Portugal is experiencing some recent favour on the map of global travel trends and Guest Traveller Dean Johnston says it certainly deserves a week or three of your time. Dean spent a week in Sagres in July and describes it as an unpolished gem. He thinks up to seven days would do you very well here. Let’s head to the south-western corner of Europe and find out what all the fuss is about…
The Algarve region on the southern coast of Portugal has long been a summer playground for the well-informed European traveller. Located on the Atlantic Ocean, and serviced by Faro airport, ‘The Algarve’ is a 50-kilometre stretch of towns and villages featuring beach-front villas, resorts and hotels designed for the well-to-do traveller who loves beaches and golf courses by day, and restaurants and bars by night. It’s very busy and very family-centric. Lagos, the nearest city, might best be left to the back packers who thrive there.
For those seeking a somewhat more reclusive holiday experience, head west to the sparse town of Sagres, at the very south-western tip of Portugal (and indeed, Europe).
Just over the south-east horizon from here lies the very-near northern tip of Africa and, to the distant south-west, North America. Sagres is at the end of the European landmass, and this extremity can be experienced exactly and superbly at nearby Cape St Vincent, recommended at sunset.
Sagres itself is a small, fishing-port town which for centuries has eked out an existence from the bounty of the seas. Its few but excellent restaurants are testament to the freshness of the locally-caught produce. And that’s how one spends the evenings. We would thoroughly recommend A Tasca for the freshest seafood overlooking the port; Mum’s for excellent Euro fare; and Holy Diwali for authentic, outstanding Indian.
During the day, head to a beach (praia), hire a beach umbrella and lounges, or grab a massage, all whilst soaking up the better-than-Mediterranean sun. The cliff-bottom beach, Praia do Beliche, was the standout one here due to it being out of the prevailing dusty and often howling northerly winds. Note that, being on the Atlantic, the water is considerably cooler than the Med’, but of not much shock to this native Victorian, accustomed to freezing waters.
In terms of accommodation in Sagres, for couples or mature groups, the Memmo Hotel Baleeira is the place to stay. If you have a young family, the Martinhal Sagres Resort has been rated one of Europe’s best.
From Sagres, take the easy, four-hour, coastal drive north to the Portuguese capital Lisbon. The ‘City of Seven Hills’ is positively lovely, largely without the crowds of other major European major cities, and the sunniest capital in Europe (pipping Athens for the title). It will not disappoint. Be sure to do a day trip to the draw-droppingly gorgeous coastal town of Sintra, an hour’s drive from downtown Lisbon.
Main pic: Port of Sagres at sunrise
All photography by Dean Johnston.