This would be our big do, our chance to find out just how difficult it would be to include a child in our travel lifestyle. We were several days into our adventures in Portugal, which was our first big trip five months after having C. We had settled in the city of Cascais as our home base, but after a few days and some exciting adventures we decided to spread our wings and venture south to the beautiful Algarve region for some fun in the sun.
The Algarve region is located on the southern tip of mainland Portugal. It covers almost 5000 sq km and extends from just south of the Tagus valley to the southern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. The area is known for its mild weather year round with the warmest temperatures occurring during the high season of July and August where the temperature fluctuates between 25°C up to 40°C by mid-day.
The 3-hour drive from Cascais to Lagos with our 5-month old was very pleasant. Traffic was light on the toll highway and speeds were much higher than what we were used to back in Canada. We had never seen a highway with such a variance in traffic speed. The listed speed was a minimum of 40 km/hr and a maximum of 120 km/hr and we saw vehicles doing that entire range and beyond (We hit about 180 at one point and still got passed like we were standing still). It’s also possible to hop on a plane to take a quick 45-minute flight to Faro followed by a bus or taxi to Lagos which is around 90 km away. Also available are the trains and buses from Cascais to Lagos. A closer town on the Algarve from Cascais would have been Albufeira, however, we decided to go to Lagos to experience the postcard-perfect beaches with the abundant rock formations, grottos, and caves.
It was noon when we arrived to check-in at the Carvi Beach Hotel in Lagos. From the parking lot, we could see that the crowds had already gathered at nearby Dona Ana Beach so we opted to look for a place to eat lunch first before taking a dip in the Atlantic ocean. With the sun beating down us, we quickly re-applied more sunscreen (coconut oil for C) and took C via stroller to explore the town of Lagos. We stopped at a small eatery to have churrasco chicken with potatoes deliciously paired with some vinho verde (a very refreshing young wine popular in southern Portugal). With our bellies full we changed into our swimsuits and made our way to Dona Ana Beach.
Dona Ana Beach in the Algarve
The beach was spellbinding. The rock formations, carved by the Atlantic Ocean washing over the rocks over thousands of years were magical to behold. Few places look exactly like you anticipate, but this coastline was exactly like how the postcards and Google images depicted it! Due to its beauty and how easily accessible it is, many people are drawn to the area. It took us some time to navigate the sea of bronzed bodies and find a patch of sand big enough to lay 2 beach blankets. We lucked out by getting a spot tucked into the shade of the nearby cliffs. Still, with the summer heat coming off the sand, we had beads of sweat going down our backs. Kevin went to the ocean first while I stayed with C. I helped him dig his tiny little toes into the sand but he wasn’t a fan of having dirty feet. After dipping our toes in the incredibly blue Atlantic waters we retreated to the shade and he was happy to sit and people watch from our beach blankets. By the time Kevin had gotten back, little C had fallen fast asleep. It was my turn to get into the water! The waves were crashing wildly against the rocks and not being a strong swimmer I chose to stick close to the shoreline. The warm, salty water was refreshing on my skin. From the ocean I watched the fishing boats bobbing up and down in the distance. We spoke to some locals and learned that many of them were for hire and would take people to visit the various cave formations in the area. The afternoon waves were rough though so we opted to keep C on land for this adventure.
Nearby to our spot on the beach Kevin noticed a short cliff face that looked perfect for climbing. Kevin is never one to turn down an opportunity to explore. So, off he went, up and over the rock face and as usual I sat back and prayed that he didn’t end up breaking his leg.
He didn’t break his leg, but he did come back sweaty and excited about what he found. He described finding a cave on the other side of the wall that was paired with a small beach and cove that was utterly deserted of people. We people watched for a bit longer while we waited for C to get up from his afternoon siesta so we could explore the town a bit more. It was very relaxing sitting on our beach towels listening to the crashing waves while C slept soundly beside us.
Ponta da Piedade
The following morning we rose with the sun (travelling with a 5-month-old didn’t really give us a choice) and headed towards the shoreline to walk to the famed Ponta da Piedade. The early morning stroll, with the sun shining brightly against the rolling waves, was breath-taking. The beach was deserted in the early morning and was free of the previous days noise pollution. I truly felt like we had walked into heaven. The Algarve coastline is 155 km long and the Ponta da Piedade is a promontory 3 km west of Lagos. At the viewpoint is a cluster of caves, grottoes and sea arches that nature has sculpted from the cliffs over thousands of years into incredible artwork. We left the stroller at the base and climbed the 182 narrow steps down to the small cove for a better view of the grottos. There was evidence of the healthy bird population everywhere, some of that evidence dropping right out of the sky. The waters were rough on the morning of our visit though and we couldn’t see any sign of boats for hire so we enjoyed the view on our own and took turns naming the various rock formations.
We were so happy that we took the time to visit the Algarve region on our visit to incredible Portugal. The whole country is spectacular, filled with amazing people, but this region will forever stick in our minds as a favourite.
Having experienced over 20 countries across 4 continents Christina is well versed at travel planning and thrives on sharing that information with others with the hopes of encouraging more families to experience this incredible world that we live in.