Have you visited Portugal yet? Maybe you are planning on going this summer or just contemplating the idea?
Portugal has become a very popular european country to visit. Known for their cod fish, piri piri chicken, pastel de nata, beautiful coastline and much more.
We decided that our first trip to Portugal had to be to the south, I looked at pictures and immediately fell in love. Maybe it was the stunning coastline or the rock formations, I knew I had to go. We decided to spend 4 days in the south, we picked Quarteira as our home base.
The area we stayed in Quarteira is not very popular or touristy. It has a nice beach and lots of restaurants, cafes and bars. We stayed at an amazing Airbnb, which I will share more about later on the post. It also has a nice produce, fish and meat market which are worth checking out.
How to get there?
It depends where you are coming from but you always have the option of car, bus or plane. We actually had initially rented a car but then later found out we needed an international driving permit so we cancelled the car rental and made our way there by bus. It definitely took longer but it was just a small bump on the road that we figured out.
We ended up taking a bus from Malaga to Seville and from Seville to Faro. Very comfortable and affordable.
I do highly recommend to rent a car if you can. I find we didn’t get to see as much as we wanted to because we had to bus from town to town. It’s now on my bucket list to go back and explore more of the Algarve, next time with a car for sure.
What to do?
The Algarve has so much to offer, many activities to choose from depending what you like. Here’s what we did:
We decided to book a boat tour of the Algarve coast before leaving Malaga. I did lots of research online to make sure it was what we wanted. The boat left from Vilamoura Marina at 2pm, so we decided to walk from Quarteira and take our time. It was actually a very nice walk along the water while enjoying the beautiful sunshine. It took us about 40 min to get there. A taxi/uber is another great way to get to Vilamoura.
Vilamoura, is a resort town with many restaurants and a beautiful marina. It’s definitely more on the expensive/luxury side. We left Quarteira a bit earlier to get a chance to explore Vilamoura.
After walking around the marina and checking in for our tour we decided to stop for a drink. We stopped at “The Brewery”, a restaurant with great atmosphere and very cool design. I decided to go ahead and try a portuguese beer, I went with “Sagres”. Sagres, a light beer easy to drink on a summer day. This beer is actually made near Lisbon. I am not a big beer drinker but really enjoyed Sagres, give it a try when you go!
Then, we made our way to the boat to get started on our Algarve coastline tour. We went ahead with a company called Ocean Quest. It was advertised as a 3 hour tour with a drink and some portuguese sweets included.
We made our way on the boat and got welcomed with a glass of wine and off we went. We went along the coastline, from Vilamoura to a bit passed Benagil Cave. As we went, the tour guides came around and explained what towns we could see and gave us history/info on it.
We had a great tour, I recommend it 100%. Filled with lots of useful information about the Algarve, yummy treats and a full day. The tour ended up being about 4 hours and it ended back at the Vilamoura Marina. If this kind of tour is something you are interested on I definitely recommend it, we all enjoyed it.
After a long day, we made our way back to Quarteira.
Collin and I woke up early so we sat in our balcony and enjoyed the sound of the waves. We had planned to go to Albufeira. After taking the bus, we arrived around 11:15 am or so in Albufeira. We decided to walk around and explore the old town. When doing my research before the trip, many posts talked about having to check out the old town. I’ll say you can easily skip it, very touristy with lots of souvenir shops.
Not impressed, we decided to make our way towards the beach. And there it was, a beautiful coastline and scenery.
We stopped for a drink, a much needed one actually lol. I ordered a Sagres and enjoyed the view. After a refreshing beer we decided to walk around the beach and towards some rock formations we could see to our right.
Then, we made our way to Praia dos Pescadores and decided to stop for an ice cream.
After we walked around and checked out Albufeira it was time to head back. From Praia dos Pescadores we walked through the newer part of Albufeira, seemed more lively and developed. Check that area next time you go, I think it’s more enjoyable than the old town.
We had rented this amazing Airbnb so we decided to enjoy it and spend the day in Quarteira. We sat outside and soaked in the sun. It was a great way to end our trip to the Algarve.
Where to eat?
I always do a lot of research before we pick a place to eat. During our trip to Portugal we got the chance to try 3 restaurants.
Let’s just say we love our pizza, I know…not very portuguese. Everytime we go on a trip we have to have pizza or any type of italian food. This restaurant was located just below our Airbnb so we decided to give it a try. Collin and I had pizza and my mother in law had pasta. All the dishes were delicious and reasonably priced.
We didn’t eat here just had a drink while visiting Vilamoura. It has a great atmosphere and friendly servers. I do have to say most of the restaurants around Vilamoura were very pricey.
Our Airbnb host recommended this restaurant. It is a very cozy restaurant near Quarteira beach. Seemed very popular, we decided to make reservations before going. I ordered a seafood linguine which was delicious. Collin ordered the cod fish which he didn’t love and my mother in law ordered steak…she loved it.
We only got the opportunity to check out these 3 restaurants, next time we want to explore more of the portuguese cuisine. It all looked amazing.
What to eat?
Portugal has a wide variety of popular dishes said to check out when you visit this country. We normally immerse ourselves in the culture and by that I mean, we eat all the popular dishes. This time for some reason we didn’t, mostly because I failed to do more research on it.
Here are some of the many dishes/treats to try:
- Pastel de Nata: a Portuguese custard tarts with eggs. A must try, it was delicious. I might have had too many, but we’ll keep that our little secret.
- Bacalhau: which is cod fish. It is one of their national dishes and you will see it advertised everywhere. We weren’t big fans of it, the flavour wasn’t there for us. Maybe next time we go we will give it another chance.
- Cataplana de Mariscos: it’s a seafood stew cooked in a copper double-pan and served with rice. Another very popular dish, the Algarve is the region that it originates from. We didn’t get a chance to try it, but will check it out next time we go.
I was actually quite disappointed on the local transportation system. You can’t find any information online or even on google maps. We had to go to the bus station to get info and buy the tickets. The cost of the bus was 4,50 euros per person one way to go to Albufeira, not too bad in my opinion.
When we wanted to go back to Quarteira from Albufeira it was a different story. We couldn’t get any information and waited over an hour and no bus came. We then decided to uber back to Quarteira. Again, that’s why it is much better to have a car. You are on your own time not having to waste time waiting for buses.
Where to stay?
We stayed at an amazing Airbnb. Fully furnished, near grocery stores, restaurants and the beach. Kitchen was fully stocked with every appliance you would need. It had a huge balcony which was great for sitting out to enjoy the beautiful view of the beach.
Here’s the link to the Airbnb: Sea Front Quarteira. Algarve
Overall thoughts on Portugal?
We loved it, I really can’t wait to go back. The food, the culture and the beautiful coastline made me fall in love with this country.
Loved to wake up to a pastel de nata and enjoy the sunset with a tasty sagres.
Would I do anything different? Yes, I would rent a car and stay more days. Next time we will most likely explore more of the Algarve and probably visit Lisbon.
Let me know if you go and if this guide helped you!