This year has been unique. A pandemic virus took over the world like we had never seen before in our lifetime. Borders were closed, streets became empty overnight, schools were shut down, offices were not able to retain even the most workaholic employee at his desk. All of a sudden, and thanks to technology, work was done from home, primary and secondary school classes were broadcasted on national television, faculty projects were discussed online. All trips were cancelled, social events were banned and human contact was discouraged. A lack of humanity seemed to be the only possible defensive tactic to win this biological war.
And so we did. We stayed at home, bearing a modern and technological quarantine that was sucking our energy little by little, each day seeming less bright than the day before, the hours passing one after another, nights mixing with days, clothes gradually turning into pyjamas, beards getting longer and body hair turning into wild fur.
My quarantine lasted for 56 days. Yes, I kept track of it. And now, as the country slowly opens up to life, all I needed was a trip that would take me a bit further than my kitchen (you guessed it right, my kitchen was elected by TripAdvisor voters – me and my family – as the most exciting travel destination in quarantine 2020). Since international travels are not possible yet, I decided to venture into the south of my own country, to the Algarve region, known for its picturesque fishermen villages and scenic coastlines.
Historically, Alvor was a fortified town and fishing port, which today has developed into a charming beach holiday destination. It may be a relatively small town, but it contains a surprisingly large selection of restaurants, shops and bars, all of which are found within the pretty historic centre. Praia do Alvor is one of the largest sandy beaches in Algarve, and also the perfect place to try the delicious wide variety of seafood the region has to offer: clams, casseroles, shrimps, crabs and lobster.
Portimão has a long fishing tradition that developed particularly between the 19th and 20th centuries thanks to the development of the canning industry and tourism. Most of the buildings that you see in the streets and squares of the historic centre are from this period. Most restaurants in this area, mainly the ones on the waterfront, next to the docks, serve the favourite local dish: grilled sardines and baked potatoes. Sardines are famous throughout Algarve, but they are particularly famous in Portimão, where they have its own festival in August. And yes, if you have tried it, you know the fame is well deserved.
Benagil caves and the neighbouring desert beaches
From the docks of Portimão, it is possible to take a boat trip to view the spectacular rock formations along the stretches of the coast and to visit the sea caves and desert beaches that are inaccessible by land. The most famous caves in this area are the touristy Benagil Cave and the wild Devil Cave. Although the currents can be pretty strong and tides change quickly, it is definitely worth it to swim to the caves and be amazed by these wonders of nature.
Originally a small fishermen’s village, Burgau is now a cluster of holiday cottages, all surrounding a sandy beach that is enclosed by cliffs. Due to its chromatic arrangement, this village of white and blue cottages is many times compared to Santorini by its visitors. It is located on the edge of Costa Vicentina Natural Park, which makes it the perfect region to go for a coastal walk. But be careful, as those cliffs are quite high, so you better watch your steps as well as the scenery.
Ponta da Piedade, Lagos
Translating to “Piety point”, Ponta da Piedade is an astonishing rocky region of dramatic limestone coastline formed of sea pillars, fragile rock arches and hidden coves that have been sculpted overtime by savage winter storms. The beauty of this region can be discovered from land-side by descending the cliffs or from the sea as part of a boat tour.
After the amazing week I spent unraveling my country’s most hidden natural paradises, I feel like I must thank Covid-19 for forcing me to stay within borders. It turns out golden cliffs and turquoise sea waters were all I needed to recharge and feel great and happy again.
Wishing everyone safe travels (even without crossing borders),