This road trip is an exciting way of discovering the surprises of the West Algarve! A self-drive itinerary designed by locals, to those special spots that leave long-lasting memories of a happy holiday.
From the spectacular West Algarve’s coast, with dramatic cliffs pounded by the Atlantic waves and secluded beaches, to the bucolic interior, and the historic cities, you’ll be up for a real treat!
The tour is based in Lagos, a historical and cosmopolitan city.
Facing a large bay and the Meia Praia Beach’s fine sands, Lagos was a point of departure for the Discoveries’ galleons, and also a hideaway for privateers like Sir Francis Drake.
A beautiful wall borders the waterfront, and the old town is filled with small boutiques, restaurants, and a wealth of heritage and culture sites.
A highlight for the unique scenery of Ponta da Piedade, a true postcard picture of your memorable holidays.
From here you’ll get to visit the Vicentina Coast, Sagres, and the cliffs of Cape S. Vicent, the most south-westerly point in Portugal and in Europe. The cliffs are a vertiginous 60 meters high, dropping down into the furious spray of the waves.
The beaches of Carrapateira and Odeceixe hide endless dunes, surrounded by tiny wildflowers, where the only sounds come from the waves, the seagulls, and the salty winds singing.
Visit towns like Monchique, nestled in the folds of the hills. Nearby is the highest peak of the Algarve, Fóia, from where you have a view up to Alentejo.
Silves, the former Moorish capital of the Algarve, rises on a hill around the red-stone walls of the well-preserved castle. It dominates the plains of orange groves and the banks of the River Arade.
In Portimão and the adjoining Praia da Rocha, you’ll get one of the most scenic and famous beach resorts in the Algarve.
To complete your experience, and to show you the contrasts of this region, you have itineraries to places where the time goes slowly and you almost forget that you’re in the bustling Algarve.
Driving eastwards, through inland roads, you’ll experience São Bartolomeu de Messines and Querença. On your way to the river Guadiana, on the border with Spain, you’ll find hidden gems like Martim Longo, Alcoutim, and Vila Real de Sto António.
And make sure you 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 West Algarve, and take home with you a different side of this welcoming region!
Day 1 – Arrival to Faro
Individual arrival to Faro Airport and rent-a-car vehicle pick up. Drive to Lagos.
Day 2 – A Day at the End of the World
We suggest starting the week with the discovery of the south-western end of the Iberian Peninsula, once believed to be the end of the world.
On your way there, take the time to visit Vila do Bispo. This picturesque village is a collection of winding streets and whitewashed houses trimmed in bright colours. At the doorways, there are high steps made out of granite slabs, polished through age and use. From time to time, a decorated chimney stands out against the sky.
In Sagres take the time to explore this relaxed place and enjoy the fabulous views around. There’s much to see here, from the famous Fortress of Sagres, one of the symbols of the Portuguese Discoveries – with the enigmatic rosa-dos-ventos (wind rose) carved in the paving stones of the fortress – to Cape S. Vincent, with its imposing lighthouse.
As you drive inland, we invite to experience Barão de S. Miguel and Barão de S. João. These sister inland villages, share a rural charm of the traditional home architecture and are both located on the edge of a national forest. After the revolution of 1974, artists from the northern parts of Europe – wishing to celebrate with us the victory over the dictatorial regime – settled here, bringing new blood, new habits and new concepts of art to a landscape frozen in time.
Day 3 – A Day in the Hills
The day will bring you to some of the most beautiful towns in the Western Algarve.
Start the day driving to Monchique, with a stop at the viewpoint of Fóia, on the Serra de Monchique – 902m above sea level. Here, you’ll have one of the finest panoramas in the south of the country, stretching from the coastline to the hills of the Alentejo. On a clear day, you can see from Sagres to Faro in the south, and the Serra da Arrábida in the north.
Monchique is frequently mentioned as one of the best villages to live in the south. Surrounded by vast hills and exuberant forests, the landscape is completed with farms and little villages, referred to by the locals as “sítios”, ideal for outdoor activities and panoramic photographs.
But there’s another experience waiting: unusual gastronomic combinations. There are rice dishes with chestnuts, papas moiras (Moorish porridge, an Algarve classic, made from maize flour and a special seasoning with the aroma of cumin), or the local speciality assadura (roast pork). The artisanal sausages are made from pork from Iberian black pigs and smoked hams are cured using ancient methods. The desserts include bolo de tacho – a kind of cake made from honey, chocolate and cinnamon and the honey pudding. This is the land of the medronho fruit (strawberry tree) that grows here wild and spontaneously.
Close to the end of the day, as you drive back to Lagos, don’t miss the chance to visit Portimão. This live but traditional town, was born between the banks of the Arade River and the sea. History tells us that Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans and Arabs all went up the Arade River to Silves, and left behind traces of their presence in the area. History left behind two storey houses, balconies with wrought-iron railings, stone door, window surrounds and tiled walls. The narrow streets of the old quarter of fishermen and merchants are examples of this.
Day 4 – Free day
This is the day to take the time to rest or wander around town and explore the local traditions. There are numerous monuments to discover, whether your preference is related to the historical background of the town or just exquisite architecture.
Day 5 – A Day to Discover the Costa Vicentina
On this day dedicated to the western coast of Portugal we suggest starting the day driving north to explore the beautiful beaches that these rugged cliffs hide. In the small village of Carrapateira, there’s a unique plateau that serves as a magnificent viewpoint over the mixture of colours that compose the coast. This former fishing village is nowadays a haven for surfers looking for the especial waves that the Atlantic waters bring.
As you drive north along the Natural Park of the Vicentina coast, you’ll find Aljezur or “the river of the bridges” as the Arab origin name dictates. The name was a reference to the bridges necessary when the river was navigable.
As the day revolves around the cold Atlantic waters, continue driving north, to find what the Portuguese voted in a national competition to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the country – Odeceixe.
Perfectly balanced on a cliff, the landscape is constantly changing. When it is low tide, a small sand bank appears. At high tide, the reed beds disappear. As if by magic, one moment it is a beach, then a turbulent river, and then a quiet stream. All of this is caused when the sea meets the fresh water of the river.
On the other side of the hills is the Alentejo; as rivers have always served as boundaries, men have built bridges over them so that they serve to unite and not to divide.
Day 6 – A Day to Discover Lagos
Today we suggest dedicating the day to Lagos. From ancient times, Lagos was a gateway to the Mediterranean and continues to be a meeting place for people from all over the world.
It worth losing ourselves a little in the lanes of the old city, where craft shops and traditional restaurants mingle with art galleries and international shops, alongside imposing monuments like the old “Slaves market”, now converted into an art gallery – a building that has become a worthy place to lessen some of the suffering witnessed by those ancient stones.
Not far from the centre, you cannot miss Ponta da Piedade where the cliffs begin, providing a stark contrast to the beaches of the bay. This is probably the most photographed point of Lagos but it is inevitable! You’ll see why!
Of all the ways possible of exploring this ancient town, try a boat trip to the grottoes and you’ll be amazed on the pallets of colours that your eyes can capture!
In case you wish to visit the nearby beaches, we recommend driving eastwards to Meia Praia.
Or, you can always drive westwards and explore Praia da Luz a traditional village which is finely balanced between the rusticity of the fields of almond and fig trees and the coastal strip where the cliffs show the different colours of the rock strata and distinct geological markings of millennia of evolution. Here, archaeological digs uncovered a Roman salting station where garum, a shellfish sauce and a delicacy at banquets in Imperial Rome, was prepared and transported to Rome in clay amphorae.
Day 7 – To the East Algarve Day
Today we suggest uncovering the secrets beyond the west of the Algarve. You’ll be driving along the northern borders of the Algarve to places as different as São Bartolomeu de Messines and Querença. Here, time goes slowly and you almost forget that you’re in the Algarve.
These inland secrets are located in the slopes of Serra do Caldeirão. The rounded hills to the north are covered with cork oaks, strawberry trees and holm oaks. To the south is the Barrocal, with its reddish, fertile soil, orange groves and orchards of fig, almond and carob trees.
On your way to the limits of the country, where the river Guadiana sets the border with Spain, you’ll find hidden gems like Martim Longo where the knowledgeable hands of women make dolls from jute, representing the inhabitants of the village, their clothes, customs and occupations. We highly recommend to try the sweet rosemary honey or the sweet smelling goat cheeses.
When you reach Alcoutim you’ll probably welcome a refreshment, on one of the many unique cafes by the riverside. Alcoutim stands on the bank of the river, dominated by the castle that dates back to the period of Al-Gharb (the original Arabic name for the Algarve). Opposite, on the other bank and in a different country, is Sanlúcar del Guadiana. There are many secrets within these borders, from the times of smuggling and the earlier frontier wars. Nowadays, the strongest ties have grown out of lives that have become intertwined so long ago, and now form part of the fabric of the family rather than mere neighbours.
As you start driving southwards, you reach Vila Real de Santo António. The heart of the old city is the former royal square – nowadays called the Praça Marquês de Pombal – with its magnificent Portuguese calçada (typical paving), radiating out from the centre in black and white. On the coast, the lighthouse, more than 40 metres high, commands a fine view of the nearby pine forests, the mouth of the River Guadiana, the Atlantic and neighbouring Spain.
Day 8 – Individual departure or extra days
Carvi Beach Hotel
Carvi Beach Hotel
Carvi Beach Hotel (3***) or similar
Located in one of Europe’s most popular destinations for an idyllic beach vacation – Praia D. Ana in Lagos. Carvi Beach Hotel Algarve is a smart choice for travelers who want an incredible holiday experience.
Each room feature a balcony so fresh air is just steps away; some with garden views and most with lateral or full sea views. The rooms are equipped with quiet air conditioning systems and blackout drapes.
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.
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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.