48 hours in the Algarve – Sunset, waves and culture

This is a guest post by Peter Jenkins, Owner and Luxury Villa Specialist, Sun-hat Villas and Resorts.

There’s something magical about The Algarve. From the instant you step off the plane, you are transported to a holiday haven and can feel an indescribable buzz; not just from the delightful climate, but also from the friendly locals, and let’s not forget the cuisine.

The region has become a hot spot amongst jetsetters who like a touch of elegance with their evening cocktails when overlooking the stunning beaches and enjoying the tranquility of the peaceful fishing villages. The area is also a firm favourite of chilled out surfers, hoping to catch some wonderful waves on Portugal’s widest swell.  With such a wide offering, we have gathered a list of our top recommendations, ideal for a short weekend or spread out over a long relaxing trip.

Day 1

Sunrise surf

The striking cliffs, impressive cliff-top fortress (and the most powerful lighthouse in Europe) can all be found in the glorious Sagres, which is one of the places to catch some waves – or at least watch some the cool surfers show you how it’s done! Check out Magic Seaweed’s handpicked guide for what to expect when out on the water.

After hitting the beach, Sagres is a fabulous place to spend your morning. With its joyful cafes this is a great spot to grab some breakfast (or brunch if you want a lazy lie-in). Terra is a great venue to head for breakfast. A glass of delicious fresh juice or a cup of roasting hot coffee teamed with either a nutella or peach filled croissant, can be one of the best ways to start the day. It is also a good option for vegetarians and vegans.

Explore Alcoutim

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Discover Alcoutim

After an extremely active and revitalising morning, you may be tempted to treat yourself to a slightly more laid back afternoon. On the exciting drive to Alcoutim, you will be able to discover the picturesque countryside views and see the sights of its warm riverside beach. This is a cool place to rest and watch the cheeky fish occasionally jump in and out of the water.

After bathing at the beach, take a stroll in the cultural and historical town, steeped in culture with a Moorish castle, 14th Century castle remains and 17th Century fort.

Sunset: From surf to turf

One of the places we love to dine at is Almancil’s hilltop restaurant Parilla Natural. This stunning eatery features its own wine cave and offers visitors an outside dining experience amongst tall trees and charming candlelight. If you’re feeling chilly, fear not as there’s an inside eating area too! From the menu, we particularly like Surf and Turf paired with Batatas Fritas Caseiras (hand cut potato fries), and for drinks, be sure to try the Lemon Cheesecake Martini.

Day 2

Climb the mountains

Foia - Highest Mountain in Algarve

Foia – Highest Mountain in Algarve

The magnificent Foia Mountain, also known as Monchique, is the highest in the Algarve. Adventurists, who want to partake in the challenge of making it to the top, will be able to walk around the area with a local guide and come face to face with cooling water springs and views of the coastline scattered with attractive little villages. Be sure to pack a tasty picnic breakfast, whilst you enjoy the view from the top.

An afternoon in Albufeira

Albufeira's beach

Albufeira’s beach

The old town of Albufeira is exceptionally captivating and is surrounded by a whole array of delightful restaurants and bars offering everything you could possibly imagine; from the imaginatively presented and tongue tantalising gourmet dining experience at Al Quimia, (some of the food is dished up in a goldfish bowl), to much loved authentic and inexpensive take-aways such as the Albufeira Gourmet Churrasqueira Take-Away, which serves mouth-wateringly good ribs and skinny fries.

The main square bursts into life in the evening with locals and revelers and the maze of cobbled side streets hold interesting hidden finds; it’s also great for finding a souvenir or too!

Sunset at Sea

Watch the sun as it comes down, whilst you’re cruising through the sea on a sunset boat tour. You’ll be able to witness all of the pretty colours of The Algarvian sun, whilst also visiting the moonlit caves, dancing under the stars, relaxing on the deck and taking a cooling night time dip in the ocean. Guests will be treated to one complimentary drink, and there’s also a bar on board for you to sample the local wines and beers. The tours depart from different locations like Vilamoura or Albufeira.

Book your accommodation on time

Book your accommodation on time

If you’re feeling tempted and want to plan your next Portuguese adventure, take a peek at the luxury villas in Vale do Lobo, and the rest of the Algarve, that Sun-hat Villas have available.

The best things to do in Aveiro

Aveiro? Yes, Aveiro. In Portugal, in between Lisbon and Oporto, along the coast, you’ll find a fishermen town called Aveiro. Aveiro may not be the most obvious touristic destination, but it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re looking for an authentic Portuguese experience. Aveiro is an interesting destination for a day trip or as part of a tour of central Portugal. In this post, we’ll share some information about the town as well as the best things to do in Aveiro.

Being a typical charming Portuguese town, Aveiro is an enjoyable, alternative holiday destination in Portugal. Aveiro has an extensive history which is closely intertwined with the evolution of its port and saltwater lagoons. The town is crossed by waterways which are made fun and colourful by the traditional fishing boats.

In fact, Aveiro is characterised by a bold Art Nouveau architecture, man-made canals and ornate fishing vessels. These vessels once served the marine agriculture but are now adapted for tourism. It’s an unusual and remarkable town which development has been driven by the surrounding saltwater lagoons.

For tourists, Aveiro is a truly unique day trip from Porto and this settlement is unlike any other in Portugal. We highly recommend Aveiro for those seeking something a little different. If you want a relaxing overnight trip and visit some of Portugal’s finest beaches, the region of Aveiro is superb.

This post details the main things to do in Aveiro according to our own experience:

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Best things to do in Aveiro: fish market

  1.    Have some seafood at the fish market square

Aveiro is known for its fish and seafood delicacies. The best spot to try the local cuisine is at the lively traditional fish market (Praça do Peixe). Eel based dishes are one of the most popular among the locals, like the eel stew, fried eels and eel with escabeche sauce. But no worries if you’re not fond of eel. There are plenty of other specialities like cod and lamprey. The prices of a meal range between €10 and €25 per person and most menus are specified in Portuguese and English.

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Best things to do in Aveiro: museums

  1.    Visit the historical museums of Aveiro

There are three main museums in Aveiro. Our recommendation would totally depend on your personal interest, so we simply introduce the three of them:

  •         Museum of the City of Aveiro: the goal of this museum is to boost education of the region’s history and culture. The main museum building is located at the entrance of Rossio and displays the origins and traditions of Aveiro which strongly rely on two industries: fishing and salt manufacture.
  •         Art Nouveau Museum: in Portuguese, this is the Museu De Arte Nova, perfectly housed within an elegant building denoting this architectural style. The museum is worth a visit, even if just to take a look at the striking building!
  •         Troncalhada Eco-Museum: this museum is a bit out of the centre, near the Troncalhada Marine. It’s an exterior museum that details the history of the local salt industry. Its location is obvious: the well renowned salt hills of Aveiro. We recommend the tour that gives a learning experience about how the salt is formed and handled.

These three museums are open from 9h30 – 12h30 and 14h00 – 18h00 (and only 14:00-18:00 during weekends). There are multi-entrance tickets available at a symbolic price of €2 (children under 12 and adults over 65 are free). The guided tours for all three museums costs €4.50 per person (minimum of 6 required). These three museums are surely some of the best things to do in Aveiro for those who are interested in getting to know more about local traditions and history.

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Coastal boat trip in Aveiro

  1.    Do a coastal boat trip in Aveiro

This boat tour in Aveiro is ideal if you would like to closely enjoy the icons of the Aveiro region such as the Barra lighthouse, the São Jacinto Bay and the lagoons of the Vouga River. The boat tour in Aveiro lasts approximately three hours. The planned route, subject to change, is: Sailing Club of Costa Nova → Barra lighthouse → São Jacinto Bay → Entrada dos Canais → Bacalhoeiros Pier → Salt Marinhas.

You’ll pass by the Barra lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse of Portugal with 62m in height. This boat trip in Aveiro also passes by the São Jacinto Bay where you’ll find a small village. This typical village is crucial to the region due to the shipbuilding yards. Historically, these yards were of utmost importance to the region’s economy and the local airbase.

The Vouga River flows into the lagoon of Aveiro, the Ria de Aveiro. The meeting between fresh and salt waters gave origin to a lagoon known for its natural beauty and unique landscape in Portugal.

Cod fishing remains one of the most important economic activities in the region of Aveiro, creating a significant number of jobs and a turnover which is very relevant for the entire region. That’s why the pier of Bacalhoeiros is worth a visit.  A visit to the “Marinhas” is a must, especially between May and September! The “Marinhas” are the place where sea salt is produced. The “Marinhas” can only be visited at this time of the year due to its seasonality.

This boat tour in Aveiro is one of the best things to do in Aveiro to taste the most of the local history and traditions in only three hours!

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Fishing in Aveiro

  1.    Experience a fishing boat tour in Aveiro

Aveiro is also known for traditional salt pans and fishing. In the Aveiro lagoon one breathes fish. Nothing better than a fishing experience on a boat trip in Aveiro to feel the authenticity of the city. This fishing boat tour in Aveiro takes about four hours and starts in the Marina Costa Nova. No experience is required and it is suitable for all ages as the experienced staff will be happy to teach you everything. The crew is passionate about fishing and will tell you the best kept secrets for fishing in Aveiro.

The lagoon waters are habitat for a broad range of fish species. That’s why the Ria attracts many professional fishermen and is a favorite spot for amateur anglers too. The most common species in the Lagoon, depending on the season, are the golden bream, plaice, sole, sea bass, the lamprey and eel.

Fishing in Aveiro is one of the most fantastic things to do in Aveiro. You’ll feel like a local!

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Dolphins and bird watching in Aveiro

  1.    Feel the local nature on a dolphin and birdwatching boat tour in Aveiro

Did you know that Aveiro is also a great spot for dolphin and birdwatching? Thanks to its unique location by the Atlantic, Aveiro is home and a passing point for a variety of cetaceans. Regarding birds, Aveiro is a very popular spot for bird watchers as it is home to a lot of marine birds and some migratory birds stop in Aveiro too.

Beside experienced and friendly skippers, a qualified marine biologist will come aboard. The marine biologist will be able to explain everything you want to know about the dolphins and birds you’ll find on your boat trip. The staff will provide an introduction about what kind of species may be encountered during the dolphin and bird watching tour and will give live commentary on the tour and sightings.

If you like dolphins, birds or other marine fauna, this is surely one of the best things to do in Aveiro. We recommend you to get aboard of this unforgettable dolphin and bird watching boat trip in Aveiro! This trip takes around four hours and has daily departures, depending on weather conditions.

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Colorful beach in Aveiro

About planning, the restaurants and the museums can be visited without booking or doing a reservation. The boat trip in Aveiro should be booked in advance. Like that you guarantee your seat. For bigger groups, we also recommend booking the restaurants and museums ahead. Let us know if you need any further tips about Aveiro or if you’ve got some additional tips on the best things to do in Aveiro!

[primary picture by Alexandra Gnatoush]

Benagil cave

The Most Beautiful Coastal Towns in Portugal

Anthony Briggs, from Tuki Retreat, enjoys working in the hospitality industry and is dedicated to providing clients with the best  accommodation experience available. He shares his favorite coastal towns in Portugal with us.

Most countries in Europe are quite popular destinations that tourists from all over the world love to visit. One such European country that deserves a lot more attention and should be on your bucket list is Portugal. Despite being practically adjacent to its bigger brother Spain, the number of tourists visiting Portugal isn’t as huge. For this reason, it doesn’t get that much mention from the global tourist community.

With most of its towns conveniently situated near the coastline—each is unique and beautiful in their own unique way, making Portugal a perfect country to go visit if you’re looking for some peace and quiet on your travels.

Which Coastal Towns in Portugal Should I Go To?

With so many coastal towns in Portugal to choose from, you might want to start planning which ones to include in your itinerary right away. To help you decide which towns deserve your full attention, here are some Portuguese coastal towns you shouldn’t dare miss out on:

coastal towns in Portugal

Ria Formosa in Tavira

  1. Tavira

Located east of the Algarve region, Tavira is a coastal town that attracts relatively fewer tourists. But, it makes up for it by offering you a more authentic holiday experience—the Portuguese way.

  • Tavira has retained much of its ancient heritage with historic churches and buildings dating from as far back as the Moorish era.
  • The name Tavira comes from the Arabic word “tabira” which means “the hidden.”
  • The beaches in Tavira are also considered to be go-to destinations as most of them are unspoiled and protected by the Ria Formosa Nature Park.
  • The town’s calm ambiance and slower pace are a surefire draw if you want to get the best out of your vacation compared to the rest of Algarve’s resort-filled towns.
Benagil cave

Deaprt from the charming town of Cavoeiro to the Benagil cave

  1. Carvoeiro

Also located in Algarve, Carvoeiro is a relatively small fishing village with an unassuming vibe that might be a reason why even those who have already visited Portugal tend to overlook it during their entire trip. But underneath Carvoeiro’s quaint appearance lies a coastal town that would leave you asking for more.

  • The name Carvoeiro is said to have come from the old word “caboiere” which means “hamlet of ”.
  • Carvoeiro’s picturesque setting provides an idyllic view of the entire Algarve region.
  • One beach in Carvoeiro that isn’t as fully packed with tourists no matter the time of year and yet exudes its own charm is Praia do Paraiso, which literally translates to “paradise beach.” If that name alone isn’t enough to make you want to go there instantly, nothing else will.
  • A visit to the famous Benagil caves is a must when visiting Carvoeiro.

 

  1. Viana do Castelo

Located in the Lima estuary, Viana do Castelo is one of northern Portugal’s oldest coastal towns that once served as an entry point for explorers and traders from the 16th to 18th centuries.

  • A landmark you should be visiting while in Viana does Castelo is the Praça da República, the town square where you can find attractions such as:
    • Chafariz Fountain sculpted with ornate figures
    • Igreja da Misericórdia, a three-story church with an array of Roman arches, Renaissance balconies, and interestingly carved pillars
    • Paços do Concelho, the old town hall built in the early 16th century with its Gothic arches and Renaissance details
  • Viana does Castelo is also home to the Navio Gil Eanes, a former medical ship from the 1950’s that used to offer assistance to the town’s bevy of cod fishermen but now serves as a floating museum.
Peniche is one of the coastal towns in Portugal known for surfing

Peniche is one of the coastal towns in Portugal known for surfing

  1. Peniche

Located in the Oeste Subregion on Portugal’s central coast, Peniche is a coastal town that generates a slightly grittier feel as it remains a working port for fishing vessels.

  • The long beaches in Peniche generate a massive amount of surf breaks forming powerful waves which makes it an ideal location for water sports such as surfing and body boarding.
  • You can take a ferry ride as well from the town marina to visit the Berlengas Islands—one of the world’s first ever nature reserves where flocks of seabirds find sanctuary.

 

  1. Aveiro

Known as the “Venice of Portugal,” Aveiro is the closest you can get to riding a gondola and exploring its artificial canals without having to go all the way to Italy.

  • The name Aveiro comes from the Latin term “aviation” which means “a gathering place for birds.”
  • When you get tired of seeing canals left and right in Aveiro, you can take a side trip to Costa Nova where dozens of the striped, multicolored beach houses and fishing shanties serve as a welcome visual treat.

 

  1. Cascais

If you’re the type of tourist, who believes that money is no object at all to having the perfect European getaway, the resort town of Cascais located just west of the Portuguese capital might be the one you’re looking for.

  • Cascais’ accessibility from Lisbon makes it a favored tourist destination for those who prefer to stay close to the capital.
  • West of Cascais is a natural rock formation known as the Boca do Inferno which translates to “Hell’s Mouth.” Occult magician Aleister Crowley was said to have faked his own death there, but don’t let that and the sinister-sounding name of the place scare you away from the chance to explore Boca do Inferno’s breathtaking seaside cliffs.
  • Cascais is also home to the Hotel Palacio Estoril, a 5-star hotel that was used to shoot parts of the James Bond movie “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”

 

Some tourists visiting Portugal for the first time might stick to its more well-known cities such as Lisbon and Porto, but if you prefer to take the road less traveled and is looking for an adventure, you will never forget, a journey to these coastal towns in Portugal would guarantee just that. Taking advantage of what each Portuguese coastal town has to offer would also help you appreciate Portugal’s very long history as a maritime nation while enjoying your European escapade at the same time.

5 Great places to eat with the family in Quinta do Lago

With such a vast and delicious selection of restaurants and eateries to choose from in Quinta Do Lago, we wouldn’t blame you for feeling a little overwhelmed when it comes to picking somewhere that suits the needs of the whole family, especially the little ones!

Quinta do Lago's amazing surroundings

Quinta do Lago’s amazing surroundings

Peter Jenkins, travel expert and managing director at Sun-hat Villas and Resorts, specialists in luxury Algarve villas, has compiled his top five family friendly places to wine and dine.

Koko Lane

From mouth-watering breakfasts to daily bistro specials, Koko Lane’s extensive menu offers something delicious for any time of the day. Located on the driving range, the flatbread starters and spinach tortellini provide sustenance for a busy morning practicing your drives. With a traditional wood-fired oven creating heavenly pizzas, a play area next to the restaurant and an ice-cream shop, the kids will forever be satisfied. Takeaway is also readily available so you can stroll leisurely along the stretch of sand and simultaneously enjoy your pizza.

Quinta do Lago SeaBookings

Koko Lane

The Shack Bar and Grill

If you’re after something that sways a little more towards the edgy vibe, then The Shack Bar and Grill is the place for you and your family. This cool restaurant mimics the authenticity of a fisherman’s shack and is situated next to the shoreline of the lake – overlooking the nature reserve and sea beyond. You can watch over the kids running around and playing in the sand, whilst tucking into a ‘Shack Burger’ or the fish tacos, washed down with an exotic cocktail and soaking up the relaxed atmosphere that the live music supplies.

The Cheeky Pup

This is a brand-new Irish gastropub, operated by a young and passionate team that adhere to the fun and friendly atmosphere that Quinta Do Lago prides itself on. The Cheeky Pup serves fine wines, craft beers and food all day and also features an unrivalled outdoor terrace, offering the perfect alfresco experience. With live music to whisk you away into the late hours of another glorious day, you can sit and reflect on how amazing both the seabass and tiramisu you just devoured were. The kids menu is fantastic too and packed with plenty of healthy options, but if you’re youngsters are missing home, we’d recommend the classic fish, chips and peas option; brownie points if you can get them to eat all the peas! Due to popularity, we suggest you make a reservation here and be sure to look out for discount vouchers, soon to be offered online.

The Cheeky Pub

The Cheeky Pub

Bovino Steakhouse

This is the most exclusive steakhouse experience you can have in the Algarve. The Bovino Steakhouse offers prime-cuts and the finest dry-aged beef within a setting created by one of Europe’s most acclaimed designers, you are guaranteed to feel like royalty. We love the rump, the ribeye, or the two persons ‘Bovino Signature Cuts Experience’. Kids are also well catered for here; there is a separate well thought out children’s menu and an outdoor play area, which really adds to the atmosphere and allows them to explore the surroundings in the sun, whilst you remain close by.

Bovino Steakhouse

Bovino Steakhouse

Picnic in the Park or on the beach

Saturday night in Quinta Do Lago is beach party night, granting the resort the well-deserved nickname of ‘bather’s paradise’. Lying along the stunning Ria Formosa nature reserve, Quinta Do Lago beach has pristine white sands that stretch out for three kilometres, protected by the dunes. This part of the coastline offers unspoilt views of the ocean, making it a beautiful picnic spot (home-grown produce and wine is always available from local markets and shops).

The resort’s driving range annually hosts Picnic in the Park in aid of some of the neighbourhoods’ charities between July and August, which creates a relaxed atmosphere amongst the tropic temperature. Live music and children’s entertainment are situated next to the first tee of the South Course. There are usually four fresh hampers to choose from ranging from €12 – €25. The ‘pure’ hamper is an assortment of healthy super foods, the ‘Bovino’ is a meat-lovers dream and the ‘Clubhouse’ basket is comprised of dips and cheeses. A kid’s picnic basket is also available to purchase.

Have these divine restaurants left you hungry for a good deal? Sun-hat Villas has properties widespread across Algarve – take a look here.