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The Algarve - anyone not into beach and golf enjoyed it?

The Algarve - anyone not into beach and golf enjoyed it?

Dec 23rd, 2009, 06:17 AM
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The Algarve - anyone not into beach and golf enjoyed it?

I'm thinking of a few days (3-4) in the Algarve in March. But the more I read the less I want to go. Complete opposite of most of my travel research experiences. I did a two week trip to Lisbon and central Portugal in July 2006 and absolutely loved it. On that trip we had decided the Algarve would be too crowded in July so skipped it, but now that I'm looking at March I thought I'd give it a try. But it seems even the "better" towns are still largely modern tourist-beach-golf resorts. We like "cute" towns with historic centers (loved Obidos, Evora, Marvao, etc), and picturesque beach/coast line/fishing villages. That's picturesque as opposed to sandy-lie-on-the-beach type beaches.

Will I find these things in the Algarve - or is what little of it that remains overshadowed by modern development? If it does exist which towns do I want to visit. Any other suggestions or tips.

The trip would be - fly into Lisbon (from the US), spend 1-2 days (have already done six days there on my last trip), then rent car and drive to Algarve for 3-4 days, then back to Lisbon to fly to Paris for about 4 more days.

isabel is offline  
Dec 23rd, 2009, 08:29 AM
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Good question !
I did the Algarve in March one year--perhaps 1993---and liked it. But, I am told the developers have made big changes since then. I also liked Lagos. Regardless, your camera will love the rock formation on some of those beaches early or late in the day. I stayed at Praia de Rocha that year. Also loved the Cape at Sagres for photo ops and some history---the " end of the earth". Check out the Pousadas at Sagres and also Palmela going or coming. Ironically, I happened on 2 film crews who were shooting in Portugal because of the light that time of year. I loved your other Portugal gallery--especially Marvao and Obidos.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Dec 23rd, 2009, 08:33 AM
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Here are some of my shots from ancient times when we all shot slides---these are converted to digital and not super but you get the idea.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Dec 23rd, 2009, 09:34 AM
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Not terribly sure where the Algarve officially stops

We occasionally spend time in the hills near Silves. They offer great walking, and a lot of the beaches, especially to the West, are practically Irish, but warm, in their combination of lots of waves, rocks, walkability, rockpools you can look for crabs and starfish in and a total absence of idle tossers sunbathing.

I've not found a really charming seaside village: but then I've never found any anywhere else on the Mediterranean or the Iberian Atlantic. But there are a reasonable number of OK-ish towns with a few eating places by the sea that can cook fish, and have exceptionally nice staff.

You can't really escape the golfers: but they're mostly English or Irish: quiet most of the time and affable enough.

There's a lot of development along the coast, which is why you can't call the urbanizacions charming. But mainly on flat land: the nice beaches with coves seem to have had almost British levels of development control.
flanneruk is offline  
Dec 23rd, 2009, 09:48 AM
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My wife and I have gone to the Algarve in March several times and really enjoy it. The tourists at that time of year are mostly Dutch, Brits and Canadians, like us. We spend our time in Albufeira and rent a car to tour around nearby places. The temperature is around 20C and at that time of year you can get fresh oranges, strawberries and raspberries for ridiculously low prices. You can also buy fish right off the boat in the early morning. Three years ago, Albufeira was a construction site, but it has all been completed now and we are looking forward to our March 2010 visit. It certainly beats March in Ontario.
almcd is offline  
Dec 23rd, 2009, 11:24 AM
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Just want to endorse what the others have said. We spent two weeks, mostly in the Algarve, on a Portugal trip in January, a couple of years ago.
It was a lovely quiet trip. We drove up into the mountains on a couple of days, enjoying Monchique, and other towns, always with a good lunch. We stayed in Alvor at time share trades.
I really liked Lagos, and Sagres, what Bob the Navigator is telling you, I agree with. Praia da Luz was lovely for photographs,(yes, there is good winter light) and we enjoyed walking along and on the beaches, and there was good people watching. I would do it again.
taconictraveler is offline  
Dec 26th, 2009, 05:31 AM
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Thanks for your replies.

Bob, your photos of the beaches with the rock formations - do you get those views by walking along cliff tops? And then are there ways to get down to the water level? Sounds like a stupid question now that I write it but sometimes you see awesome photos of a place and then you get there and realize those shots were taken from offshore/a helicopter /whatever - something you can't do easily yourself.

I'll check out Praia da Luz and do some more research. It's just when you do a google image search you get photos of resorts, not of the towns, making me wonder about the towns themselves. The other destination I'm considering for this trip is around Avignon, France and when you do image searches of those towns it makes me drool.
isabel is offline  
Dec 26th, 2009, 05:40 AM
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Ann, The answer is both. The shots I took at Praia de Rocha were at dawn on the beach in front of my B&B, and the one was taken at street level looking down. It is all very accessible.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Dec 26th, 2009, 06:32 AM
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Isabel. We have traveled quite a bit in other parts of Portugal but have always skipped the Algarve, like you.

But you know the scenery is going to be beautiful. And it will be quieter than during the season with all of the beach bunnies. How about Salema which I have heard is less touristy, but have no first hand knowledge.

Where do you plan to stay in Lisbon. This last time we stayed in Baixa at Brown's Luxury Apartments and really enjoyed it. They are small studios. But they are only for two.
Sher is offline  
Dec 27th, 2009, 08:36 AM
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Try Salema, Praia de Rocha, Villa de Obispo, those are some of the villages that still over the character of a small town.
csandoval01 is offline  
Dec 29th, 2009, 04:35 PM
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Sher - I'd probably just stay at the same place I did last time - Residêncial Florescente. It was fine and this would only be for two nights and I know where it is and all. But I'll look into your suggestion too if I decide to do the trip.

Csandoval - I 'll check out those villages.

Still having trouble psyching myself up for this. And before I started researching it I was very psyched. Provence is looking pretty good. Oh decisions, decisions.
isabel is offline  
Dec 29th, 2009, 05:58 PM
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I spent two months in Portugal and only two days in the Algarve. I found it to be depressingly overdeveloped. There were condos as far as the eye could see everywhere between Lagos and the Faro airport. I much preferred the quiet of the Alentejo and the Atlantic coast north of the Algarve. Also, the Alentejo in the region near the border with Spain is beautiful. And I loved Evora, 1 1/2 hours from Lisbon in the Alentejo.
AphraBehn is offline  
Dec 30th, 2009, 03:27 PM
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AphraBehn - that's what I was afraid of. If I did go I'd stick to west of Lagos, but I think for this year I'll skip it. I definitely want to go back to Portugal - I absolutely loved everywhere we went on our first trip (it included Evora) - and maybe then I'll check out the Algarve villages mentioned above. But for this year I guess I'll do Provence.

But thanks everyone for your suggestions.
isabel is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2010, 06:47 PM
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Hello, Isabel -

I'm sure you'll have a lovely time in Provence. But here are some comments for when you next visit Portugal.

In general, the Western Algarve is overbuilt and depressing, but the Eastern Algarve is delightful.

Eastern Algarve includes Tavira, a charming romantic town with plenty of lodging options. Milreu, nearby, uncovered a fascinating Roman ruin/villa that's worth a quick visit. Afterwards you can enjoy getting lost in the winding streets as you head to Olhão for a fabulous seafood dinner. (Or start the day at the Olhão waterfront, the Algarve's largest fresh fish and fruit market.) Ria Formosa Park has several walking trails through saltfields and bird sanctuaries, if you want to stretch your legs. Cacela Velha is an adorable, tiny clifftop village perfect for a leisurely Portuguese lunch. Castro Marim has an interesting castle setup with lovely views towards Spain. And Seville is less than two hours away.

I don't golf and I hate the beach, but I love the Eastern Algarve. We have a tiny cottage on Armona Island, part of the Ria Formosa park, and I visit regularly. (Armona is where the Portuguese go to escape the Algarve crowds!)

Happy travels,
Deb Kleber
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