Last year I had to choose a sunny and interesting European destination, where I could relax, enjoy the warm weather and ideally learn something about a new culture. My options were either Madrid or the Algarve. After serious consideration, including the weather, the relaxation factor, the food available and the budget, I decided to pick the Algarve. But was this the right choice?
The Algarve is the southernmost region in Portugal. To me, the Algarve means a long stretch of golden sandy beaches, with dramatic cliffs and scalloped bays. Sounds pretty dreamy, right?
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As it turns out, the Algarve has amazing all year round climate. Temperatures can reach 30+ degrees C during the summer and not drop below freezing during winter. Some of my friends even visited during December and told me that it was still t-shirt weather during the day. Pretty impressive if you ask me. Since I wanted to go during June, I didn't quite had the problem of packing winter clothes, but still, there are a couple of things worth considering. Although the weather is pretty spectacular in the Algarve, it has been known to rain quite a bit during the end of Spring. This didn't used to be an issue ever before, but a few locals mentioned this as a result of the accelerated global warming. What I also noticed is that as long as the sun was out, it was scorching hot. I could wear a lightweight dress, lounge on the beach or sip cocktails by the pool. However, once the sun went down, the temperatures dropped...dramatically. I got comfortable by wearing long jeans and a light jacket.
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The relaxation factor
You can't really argue with that fact that a beach holiday is way better than a city break if relaxation if what you are after. I spent most of my morning walking on the beach, chilling in the sunshine, tanning and eating fantastic seafood. I had a couple of days of rain, where I sat by the pool reading an excellent book (The sixth Extinction - which I strongly recommend by the way). All in all, if you want to unwind and have a great week off, you should definitely visit the Algarve.
The Algarve have a lot to offer. There are myriad of small villages dotted all across the region. People are super friendly and laid back, and you can spark a conversation with any local in a matter of seconds. People were keen to tell me their story and point me to the right direction. They were kind and honest and very open about their heritage. It's natural to assume you can't get as personal with someone who lives in a big city. Although I didn't expected to gain as much cultural insight as I would have liked, it turns out the Algarve exceed my exceptions by far.
When it comes to food you can't beat the Algarve. I mean this! Dishes upon dishes of freshly cooked seafood at a very reasonable price. This is not the case in the Spanish capital, where although you can find many seafood-based dishes, the prices are less friendly. So what can you eat in the Algarve? I personally would recommend trying any octopus dish. Grilled octopus served with potatoes is one of my old time favorite dishes. On a day trip to Portimão, I also discovered (total chance) this incredible seafood restaurant called Marisqueira Carvi. I ended up coming back for more, because the service was perfect, the food was incredible and the prices were relatively low for the amount of food. I'm talking about 80 euros for two people sharing the most outrageous amount of seafood. Cocktails are expensive in the Algarve but the same as in Madeira or Lisbon, I found them to be more alcoholic, hence getting value for your money. Overall, the Algarve did not disappoint from a culinary point of view.
I managed to get 7 nights in a 4-star hotel in Algarve plus flights, for the same price which would have bought me only 4 nights plus flights in Madrid. After a bit of consideration, it seemed like the Algarve really ticked all the boxes. Food was always relatively cheap in the Algarve, the accommodation was epic and you can rent many villas and have private access to your own pool. Pretty awesome, right?
Having considered all of the above, I'm sure you won't be surprised to know that I decided to go for the Algarve. It turned out to be an incredible destination which really stole my heart. I am now planning in returning next year in June. I loved the climate, the people, the food and the price tags. Of course, if you fly to Portugal from across the Atlantic, you probably won't be getting the same great prices as when you fly from say, London. Nonetheless, I would definitely add the Algarve to your Euro trip and make it into a compulsory summer holiday.
Tell me why you would want to go to the Algarve and when? Please leave your answer in the comments section below.