A Visit to the Algarve
Discovering the Algarve: Sun-Kissed Beaches and Hidden Gems in Portugal's Coastal Paradise
This was our third major "target" for our week in Portugal; We had heard stories from Celeste's parents about how beautiful the Algarve is, and how good the food was, so our expectations were high and our zeal to start our exploration there was at a high level!
Departing our Lisbon Condo: Our condo was located near the intersection of Calçada Galvão and R. Gen. João de Almeida which is pretty much suburbia north of the Jeronimo Monastery. After packing up our rental car, we drove north on the Calçada Galvão to where we could access the A5 and then merged onto the A2 to get to the 25th of April Bridge. From the bridge, it is 275 kilometers to the Algarve.
Getting There: The freeway from Lisbon to Portimão was easy to navigate and had very little traffic. We stayed on the A2 until it became the E2. Leaving the E2 onto Portugal A22 to Portimão, exited onto the N124 to enter the city. As the Tivoli Hotel & Marina was perhaps 10 miles away, we traversed Portimão on local streets with numerous round-a-bouts and traffic. Typical for Europe, but a little challenging for many Americans! Diligence & discipline in driving & navigation is required !
NOTE 1: Once you pass over the 25th of April Bridge and proceed south on the A2, there is a lot of wide open space and very few villages or cities. Rolling hills, cork trees, and the occasional cow or horse, but not much else!
NOTE 2: Keep your Mapping App out and have it displaying the route, because the Portimão city streets are narrow, crowded with lots of traffic!
We should explain that we did not rent from the Tivoli Hotel, we rented a two story large suite from VRBO. As you can see in our images, we had all the advantages of a hotel (including parking) but we had use of a very nice suite that included a top floor BBQ and sunbathing area for our unit only. If you are ever in this area, we would encourage you to consider looking at this VRBO rental, as we found it to be very nice.
These above images are views of the Tivoli Hotel Pool area from the top floor of our apartment (the top floor is a private deck for our condo rental). As you can easily see, the pool is quite large (not deep though) and there were a number of lounges & tables for everyone to utilize.
The Tivoli is a very comfortable hotel; huge pool, nice outside cabana area for drinks & snacks and a good restaurant. The Praia da Rocha is perhaps 100 meters away, just past the Marina and a row of restaurants. The Hotel restaurant and snack bar are in the center of this image, adjacent to the Arade River.
Tivoli Hotel & Marina
This picture gives you a great idea of how nicely located our apartment was. The Tivoli Marina and Hotel are located at the center of this image, surrounded by the Tivoli Marina. The city of Portimão as well as the beaches, were readily accessible via a brief walk.
The Praia da Rocha beach is at the top right of the picture, and the city of of Portimão is to the right.
Tivoli Hotel & Marina Entrance
Without a good navigator (Celeste) and our cellphone Google Maps App, we would have never have found this hotel and might still be wandering around Portugal !
The city of Portimão is off to the left in image # 1, and the Tivoli Marina where we were staying is at the far end of this beach view. The entry to the Arade River can be seen in the top center of this image.
Image # 1 was taken from the top of the Viewpoint of the Three Castles ("Miradouro dos Três Castelos") on an early morning hike we took. As you can see, there are very few people on the beach, that will change as the day progresses.
Image # 2 is looking westward from a lookout point on Viewpoint of the Three Castle (Avenue Tomas Cabreira of Tres Castelos beach). You can see all of the beach chairs and lounges ready to be rented!
Image # 3 was taken from the other side of the rocks, where we descended to the beach to find a spot where we could play paddle ball, and were amazed at the cliff rock formations.
In image # 4 the rock formations & cliff on the west end of Praia da Rocha beach, you can see how small the people are in relation to the cliff. We took this picture early in the day, and the beach crowd had not yet started to arrive. After we spread our towels out and hung out for a while, the crowds were starting to build up.
This is one way you can get from Tres Castelos beach to Praia da Rocha beach! At low tide you can just walk around through the water. Speaking from experience, that particular cave was just barely tall enough for me to squeeze through.
Looking back at Portimão from a lookout point above Tres Castelos beach. See the boardwalk in the center of the first picture? There are a number of small restaurants & pubs all along this walkway. Because of their proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, each establishment offers really nice views of the beach & the water.
Surfs Up Dude - at Praia do Beliche
Not sure if you can see them or not, but local surfers are out there in a large group in the right center of this picture.
Praia do Beliche is a very popular surfer destination in the Cape St. Vincent area. This is one of Sagres' best surf beaches with the waves often a little more manageable than at the other beaches around the headland. The 40 metre high cliffs also provide some shelter from the winds that Sagres is notorious for.
The motivation to go here, comes in two parts, ie; This was where Prince Henry the Navigator built his school of navigation in the 15th century. Part two is that the cliffs in this area are fantastic, and the waves coming in from the Atlantic will frequently be massive.
Beside the historical signficance of the Sagres area, the drive takes you through a larger part of the Algarve area - taking you into pretty villages, amazing coastline and then you arrive at the farthest southwest point in Europe!
Take a look at the map link above; we first drove to the Fontaleza de Sagres, and explored there first. We then drove over to the Lighthouse of Cabo de São Vicente and explored there.
Lighthouse of Cabo de São Vicente
We were standing in the Sagres Fortress area, looking over at the next peninsula which has a lighthouse on it (images # 1 & 2). That lighthouse was built in 1846 and was constructed on the old ruins of a Franciscan monastery. It now belongs to the Portuguese Navy. The lighthouse is the second most powerful in Europe (after Phare du Creach in Brittany) and the light beam can be seen 60 kilometers away.
The cliffs in the Sagres area are astounding, and the Atlantic Ocean pounds away at them constantly. Cliff heights here can reach 75 meters! As is usual in Europe, there are no walls or signs telling you to stay away from the cliff edges, Europe expects you to be smart enough to already know that!
NOTE: Image # 1 (the large image above) is the property of Dr.G.Schmitz using the CC BY-SA 3.0 license. All other images are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC unless otherwise noted.
Atlantic Ocean Pounding the Cliffs
You can see in this picture how the Ocean has pounded out a cave in the cliff. The waves get extremely large in the winter here, for a graphic portrayal of winter storm driven waves take a look at this YouTube video. I would suggest that you have never seen waves that large, unless you have spent some time at sea!
This video is the property of The Local Truth via YouTube.
This is the Sagres Fortress (Fortaleza Sagres). It is located at the southern tip of the Sagres Peninsula and was designed to protect the town from from North African raiders. It was from here that Henry the Navigator devised his 15th century expeditions to the uncharted seas around the western side of Africa, which heralded in the golden era of Portuguese exploration.
Sagres Fortress Entrance
This is the Sagres Fortress entrance area. We went in and explored the area. It is much larger inside that it would appear!
It is fascinating to realize that Prince Henry not only once taught men to navigate here, he also sponsored a number of explorations of west Africa by Portuguese sailors.
Beach below Sagres Fortress
Taken from the cliffs nearest the Sagres Fortress parking lot, some people are enjoying the beach. We could see the trail that those people had to have taken down there, and it looked like a challenging descent!
By the way, that word written in the sand translates to "you know" in English.
We had a great dinner at the Restaurante Almeida, located on the water front adjacent to the Tivoli Hotel where we were staying. The food there was fantastic, and the vibe of being next to the beach, with good wine, and excellent seafood, provided us with a memorable dinner experience.
I am having cataplana (Portuguese Fish Stew) - named for the vessel it is traditionally cooked and served in, the stew gets lots of flavor from the Portuguese linguiça & shellfish. I can honestly tell you that it was an amazing dinner!
NOTE: Below are some useful links where you can find even more information about the areas we have described on this page. There are of course, many other useful websites & pages, so for something specific, we would suggest using Google Search.
- Just Traveling Thru European Travel Tips
- Just Traveling Thru Travel Planning Tips
- Portimão in-depth article on the "Algarve Tourist" site
- Portimão in-depth article on the "Lonely Planet" site
- Google search results list for "accommodations in Portimão"
- Sagres article on the Wikipedia site
- 15 Best Things to Do in Portimão on the "Crazy Tourist" site
Disclosure: Some of the links on this page are Affiliate Links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, that we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. So we would appreciate any click throughs, if you are inclined.
Note: All images on this page are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC unless otherwise noted.
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