Road tripping the Western Algarve, Portugal
During our four days in the Algarve last month (tip: mid-September is an AMAZING time to visit this beautiful region) we were based in the beautiful town of Ferragudo (blog post coming soon!). We had heard about the stark contrast of the different regions of the Algarve and decided to head for a day trip to the Western Algarve. The central Algarve (where we were based) is known for it’s calm waters, amazing rock formations, and an odd mix of young partiers and retired beach loungers. The Western Algarve is the equivalent of the little sister who has a touch of rebellion and an unrelenting desire to outdo it’s calmer big sister. With massive surfer style waves, wind that makes for a perfect day of kite flying, and that perfect fine sand combining seamlessly with the high surrounding cliffs the Western Algarve is well worth a day trip.
Where should you go?
After reading The Together Traveler’s blog on Carrapateira we knew we wanted to start our beach hopping here. We set out from Ferragudo around 11 in the morning after a leisurely breakfast of 3 hours at an adorable cafe (that’s a story for another day!). We drove an hour through gorgeous rolling hills until we reached Carrapateira and from there we let the signs lead us to our next destinations. Below is the driving route we took, but I strongly advise letting the signs that say “Praia” guide you during your road trip. You won’t regret it!
The beach that never ends
Once we arrived in the beautiful village of Carrapateira, we followed the signs for “Praia” and parked at the bottom of a hill near a boardwalk that looked like it led to the beach.
After walking for just a few minutes we hit a point that was covered in water and there was no way around except to walk through. We were at a beach after all so we kicked off our shoes, hid them in the grassy area on the side, and waded our way across the surprisingly warm water.
It was truly amazing how quickly the sand changed colors from a dark, almost clay texture to this perfect fine, almost white sand. The contrast in colors was breathtaking. After wading through the water, we were greeted with rolling hills of sand for as far as the eyes could see. We made it a goal to touch the water at every beach we went to that day so we kept going up and over the hills of sand.
Finally we reached a point where we could see the MASSIVE waves hit the sand. We also happened upon a kite surfer trying to work with the crazy wind (I lost my hat and sunglasses multiple times). The hubs ran down to go touch the water while I snapped away and tried to protect my camera from the sand crystals flying around.
Once we touched the biting cold water, we headed up to the top of the boardwalk (where the cliff is) to take in the beautiful view over this massive beach. It was well worth the trek and on a bit warmer day we could have stayed here for the entire day taking in the chill atmosphere.
The “Hang Ten, Dude” Beach
Back in our car and still full from breakfast we decided to drive south towards Sagres (the end of the world) with the goal to stop at another beach along the way. We quickly saw signs for Praia do Amado and decided to let the beach gods guide us. We were stuck behind this cute little yellow VW van going well over 20 km/h under the speed limit, but I was so relaxed from the previous beach that I didn’t really care. We drove along for a few minutes until we turned into a makeshift parking lot and parked behind the yellow van. While we were sorting our various pieces of technology out hopped 5 surfer dudes who gave off a clear vibe that they lived together in that van. We looked around and sure enough every other car in the lot was a surfer van with people living in them. We had stumbled across a makeshift surfing village.
It turned out that there was another parking lot nearby that had cars like ours so we weren’t the only people in the area that weren’t hardcore surfers. We headed down to the boardwalk and I was overtaken by the beautiful beach, mountains, and cliffs that surrounded us. What a stark difference to the beach we were just at a few minutes ago!
Sweaters in tow we walked around a bit and spent a ton of time just watching the surfers smash against the waves and taking in the views. This was by far one of my favorite beaches in the Algarve as the scenery was out of this world. If you ever wanted to learn how to surf this might be the perfect place.
Blowing past the End of the World
Oh, Sagres. My expectations were high. Really high. But, my dreams of warm, sunny Portugal were destroyed in Sagres. The “End of the World” is the windiest place I have ever been. And I live in Ireland so that’s saying something. We had a mediocre late lunch (note: Almost all restaurants close around 2:30-3 in the Algarve for siesta. Make sure you eat lunch before!) and then tried to head over to Sagres fort. There wasn’t any parking available and after our really heavy lunch I was ready to just sleep. We contemplated heading back to Ferragudo and sleeping off lunch, but didn’t feel like driving that far. So we followed the “praia” signs again and landed at Praia do Martinhal. It is a pretty beach, but nothing to make you say “wow” and after an hour of fighting the wind and sand hitting our eyes we packed up and headed home.
Why the Western Algarve is worth a visit
Despite our lack luster ending in Sagres, the Western Algarve is well worth a visit. The beaches on the west coast are out of this world beautiful and do a great job of showing off. If you’re into surfing, sight seeing, or epic road trips this is a perfect day away from the central Algarve. It’s nothing like it’s calmer bigger sister, but gives you a sense of vitality that’s hard to find anywhere else.
Have you ever been to the Western Algarve? Where’s your favorite spot?
– Boots not Roots