Top 10 Scenic Drives
It's not all beach life in the Algarve. There are so many places you can visit on a day out and with a very simple road network it is easy to get about. The benefits of a holiday in the Algarve include easy access to the whole region within only a couple of hours. The variety in landscape will surprise and delight people who thought it was just villas and beach umbrellas.
See some of our suggestions for a roadtrip day out.
Up in the Serra de Monchique there are winding roads through forests of Eucalyptus, Cork oak and pine trees and views looking out to the coast while you can admire the decorative alpine houses along the way. Drive up to the peak viewpoint at Foia where there is also a souvenir centre and rest stops.
It's the end of the world
The EN125 takes you all the way to Sagres on a peaceful and pretty country drive to what was historically considered to be the "end of the world". You can visit a large Fort and further along view the lighthouse buildings that marks this westerly corner of Europe. Dramatic cliff views can be seen on either side where the coast meets the Atlantic ocean.
Make one of the inland reservoirs your destination, there are three large lakes to choose from in the Algarve. At Odiáxere you can follow clear signs for the Barragem de Odiáxere which leads along country roads and with long views across the hills. The dam is fairly impressive to see with a large serene lake of water behind it. There are also pretty views at Barragem do Arade and Barragem do Funcho further east.
Between Burgau and Salema there is a very pleasant natural valley when you follow the coast road. The road winds around two large hills dipping into a nature reserve where African Bee Eater birds can regularly be seen if it is quiet enough. It also has a beach and parking lot at the shore where motor homes like to stop but the valley is otherwise completely empty. This is also a good cycling route.
Algarve’s well-sculpted and maintained resorts were laid out with meticulous care to include parkland and views across golf courses. Quinta do Lago, Vale do Lobo, Vilamoura, Pestana and Parque de Floresta are all large complexes of carefully manicured green. Admire the pretty villas and then head to the golf clubhouse for a sundowner.
The pretty Guadiana river forms a natural border between Portugal and Spain and there are boat trips you can take along here. However, the banks of the river are just as lovely to explore and you will be pleasantly surprised by the unspoilt nature of eastern Algarve. From Vila Real de Santo António on the coast up to Alcoutim is a lovely drive taking in different towns along the way. Alcoutim formed of the edge of the mining areas in Roman times. Microscopic amounts of gold have still been found in the river (really microscopic!).
A shorter and more urban coastal route between Albufeira and Ferragudo will take you through winding roads and neighbourhoods of lovely villa's, beaches and cliff top views. A nice meandering evening drive or perhaps head to one of the beach bars along the way. End up in the quaint fishing village of Ferragudo which has a pleasant square and plenty of restaurants to choose from.
Sagres to Odeceixe
The wild western coast is beautifully unspoilt and with larger cliffs and bays you get a feeling of space here. Make a trip all the way up the west coast along quiet roads. There are few towns along this coast but you can take in stunning scenery along the coast and make a stop in Aljezur valley for a coffee and one of Portugal's pastry treats. Here you will also find spectacular beaches.
A Market Run
Make a journey from Olhão to Loulé to see two of the main local produce markets resplendant in their red and white colours. Both buildings show more than a touch of the Algarve's Moorish past and are a great photography subject. In Olhão, the market sits right on the dockside where fishermen bring in their catch of the day. There are plenty of cafe's along the quayside facing the calm waters of the Ria de Formosa. Then, journey inland to Loulé, where the saturday morning market bursts into life from the turretted market building that you will not be able to miss. In Loule you can visit various historical landmarks and see some great modern art at the Catto Gallery.
Vineyards can be found across the Algarve including Quinta dos Vales near Lagoa and Adega de Cantor near Guia but if you fancy a longer drive you can take the trip past the border into the Alentejo, where vineyards form a major part of this much flatter scenery. Head for the Herdade dos Grous, a luxury sprawling estate which includes a country manor where you can have dinner or stay overnight if the journey back proves too much! It will take you about an hour and a half to get there. Any of these vineyards offer tasting year round.