The Algarve region of Portugal is known for its rocky coastline with amazing beaches and hidden coves. It is great for travellers on budget as the food is cheap and most of the sites are free. Although we went at the beginning of March it was warm and sunny. Here are some of the highlights of our trip:
This was the highlight of my trip to Algarve, it is one of the most incredible sea caves and photographs cannot really capture its size or beauty. It is also called Gruta de Benagil because it looks like a hidden grotto, with the sun shining through the top and two openings to the sea. The inside is not accessible by land, for a detailed guide on getting to the cave click here: A guide to Benagil cave Portugal
Praia Da Marinha
This beach is only a 6 minute drive (or 25 minute walk) from Benagil cave so it is very easy to go to both in one day. This is photo is taken from the viewpoint.
Pego Do Inferno Waterfall
This waterfall is the other side of the Algarve and took about 1 and a half hours to drive to. From the car park it is about a 10 minute walk through fields and following a somewhat clear path. Luckily the sound of the water helps guide the way, and towards the end the signpost and bins let you know you are almost there. The area is very secluded with no toilet facilities and no where close by to get food or water. I have read about it being unbearably crowded in the summer and I can understand why. We got there at 10:00 and were the only ones there for about 20 minutes but it got busy very quickly, something I was not expecting in March.
The water is a unique colour, surrounded by trees and sand coloured rocks. There is a rope attached to one of the trees for anyone brave enough to swing in. Mornings are supposed to be the best time to visit as the sun is shining onto the water. I still thought it was very cold though!
Praia Do Barril
We went to this beach after the waterfall because it looked like a small detour on the way back to Carvoeiro, however it was not. Please see the itinerary at the end of the post for details.
This beach is on an island and to get there you need to go through the Ria Formosa natural park which is a flooded marshland. It is a 20 minute walk and on the way we saw lots of crabs in the mud and different types of birds.
The 100’s of anchors rusting in the sand are from when there was a booming tuna fishing industry in the area. It was abandoned when the tuna stocks depleted in the 1960s and the old fishermen huts have been converted into cafes and shops.
Ponta Grande Cala
This little spot was our favourite in the Algarve, it felt like our own private beach because we were the only ones there and it is surrounded by cliffs on all sides. It is not easy to find, google takes you to a residential area on a dead end road. The path is at the end of this road next to a gated house, then there is a narrow stone staircase that leads down to the beach. This photo was taken from the cliffs above.
There are many hidden coves like this all along the Algarve, it would be great to come back and hire a kayak to explore the coastline.
In my opinion this beach looks best from the viewpoint, it is a brilliant place to enjoy sunset.
Praia do Camilo
A beautiful beach with interesting rock formations. There are 200 wooden steps that lead down to it and a tunnel through the rocks, which leads to another smaller section.
Praia da Batata
There are a series of tunnels connecting a lot of small beaches and this bridge is right at the end. When the tide comes in, it goes under the bridge and looks even more impressive.
Ponta da Piedade
A series of jagged rock formations that is very close to Praia do Camilo and Praia da Batata. It is better to go in the morning because we went at 17:00 and there was a shadow across the water.
This area is famous for its pottery and therefore a good place to buy souvenirs. This shop is Artesanato a Mo, but there are a lot of other shops in the area decorated in this style. It is a 1 hour drive from Carvoeiro and is found on the right hand side directly after turning from Sagres towards Cabo de Sao Vicente.
Where to stay
We stayed in Carvoeiro because it was the closest town to Benagil cave that we could could book accommodation in but also driving distance from the other sites we wanted to see.
I recommend hiring a car if you want to see lots of different sites as there aren’t very good public transport links in the area. The care hire was cheap, the roads easy to drive on and most places have free parking.
Something to be aware of is that to drive on the A22 you have to pay a toll. It uses cameras and transponders instead of booths to calculate the amount that you need to pay. It is possible to hire a transponder from the rental company or post office but this has to done before you drive on the A22. We decided to just avoid the road which was easy enough, even though google maps kept trying to redirect us onto it. It did add some extra time onto journeys but not enough to make paying for the toll road worth it.
These are just some of the things to do in the Algarve, let me know you favourite!
Itinerary 4 day itinerary
- Praia da Batata (40 minute drive from Carvoeiro)
- Praia do Camilo (8 minute drive)
- Ponta da Piedade (2 minute drive or 17 minute walk)
- Benagil cave (15 minute drive from Carvoeiro) arrived at 09:30 and stayed until 11:30
- Praia Da Marinha (6 minute drive from Benagil beach or a 25 minute walk)
- Sagres (just over an hours drive)
- Pego do Inferno Waterfall (1 hour 20 minute drive from Carvoeiro)
- Praia do Barril (1 hour 20 minute drive from Pego do Inferno)
- Carvoeiro beach (1 hour 30 minutes drive)
- Ponta Grande Cala (30 minute drive from Carvoeiro)
Visited: 4 days in March 2019