There is no question why so many sun-seeking holidaymakers flock to the Algarve region. With its stunning beaches and perfect weather, this small corner of coastline is the most popular tourist destination in Portugal. As much as Mr Stitch and I enjoy a resort style holiday with poolside cocktails readily at hand, sometimes finding a spare square of sand to lay down our towels can feel like playing a never ending game of hide and seek. So, in an attempt to escape the sunburned tourist masses, on our next trip we have discovered that you don’t have to travel far to experience the lesser known wonders of the Algarve.
Crowd Free Beach
Praia Da Marinha Beach
Despite being named as one of the ten best beaches in Europe the Praia Da Marinha Beach, located halfway along the Algarve’s coastline, is a surprisingly secluded paradise. The reason that this breath taking beach is not jam packed with sunbathers is all down to the fact that it is not as easily accessible as so many of the other beaches in this area are. The only way to reach the beach is to climb down a series of cliff side steps. This seems a bit daunting at first but Mr Stitch and I are determined to find ourselves among the select few that make the effort. The pristine sands and hidden little coves will be well worth the steep decent and seemingly steeper climb back up.
Natural Wildlife Sanctuary
Ria Formosa Natural Park
Just a short boat ride from the bustling city of Faro is the Ria Formosa Natural Park. Named as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Portugal. This area is a series of islands, marshlands, canals and beaches that stretch 60km along the coast of the Algarve. As a result of the diverse ecosystem, the Ria Formosa Natural Park has an abundance of wildlife, including a few species that can only be found in this area. This is a protected zone that is unspoilt by the commercial development that you see in the major towns in the Algarve, making it the perfect place to enjoy a peaceful day exploring its natural beauty. Although we don’t count ourselves as avid bird watchers and Mr Stitch has a minor bird phobia after the Alfred Hitchcock 3D Birds ride he was taken on as a child, we are eager to explore the islands and get a glimpse of some of their natural inhabitants.
Barren Westernmost Point
Cabo de São Vicente
Photo by Dmitry Samsonov
Cape Saint Vincent, or Cabo de São Vicente, is the southwestern most point in Europe. It is hard to imagine that this barren headland, with its high winds and wild seas was once a dynamic planning base where the voyages of Portugal’s 17th century Golden Age of Discovery were mapped out. Now the home of a solitary red lighthouse, this headland is the perfect spot for us to just sit peacefully and watch stunning sunset across the North Atlantic Ocean.
Spectacular Cave at Sunrise
Tucked away beside a small fishing village on the rugged coastline is one of the world’s most iconic cathedral caves. Formed around 20 million years ago by layers of limestone buildup and carved out by the waves of the Atlantic, The Benagil Cave is singular in its awe-inspiring silhouette. It is a hugely popular tourist attraction, with many boat tours departing daily from the tourist hubs. However, if, like us, you want to experience the wonders of this natural grotto in solitude you can hire a kayak at sunrise from Benagil beach and paddle the short distance to the cave opening. Why not pack a few local delicacies and have a breakfast picnic on the white sands inside?
Unspoilt Traditional Town
Experience the peaceful ambience and culture of this traditional Portuguese town. Not far from the coastal resort towns, Silves is picture perfect and steeped in tradition. The 7th century castle fortress takes pride of place over the town and the old walled section has remained unspoiled by any development for the past five hundred years. Once working up an appetite exploring these historic sites we look forward to tasting some authentic Algarvian seafood at the Restaurante Marisqueira Rui, a no frills establishment where the food is fresh and the vinho verde (young wine) flows.
Say ‘saúde’ (cheers) to the real Algarve!
Mrs Stitch x