Hi there! As promised, I am back with the second part of my Algarve recommendations. Today I’m going to take you to Loulé, Olhão, Vale do Lobo and Carvoeiro. Hope you enjoy!
PS. As I am writing this, there is a thunderstorm outside. We were lucky and had an exceptional January and February, as it was not raining at all and the temperature hit 20-22 celcius degrees for many days, but now in March the weather has completely changed; it is raining a lot and temperatures stay under 20 degrees! Hopefully we can still enjoy some sunny days before heading back to Finland (which by the way is already in less than two weeks!!)
First, Loulé! This was one of the towns I really looked forward seeing before arriving to the Algarve. The old town of Loulé is authentic and for sure a must see place. It is 17km to the northwest from Faro, so it is not located by the ocean. I was really keen on knowing what is this place before arrival because I got the impression it is an authentic, one of a kind town in the Algarve. I even looked for some airbnbs in the area, but then decided that I still prefer to live by the beach. That’s actually one reason why I chose Quarteira; it is by the beach but still only 10minutes drive from Loulé.
We arrived on a Saturday, which was a great choice, as in the old town of Loulé there is a “Saturday market” every Saturday. Actually we accidentally chose this timing, as we didn’t remember about this Saturday market at all, and were positively surprised once we arrived. We arrived around 11am, during the busiest time. We had to park our car a bit further from the center, and noticed very fast that this Saturday market is a big thing in the Algarve. For the first time during our stay I saw that many people at the same place, and it was refreshing to see people enjoying what this Saturday market had to offer. There were plenty of vegetables and fresh fruits in the outside market, as well as meat and fish (and much more) in the inside market. I unfortunately didn’t take that much pictures from the market, because is was so crowded, so you need to go and see it yourself! This was a great experience and I really recommend to stop by to see the market and enjoy an afternoon coffee in this beautiful place! Loulé really is a unique town with personality.
Olhão was first introduced by a friend of mine. He had visited Olhão and really recommended to go and see this beautiful old fishing village. He told me that this is one his favorite and one of the most original towns in the Algarve and said it would totally be worth it to go and enjoy a day there to see the market, taste some fresh seafood and maybe even take a boat tour around the area if possible. You might guess that this became another “must see” place in my list already in advance. After visiting, I totally understood my friend’s recommendation; on a beautiful weekend afternoon we decided to go for lunch to Olhão after having visited Faro earlier that day. Olhão is located only 10km to the East from Faro, so it can be combined with visiting Faro or even Tavira, which is a bit more further to the East from Olhão.
Once arrived to the port of this old fishing town, the livelyhood of the place surprised and made me very happy. It was still January once we first visited and many places were still relatively quiet, therefore being able to see happy people around us enjoying the weather and good food was amazing. The vibe in Olhão was just very different from the rest of the Algarve I think (based on what I’ve seen so far of course). It is difficult to explain, but the feeling was just very warm, cozy and it kind of felt like home. In a way the port of Olhão even reminded me of the Finnish archipelago where I spent the summers of my childhood.
The port of Olhão isn’t a big place (we mainly stayed by the port in the restaurant street, and also quickly drove by the city), but just perfect for enjoying lunch at peace by the port, walking and watching people enjoy life. Once we left and drove back home to Quarteira, we were so happy we visited, and came back still couple of times on weekends during lunchtime. Definitely a must see place in the Algarve if you want to spend a chill, cozy day with good & fresh food surrounded by happy people! Not to mention to visit the market, which you can see from the first picture below.
Vale do Lobo
And next, let me introduce you one of my favorites, Vale do Lobo. Located 20km to the west from Faro, this was one of the first places we visited after arriving to the country, and wow, what a place! The first week just after new years eve we decided to go and play a round of golf in Vale do Lobo, where part of the tees were by the ocean. That experience was just amazing. The views were breathtaking from the golf course, as you can see from the pictures below. On that day, the weather was over 20 degrees and we wasn’t prepared to that warm weather in January and had too much clothes on while golfing. What a start to our Portugal trip. Vale de Lobo is full of luxury villas surrounding the golf course. Despite it being a golf resort and despite you would prefer to see something original and real in the Algarve, I still highly recommend to go and see Vale de Lobo, at least during the golden hour to watch the sunset from the hill. And if you play golf, I really recommend to take at least one round of the “Ocean” course. I can guarantee that you will not be disappointed.
Another day we decided to go and see Vale do Lobo from another perspective; we walked all the way from Quarteira to Vale do Lobo. The cliffs of Lobo can even be seen from the beach in Quarteira. So one Saturday we decided to go and walk all the way to Vale do Lobo by the beach. It took us around an hour and 15mins to walk there. Of course we stopped few times to enjoy the sea and waves and the sunny day, so I would say you can walk from Quarteira to Vale do Lobo in an hour. There are some beach restaurants on the way, so you can stop there to eat or just walk by the beach and enjoy the beautiful views in both directions, to the right to the sea but also to the left to the beautiful Vale do Lobo cliffs, golf course and luxury villas. We stopped by to watch people play golf and even found some golf balls from the bushes by the beach. The walk to Vale do Lobo and back took us in total around three hours, and this for sure was also a good workout! Felt great afterwards, I really recommend. But in order to take all out of this experience, I suggest to choose a windless, calm and sunny day.
And then, one place from the fresh memory from three weeks ago; Carvoeiro, located around 65km to the west from Faro. This was an extempore trip and destination, on a Sunday morning we checked the weather and as it looked sunny, we decided to go for a little trip to Carvoeiro. We checked that there should be beautiful cliffs, which we initially decided to go and see, but after arriving, our plans changed a bit. First of all, we were surprised about all of the tourists walking on the promenade of the cliffs and noticed that we for sure weren’t the only ones who found this place. So in case you visit during summer time, I can imagine it will be full of tourists. But still in my opinion a place worth visiting. On the day we visited, it was only about 17 degrees, but it felt much warmer as it was not that windy. Therefore, after exploring the beautiful cliffs, we decided to change our swimsuits which we had taken with us exactly for this “just in case” moment, and went to Carvoeiro beach, which was just in a short 5min walking distance down the road. It was our first real beach day here in the Algarve and we actually spent over 2 hours there. One of the reason it was warm enough for staying that long with only swimsuits on, was that the beach is small and surrounded by the cliffs, blocking the strongest wind. That was for sure my first real beach day in 17degrees!
After the beach, we still decided to go for lunch right next to the beach, where there are multiple options to choose from. We took some sardines and fish fillet, and it was very tasty! Also, what we didn’t know in advance, was that it was Carneval during that weekend, so the music was loud in the restaurant square, and people were dancing, wearing some costumes and again, enjoying life. These kind of extempore days without knowing what the day will bring you are my favorites. Carvoeiro and this happy Sunday left a smile on my face. This definitely was one memorable day.
That was it for this time. The destinations of the next and last part of the Algarve suggestions I am going to leave as a surprise! Until then,
x Mari Susanna