Escape the crowds and explore the hidden Algarve

Here’s how we found peace and quiet in the busy Algarve summer…
Camped out overlooking Barragem de Odiáxere

As we drove down from Sesimbra to meet Simon’s family in The Algarve we weren’t sure what to make of it. As you head further South you definitely feel the impact of tourism on places getting more noticeable, with more signs in English, British items in supermarkets (we even saw a Waitrose section in one!) and busy holiday resorts with replica traditional British pubs.

Of course, we can’t deny having things written in your native language is convenient and at first it felt quite comforting feeling more familiar with our surroundings but we came to Portugal to see what Portugal is like so this unauthentic package holiday version didn’t really do it for us.

Fortunately we had the benefit of Simon’s family’s local knowledge to draw from, as they’ve had their house here for going on seven years. They showed us a totally different side to The Algarve, away from the holiday resorts and busy beaches.

Our favourite thing we did during our visit was swim at the local barragem or dam. We went several times to cool off in the water and did a bit of kayaking in Simon’s uncle’s inflatable boat.
Simon and his uncle kayaking on Barragem do Arade

We loved it so much that after we left them we sought out The Algarve’s other barragems. This site gives a good description of each and where to find them.

This allowed us to see a more peaceful, untouched Algarve, full of wildlife and nature.

They are often surrounded by walking trails that have wonderful big views and nature. We saw woodpeckers, dragonflies, butterflies, swallows and the most exciting of all, Simon reckons he saw a turtle in the water!
Simon looking for his turtle…

The areas around the barragems are also great for cycling with nice quiet & fun windy roads up and down the hills. We cycled most days we were there.

We had a go at visiting some of the beaches around Lagos and Faro and even broke our regular lazy routine by getting up early to try and catch a quiet spot in the day but it just seemed to be constantly busy. Over the last week or so the temperature in the van has really rocketed and it hasn’t dropped below 30 degrees, so being in the busyness of it all felt a bit suffocating. We were much happier out of the towns parked up beside the barragems where you can go for a dip to cool off at any time.

We were amazed that some of them are less than half an hours drive from the busy beaches yet we hardly saw another person there!
Sunset over Barragem de Beliche

Just over a week ago it was our ten year anniversary so between our stops to barragems we decided to treat ourselves and visited the spa town of Caldas de Monchique.
Having a cheeky bottle of cava to celebrate our 10 year anniversary.

It’s quite a touristy place but much quieter than the towns along the coast. We had a lovely relaxing couple of days here walking and looking around the town and went for a bit of luxury by having a day in the spa. We loved the sauna, steam room and pool with massaging jets, plus couldn’t get enough of the showers and unlimited running water! We really made the most of it and came out feeling the cleanest we’d been in a long time!

Now we’ve left Portugal and headed in to Andalucia, thinking about a stop in Seville to see if we can find some live music, but mostly our main priority is keeping cool which the coast is always good for!

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