The Algarve Coast of Portugal ~ in the off season…

The Algarve Coast of Portugal is synonymous with sun, sand and sea for most people.  We are here in the middle of winter. This is one of our favorite “tricks” in our travels ~ by going counter cyclical to the “seasons”, we get a chance to explore places when they are in their “down mode”.  Cities and towns are more authentic in the off season than when the swelling of population around the European Summer holiday season adds a thick layer of all things “turistas”.

So what does the Algarve look like in the off season?  It’s phenomenally beautiful and we pretty have it to ourselves!

Stripped of its throngs of Northern Europeans, the Algarve returns to a combination of architectural beauty and unspoilt nature.  Our first visit to Algarve is split between two towns/cities: Faro and Lagos.

Faro has an interesting past.  During the 500 years of Moorish rule that started in the 8th Century, Faro was the most important town in the Southwestern region of the Iberic Peninsula.  But even before the 6th century reign of the Moors, Faro had already been a happening place, being an important town during the Roman occupation of Spain.  Under the reign of the Moors, a large Jewish  community flourished in Faro, copying Torahs for dissemination to other Jewish communities in Europe. The Moors were defeated by the forces of the Portuguese King Afonso III in 1249.  From that time, Faro took over the role of administration of the Algarve area.

So… what does this  mean to us as first time visitors?

We spend our time walking the streets of Faro to see what remains architecturally from its glorious history. One of the most enjoyable ways for us is to explore a new place is to wander the streets and be open to what we might come across. Faro also has an area of lagoons  and a beach that can be accessed only by ferry.


The streets of faro at night are romantic and have a small town charm to them.



View from the Cathedral in Faro, overlooking the orange trees in the plaza, past the buildings and onto the lagoons in front of the city.



View over the rooftops and lagoons in Faro.



Walking the streets of Faro… we have it to ourselves. Faro is a “gateway” city to Southern Portugal as many arrive at the airport and depart to the beaches from here.



One of a few plazas in the center of town.



Many of the buildings are in various states of disrepair. We find it adds to their charm and authenticity.



Narrow streets, blue skies and whitewashed buildings.



Cobblestone streets make for texture and design in the streets.



Some of the older buildings, empty and for sale (due to the economic crash) have been painted and have distinct character and personality.



One of the architectural unique details of Portugal we really enjoy: the colorful ceramic tiles on the exterior of many of the buildings.


Beautiful light green tiles with a circular design make for an interesting polka dot building.


Stained glass windows inside the cathedral.


Gorgeous vaulted ceilings in Faro’s cathedral with blue and yellow ochre ceramic tiles.



400 year old original and still functioning organ ~ super rare!



An old chapel called “Capella de Los Uesos” in the cathedral made from bones and skulls of prior monks, used as “bricks” and for decoration.


Faro’s architecture is only half of the town’s draw.  The other is the proximity of “Desert Beach”, reached by ferry from the mainland.


Beautiful soft sand and crashing waves and sunshine!



The beach is also blessed with tons of gorgeous colored sea shells.


In Faro, we find a town that combines two of our “core wants”: access to a beautiful beach and an architecturally rich historic district. Oh, and good sushi too!


Portugal is famed for its seafood. Who knew that it included sushi? All you can eat sushi is quite a popular offering in Faro. We had a delicious sushi lunch where we gorged on sashimi, seaweed and nigiri. Yummy treat!


We continue our discovery of the Algarve, with a trip to Lagos.  Lagos, like Faro, has a distinguished history that spans over 2000 years.  The Moors fortified the town with a castle and established important trade links to Northern Africa from this base.

A more ignominious phase in Lagos’ history began when Portugal started to explore Africa.   Lagos became the gateway for the first African slaves into post-medieval Europe.  The Seamen of Lagos were  enthusiastic slave-catchers. From the first slave markets in Lagos (the Mercado de Escravos, which opened in 1444), many Africans were dispersed throughout Europe, bringing a considerable income to the Portuguese monarchy and merchant classes, as well as cheap labour force.

All this wealth translated into the construction of a gorgeous town.  Of particular note is the extraordinary set of tile-covered buildings that pop like jewels against the pure white walls of surrounding buildings.


Main plaza in town of Lagos, near the riverfront.


Locals tell us that the now mostly deserted streets are so packed in the middle of summer with visitors, one can hardly move.



Beautiful details such as the arched windows on the whitewashed building and the bright green tiles on the building with the rounded corner.



It’s not often one sees a building with bright ceramic green tiles on the exterior!



Beautifully preserved and maintained building with light grey and blue tiles.




Close up of ceramic tile facade of a building.


Beautiful as it is, it is not the town that for us would be the reason to contemplate living here.  It is the beautiful wild coast that is all around Lagos. We will be back mid March for two weeks when we have a home exchange in the Lagos region, and look forward to more time here, then. For now, we are on the way to Lisbon where we have an exchange waiting for us and so just spend a day getting our first exposure to the beauty of the countryside.


Dramatic coast line with steep red and green cliffs overlooking shimmering sea and soft fine sand.



Walking through the countryside above the coast. Green fields and curvy trees.



Wooden stairways lead down to micro beaches along the coast. Dramatic vistas are the norm!



Ahhh … these beaches are dramatic ~ the combination of the powder fine sand, rugged cliffs and blues of the sea and sky is quite gorgeous.




Bens lucky day! A swimsuit modeling session in the middle of winter, just a few feet away. Adds to the general vista!



6 thoughts on “The Algarve Coast of Portugal ~ in the off season…

  1. Sharon Rosenzweig

    You saved the best for last! Clever bloggers. Off season clearly has its rewards. Love the tiles too, and the landscapes. Sushi!

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      It was either leaving it for last, or… we were thinking maybe it should be the LEAD picture! Glad you appreciated the visuals.

  2. stevi ross

    Thanks for the memory and great pics. I spent.10 mo the living in my camper in Portugal last year. Great place tobe- out of season. Happy travelling

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      So glad this post brought back good memories. Ten months in a camper must have been an incredible experience. Stay tuned, as we will be returning to the Lagos area in early March for a couple more weeks as we have a home exchange there. We look forward to further explorations of the region!

  3. Anita and Richard @ No Particular Place To Go

    What fun to read this post about our new home, Peta. The Algarve really is an amazing area and your pictures show it all its glory. Sad to see that the “secret is out” (after all that’s how we found it) but we enjoyed it last fall and winter during its low season and, thankfully, we’re now on the outskirts of Lagos so the hoards of tourists aren’t too bad! Anita

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      We were big fans of the area too and althouugh initially we assumed Spain might be a potential home (as we both speak Spanish), but actually it was Portugal we fell in love with. One can always “lose the tourists” as you point out, as they tend to usually stick to a few main streets in town.

      Thanks for the lovely compliments


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