Having travelled the Algarve previously both on holiday and in our motorhome, not willing to sound ungrateful, but this time around has felt a little underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong the coast is still beautiful and has some stunning beaches, but for us most of it is ground we have trodden before, so maybe that’s why its lacked a little something for us this time around. It’s also extremely busy with motorhomes wherever we’ve ventured and it’s feel hard to get off the beaten track along this coast. One of the things we love about travel is the excitement of the unknown and discovering something new, so maybe it’s just that that has been missing.
After a couple of days at Albufeira catching up on chores and charging everything (electrics included on this aire), we made our way further east to the town of Quarteira.
From a simple fishing village, Quarteira has become one of the major tourist hotspots in the Algarve, and you can see why it attracts throngs of tourists to its beautiful golden beach. It has obviously seen a lot of development in recent years, leaving it characteristically high-rise in and around the town. The best part is the lovely palm-lined promenade, Avenida Infante de Sagres, where you can spend time relaxing with lovely walks along the seafront and on the outdoor terraces of cafés and bars all around.
Quarteira still boasts a local fishing community and the fishermen can be seen at work at the western end of the beach. The catches are sold at the nearby fish market throughout the morning.
As with the rest of the Algarve the area offers a huge range of culinary delights, with the emphasis, of course, on fresh fish and shellfish dishes such as grilled sardines, “cataplanas”, “caldeirada” (a kind of fish stew) and prawns, to name but a few. Having eaten fish out on the last few occasions we were tempted this time by another Portuguese speciality of Piri Piri chicken. The chicken is chargrilled on a open fire then piri piri oil is added to the finished product. Delish!
Every Wednesday Quarteira has a big gypsy market selling bags, shoes, clothing and household goods. It is held in the same place that motorhomes normally park, you therefore have to move from the area to an adjacent car park on a Tuesday moving back again after the market around 5pm Wednesday. It was quite fascinating watching how different nationalities behaved on Tuesday afternoon as a queue started to form (made up entirely of French) around 3pm in anticipation of the gates re-opening some 2 hours later!
If you continue west along the promenade you will reach the resort of Vilamoura where you can take in the sights at the marina. Apart from the extremely large, and hugely expensive, yachts the resort is known for its golf. The centre is around the marina where purpose built shops and restaurants cater to the mass of tourists. The weather was favourable for our visit and we even saw high’s in the early 20’s for a couple of days.
Our next stop was at Faro, like many others we’d ignored the capital city of the Algarve previously. It is a city full of history, great shops, restaurants and cafes aplenty, theatres and galleries, great beaches and the Ria Formosa nature reserve on the door step. The central area is really quite compact with everything within easy walking distance.
Faro’s extensive history is reflected in the varied sights and monuments of the old town, and a half day can be easily spent exploring this delightful section of the city. The historic centre is encircled by ancient city walls, and once entered via the decorative Arco do Vila gate. Cobbled streets lead up to the gothic Se Cathedral, Paco Episcopal Palace and the Nossa Senhora convent. Faro though was voted our most graffitied city so far, which didn’t make some area’s that pretty.
You can also explore the Ria Formosa nature park (although we didn’t do this) this area protects the mud flats and salt water lagoons between Faro and the sand dune islands. These sheltered waterways are a haven for migratory birds, small marine life and supports small fishing communities who use traditional and sustainable fishing techniques. There are lots of companies offering boats trips from Faro harbour.
We opted to stay at Praia De Faro and beach area near the end of the airport runway. There’s a couple of parking options (listed below), all free but with no services. Just be wary on a weekend though as we had to move in the early hours of the morning after some local youths decided to do doughnuts in cars all around us! If you do decide to park in this area there is a regular bus from half way across the bridge that takes you to Faro bus station.
Quarteira Aire €3 per night without electric (€2 extra). Services on site. Water costs €2 per 100 litres. GPS 37.07324 –8.07731
Praira De Faro Free parking no services Car park 1 right on the sea front (N.B. this is the spot we had to move from) GPS 37.008089 –7.995272
Parking 2 at the end of the runway, also free GPS 37.014891 –7.985923
With the Algarve not filling us with excitement we decided to continue east and over the border into Spain.
More updates coming soon, including Huelva and Seville.
Andi and Paul x