Europe 2017: Algarve, Portugal

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Good bye Lisbon!

With our stay in Portugal’s beautiful capital, Lisbon completed, our next stop was the beaches of the Algarve.  After sharing a room and bunk beds at the hostel, we rented a Airbnb in Portimao, one with a rooftop terrace and a BBQ.  We were going to enjoy this part of the trip in comfort and privacy.  Our house was not on the beach but, in a quite neighbors  that was close enough to all of the major beaches by car.   The pace in Algarve was slower.  We would wake up each morning, drive to a beach or two, and return after sunset for a relaxing dinner on the terrace.

The slower pace meant I had time to think and reflect on the last year.  It had been a year since my father’s passing and going on this trip was a family moment of bonding and healing.  We wanted to celebrate life, to cry, to laugh, to live and worry less about what would happen tomorrow.

Day 1 : Praia de Rocha

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The beaches in Portugal are beautiful and quite different from any I’ve seen in the Caribbean, Brazil or Thailand.  Their steep cliffs, rocky formations and caves were unique and awe-inspiring to behold.  Our plan was to visit as many beaches as we could during our 3-night stay and we didn’t waste any time.  After check-into our Airbnb which was owned by a lovely local family and completing our grocery run, we drove to the nearest beach which was Praia de Rocha.

Praia de Rocha was beautiful, it had spectacular views and set the tone for the rest of our stay.   That evening we enjoyed our first BBQ, followed by an evening of talking over wine long into the night.  I will note that wine in Portugal is plentiful and fairly cheap when compared in quality to what you can buy in Toronto, so we indulged.

Day 2: Praia de Benagil

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On the second day we headed to the famous Praia de Benagil near Lagos – one of THE beaches to visit in the Algarve according to many travel bloggers, vloggers and Trip Advisor reviewers.   It is a small beach, hidden in a small enclave of imposing gold-coloured cliffs that make you wonder at the ice age that contributed to its creation.   The water at this beach was the warmest of all of the ones we visited, cold but, warm enough for a decent swim before your hands froze.

Day 3: Praia de Odeceixie & Praia de Camilo

If you want to see every beach in the Algarve coast, you will either need more time than we had or want to forsake late-night and  sleeping-in during your stay.  We were not going to do the latter but, we did plan our last full day to allow us to visit two beaches.

Praia de Odeceixie

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Praia de Odeceixie

We started with Praia de Odeceixie, the coldest beach we visited.  With its Northern location and huge rocky cliffs, strong winds greeted us upon our arrival.  Standing on top of the cliff, we gazed in awe at a beach sheltered amongst massive steep cliffs and regretted not bringing our sweaters.  Once we got to the actual beach, we learned that the beach itself was sheltered from the wind, allowing for all beach activities in a bathing suit.  I believe surfers will love Praia de Odeceixie the most but, if you are more of a beach strolling type you must visit for the views alone.

Renting a house and a car in the Algarve was one of the best decisions (after the decision to go to Europe) we made.  It is possible to hop from beach to beach, staying a night or two at each, using  Portugal’s bus system.  Or you can have your home base, rent a car and travel at your own pace.

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A rural road

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One of the many towns we drove through whose name I didn’t catch

Praia de Camilo

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Praia de Camilo

The chilliness of Praia de Odeceixie encouraged us to drive south to the next beach for what we hoped were warmer waters.  Praia de Camilo is a tiny beach (smaller than Praia de Benagil) which is only accessible via a set of many, many stairs but, ones you don’t regret taking. We got to the beach in the mid-afternoon, which gave us about 2 hours of sun on the beach before the shade descended and reminded you that it was October.  Two hours were enough to enjoy everything that Praia de Camilo had to offer, but I would recommend you either get there early or late if you hope to find a spot to lay your towel.

With three beaches in three days, we felt we got a good taste of what the Algarve had to offer, just enough to make us want to come back for more.  We agreed you need at least a two-week period to see all of the important beaches and I foresee us all going back one day.

The next stop on Europe 2017, unexpectedly seductive Seville and the expected travel cold. 

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