Portugal has long been on my bucket list. The cliffs of the Algarve in particular. This area is extremely beautiful, even in winter! For my birthday in February, we spontaneously booked a trip to Faro in the south east corner of Portugal, especially to do an Algarve beach hike.
How to travel
There are quite a few car rental options at Faro airport. We decided to go with Goldcar. Since there was a queue by the time we made it to the car rental desk, we had to wait quite a few minutes to get the keys. When we returned the car a few days later, there was some beach sand in it. It really wasn’t bad but they acted shocked and wanted to charge us a €50 cleaning fee. They said we should go to a petrol station and vacuum the whole car before returning the car in future (and risk missing our flight). I’ve never heard of doing a complete clean before returning a car (and I’ve also never been charged a cleaning fee!). That was not the best customer experience. However, that said, everything else was fine. Having a car does give one a sense of freedom and spontaneity. I would recommend hiring a car for a trip to Portugal. Perhaps don’t use Goldcar though.
Where to stay
Since we were travelling in winter, there were quite a few accommodation options in the south. We ended up choosing to stay at Clube Maria Luisa since they had a competitive rate on offer. It was a 30 minute drive from Faro and a 20 minute drive to the start of the planned hike.
Our flight arrived in Faro when it was already dark. That meant there wasn’t much to see. We were actually quite worried that the accommodation’s reception area would be closed before we could arrive. However, everything was open although it was very quiet.
Because I’m used to better insulated buildings in Ireland, I brought my summer pyjamas and absolutely froze! Lesson learnt: when travelling to Mediterranean countries in mid-winter, bring winter pyjamas. The next morning, we checked out super early to go on our beach hike!
We parked our car in a parking lot near a restaurant called Praia do Castelo (Google Maps link). From here, we walked east along the coast to Praia dos Arrifes. The walk there and back took about 2 hours but was only just over 3km. It probably took so long because it was so incredibly beautiful and we took loads of photos!
It’s a good idea to wear walking shoes because you will be walking on the cliffs most of the time. The sandstone is full of shells and so can be a little rough. Don’t make the same mistake we did: bring snacks and coffee. I also recommend starting your walk just before sunrise for the best colours.
…If you do forget snacks, there is an Apolónia Supermercado just 5 minutes north of the start of the hike (not the cheapest shop though). Straight after our walk, we went there to get ingredients for a carob bread sandwich and pasteis de nata of course. We ate our late breakfast on a massive beach just to the west (Praia Galé).