This week is the next installment of a travel series by Craig Welsh.
Welsh, a former reporter with The Packet, will have more installments from his latest travels over the next few weeks.
Going to Portugal in August … logically you know you’re going to be dealing with hot weather. But when you chat with people in Lisbon and they caution that your next destination, the Algarve Region, is “woo, very hot”, it does give you some pause.
They weren’t kidding. Getting off the train in Faro was very much like paying to step into an oven. But hey, for nine months of the year my wife and I live in a deep freeze. Some heat is what we were looking for.
The Algarve, located along Portugal’s south coast is their prime tourist spot. It’s best known for its stunning beaches and staggering number of retired British ex-pats opening pubs. Seriously, I would have a harder time getting a pint of Guinness in downtown Dublin than in parts of the Algarve.
Faro is the centre of the region, but most people tend to land there and flee. Other than the airport and train station, it has few charms. It has a very…. hollow, feel to it, especially when you’re wandering around the old part of town.
Most head west towards Lagos, where most of the expats seem to have set up shop. It also has most of the tourist attractions. So if you want sailing excursions, or water parks, Lagos is your spot.
Being contrary, my wife and I ended up heading east, and used Tavira as our base of operations. Tavira has a lot of charms. For one thing, while there are still tourists, it’s a much quieter place. You can actually walk around without fighting the hordes. Second, it’s a short drive to the Spanish boarder, so if you want to do a day trip, it an easy thing to do.
But Tavira’s main draw are its beaches. They’re long and pretty spectacular. Aside from weekends, when it can get insane, it’s easy enough to find a spot and plunk down with not too many people around. Praia do Barril quickly became our favourite.
First, you have to take a train out to the beach, which is fun. Then, when you enter the beach area there’s a cemetery made of anchors, remnants of the old tuna fleet that used to operate in the waters before the fishery collapsed.
If nothing else, it’s occasionally nice to get some history with your beach time …
There’s no shortage of pubs and other comforts of England in Lagos.
The western coast of the Algarve tends to be more rugged. Near Lagos
Anchors on the Praia do Barril beach.
Church and the ruined courtyard of an old castle in Tavira.
The train taking stragglers to the beach at sunset, while the more weary head home.
A view of Tavira and the river that splits the community in two.