Backpacking in the Algarve
The Algarve may be more synonymous with chartered flights packed full of Northern Europeans on package holidays but there is more to this beautiful area of Portugal than you might imagine. This region, which is the most southerly on the Portuguese mainland, is renowned for its great beaches, typical whitewashed towns and villages and for those who want it, a hectic nightlife. In addition to all this it has some amazing coast line, ancient walled towns and some surprisingly untouched places. It is also becoming more popular with the backpacking fraternity due to its beauty, beaches and choice of reasonably priced accommodation options.
Arriving in the Algarve by plane means landing in Faro, the capital of the Algarve region. Faro is more typically Portuguese than the other resort towns in the area, which makes it a good place to explore which most people do even if it`s just for a couple of days. It is a lovely old walled town complete with the requisite cobbled streets as well as buildings dating from the 16th century so makes for pleasant wandering. Close to Faro is the Rio Formosa Nature Reserve and a trip there is recommended too as is a trip to the nearby beaches. The city is fairly inexpensive in terms for accommodation and eating. The other benefit of Faro is that it is the transportation hub for the Algarve. Buses are the best way of getting round the Algarve and you can get express (Transrapido) buses and normal (Interurban) buses between urban centres. The trains are somewhat slower but not expensive. The coastal line runs via Faro and is a great way to see the countryside.
Lagos is perhaps the backpacking capital of the Algarve. Regarded as a party town it has lots of cheap hostels and plenty of nightlife. Having said that it has a beautiful walled old town and some fantastic beaches too. It`s a couple of hours by train from Faro so not too far from the main airport and it possible to get buses to other places in the area too.
About an hour`s drive from Lagos is the town of Sagres. Another pretty town with links to Portugal`s Age of Discovery, it is more famous for its surrounding scenery. The cliffs around Cabo De Sao Vincente (the most southern point in Portugal) and Sagres itself offer amazing views and so are popular with walkers and cyclers. Surfing is also popular here thanks to the wind blowing in from the Atlantic particularly the beaches of Martinhal and Beliche. Boat trips and diving are easy to do activities in the area and Sagres is famed for its fresh seafood. There are plenty of accommodation choices around Sagres such as hostels, guesthouses or even self catering apartments.
The town of Tavira on the east coast is another popular tourist destination though it is somewhat quieter than other towns in the Algarve. Tavira has had a long Moorish history and there are still elements of this culture to visit in the town. The town itself has good restaurants and cafes and of course is within easy reach of some lovely beaches. There are a couple of typical villages near Tavira worth a visit. It`s a great place to recharge your batteries.
If you want to escape from the coast, the medieval city of Silves is worth a visit. Another quaint cobbled town it also has a fantastic castle which overlooks the town and some lovely local fare. Further inland you can visit the Monchique region which has cork trees, thermal spas and is also home of the firewater than can be found in the area.
Wherever you travel to in the Algarve you can be sure to get some good quality accommodation at a reasonable price. There are plenty of hostels in all the towns but it is also possible to stay in more upmarket hotels or self catering accommodation without breaking the bank. There are so many good quality options, for example just a short bus trip from Lagos is the Vitors Plaza Alvor which offers great amenities but isn`t crazily expensive. It`s quality like this that makes the Algarve a great backpacking destination.