Amazing Off Season Things to do in the Algarve

Things to do in the Algarve

Photography? Surfing? Dining? History? You can find all this and more in some amazing off season things to do in the Algarve. Let’s get started!

Table of Contents

Albufeira
Portimao
Alvor
Sagres
Praia do Beliche
Map of the Algarve
How to Get to the Algarve
Where to Stay in Albufeira
Where to Eat in Albufeira
Where to Stay in Praia da Rocha
Where to Eat in Praia da Rocha
Sights and Sounds of the Algarve
Other Places to visit in Portugal


Numéro 1 – Albufeira

Totally a resort community.

Quiet streets. No crowds!

A beautiful beach but all yours in the Fall. Barefoot friendly. The cool sand comes from the biodegradation of sea shells, forming calcareous sand. So no, the bottoms of your feet, will remain comfortably cool. A big plus in the amazing off season things to do in the Algarve! Start planning now.

Praia dos Pescadores in Albufeira, one of the things do in the Algarve
Praia dos Pescadores in Albufeira

Albufeira is clean (as are all other towns we’ve seen in Portugal). Meandering roads. Winding streets. Many small touristy shops with friendly vendors offering souvenirs mainly made in China. We pounced on any exquisite Portuguese handmade items.

Old Town Albufeira one of the amazing things to do in the Algarve
Old Town Albufeira

Numéro 2 –  Albufeira ‘Gypsy’ market

Twice a month catch the ‘gypsy’ market in Albufeira. Only because the market is mobile is the name ‘gypsy’ attached to it.

About 100 vendors sell junk to some, treasures for others and fast fashion for everyone.

And no crowds, of course, because this is another amazing off season thing to do in the Algarve. Imagine the time you have to browse, price compare, and deal in this ‘gypsy’ market. Vendors are eager to sell. You are an eager, but wise, shopper.

one of the amazing off season things to do in the Algarve
Gypsy Market

Vendors originate from around the world. We saw Ecuadorians selling their famous Andean sweaters from their booths. Portugal has easier entrance requirements for foreigners. So this is truly a bazaar of global goods with you in mind.

This woman and her baby are from Otavalo, Ecuador
This woman and her baby are from Otavalo, Ecuador

Numéro 3 – Cats!

Albufeira loves cats. If you are a pet lover, you will appreciate this city’s special haven for felines that may otherwise be homeless.

A special cat colony exists here near one of its many bridges close to the sea.

All cats living here are sterilized and do not pose a health hazard.

A sign declares that feeding outside of the designated area is forbidden.

You are also advised that abandoning a cat is forbidden in this city. Another on-site sign warns: Animal Abandonment is a crime! Do not even think about leaving your pet snake here.

Cats in Albufeira
The ‘Cathouse’

Numéro 4 – Portimao – most photographed beach

Praia da Rocha in Portimao is the most photographed beach in the Algarve.

Packed in the summer. Standing room only. Almost.

one of the amazing off season things to do in the Algarve - Praia da Rocha
Praia da Rocha, Portimao

This is definitely an amazing offseason thing to do in The Algarve

All yours. No crowds. You’ll never want for a beach again after Praia da Rocha. Understandably, wall-to-wall restaurants located on the beach are closed at this time of year. But who cares?

Just overlooking the beach on the hill above the beach are off season treasures. Chic restaurants offer a million-dollar view without million-dollar prices.

Praia da Rocha
Praia da Rocha – imagine this with wall to wall vacationers in the summer

Temperatures and Tempo

Quiet and sunny this time of year. Temperatures range from highs 14 – 20 C (57 – 70 F) to a low of 8C (46F). Somewhere in the middle is most common and perfect. Especially if you are one of those who hate high heat. Especially if you hate crowds. Here, one of the amazing off season things to do in the Algarve is find time to contemplate. Daydream. Tell yourself there is more to life than just daily drudgery. Create a new future. Without the distraction of a noisy, sweating, barrage of oil-slicked bodies parked right next to you.

Exercise?

Keep in shape. Admire your athletic ability. 88 steep steps down to the beach – don’t forget you must return the same way! You’ve earned the right to dine at a perfect seaview restaurant. Another amazing off season thing to do in the Algarve.

Numéro 5 – Alvor

Visit this picturesque fishing town perched close to the sea. One of those treasured moments when you feel you’ve stepped back in history.

Arrive on a Sunday if possible when there is even less traffic and less people. More citizens, friendly, with more time to interact, are a plus benefit. Only possible because this is another amazing off season thing to do in the Algarve.

Wind through quiet, narrow streets. Explore local shops. Snoop in the local seaside market.

Numéro 6 – The Beach at Alvor – Photographer’s Heaven

Happily, NO crowds this time of year.

Out of this world rock formations created naturally from calciferous sandstone (mixture of sedimentary rocks and organic materials – mainly pulverized shells) with some injected lavas beckon you to explore, photograph. Any child will find a dozen hideouts here. How about you, the overworked-need-a-vacation adult? It’s like finding a treasure trove of natural delights. Without wall-to-wall people. Amazing off season delight!

Water caused erosion results in fascinating patterns, sculpted shapes, artistic arrangements, sudden tunnels and intricate caves on flat, accessible sand when the tide is out.

A photographer’s heaven.

Beach at Alvor, one of the things do do in the Algarve
Beach at Alvor

Numéro 7– Sagres – Historical Town

Happily again, NO crowds.

Almost the southwestern point in continental Europe. A must-see as one of the amazing off season things to do in the Algarve.

Prince Henry the Navigator (1394 -1460) built a fortified town here and a maritime school to teach cartography, astronomy and ship design. This school helped develop the marine history of Portugal.

The Romans called this Promontorium Sacrum or Sacred Point; hence the name Sagres.

One more of the many amazing off season things to do in the Algarve - visit Sagres
The fort at Sagres

Beginnings and ‘end of the world’

The original fort built here about 1420, on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic, was ‘the end of the world’ at the time. Only the unknown lay ahead.

The fort was destroyed in 1587 by Sir Francis Drake who was attacking the supply lines of the Spanish Armada. It was rebuilt; then destroyed in the 1755 earthquake. Today’s structures have been rebuilt since the earthquake.

Another amazing off season thing in the Algarve to explore without wall-to-wall people.

Numéro 8 – The Church in the Fort

The Church of Our Lady of Grace stands inside the fort. This church was built on the same site as Henry’s church of 1420. Offer a silent prayer for your safety and for those you love. Without hurry or harassment from harried visitors.

Church of Our Lady of Grace, Sagres
Church of Our Lady of Grace, Sagres

Numéro 9 – Dangerous Fishing?

The cliffs here at the fort and surrounding area are about 75m (246ft) high. Many signs warn of dangers from crumbling rock. Stand in awe without being hurried and prodded to hurry to the next destination.

We watched at leisure and with admiration as local fishermen poised on the a steep cliff edge with 10-15′ fishing rods while casting for their daily catch.

fishing from a cliff is one of the things to do in the Algarve
Cliff fishermen

Numéro 10 – VIP Sagres sidenote:

You had to know this was coming. Sagres is also the name of one of the most popular beers in Portugal (though not brewed in the Algarve). Saúde!

Numéro 11 – calling all surfers for Praia do Beliche

Catch a wave all along the coast here and the eastern Atlantic coast of Portugal.

Guess what? No crowds. The best time! Another reason to visit during off season in the Algarve.

Look for surfers at Praia do Beliche. 168 steep steps down to the beach. We admired these hardy surfers, who carried their boards up and down the steep hills, and still had the energy to ride breaking waves on to the sandy beach.

But we weren’t sorry we didn’t bring our surfboards!

Surfing at Praia de Beliche - surfing here is one more of the amazing things to do in the Algarve
Surfing at Praia do Beliche

Numéro 12 – Capo de São Vincente (Cape St. Vincent)

Drive the Atlantic coastline at Cabo de São Vincente, the southernmost western point of Portugal (and continental Europe). This was the last sighting of familiar land by early Portuguese sailors/explorers before heading into the unknown. No crowds here either. Just you and the sea and the sky. A touch of heaven during off season meandering in the Algarve.

Cape St Vincent
Cape St, Vincent

Origin of the Cape’s name; its connection to Lisbon’s coat of arms 

According to legend, the name of Cape St. Vincent is linked to the story of a martyred fourth-century Iberian deacon, St. Vincent, whose body was brought ashore here. A shrine was erected over his grave.

King Afonso Henriques (1139–1185) had the body of the saint exhumed in 1173 and brought by ship to Lisbon, still accompanied by the ravens.

An amazing fact: this transfer of the relics is depicted on the coat of arms of Lisbon!

Coat of arms of Lisbon
Coat of arms of Lisbon (showing the ravens), the capital and the largest city of Portugal. Vector illustration

The wrap-up: Things to do in the Algarve

Map of the Algarve

How to Get to the Algarve

We travelled from Lisbon to Albufeira by bus then rented a car. Bus fares are currently from 5 – 20 € depending on the schedule. Departures are frequent, often more than hourly. The trip takes about 2hr 45min.

Alternately taking a train is another option. There are about 13 departures per day. Travel time ranges from 2hr 30min to 3hr 45min. Several high speed trains are available. Cost is currently 24 to 43€ per person.

Car Rentals

Renting a car in the Algarve is easy and we found the cost to to be modest to moderate if you can shop around. Ask locals. Ready 2 Drive and Panda Car were recommended when we travelled. Dare you rent a motorbike??

Where to Stay in Albufeira

We stayed at Club Albufeira, just on the outskirts of old town. It was walking distance to old town and the beach (1-1.5 km). It was a resort, not just a hotel. Currently special price is 259 € for 3 nights double.

There are many other hotels in Albufeira to meet all needs. Booking.com is a place to start.

Where to Eat in Albufeira

We had a remarkable dinner at a restaurant across the street from our hotel – A Cocheira. It was a former coachhouse/stable. This restaurant is not to be missed. There are many restaurants sufficient for all tastes and budgets. Ask around and search online.

Where to Stay in Praia da Rocha

We stayed in Club Amarilis in Portimao. There were good facilities, bar, restaurant, fitness centre, pool to name a few. Just 100 meters to Praia da Rocha and a good selection of restaurants in the neighbourhood. Currently prices are a very modest 125 € for 3nights double. There is a wide selection of accommodation in Portimao. Check out some of the usual internet booking sites.

Where to Eat in Praia da Rocha

We had good meals at Tres Palmeiras on Praia da Rocha and at the Valeria restaurant on the hill above Praia da Rocha.

There are a number of good restaurants in Portimao as well as in the Praia da Rocha area. Just ask around and do your due diligence online.

Sights and Sounds of The Algarve

sights of the Algarve
traditional music of the Algarve

Other Places to visit in Portugal

Sintra
Porto
Evora
Travelled: Fall, 2016

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