You might think the Algarve is just synonymous with golfers and yacht owners, but there’s so much more to this southern European destination than tee time and harbourside dining, as you’ll have seen from Parts One and Two!
Craving more out of our trip than relaxation and happy hour, we made time for the lesser known, rugged and untouched west coast, bringing us to the third and final part in our Algarve Series.
Another reason why Sagres is the perfect base for a stay in the Algarve, there’s an entire area of wild landscape nearby that is predominantly untouched and waiting to be explored. With nature reserves that are nationally protected, towering cliffs and unspoilt beaches, the west coast has a remote vibe yet is unassumingly beautiful – the perfect retreat.
Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina (the Natural Park of Southwest Alentejo and Cape St. Vincent) covers over 100km so is too vast to be covered in a day. It spans as east as Burgau in the southwest region (just west of Lagos) and as far south as Cape Vincent, stretching north as far as Sao Torpes near Sines in the Alentejo region. Driving from Sagres, travel north for about an hour and you’ll have covered almost half the span of the park, but you’ll need much longer to truly appreciate the landscape. With so much to see, we’ve listed some of the best coastal spots and viewpoints that we visited in a day – we’re planning to return and explore the rest!
The Algarve’s West Coast Beaches
- Praia de Odeceixe
Head 40 miles north of Sagres and you’ll reach Praia de Odeceixe within the Municipality of Aljezur, straddling the border between the Algarve and Alentejo regions.
The drive down to the beach will take you through Ocedeixe village. In summer, a road train runs from the village to the beach (3 miles) but it also makes a nice walk if you fancy it. Alternatively, you can drive all the way to the cliffs and find a spot on the edge – don’t forget the handbrake…
Standing on these cliffs gives you a spectacular view of the beach and neighbouring rock formations. The walk down to the sand takes you past a couple of quaint cafes that serve up fresh Portuguese specialities as well as beachside shops, so there’s plenty to keep you occupied for a few hours.
The beach itself is much busier than those in Sagres, drawing in surfers, campervanners and families alike, however there’s plenty of space and at low tide, a more ‘secret’ and secluded cove is revealed to the left – a gorgeous spot from which to enjoy the waves.
Most of the time, swimming is restricted to waist height due to the rough conditions, but this makes it the perfect surf spot so grab a board and hit the waves or sign up for a lesson to learn from the resident experts.
If the sea isn’t your thing, to the right of the boardwalk is a more tranquil spot that sits in the mouth of the river, revealing lagoons perfect for paddling. There’s also plenty of shelter from the Atlantic wind here, although the beach itself isn’t actually too breezy.
Once you’ve had your fill of the sand and sea, head back up the hill to grab a spot of lunch at Kiosk Agapito. It has an extensive menu of reasonably priced sandwiches and salads and if you can find a table along the wall, you’ll have a great view of the ocean too.
This place does get pretty busy so if you struggle to find space, a bit further up there is Bar da Praia which serves up local cuisine with the attitude to match. We actually nearly ate here but only realised once we found a spot on the terrace that it was cash only – so we awkwardly had to leave and go to Kiosk Agapito instead, sitting with a hilarious German couple who beckoned us over to their table after seeing us struggling to find our own!
Mittagessen complete, the walk back up to the car means tackling a ridiculously steep hill – a bit of a struggle after one too many french fries – but take your time to stroll along the cliff edges to take in the panoramic views and stunning coastline.
Next stop, a viewpoint that will make you feel like you’ve transported to the vast shores of somewhere Down Under…
- Praia da Bordeira
Consistently voted one of the best beaches in the Algarve (and probably in the whole of Europe), Praia da Bordeira is 26 miles south of Praia de Odeceixe, on the route back towards Sagres. Located in Carrapateira, this beach could well be one of the most expansive you’ve ever seen. Limestone cliffs and three kilometres of sand sit in front of a backdrop of mountains and greenland, making it a diverse and equally as breathtaking landscape to take in.
Follow the road through the sand dunes and find a parking spot near the top, where you’ll mostly be met by campervans and trucks. Trundle down the boardwalk towards the viewpoint and you’ll be lucky to even see another person. Surprisingly deserted, you’ll be thankful to have the view all to yourself. Nestled between the cliffs are secluded, rocky beaches but be careful on the way down!
Again, the decent waves make it a popular surfing spot and there are a few parasols on the beach but not much else. If you’re looking for a sandy retreat, Praia da Bordeira is your guy – take plenty of photos as this is your authentic snapshot of Portugal’s Algarve.
Spend some time enjoying the view and then head back to the car for the last stop on our West Coast beach guide – the Algarve’s top surfer destination.
- Praia do Amado
A few kilometres’ drive south from Praia da Bordeira, Praia do Amado is its more populated (but also beautiful) neighbour, attracting crowds of surfers, campervanners and freedom travellers. We arrived late afternoon and the sun was low, bringing with it an unbelievably chilled vibe. There were still a few surfers enjoying the last of the day’s waves and it made for a great final spot to finish off our west coast road trip.
This top surfing beach often holds international competitions, so it’s worth checking ahead of your visit. Its resident surf camp provides lessons for all levels and a cafe on the clifftop serves up snacks and beers while you watch the sunset.
With just five full days in the Algarve, we’ve only scratched the surface as to what’s on offer in this beautiful part of the world. Flying in and out of Faro means you can explore the Algarve’s south coast on the way to and from the airport, helping make the most of your time.
With so many touristy hotspots on the south coast, we took the advice of a friendly couple whose daughter had backpacked around Portugal and decided to travel back via Loulé instead, a colourful, historic old town just 20 minutes north of the airport.
On the way, we stopped in Lagos to see the famous rock formations of Praia do Camilo and Ponta da Piedade. Although beautiful, Lagos is certainly a step above Sagres in terms of its touristic appeal. Hundreds of people flock to see these rocks which dampens the experience slightly – but still worth a look, if only for an hour or so!
Arriving in Loulé, it can be tricky to find somewhere to park up, but we managed to find a spot in a small carpark next to the main church in the town, Igreja de S.Clemente. It’s a beautiful building, built in the 13th century and sits next to a peaceful little garden, Jardim dos Amuados, which is an ancient cemetery.
Loulé’s central market is open daily and there are plenty of treats on offer. There’s also a Saturday morning gypsy market elsewhere in the city that is popular with both locals and visitors and one of the Algarve’s most renowned.
Close to the main market is Loulé castle, a historical contrast to the built up town.
Instead of taking the main road route past the market, take a few turns and get a little lost in the cobbled streets – there’s plenty to be seen around every corner!
Eight beautiful destinations, six beaches and countless architectural delights, all in six short days. The Algarve has so much to offer beyond its well-known identity, so don’t be drawn by the comfort of familiarity, get off the beaten track a little! Explore the cobbled streets, walk the windswept beaches and make friends with the locals.