Portugal’s Algarve is an old haunt for my family and I. We were regulars here when I was a kid going once a year every year until I was about 13. I hadn’t been back to Portugal in years but when we spotted a cheap fight over with Aer Lingus we couldn’t resist a few days away in the sun!
The Algarve is the southern region of Portugal, filled with hidden delights of red-cliffed coastlines, beautiful mediterranean beaches and fresh seafood restaurants.
Albufeira is a little coastal town in the Algarve region, with narrow winding cobbled streets and whitewashed buildings with burnt orange roofs. By the fringes of the sea, resorts and hotels line the cliffs. But rather than ruin the natural landscape of the area, they blend in effortlessly, set amidst lush green gardens and blooming flower beds.
When To Go
We travelled to Albufeira the first week April three weeks before Easter and the timing was perfect. Previously, we always arrived peak-season (May-August), when it was hot, crowded and expensive.
While tourism is a steady trickle in Albufeira year-round, the tsunami crashes into town around Easter time before receding just to hit even harder in May. This leaves a very small window of opportunity to enjoy Albufeira when the weather is fine with less tourists.
Booking before the school Easter break is the perfect opportunity to grab a bargain. The weather is beautiful, granted not as hot as peak season, but around 18-20 degrees, and still hot enough to enjoy a nice beach day. Once the sun slumps behind the hills the temperatures drop dramatically so it’s essential to bring a jacket and jeans for your nighttime cocktails.
Travelling off-peak in April (BEFORE Easter break) lets you avail of some amazing hotel deals. Also, restaurant prices are cheaper and there are always seats available in the best places.
Where To Stay
I can’t fault the area we stayed in for our duration of our time in Portugal. We stayed in Praia da Oura, which is a small neighbourhood of Albufeira. Praia da Oura has the most stunning secluded beaches away from the main drag, with a small beach-side restaurant area and a handful of big chain hotels.
It’s about ten minutes in a taxi to the Old Town and Fisherman’s Beach costing around €5-6, and you can easily walk the beautiful coastline for an hour either way to soak in some stunning views.
We stayed in Mutha Praia Da Oura, a ginormous MGM chain hotel owned by an Indian hotelier. I usually don’t like to stay in such big hotels, generally preferring smaller local boutique hotels, etc. but I have to say we absolutely loved our stay here.
TIP! We booked directly with the hotel and got it for a great price (better than booking.com) and got to pick where abouts in the hotel we wanted to stay. We picked a balcony room on the sixth floor overlooking the ocean, and it was a great choice!
The hotel architecture is Greek-inspired with its tiered balconies, whitewashed walls and blue decor. The hotel is extremely family friendly, with three pools and even a huge kids’ area with bouncy castles and obstacle courses. The hotel was huge with plenty of outdoor seating areas to enjoy a cocktail, as well as beautiful gardens filled with red flowers and tall palm trees.
Where To Eat and Where To Go
If you are staying in Praia Da Oura there is a small strip of beautiful beach bars and restaurants. We particularly enjoyed Cuica, with its plush seats, white parasols and stunning views overlooking the beach below.
If you are staying in the Mutha hotel, there is a local beach cafe (called the Beach Cafe!) just minutes from the hotel and right on the sand. This place is perfect for a quick lunch of paninis and freshly squeezed orange juice.
The place to be while staying in Albufeira is the Old Town. A great tip when booking accommodation is to check its proximity to the Old Town. If it’s within a ten minute taxi journey, you’re right on the money.
Praia Da Oura is the perfect location in my opinion. It’s in a more quiet area of Albufeira but still only roughly a ten minute taxi ride to the Old Town. It can be walked in about 45 minutes taking the beautiful coastal route.
Old Town is a beautiful place to eat. We booked a table for four people in Ricardos, a stunning rustic Italian restaurants with three floors. We sat on the roof and enjoyed stunning views of the beach as the sun set over the whitewashed buildings.
When the sun sets, the Old Town comes alive with music on the streets and it gets considerably louder! It’s a good atmosphere with cheap cocktails, but this is another reason I like to travel in low season. The Old Town is busy but not jam-packed. There aren’t as many drunks on the strip, with less stag parties and more families and couples.
The Beaches of Albufeira
Praia Da Oura is a fabulous beach, another great reason to stay in this area. There are little nooks and crannies the whole way along the coast, where you could easily spend the morning strolling along the sands exploring everything these stunning beaches have to offer.
If you are in Praia Da Oura, facing the sea, walk left and follow the boardwalk around. You will soon leave the hotels in your wake and be surrounded by nothing more than limestone sea stacks and beautiful blue green water.
The main beach of Albufeira is Fisherman’s Beach. Here, restaurants line the beach and there are plenty of water activities to enjoy like paragliding and banana boats.
New Town Versus Old Town
There are two main strips in Albufeira, the Old Town and the New Town. The old town area is more compact and although there are loads of noisy music bars, there tends to be an older and more more family oriented crowd. There is also a higher proportion of Portuguese and Spanish visitors.
The New Town is really typical of any “strip” in a package holiday destination. It is aimed at a younger age group with wall-to-wall clubs, bars and restaurants squarely aimed at British tourists for the most part. Club reps hound you to drink in their bar, offering an arm and a leg to get you to follow them!
If this is your type of thing, go for one wild night out, otherwise, the Old Town is a much nicer environment.
Beaches, history and bargains – what’s not to love about Portugal’s Albufeira resort?! My first European sun holiday in a while did not disappoint, but as always it is worthwhile travelling in off-peak to avoid crowds and hiked up prices.