As the sun starts making a welcome appearance after a particularly chilly, snow-ridden winter, I’ve been trawling the web for holiday inspiration. Portugal has been on my list of destinations for years now, and I’ve heard lots of good things about Faro in the Algarve. So, if, like me, you’re a soon-to-be first time visitor flying off to Faro, what should we see and do?
An obvious place to start is the beaches. Faro has the luxury of lots of beaches scattered on tiny sand spit islands which can be reached by ferry. The fact the journey involves a boat ride means that these beaches aren’t too busy, so would be a nice place to go and relax for an afternoon. There are also some great photo opportunities from the boat out over the Atlantic Ocean and the short stretches of sea separating each island, so budding photographers would have no trouble capturing some gorgeous snaps here. Faro’s main beach is Praia de Faro, and if you fancy doing something a little more adventurous than paddling and sunbathing, you can have a go at windsurfing, followed by a traditional Portuguese meal and glass of wine from the Algarve region in one of the beachside cafes.
Speaking of food (which I usually am), fellow foodies won’t be disappointed with the choices on offer in Faro. Seafood and fish are the main dishes in the restaurants around town, but I’ve discovered that there is even a vegetarian restaurant, Gengibre e Canela, near the Regional Museum of Algarve in Faro’s city centre, if you want to try some Portuguese bean casserole or vegetable lasagne.
It’s always nice to learn a little bit about a destination, and the most fun way to do this is by visiting some of the local museums and historical attractions. The place I’m most looking forward to visiting is the Capela dos Ossos, a 19th century building decorated in a ghoulish collection of more than 1,000 monk’s skulls and bones. However, it’s not all quite so macabre, and I’ll also be taking a trip to the Municipal Museum in a beautiful domed Renaissance convent building containing lots of intricate Islamic artefacts and homegrown Portuguese artwork.
I’m a bit of an explorer, and I was very excited to find out that Lagos is just an hour’s drive from Faro. The thing that caught my eye was the dolphin tours, where you have the chance to go out on a boat to spot dolphins off the Portuguese coast. If you’re not much of an animal fan, you can go on a boat tour of the grottoes for around €10, or hire a sea kayak if you don’t mind doing a bit of paddling. Other attractions around Lagos include the Moorish castle in the City of Silves and fishing village Burgau.
I must say, I was pleasantly surprised by what I found out about Faro. The Algarve is so much more than just golf courses, port and rolling hills. In fact, it’s safe to say I feel like a bit of a Portugal convert before I’ve even been. Now, do excuse me while I find my passport…