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There’s good reason southern Portugal is becoming such a popular vacation destination these days. In short, you’ll find inviting European beaches for less, without the crowds, plus remarkable outdoor adventures. In particular, The Algarve, Portugal’s southernmost strip, has garnered some attention. It’s long been a sleepy, sun-soaked, and popular getaway for beach-seeking visitors. But it’s also an excellent place to explore the great outdoors, namely by hiking, biking, cave kayaking, and surfing its famous coastline in a more laid back and affordable setting than nearby Spain.

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Affordability worth writing home about

Courtesy Blake Snow

Although the population of Algarve triples during peak summer season, active travelers flock to the Delaware-sized region without stepping on each other’s toes—all while stretching their dollar further than just about anywhere else on the continent. Algarve’s affordability is even more pronounced when compared to the population centers of Lisbon and Porto to the north. Better yet, Air Portugal—which was recently acquired by the founder of JetBlue—has launched several direct flights to the U.S. for a lot less than other European airlines. Air Portugal even lets you book a five-day “stopover” in the country for no additional charge.

Adventure and relaxation

Courtesy Blake Snow

On a recent five-day trip, I got a first-hand taste of all the adventure on display, starting with several gravel bike rides from Vila Real to Tavira, then Sagres, and ultimately Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano. I hiked three miles along the Seven Hanging Valleys trail in Lagoa, kayaked in and around the stunning coastal caves of Praia da Marinha, and surfed the beginner-friendly breaks at Praia do Amado. Everywhere in between, I made sure to take in and swim the always inviting Iberian beaches.

Accommodations that time forgot

Grand House Algarve | Photo: Courtesy Grand House

Portugal is known for its beloved “pousadas,” which are historical buildings that have delightfully been converted into modern hotels. In Algarve, there are plenty to choose from, but my absolute favorite is Grand House Algarve, a boutique pousada in arguably the prettiest little village you’ll find in all of Southern Portugal. The beautiful hotel and excellent staff are just steps from the white-washed streets, tiled building walls, and cozy shopping of historic Vila Real de Santo Antonio.

Mouth-watering dishes and desserts

Courtesy Blake Snow

Like elsewhere in Portugal, the food of Algarve is as delicious as it is affordable. Although not unique to the area, your trip should begin and end with the delectable “Pastel de Nata,” a flaky pastry with a vanilla custard center and sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon. Enjoy them for breakfast, dessert, or whenever they’re available. The national dish of “Bacalao” (rehydrated cod) will magically make you think you’re eating the freshest catch of the day (don’t let the previously dried state deter you—it’s delicious), and area favorite carib ice cream tastes almost like chocolate because it’s related to the cocoa bean. For a wonderful restaurant, try A Terra in Vila Real.


Tagged: Cheap Tips, Destinations, Types of Travel

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Blake Snow

Blake Snow

Blake contributes to fancy publications and Fortune 500 companies as a writer-for-hire and frequent travel columnist. He lives in Provo, Utah with his supportive family and loyal dog.

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