Algarve, practical guide : head south with your family !
16 July 2019
The Algarve, a small region nestled in the extreme south of Portugal, is becoming one of the most popular sunny destinations for holidaymakers. Found between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, it offers a contrast-filled coastline: long fine sand beaches to the east, coves whipped by the sea, as well as caves to the west. Little Guest gives you some of its secrets on how you can explore this little piece of the Iberian Peninsula with your family!
The Algarve is a mixed-race region and its multiple influences are written in its landscape and culture. Moreover, the name “Algarve” comes from the Arabic word “Al-Gharb”, which means “West”. The traces of Muslim occupation from the Middle Ages, are still noticeable, especially in the lines of beautifully whitewashed houses on which the bougainvillea cascade.
The region may be small but boast of a remarkable diversity of landscapes. From the coast and its lagoons to the fertile Barrocal orchards through the mountainous areas around Mount Foia, both the young and old have enough to feed their eyes!
Open to the ocean, the Algarve lives in osmosis with the deep ocean: from the great explorers who have marked its history to the fishing and aquatic activities abound on its beaches.
1. ALGARVE, SIMPLY PUT…
- Regional Capital: Faro
- Currency: euro
- Language: Portuguese
- Cost of living: very affordable
- The best period to visit the Algarve: It’s sunny all year round in the Algarve. Although a little less touristy than summer, spring and autumn are the ideal visiting periods times.
2. THE UNAVOIDABLES
- Confronting the raw beauty of the beaches West of the Algarve. Wind-lashed and animated by the Atlantic currents, they are excellent spots for surfing. The little ones enjoy watching the surfers surf through the waves, while making sandcastles.
- Taking the road of through the fortified castles and fortresses, the medieval ruins of a bygone era, when Portugal was still occupied by Muslims. After the impressive Fortress of Sagrès, cling on Cape St Vincent (Europe’s most western point), strive to climb up the eleven towers of the wall of Silves from which one can admire a beautiful panorama. Little knights watch out!
- Taking the mountain roads to whisk off to the spa town of Caldas de Monchique. Nestled in a small green valley, the quality of its water has been renowned since the period of the Romans! You can make a well-being stop at the foot of the majestic Foia and Picota mountains.
- Going on a cruise off Albufeira, to explore its very cut-out coast. Formed by rocks with somewhat amazing contours and tinged with ocher shades, it is still magnified by the rays of the setting sun. The Benagil Cave and its natural window are part of its natural wonders. Do you want a time-shift back into the past? A sailing boat worthy of the greatest pirates, the San Bernada, will take you to the boarding of the most beautiful sea caves.
- After walking through the Barrocal rural landscapes, a stripe of fertile land between sea and mountains, stroll past the market stalls of the charming little town of Loulé. With this town being in a splendid neo-Moorish hall, it is full of local products: figs, almond paste, local crafts … make room among your luggage!
- Immersing yourself in the oriental influences of Tavira, a white city where the charm of houses adorned with azulejos combines with the sweetness of life. When they stroll through the alleys, the curious little can only have their eyes wide open: the knockers of the old doors sometimes look like elegant hands. Who will find the most?
- Taking a nature break in the wild dunes of the Ria Formosa Natural Park. This 60km lagoon stretches along the ocean and boasts of a string of charming islands with white-sand beaches. Here, you will find a flight of migratory birds and even flamingos, in a peaceful setting. The place is perfect for going on a walk between two swims!
- Perfecting your swing in the heart of Algarve’s golden triangle! The reputation of the greens of Vale do Lobo and Quinta, award-winning golf resorts, are excellent! On the way back, why not make a detour through Ingreja de Sao Lourenço (Almancil), a baroque church that’s entirely covered with azulejos. A structure which exudes, from floor-to-ceiling, a harmony of blues and whites that are as soothing as they are refreshing.
- Having a taste of the iconic Galão, a great latte that is served with pastries made from carob flour (fruit from a typical orchard tree in the Algarve), figs and almonds. A delight entirely made from local flavor!
3. HOTELS FOR FAMILIES
From east to west, numerous luxury family hotels can be found throughout the coast. To enjoy the sweetness of Portuguese life, the tribes are spoilt for choice!
- Located in the far west of the Algarve, the Martinhal Sagres is an ideal location for families, as evidenced by the many honors which she has been attributed. Voted “Europe’s Best Family Resort” in 2014, it offers a set of villas and suites that are pleasant to live in. Their contemporary décor, combining natural materials and light colors blends in perfectly with the unspoiled nature of the, Vicentine Coast Natural Park, wherein it is located. Good news for the family, children of all ages are well catered for at Martinhal Sagres! In addition to the Baby Club for kids from 6 to 23 months old, the Kids Club occupies children from 2 to 5 years old, while a more dynamic program awaits the 6 to 9 years old at the Fox Club. Teenagers can also get thrilled at the Explorer Club and Club Blast which welcomes teens of up to 17 years. The Martinhal Sagres is an ideal base for exploring the rugged coastline and unspoiled landscapes of the west.
- The luxurious Cascade Wellness & Lifestyle Resort can be found atop a cliff overlooking the Atlantic, nestled in the heart of the historic city of Lagoa. Not far from the most beautiful Algarve beaches and their majestic ochre cliffs, it combines coastal spirit and tranquility. Its rooms with a refined aesthetic incorporate winks, by little touches, with the local architecture: walls of azulejos, loggias or colonnades of Mediterranean inspiration … exotic!While parents enjoy the spa or indulge themselves in playing golf, the Caskiddy welcomes children from 3 to 12 years old. An ideal place for adventures and discoveries, all kinds of cultural, artistic and sports activities, inspired by eco-responsibility are undertaken together and in good spirit.
- Located not far from Faro, the capital of the Algarve, Martinhal Quinta is a real small village surrounded by gardens, which offers comfort and privacy to every family. The villas are carefully decorated in a shade of light colors and sands, reminiscent of the style in the coastal villas. While the four-sided roofs are reminiscent of local architecture, the stone-paved floors guarantee maximum freshness inside the structure.Through games and activities, children from 6 months to 8 years are invited to be as curious and lively as little foxes, as indicated by the kids’ club name, Raposinhos, meaning fox in the country’s language. Within the hotel, the ‘Blue Room’ is also a place where young and old can have fun and make new friends, outside the Kids Club.
Martinhal Quinta’s villas, the Portuguese art de vivre …
4. KIDS-FRIENDLY RESTAURANTS
- At Vista, it’s not just the view that’s beautiful! Chef João Oliveira‘s plates are true artistic compositions combining tastes and colors, while highlighting local products. Seafood, clams, knives and seaweed are enhanced by a pear zest or crunchy green almonds. This restaurant with a contemporary atmosphere has earned a Michelin star. Let the gourmands rejoice, as the Algarve is the Portuguese region with the most Michelin-starred restaurants ! Practical info: Av. Tomás Cabreira 1, 8500-510 Portimão, Portugal; +351 282 460 280.
- When it comes to changing seafood, families will find happiness at the Steakhouse Bovino. Beef is the main philosophy of this restaurant, where the meat is of the highest quality. With its design lamps, tiled floor and large windows, the Bovino has a unique atmosphere. In addition to the child menu, suitable for the young one’s stomachs, the playground dedicated to toddlers will make everyone happy. While their little ones are having fun, Mom and Dad can be savoring the Bovino’s house cocktails. Practical info: Quinta do Lago, Roundabout 6, Rua Formosa, Quinta do Lago, 8135-162 Almancil, Portugal. +351 289 007 863.
- With checkered tablecloths and hearty dishes, this is undoubtedly a Portuguese restaurant, as we like them! The Restaurante Prazeres offers dishes with local flavors that highlight the seafood: oyster farandole, cilantro-snacked shrimp and freshly caught fish. This family destination also offers cataplanas, a typical Algarve-dish. Served in a concave dish, the food is steamed which gives them a unique flavor. Families love this restaurant for its tasty dishes and the little touches for toddlers! Practical info: Av. 5 de Outubro 94, 8700-302 Olhão, Portugal.
- Gigi’s is a legend on the Algarve coast. Tourists or locals, all crowd around the tables of this restaurant specialized in grilled fish. The place immersed in the lush green vegetation, is like a wooden hut attached to a dune. Children love the Robinson-spirit of the place and especially the wooden walkways that one must use to get there. Practical info: Quinta do Lago South Portugal, Almancil, Portugal.
5. THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BEACHES
Wild and untamed, Praia de Cordoama is somewhat away from the tourist circuits. Being surrounded by high black cliffs, you can get there through a small winding road. Facing the Atlantic Ocean, this beach which is covered with sea spray will be appealing to surfers. In the face of this vastness, families appreciate it more for a walk in the water than for swimming.
Praia de Dona Ana is a charming cove surrounded by the iconic ocher cliffs of this part of the coast. Being quiet and protected, it is ideal for a family swim, after a visit to the seaside town of Lagoa. A stone’s throw away, the Cape of Ponta da Piedade is particularly solicited for its coastline with golden reflections, which the sea has designed in its own way!
Located at the heart of the “Algarve’s golden triangle” Praia de Quinta do Lago is particularly popular among families. A wide range of water sports is offered for the more adventurous, while the gourmands (foodies) can derive complete satisfaction on the terrace of the famous fish restaurant “Gigi”. Good news, Quinta do Laguo is located right next to the Martinhal Quinta Hotel!
Praia do Barril is, undoubtedly, our favorite! We can get to this little paradise with golden sand and clear waters by taking a nice circuit through the lagoon on foot or on a small train. Toddlers will love this seagulls and crabs seeking trip! The authentic beauty of this long strip of fine sand ensues from to the traditional houses that line it. Converted into cafes and small restaurants, they are the remnants of the tuna fishing community that once settled there.
6. ACTIVITIES FOR CHILDREN
- Along the coast, numerous boat trips allow families to be able to sail off and observe cetaceans. In addition to exploring the coast, sailing among schools of dolphins is an experience you won’t be forgetting in a hurry. Many companies offer sea tours in catamarans, small boats, kayaks and even pirate ships! All practical information here.
- Are you seeking for a time shift into the past? For a place that tells you about local history and traditions, while being fun filled? The Parque da Mina allows you to visit a rural house of the eighteenth century, to follow in the footsteps of the miners but also to approach and feed ponies or goats. Being set in a large flower garden, this place is perfect for a family picnic. Practical information: From 5 € / child of up to 11 years; from 8 € / adult; 21 € for a family (2 adults and 2 children). Parque da Mina, Caldas de Monchique The Boi Valley Site, CCI 171, Monchique 8550-391 Portugal. Itinerary.
- Are you seeking inspiration for your sandcastles? Why not take a detour to Fiesa, Sand City? One of the largest theme parks with sand sculptures. More than 35,000 tons of sand are shaped according to different themes giving life to sculptures of up to 12 meters tall. Each year, a different theme is exploited ranging from mythology to fairy tales. At night, these strange works of art are highlighted by a set of lights. Unusual and impressive! Practical info: From 5.90 € / child; from 11 € / adult; 21 € for a family (2 adults and 2 children). Fiesa, Sand City, Estrada Municipal 524, Lagoa, Pera 8365-213, Portugal. Itinerary.
7. WEATHER & CLIMATE
It’s no secret that the climate in the South of Portugal is good all year round. Even in the hottest hours of the summer, the Atlantic Ocean blows in a pleasant and welcoming breeze. Throughout the year, the maximum temperatures vary between 15 and 31 degrees. During winter, the thermometer rarely drops below 0 and the sun always shines on!
July and August are the most touristic seasons, but spring and autumn are equally ideal seasons for exploring the landscapes of the southern Iberian Peninsula.
8. MOVING ABOUT
Renting a car is the best option for a visit to the Algarve and to be free to walk on the coast, as well as on the hills of Barrocal. Moreover, the road network is in very good condition. We can find the main agencies (Europcar, Sixt, Avis, …) at Faro Airport. Very convenient!
Taking the train is also a possible option: There are train stations in all major cities between Lagoa and Vila Real de Santo António. More information on the official website of the Portuguese train company.
DID YOU KNOW?
- In the Algarve, there are approximately 3,000 hours of sunshine a year, which is the equivalent of 300 days: a beautiful record!
- Portugal produces 70% of the cork exported worldwide. In the Algarve there are many cork oaks that produce this material. The opportunity for having a little thought of this beautiful region whenever you open your next bottle …
- The Portuguese coast is one of the best surf spots in the world! Thank you, Atlantic Ocean!
- We know the Barcelos, this must-have rooster in Portugal. The swallow is equally one of the symbols of Portugal and it is very common to cross ceramic decorative replicas, hanging on the walls of restaurants or terraces. For the Lusitanians, the swallow is a symbol of love, fidelity and … the family!
Mylène, 28 years old, art lover and travel addict, from Strasbourg, France