huge, sand-island beach on the eastern Algarve coast, Ilha de Tavira, out of season.
Algarve Beach Holidays
collection of Portugal Beach information and photos focuses on the
Algarve on the country's south coast because that's where the weather
is more consistently sunny, the water is calmer and general facilities
are foreign tourist oriented. However, Algarve waters will still be chilly compared tto the Mediterranean and sometimes choppy too.
head for the west coast, serious windsurfers too as the
Atlantic Ocean off Portugal's west coast
tends to offer consistent wind and good waves - sometimes great waves - even if the sea is really cold.
Tavira Faro Albufeira Portimao Lagos Lisbon Rips
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Algarve's disappointing hinterland
Another stretch of dull Algarve road. We're on the road to nowhere...
Algarve region is Portugal's number one tourist destination but sadly lacking in natural beauty inland - or perhaps we should say unspoilt
natural beauty. Once away from the shore the region's landscapes and architecture range from disappointingly bland to appallingly shoddy and unnattractive.
from the appealingly bleak coast, uncrowded beaches and cute fishing villages in the southwest - such as Olhao, Fuzeta and Sagres,
and the far east section along the Guadiana River - most of the Algarve is a messy, residential wasteland with
scattered, unattractive over-development, with blocky new houses and apartments
replacing the pretty, tiled, dear departed old villas.
Aljular in the Algarve. Photo by Kyle Taylor
Even the reputedly scenic Monchique area is a dull series of low pine-clad
hills bisected by heavy traffic. Lake
District or Alps this is not. Not even close.
That being said most sun-starved north Europeans are primarily interested in the Algarve's
beaches, which are generally big, soft, clean and well serviced, while the
weather is the best in Portugal. And if you need vernacular style and
a little culture with your sand and sun, head for Lagos or Tavira.
But before we venture onto the beaches there is something else tourists need to be aware of, at leats those who are swimming 'off piste'. Rip currents.
beaches are big and beautiful but the waters are not as safe as those
of the Mediterranean due to the power of the Atlantic, particularly
on Portugal's surf-popular west coast.
People, including adults and good swimmers regularly drown
off Portugal's Atlantic coast where the waves are a good size and the rip currents are consequently common.
Whirlpools are an extreme example of dangerous currents but fundamentally
need to be handled in the same way as any undertow - also known as
a rip; they rarely drag people down, only around and around.
waves are clearly visible but the powerful undertow - also known as
a rip - that cycles waters back to the ocean can easily take a swimmer
out with it and is invisible to the inexperienced eye. Resistance
Parents should exercise caution on unfamiliar beaches. Beaches that
are monitored by life guards generally flag safe areas to swim - which
may be narrow and crowded - as opposed to surf zones which can seem
attractively uncrowded but conceal dangerous rips. Most surfers are
strong swimmers, know how to handle rips, and of course have a board
to hang on to.
Portugal the swimming season is considered closed after September
so lifeguards will not be present and safety flags will not fly,
even if conditions are dangerous. If you wish to swim, perhaps in
a wetsuit, then use great caution. Check safety with locals, especially
surfers and monitor kids carefully.
DO NOT PANIC and DO NOT FIGHT a RIP. Go with the flow, literally.
Graphic courtesy of Australian Government.
to do if caught in a rip
Desperate and exhausting thrashing is the killer as
rips don't usually drag swimmers under, even the whirlpool version,
just away from the beach. If you fight the current you will tire rapidly
and may lose the ability to keep your head up.
Rips do not flow indefinitely, they lose power within 5-40
metres though this may seem a long way when you're trapped there,
but just go with the flow. When the drag loosens, swim a few metres
parallel to the beach i.e. away from the rip and then a safe return
Alternatively, calmly wave a hand and call for help, perhaps
from a surfer.
Tavira Beach Holidays
The 14km long island beach of Ilha de Tavira, an island near to the town offers all you might need in the way of shelter, food and drink.
is a calm, pleasant little river city in the far eastern Algarve region, a place of ancient bridges, terracotta
tiles, 16th century mansions, many churches (naturally, this is Portugal),
fishing boats and bars. Even though Tavira was ruled by Arabs from the 8th to the 13th centuries there are no major architectural sights here - the
castle remains, for example, hardly merit more than 15 minutes and a (probably) Roman bridge.
Tavira's 'maybe' Roman Bridge.
The town has an affluent history so there is a good collection of grand and attractive private buildings along cobbled streets, while the 16th century Igreja da Misericórdia is one of the finest churches in Tavira, with blue and white azulejos tiling and magnificent stone carvings.
vast beach and camp site on Tavira Island (Ilha de Tavira) involves 2km of road transport, then 100m
of water on regular, low-cost ferries. There are plenty
of cafés and water sports facilities on the island during the summer
Tourism here is restrained and mostly not of the package kind so Tavira
is an excellent choice for those who fancy roasting on a beach during
the day but having a mildly ethnic environment in the evening.
island behind the ferry is Ilha de Tavira. A massive stretch of beach lurks on
the other side of the vegetation.
But there are also some shorter, OK stretches of sand on the mainland too, not far from Tavira but needing transport to reach.
Faro Beach Holidays
de Faro's lengthy strand of home beach.
Portugal's best beaches all the way from Faro to Tavira in the eastern
Algarve are basically huge sandbanks that you need a short ferry ride
to access, with the exception of this one, Praia de Faro, which has
a small bridge to aid access for sand snugglers and the wealthy few
who actually live on the sandbank.
The trouble with Praia de Faro (the main beach) is it's out by the airport which
is quite an inconvenient dstance from Faro's tourist centre around the Cidade Velha, unless
you have a hire car. But once you get there the sand is soft and it's very spacious. In season (summertime) the Desert island is a good alternative.
Alternatively take a ferry trip out to the Desert Island, Ilha Deserta, just a few minutes offshore. Photo by Animaris.
The outskirts of Faro are a mass of new apartment blocks but the old town has managed to preserve a lot of charm. Photo by Husond.
many direct foreign flights head for Faro this is not a great tourist
destination. The little old town is pleasant enough with the usual
Moorish walls, churches and charming mansions, while the bone room
(Capela dos Ossos) - constructed out of the bones of 1,000 monks -
in Nossa Senhora do Carmo is fascinating and inspires much mortal
Capela dos Ossos - constructed out of the bones of 1,000 monks -
in Nossa Senhora do Carmo.
Igreja Nossa Senhora do Carmo. Photo by Massimo Catarinella.
Parking beside Faro's main beach.
By the way, if you feel we are being a little negative about some beach holidays it's because we believe Portugal offers awesome sights inland, and that means Lisbon and north. By all means spend time getting wrecked on Algrave beaches but please check out easy-to-reach Lisbon and Sintra at least, they're magnificent and well worth a few days off the beach!
west (Atlantic) coast beaches: Surfing Guincho Ericeira
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