Have you ever wondered how those really seasonal tourist places are in their shoulder and offseason? I had some time to spare in October one year and decided to head for Portugal’s south coast. For mainly two reasons, I wanted to go somewhere warmer and not too far away from Norway, I’d never been to Portugal. A variable may also be that I found affordable tickets to Faro. So a week after buying the tickets, I was on my way with my backpack as a carry-on.
Portugal also ended up being my first solo traveler adventure, and a warm up to what I planned on being a 3 months adventure in Latin America, but that ended up being a 16 months adventure. Here is a little more about that, and an introduction to me! Traveling Algarve couldn’t have been a better way to ease into the solo traveling way of life!
And, who can say no to Portugal’s beautiful algarve coast?
In this post, I’ll share some information about the cities I visited, how it was to backpack Algarve in the
Getting around in Algarve
First of all, it is easy to travel in-between the cities in the south of Portugal. There are buses departing several times a day from the terminals in the cities.
The bus tickets have a set price, no matter how far you’re going in the area. If you’re more adventurous it is also pretty easy to hitchhike here.
If you are ok with hitchhiking, it will serve you well to get around in the area. Like mentioned, the bus connections between the different towns are good, but if you want to explore more off “the beaten path” beaches and location, hitchhiking or a rental car is ideal. With that said, I traveled mainly by bus and did a little
How to get from the airport to Faro
I started my trip to Faro, where I arrived at the Airport pretty late. Faro International Airport is about 4 km outside of town. Getting from the airport to Faro is easy. Bus no. 16 by the company Proximo, runs by the airport every 20 minutes. It runs from 5 am to 11 pm and cost 2.30 € per person. Here is a map with all of
Transportatin from Faro to other places in Algarve
If you are looking to transfer from Faro airport to Albufeira or Lagos, there are shuttle options at the airport starting from around 30 €.
Regional bus service in Algarve
If you’re up for it though, it pays off to take the local bus to Faro terminal. At the terminal, in Portuguese, “Faro Rodoviario”, you can catch another local bus to your final destination. Remember to buy your ticket at the ticket office, as they don’t sell tickets on the bus. The regional bus tickets
Regional Train Service in Algarve
Right next to the Faro Rodoviario is the train station. Train go to not just cities in Algarve, but also to cities all around Portugal, and even to Spain. The train is generally a little bit more expensive than the bus, but also faster and more comfortable. The regional train has a set fare price, just as the buses, at 7,40€.
Though, if you’re already landing at Faro Airport, you should consider getting to know the city before you head on to the other towns of Algarve.
For more information about train and bus connections in Algarve see AlgarveBus. They are not an official site for the public transortation in the area. After my experience though, do provide solid information.
Faro is often a first or last stop for travelers. Either they fly in or out of the
Faro is the capital city and administrative center of the region of Algarve. It’s small and cute and has a stunning old town covered with cobbled streets.
As mentioned, Faro isn’t just a gateway to the rest of the Algarve coast and there are a variety of things to do there. It’s the city most alive and existing with or without tourists, if you ask me.
Right outside of the center of Faro is The University of Algarve. It usually has around 10 000 students in the subjects of administrative and financial autonomy, marine sciences, tourism management, biotechnology
Faro has a “port”, but there is no beach in walking distance from the city center, like may other cities in Algarve has. But just a short ferry ride from the port and you’ll find yourself at an island with a beach.
What to do in Faro
Get to know the old town and the center of Faro
Walk around the old town, still behind city walls that date back to the 9th century. Sit down and have lunch or a coffee at one of the many cozy outdoor cafes in the area.
Apart from the oldtowns beautiful architecture and cobblestoned streets, there is also a Roman Catholic cathedral from the 13th century, more exactly 1251 in Faro. The cathedral named, Igreja da Sé, is beautiful from the outside, but has a great view from the belltower. Entrance fee is 7 Euros though.
The Capela dos Ossos is located in the church “Igreja do Carmo” in Faro. The church is beautiful and has a big cobbled square on the front of it. However, there is more to this church then the outside tends to give away. It’s not just any church with a chapel. The inside of the chapel is decorated with bones from what has been calculated to be over 1000 skeletons. The history behind this rather unnormal chapel interior, is that the bones belonged to monks of the monastery in Faro, from the Carmel order. They
Bike to San Miguel Mountain
On my second day in Algarve, I did a bike ride to a mountain called San Miguel. The mountain is located about 15 km inland from Faro. The San Miguel mountain is 410 meters above sea level and offers a great view of the area, and you can almost see across to Spain from the top.
Such a tough ride, but it was amazing to bike past all the different fields filled with different fruit trees. I find it so fascinating to see trees full of pomegranate and oranges as we don’t have that kind of stuff in Norway. Finding the way is easy enough as you follow the main road and signs. I would still recommend having some kind of map with you as there are some turns that
If biking isn’t for you, you can always go by car. If you rent a car, you also have the option of catching the sunset from the top, something I believe must be incredible. There are no entrance fees. Bike rental
Rio Formosa National Park
The natural park of Ria Formosa has a variety of bird, like
Tours and Ferry to explore Rio Formosa
There are also ferries that go to different islands outside Faro for a couple of euros. A oneway ticket starts at about 1,6€ and a roundtrip around 3€. But there are also a lot of tours offered, where you have the opportunity to learn more about the National Park.
One of the places you can visit with just the normal ferry is Ilha Deserta also called Ilha da Barreta, a sandbar island, with beautiful beaches and sand dunes. From
Praia de Faro is the place to
There are a bunch of other sandbar islands and experiences to have in Ria Formosa and you can easily spend days, just exploring the national park.
Catch the sunset over Faro and chat with locals
I also did my first solo
Albufeira is about a 40 minutes bus ride from Faro. This town is completely different from Faro and pretty touristy. I imagine that during the winter there is not a lot of people left
Albufeira mainly used to be a fishing village, but these days the people living there are mostly making a living of off tourism. Still, it’s a beautiful town with lots of activities, beaches and tour
Things to do in Albufeira
When I visited I opted for the free things to do in Albufeira, even though there are a lot of tours leaving from Albufeira too. Tours with activities like f. ex. dolphin watching, and diving!
In general, though, Albufeira is surrounded by great beaches, close to popular diving locations, and has some great areas for watersport activities.
Get to know Albufeiras old town and marina
This point might sound super basic, but Albufeira actually consists of two parts. The town, or the old town, and
The old town area is super cute, with lots of white buildings, small streets, and a huge beach in front of it. It’s largely located in the hillside, and coming from other parts of Algarve, you’ll have to drive/walk down a steep winding road. You’ll find the town filled with restaurants offering everything from Mexican food to traditional Portuguese cuisine, souvenir shops and
To get to the Marina of Albufeira you have to walk about 2,5 km from the old town. The road is along the cliffside, with a beautiful view over the beach, Praia dos Pescadores(fishermen’s beach) and more of the widespread parts of Albufeira. You also pass a viewpoint with a terrace over the beach and an elevator that takes you down to the beach if you want to. The elevator Elevador do Peneco, takes you down 25 meters to Praia do Peneco. Be aware that it’s only functioning during the summer months, but the terrace still offers a beautiful view all year round!
The Albufeira Marina is worth the 30 minute walk, not just cause the walk offers beautiful views. The marina consists of a line of colorful houses. They are more modern and newer than the architecture in the old town and houses some great restaurants. A lot of boat tours also starts from the Marina, so it can be a good idea to go and check out the area for a good deal.
The Hillside, past the
Walk along the beaches from Albufeira
I arrived Albufeira early afternoon and decided to take the road to one of the beaches out of town. When I finally reached Sao Rafael beach, I was just in time to catch the sunset. With almost no other people around it was a really beautiful experience.
You can make a day or two out of walking along the coast from beach to beach. You’ll see the amazing cliffs along the way. And finish with an amazing sunset if you’re lucky. Past the marina, you can reach various beaches from the main road, like Sao Rafael beach.
Walk along the beach to Praia da Oura
The beaches on the other side of Albufeira, f. ex Praia da Oura, are reachable by walking along the beach.
Make sure you start early and that it will be low tide while you are walking. Most hostels and hotels will have information about the tides, so ask them to be sure. That way you’ll make it along the beach the whole way before the tides get too high. Be aware that to do this walks, you might have to climb on the cliffs in some areas, so if you’re not ok with that, it would be better to take a bus directly to Praia da Oura.
To get back to Albufeira, you can eighter take a taxi, bus or hitchhike. In the high season, there are more bus and transportation options.
Get to know Albufeiras nightlife
Albufeira isn’t just known for its beaches, but also as a pretty big party location. Even when I visited in October, there where clubs with blasting music and crowds, and it wasn’t even the weekend. So if you’re looking to party, this is definitely the place in Algarve to do that.
Lagos might be the most visited location in the Algarve, and not without reason. Located in the river mouth of Bensafrim River. It has some beautiful cliff beaches and the proximity to good surf spots makes this the base for many surf schools and surfer hostels. Yet, Lagos had a beautiful walled old town and lot of history dating back more than 200 years.
Things to do in Lagos
The town of Lagos
Take at least one day to get to know the town of Lagos. Lagos was the administrative capital of Algarve from 1577 and the town has been fortified various times through the centuries. The walls that stand around the old town today are Moorish walls like the ones that stands around Faros old town and are from the 16th century. Made to protect the city from pirates and the Spanish. Don’t miss the arched entrance to the old town, Porta de São Gonçalo with barbicans on each side.
After getting to know the old town of Lagos, head down to the fortress by the waterfront, named Forte da Ponta da Bandeira. It was built around the1690 and with the town walls, served an important role in defending Lagos. The entrance fee to the fortress is 1,5€ and include entrance to the museum and chapel on the property. In addition to history the fortress also offers a great view of Lagos and the area.
After getting to know the town of Lagos you can take a walk along Praia Meia, a 4km long beach on the front of Lagos. There are also bus and train connections to the parts of Praia Meira that are further away.
Walk along the cliffs of Lagos
Make a day out of walking along the cliffs outside Lagos. You can easily reach the trail from the city. Along the walk are various beaches. At low tide, you can also walk along the beaches to find coves and caves! End your hike at the lighthouse Farol da Ponta da Piedade. Catch the sunset on one of the beautiful cliff viewpoints on the way back to Lagos! Some beaches that can be visited along the walk to the lighthouse are; Praia Dona Ana, Praia da Boneca, Praia do Camilo and Praia da Balança. Praia Dona Ana can be skipped and visited another day if you want to make your hike a bit shorter and start along the road.
Sitting on the edge of the cliffs there, looking into the clear blue water, such a liberating, and thrilling feeling. If you’re lucky you’ll find a cave on your route as well.
After exploring the beaches on one side of the cliff walk towards the lighthouse, there are other trails and beaches along the other side. They can be reached by hiking and some by driving. You can basically spend days and days just exploring beaches, all lying below the beautiful orange and red cliffs.
Surf, kayaking and other activities in Lagos
Like already mentioned, Lagos is a base for many surfers, and not without reason. Around Lagos there are amazing surfer beaches. Take the opportunity and take some surf lessons. If you want to go all in, you can even find surf camps in the area that offer 1 or 2 weeks of intensive surf lessons.
There are various tours going from Lagos. There are boat and kayak tours to different caves. Be aware though, that these might be canceled when the water is too rough.
Unfortunately, the water was too rough to do a cave tour when I visited, but I would definitely do it another time. You can also do dolphin watching tour and trips to other towns. Although the last one is very easily done alone.
Algarve Itinerary suggestion
Day 1. Arrive in Faro, get to know the city and the old town. Check out the cathedral of Faro f
Day 2. Rent a bike and bike to the mountain of San Martin. If you go by bike this will take the whole day. Is a tough ride, but the view from the top of the mountain is amazing! If you do have a car though you should go for sunset and during the day, do my suggestion for day 3.
Day 3. Explore Ria Formosa! Rent a bike and bike along some of the over 60km long walkway in the national park of Ria Formosa.
If you don’t feel like biking, take the ferry and explore Ilha Deserta and walk to
Cabo de Santa Maria. Or do a tour from Faro to explore and learn more about the area.
Catch the sunset from Praia do Faro!
Day 4. Take a morning bus to Albufeira. Get to know
Day 5. Check when the low-tide in Albufeira is when you’re there. Then start in good time and walk the whole stretch of beach from Albufeira to Praia da Oura. Enjoy the beach and sunset when you get there, and catch a bus back to town. This is just for those in good shape and those that are fine with some climbing from time to time.
If climbing rocks isn’t for you, you can always take a bus from the main road above
Day 6. Walk to Albufeira marina. Follow the road on the back side of the houses when you get there, to Praia Sao Rafael. Spend the day on this little, beautiful secluded beach.
Day 7. Get to Lagos in the morning. Start off by exploring the old town of Lagos as well as the city walls. After lunch, head over to the fortress in the river mouth to visit the museum, the view from the fortress and see the sunset from the beach right in front of it.
Day 8. Get up early, make lunch and get ready for a day of walking, exploring and beaches. Spend the day walking along the cliffs, and check out beaches along the way. End up at the Lighthouse, and catch the sunset on the way back.
Day 10. Spent one last day relaxing on your favourite beach beneath Lagos cliffs.
What to pack for Algarve
I assume you know the basics. Here are a couple of items that might be good to have on your
Good walking/hiking shoes – I prefer traveling with a pair of lightweight, comfortable trainers. If you like to be active and want to
Waterproof bag – I have one of these ones and they are great for active travelers. One is especially handy traveling Algarve. When you want to hike between beaches, look for caves and hidden spots, maybe kayak and do a boat tour. It’s practical to have one of these to keep your belongings dry.
Should you visit Algarve in October?
I wouldn’t let the fact that the summer is over, scare you. Algarve was as beautiful as ever, with less crowds on the beaches. Be aware though, that it can be a bit windier this time of year, and some days might be a bit cold for the beach. Still, there