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
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.
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
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.
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!
Silves is a cute little town with the famous Moroccan castle and I liked some of the tiled buildings there too!
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
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!
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
Get a travel guide for Algarve:
Over to you: What are you planning to do in the Algarve?