With this Self-Drive sightseeing tour, you’ll explore independently the different landscapes of the Central Algarve.
Based in the heart of the most famous resort of Portugal, Albufeira, you’ll go way beyond the lovely beaches and the bustling nightlife.
Your road trip will introduce you to lovely villages along the seashore and through the ways of the less-known countryside.
To round up your trip, you have an itinerary to the East Algarve, to meet the impressive landscapes of the Ria Formosa!
All over the Algarve, contrasts are present everywhere, from the towns that are still home to fishermen to the international centers with cosmopolitan shops and nights full of music and beautiful people.
From the seaside grand villas to the modest whitewashed houses, paved in hundred-year-old stones, next to cobblestoned roads winding through endless fields.
From the cosmopolitan Albufeira built by the Arabs, you’ll travel to Ferreiras, just a few miles away. The difference is striking. Here the houses still have the typical chimneys, parapets hiding terraces where figs are dried, and you find windmills and waterwheels.
In Vilamoura, past the golf courses and elegant houses, there’s an Environmental Park that represents, cherishes and protects the local fauna and flora.
We’ll take you to Rocha da Pena, a haven of life for birds and plants, with stunning views over the ocean. We’ll show you Querença, the way we know it. Its name means affection, love, goodwill.
We’ll tell where some of the best cork in the world comes from, in a surprising museum in the middle of São Brás de Alportel, up in the hills.
We’ll share the knowledge and the beauty of the Ria Formosa, ex-libris of the East Algarve, home to exquisite and unique wildlife, protected by a nature reserve.
Visit Moncarapacho and discover the traditional handmade souvenirs from the local pottery.
Don’t lose the opportunity to experience the views from Cerro de São Miguel, and discover the wonderful fauna and flora of this part of the Algarve coast in Quinta de Marim.
Don’t miss the exquisite regional dishes, from the sea and from the land, accompanied by excellent Portuguese wines.
Let us show you the best parts of the Central Algarve, and take home with you a different side of this welcoming country!
Day 1 – Arrival to Faro
Individual arrival to Faro Airport and rent-a-car vehicle pick up. Drive to Albufeira.
Day 2 – Discover your Surroundings
We suggest starting this day with a wonderful journey through the contrasts of the Algarve. First let’s take the time to explore Albufeira. This cosmopolitan town, was built by the Arabs on top of Cerro da Vila, a cliff that is almost like a peninsula, an invincible position, which is why they called it Al Buhera (fortress). Before them, the Romans called it Baltum.
The 1755 earthquake destroyed practically all the buildings. The Church of São Sebastião and the Church of Sant’Ana, both dating back to the 18th-century, have some details that survived the terrible event.
As you leave Albufeira and begin your drive, in just a few minutes, you’ll find yourself in a very different sort of landscape, with small, friendly clusters of houses.
In Ferreiras, 5 km north of Albufeira, some of the houses still have the typical chimneys, parapets and roof terraces. There, you’re taking the winding EM 395, where you can see windmills and waterwheels.
We recommend as you start driving south, to experience Vilamoura, not just for the well-tended golf courses and exquisite houses.
There’s an Environmental Park in Vilamoura, an ecological and landscape asset. The bittern and the purple gallinule are the stars of this ecosystem, where more than a hundred species of birds can be observed.
There’s also a museum and the Cerro da Vila archaeological site that offer visitors an imaginary journey through a 1st-century Roman villa.
Next, the blue and golden beaches of Praia da Falésia, Praia do Barranco das Belharucas, the unspoilt beauty of Olhos de Água, Praia Maria Luísa and Praia da Balaia, before driving back to the hotel.
Day 3 – The Hills Beyond the Sea
Today we invite you to know a different side of the Algarve. Away from the hustle and bustle of the coastal developments that have arisen next to the ocean, storks peer down from the chimneys of the ceramic kilns and gentle streams cut their way through green fields.
Let us take you to Rocha da Pena, a colourful showcase of the beauties of the Barrocal. There are 390 plant species and 122 species of birds already identified there. In order to have a closer look at the area, we suggest that you take the time and wander through this landscape of dreams.
From here, continue to Querença. The older people say that Querença means affection, love and good will. Located near two streams, the village is full of charm and beautiful views. In the main square, the Main Church of Nossa Senhora da Assunção (Our Lady of the Assumption) has a fine Manueline doorway.
As the day unfolds we’ll take you to São Brás de Alportel. Cork from São Brás de Alportel is among the best in the world, and is used for the corks of the most famous champagnes. The cork oaks stand here majestically, with the strawberry trees growing in their shade – beautiful spontaneous small trees. Do not miss the chance to visit the Museum of Costumes and we promise that you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
Day 4 – Discover the Ria Formosa in the East Algarve
The day will drive you to the Ria Formosa, a system of lagoons of great natural beauty. In has been attracting visitors for ages, for the exquisite seafood, beautiful fishing villages, and fabulous beaches. From Faro it extends eastwards for almost 60kms.
We suggest a wider circuit to access Moncarapacho. This small village beautifully surrounded by streets covered in pomegranate trees hosts Moncarapacho Pottery, a family-run craft business, producing traditional local pieces. This is an ideal place to find a souvenir of the Algarve.
There are a number of 19th-century and early 20th-century houses in the village; and the main church, dating back to the 15th-century, is an enlargement of the original Gothic chapel. The Parish Museum, adjoining the Chapel of Espírito Santo (Holy Spirit), contains a valuable collection of religious imagery from the 16th to 18th-centuries.
Don’t lose the opportunity to drive to the top of Cerro de São Miguel, 411 metres above sea level, from where one of the most beautiful views in the Algarve can be seen.
The Ria Formosa Nature Park covers an area of some 17,000 hectares, from Cacela Velha to Ancão, and provides an opportunity to discover the wonderful world of the fauna and flora of this part of the Algarve coast.
The Information and Interpretation Centre in Quinta de Marim, 1 km from Olhão, has a museum and exhibitions that are well worth visiting.
Day 5 – Individual departure or extra days
Rocamar Exclusive Hotel
Rocamar Exclusive Hotel (4****) or similar
Basking in the sunshine of the Algarve, a refurbished hotel, with the beach at your feet, the sea in the background and all of Albufeira’s entertainment on your doorstep…
The Rocamar Exclusive Hotel has 88 Rooms, 52 of them overlooking the sea and Albufeira’s beautiful beach. Enjoy the view, the comfortable bedrooms and hotel’s excellent location close to the beach and Albufeira city centre.
The hotel is only for adults.
You must be adequately insured to join our Guided and Self-Guided holidays. We do not insist that you insure with us but we require that you are adequately insured for the nature of your holiday.
BeCool Travel has partnered with WorldNomads.com to keep you travelling safely. WorldNomads.com Travel Insurance is designed for independent and adventurous travellers, with coverage for overseas medical expenses, cancellation, baggage, and other expenses.
Please consult our Travel Insurance page, where you’ll be able to get more detailed info about insurance requirements and an immediate quote for your trip.