Everybody knows Albufeira, the fishing village that grew into one of the most popular timeshare resorts on the Algarve, but venture west, towards Lagos and beyond, and the Western section of Portugal’s southern, sun-soaked coast is far less familiar.
Lagos is the heart of the Western Algarve and while it’s quiet in winter, it starts getting busier at Easter and it becomes holiday central in late June until mid September. Venture a little further west, and there are plenty of small villages, golf clubs and surf spots to explore.
Here are six of the best:
1.Espiche Golf Club in Espiche.
Just a couple of kilometres inland from Praia da Luz, Espiche Golf Club is renowned in the area for its strikingly modern eco-design and sunny clubhouse terraces. Come for lunch even if you’re not a golfer – it’s worth it just to see the zen-style building bang in the middle of beautiful countryside.
This very pretty little fishing village lost most of its fishing industry when it was moved east, to Lagos, quite a few years ago already. But the fishing village ambiance remains and you can still find some of the old age pensioners mending their nets in tiny doorways near the sand. The blue-rimmed houses are picturesque but if you’re a family with a baby or toddlers, you should know that the two little cobbled streets leading from the village down to the sea are particularly steep – it’s quite a hike walking uphill pushing a stroller and older visitors may also want to take note of this. It’s one of the best villages in the Algarve for tourists as there are so many restaurants squeezed into one tiny village!
Just further west, is another Western Algarve gem. It still has an authentic feel and although the winding road down to the village is very steep, once you’re in Salema the beach is flat. It’s a great place to people watch from the shade of a little café and like Burgau the choice of restaurants is eclectic and excellent.
4. Sao Barao do Joao
This name won’t be familiar to most Algarve visitors but there’s a Sunday market worth going to and its hippy hangout reputation lives on. Popular with Brits, Dutch and Germans who’ve “opted out” it’s worth a quick detour into the hills to have a look. The nearest large town is Lagos, just a few minutes away.
5. Vila Do Bispo
This is where the administration and local government offices are for the Western Algarve (west of Luz – Luz belongs to Lagos). There’s a clinic, fire brigade and a Lidl which is well worth making a detour for if you’re on a self-catering holiday and on a budget, as the fish and meats are excellent as are the very fresh, very green veg and fruits. It’s a nice place to have lunch – it’s not “restaurant central” like Burgau, but it’s also less crowded in summer.
Surf stop Sagres (which means “sacred”) is the last village along the coast. This is where the huge cliffs end and the ocean begins and if you took a boat west you’d end up in the States. There’s even a “last hot dog before America” stall in summer and top attractions here are the chilled bars and cafes, a good selection of fish restaurant and pizza places and a variety of beaches, all of which are reached by sloping roads. This is where you’ll find the fortress and lighthouse at Cape St. Vincent, the furthest-most point of the entire coast – it’s one of those love-or-hate destinations, mainly because of the wind (the exact reason why the surf crowd loves it here – surfers come from all over the world in summer and the music scene at night is good, too).