We arrived in Faro late on Tuesday evening. We stayed in Faro GuestHouse. The room was nice and there was a lovely balcony where we shared a bottle of wine on our first night with a view to a church.
Day 1 - Faro
We woke up and went to the Igreja do Carmo, which is a beautiful church but the reason we went there was to see this small chapel made out of human bones. The ticket costed €4 euro each.
The chapel is small and the feeling of being surrounded by bones and skulls is quite weird. We didn’t stay there for long.
Then we got a boat out to Ilha Deserta (Desert Island) that costed €10 each way per person. We bought the tickets without a booking but that meant we had to stay a shorter period of time. If you are planning to go, I recommend booking it in advance! It was a 15 min boat drive and enjoyed it very much!
There you can rent some chairs and an umbrella for €20. We also drank a good caipirinha, drank some pints and ate a marvelous fish sandwich. I had never eaten one and was fairly suspicious but OMG what delicious thing, with an olive oil that was absolutely divine.
At the end of the day we ate at this nice little restaurant called A Tasca do João. They serve some tiny dishes, so you can order multiple dishes to try out the menu. The owner, João, is a nice guy that served us himself. Highly recommend it!
Day 2 - Marinha Beach and Mesquita Beach
We got our rented car at 9h30 and drove to the Marinha Beach, near Albufeira. When we got there at 11h it was really hard to find a place to park. The streets are small and the parking spaces were free but completely packed! We eventually parked on a sand-terrain with other cars but… we don’t recommend doing it. Our car was stuck in the sand on the way out! So be careful on where you choose to park! Thankfully a nice Portuguese man offered some guidance and help and removed us from there.
The walk from this parking place to the beach was a long downhill one. However, the view from there was absolutely breathtaking.
We went to both beaches, enjoyed the sun and cold and clear waters from the beach. The cliffs make the beach completely amazing and still offer some shadows during some periods of the day.
The beaches are connected when the tide is low so you can walk around between them. We walked until the Mesquita beach and we could see the magnificent arcs from there.
At the end of the day we went to Portimão to check-in in another guest house called NDS Prestige. Portimão is a city that is way less touristy than Albufeira or Lagos, so the prices were fairly cheaper. While talking to the manager, he recommended calling them and reserving directly with them to get lower fees. The room we stayed in was quite small but extremly clean. Since we just went to the room to sleep, it served us quite nicely!
We had dinner at a restaurant called Dona Barca. It was an ok meal, but it was not good enough to make it worth for ~30 min waiting in line for a table. The restaurant is quite famous, so the lines are gigantic.
Day 3 - Benagil and kayaking
Because we knew the parking spaces were a problem we woke up at 7am! We went for a breakfast and found a bakery (Delícias Bakery) that is very far away from the tourist places, and it was worth the visit! We had the best Pastel de Nata I’ve ever had and we came back there multiple times to eat them!
We got at the Benagil beach at 9h and were able to find lots of parking spaces, yay!!! We went downhill and stopped at the first place for renting a kayak. When we got there, there were no kayaks available at the moment, so we reserved one to pick it up later in the day (11h). The guy didn’t want to reserve it but the lines were so big we asked and asked and they made an exception. So I recommend you to make a reservation in advance. The price was €15 per person for a 1h30 ride. We decided to get it for 3h, so we paid €30 per person.
We went down to the Benagil beach to wait for our time. The beach is right below a gigantic cliff, so it was quite amazing (and we could wait in the shadow as we waited).
We went back to get our kayak and the guy who helped us was the most amazing guide ever! He gave us all the right instructions on where to go, where not to go and so on. That made all the difference! We had to push the kayak downhill and here a warning: the kayak was VERY heavy. Like… I couldn’t move it, my partner had to do so. It was a 3-person kayak and it probably weighted like 50kg or so.
The first stop after we started kayaking was the Benagil cave. To be honest, if you are a good swimmer you don’t need the kayak at all! It is a short distance from the beach, you just need to be careful with the gigantic boats that try to go in the cave as much as they can so the tourists can see it (but the same warning is valid for any other way you go there!).
The cave is magnificent, looking like a natural cathedral. There was a LOT of tourists here… so it is almost impossible to get a photo without a person in it, but totally worth it!
From there we kept going and went into a cave that was almost in complete darkness. The entrance is so small we were very afraid of entering it, but we saw some people on the beach at the end of it and finally entered. The photo below is quite clear but the reality is very different. There was an area in the cave you couldn’t tell if the end of it was 50cm or 10m away!
Then we went to another beach (Cão Raivoso Beach) where we finally rest and swam in the water for a looong time. I enjoyed it so much I don’t have any photos from it 😅
Finally we arrived again in the Mesquita beach we were the day before. This time we went to a priviledge place to take more pictures!
The total route was about 1.5 Km long. The problem was that when we realized the time we were very far away and had only 40 min to come back to the beach and take the kayak up the hill! So we had to sprint our way back. By then the sea was very agitated and because there were no rest we were absolutely exhausted!
After this lovely (and tiring) trip, we went back to our hotel for a shower and some rest. Later on we drove to the city of Albufeira for dinner. We had dinner in a charming little place called Bistro, where I ate an entrance of melon with ham, a main course of fish with banana and drank sangria. Divine!
Day 4 - Lagos and area
This day we were already tired from the exercise the day before and the sun, so we decided to go to Lagos to see the Ponta da Piedade. I thought it was a lookout place, but to my complete surprise it was a full park with some of the most breathtaking views I have ever seen!
There was a long staircase and at the end of it there was some boats that could take you around the place, but the ticket was €20 per person and they would only take cash, so we couldn’t do it. However, I saw many people kayaking around this magnificent scenario, so I have plans to come back to do it!
After that we decided to park in Lagos old town and walk around. Lagos was the first city to have a slave market in Europe and it was one of the major cities where this atrocity took place. The city is quite lovely, but the tragic history makes everything bittersweet. This is where the market took place and today is a museum:
Finally we head early back to the hotel and slept early. Our flight was leaving at 8 am so we had to wake up at 4h30 to be able to travel back and get to the airport with time to spare!
A couple of things regarding this trip caught my attention:
- There was a lot of restaurants serving meat and not seafood. I guess there is a lot of tourism and tourists prefer it? It was not simple to find restaurants whose main dishes would be seafood
- Most tourist places have parking spaces and they are free!
- I was dying for a Pastel de Bacalhau (cod fish pie) but I guess cod is not typical in this part of the country. I searched the internet for days and couldn’t find one restaurant that would serve it. I found one restaurant in Portimão that had other types of dished with cod but they didn’t have such good reviews and we decided not to go.