The Algarve promises a little bit of everything. Historic towns filled with grand architecture and crave-worthy Portuguese cuisine alongside some of the best beaches in the whole of Europe. And with year-round sunshine, what’s not to like?
Between lively Lagos on the west coast to the region’s capital, Faro, there’s a abundance of hidden-away gems and lesser-known spots just waiting to be explored.
Forget waiting for that coach to pick you up then joining a trip filled with hordes of other tourists. With a hire car, you can holiday to your own schedule and go exactly where you want, when you want. If flexibility and freedom is what you’re looking for, then it’s the perfect option!
Here’s just a taster of the things you could see and do when cruising the Portuguese coastline in the comfort of your own car.
Known as the ‘end of the world’ as it sits on Europe’s most south-westerly tip, this heavenly spot is almost untouched by tourism. The tiny town sits atop the cliffs of the dramatic Cabo de São Vicente and below you’ll see daring surfers take on the rapid waves.
From various points across the region, you can take the A22 and N125 road which stretches all the way from Faro to Sagres, passing close to the popular resorts of Vilamoura, Albufeira, Alvor and Lagos along the way.
In summer, this main road can get particularly busy, so if you want to avoid queues of traffic, it’s best to head out early.
Top tip: When stopping by at a petrol station to refuel, you’ll need to know these Portuguese words: petrol is gasolina and diesel is gasoleo.
It’s hard to tear yourself away from the Algarve’s glorious coast but choosing to head inland certainly pays off when you discover a stunning area such as Monchique. These rolling mountains hide a charming village filled with traditional houses.
You could drive up to the Fóia viewpoint, which stands at 902m above sea level, and drink in the spectacular views. From here, you can see down towards Portimão and Alvor, and on clear days much more of the Algarve’s amazing coastline.
To reach Monchique from Portimão, take the A22 or N266 which is well signposted towards the mountains.
Top tip: Parking is very well signposted in the Algarve and in some car parks, it’s free! To cover all bases though, it’s a good idea to keep some loose change in the car for when you need to pay at a meter.
The former capital of the Algarve is packed full of old-world charm. Drive away from the coast and you’ll discover Silves, a delightful town speckled with whitewashed houses topped with terracotta. Its shining glory is its ochre-tinged castle, which dates from the Moorish era. Climb up to the parapets and marvel at the sweeping views across the town and surrounding countryside.
On-street parking is free here, so rock up early and secure your parking spot for the day. While you’re in town, why not visit the Barragem do Arade? This man-made reservoir is a hidden paradise between the hills of Silves. In the height of summer, some people cool off in these tranquil waters, so don’t forget to pack your swimmers!
From Lagos, the drive will take around 30 minutes. Simply follow the A22 toll road to junction 6, then take the N124 north to Silves.
Top tip: There are some toll roads in Portugal, so keep an eye out for signs to see if you need to pay. They work on an electronic system and you can pay for your road use at most post offices – just look for the ‘PayShop’ sign. Payments can be made up to 48 hours after travel.
Posted: 5th Aug 2019.