailed designs and some geometric patterns that I loved! The palace used to be the royals residency place from the 15th to the 19th centuries and that's why it's very well preserved. So make sure you visit if you want to see how the royals lived. 

Entry fee 10 Euro

Moorish Castle/ Castle of the Moors

I was very excited about this one because I thought there will be a lot of Moorish influence and patterns, but there wasn't. It was still really good to go up there and walk around. It was more like a fort rather than a castle. 

Entry fee 10 Euro

Pen Palace

This is the palace you see in most of the Sintra marketing material. The Palace with the sticking yellow and red on top of the hill. I can see why everyone is crazy about it. It is gorgeous and it has colourful patterns and a nice park attached to it. When you get there I would advice you to get their own shuttle bus up to the castle and save some time. It is busy as you would expect, but it was still nice and a little quiet by the end of the day. 

Entry fee: Joint Ticket with the Moorish Castle 11 Euro

Quinta de Regaleria

The Quinta de Regaleria mansion is what fairytale dreams are made of! It was stunning in every way. It was whimsical and magical. I would happily go back there again (with a few more dresses because it's a good photoshoot location as well!) My only regret is going there midday. It was SO busy and there were so many loud teenagers who thought this mansion was a game not a piece of art to be appreciated. I would either go there really early or at the end of the day. 11pm is prime time. The funny thing about this mansion is it wasn't built by royalty or someone from history. It was some rich businessman with a wild vision. He is my spirtit animal! lol

Entry fee 10 Euro

Dresses I would wear next time I go to the Quinta de Regaleria 😂

Other Points of interest in Sintra are the Cabo De Roca and the Praia De Ursa beach. These two are the main reason we stayed the second day in Sintra. Getting to the Cabo De Roca on the bus is a little long. It took over 40mins to get there. The wind there was so cold. It was cool to see it, but the total time spent there was half an hour. We saw that there is a beach nearby on Google Maps called the Praia De Ursa. Google Maps wasn't much help in term of directions. All we knew was we are on the way to it. We randomly walked down the steep hill and wearing sandals wasn't an ideal thing to do. After walking for an hour and a half (I think we took the very long way down) we got to the beach. It was as quiet as I hoped and I LOVED IT! Getting there at 3pm meant that sun was already light and the water was FREEZING! I would get there for 11pm if I ever go back. It was worth the climb down and UP! 

Beach goodies anyone?

Find a place to stay in Sintra:

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Over to you: What would you like to visit in Sintra?