Rachel Golden Heads for Alvor and Discovers the Quieter Side to the Algarve
Holiday Destinations – every year families, couples and singles agonize of where to go on their vacation. January blues are chased away with the thoughts of some sun on your face, a cocktail in your hand and a dip in the sea or the pool.
Ensuring the kids are happy is the main reason why just about the only people still buying the traditional package sun holiday seem to be families. But where, in their pursuit of familial happiness, are they going?
After some careful online research and recommendations from friends, the choice for us this year was Alvor. Situated on the Algarve coast, Alvor is a charming and quaint fishing village that has managed to retain all of its rustic charm. If you looking for an authentic Portuguese experience then this is your place. Not a McDonalds or Burger King in sight!
Photo by kkmarais –Church of Alvor
Alvor is only 45 minutes (60km) from Faro airport along highway A22 and, is nestled between the cities of Portimao and Lagos. Ideal for relaxing and leisure, this pretty hamlet is simply a haven of tranquillity and calm. The Algarve, Portugal’s southernmost region, also has the huge advantage of being less than a three-hour flight away.
This friendly fishing village boasts long, golden stretches of sandy beaches, isolated coves and a lively nightlife, with bars offering live music and restaurants serving local specialities and traditional British fare.
The town is filled with amazing restaurants and bars and will cater for foodies and families alike. It is essentially one street filled with bars and restaurants with a harbour at the very end of the hill.
Photo: Alvor Sunset by Steven Lloyd
There are many little side streets with shops and hidden restaurants, perfect for exploring. The walk to the harbour lies at the end of the hill will give you a chance to take in the scenery and is stunningly beautiful at sunset.
The feel and theme is consistent, old-fashioned with whitewashed walls and terracotta roofs, small souvenir shops, cobbled streets; it’s authentic and different. The biggest selling point of the area is the amazing food at the local restaurants. Fresh Fish, Mussels and Crab are the order of the day with many restaurants using barbeques outside to draw in the punters.
A late evening meal, followed by a few glasses of wine is the way to go here. If you’re looking for nightclubs or noisy late night bars then Alvor really isn’t the place for you. Try the resort of Albufeira where old meets new, in a busier setting.
Photo by Serge Esteve
If you do choose to visit Alvor, then be prepared to do a little walking, it’s a town built on a small hill so nothing too strenuous, but maybe leave the high heels at home and opt for wedges. Accommodation is plentiful depending on your needs. For families, there are quite a lot of hotels that include a kids entertainment programme and of course a pool.
Check out Clube Alvorferias or Pestana Dom João II Hotel for family friendly holidays. For couples, or groups of friends, the four star Alvor Baia Hotel or the Pestana Alvor Praia is a good shout. Plenty of accommodation options depending on your needs,
One of the biggest attractions of Alvor is the area known as the Boardwalk or the Estuary Trail. The walkway begins at the harbour and the wooden structure takes you through all types of scenery from marshes to sand dunes.
Photo by Hush
If you take an early morning stroll here you will be able to spot locals collecting shellfish which is abundant in this region. The walk finishes along the beach where you can take a dip or loop back around to get back to the harbour. A must on a visit to Alvor for the photo opportunities alone.
If you are travelling with children there is plenty to keep them busy, you can take a boat excursion to the caves and some gorgeous rock formations, in most packages you can have a BBQ on the beach included in the price.
For thrill seekers, there are two theme parks, Slide and Splash, which is a typical European Waterpark. And Zoomarine, which is a combination of waterslides and a wildlife park to include Dolphin and Seal tours. A very popular day out.
Photo by Marcus Dall
The big winner here and what really makes Alvor the jewel of the Algarve is the food and God knows we all love to eat. No matter what you crave you will find something here. If it’s Italian food, pop along to Perrino. Pizzas, Pastas. Meat dishes are all cooked in authentic Italian style and the wine pairings are amazing.
Steak houses are also plentiful and with most places offering everything from T-Bones to Tomahawks to Fillets, you can’t go wrong. As you are in Portugal I would recommend the local cuisine. Piri Piri Spice/ Sauce is Portuguese in origin, so give it a go, you will need some water at hand
Feel free to sample the local Portuguese casseroles and stews, all very tasty. For fish, there are some amazing little Restaurants at the mouth of the harbour that offer all types of fresh fish and Seafood.
Photo by Adrien Sala
If you want to explore the Algarve further, the good news is that Alvor is very close to some other lively towns. The resort of Praia da Rocha is a short taxi ride away, €10 euro tops. It’s livelier at night time and has more clubs and bars than Alvor, Praia do Vau is also close enough if you want to experience another Portuguese resort.
Tourism in Portugal, in general, is on the up, with reports of steady rises in visitor figures over the last few years. A local taxi driver told us how Irish people are starting to flock back to Portugal as both countries put their recession woes behind them. At the moment about 25% of their tourists are Irish, showing the growing popularity of Portugal as a holiday destination.
As the tourism figures rise, it is refreshing to see that Alvor, in particular, refuses the urge to become too capitalised. The lack of chain fast food restaurants and bars is a welcome sight. Listening to a local musician play some jazz as you sip a country’s wine and sample their local food is what travel is all about.
Photo by Dan Gold
Finding a unique piece of clothing in a local shop that you would never find at home or buying some hand made souvenirs is what travelling is all about. And if you want a truly authentic Portuguese experience, then Alvor will not disappoint.
Flights from Faro to Dublin – from €177 RT at TripAdvisor