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Albufeira and the Algarve!
Member Name: bettyboop2002
Advantages: Lots to do, not a long flight from the UK
Disadvantages: gets very hot, the sea can be dangerous in places with big drops
The algarve is the name for a large area covering the south of Portugal. It covers over 200,000 square miles so it would be impossible to write a review on the whole area so I am going to focus on the Albufeira area and a couple of other areas I have visited.
The airport which covers the region is Faro airport, flights go here from most UK airports including Gatwick, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Glasgow. Many low cost airlines now offer Faro as a destination and the flight time is around 2 and a half hours.
The main tourist spots of the Algarve include Albufeira, Vilamoura, Lagos, Monchique, Alvor and Tavira.
The Algarve is a popular destination for golfers with over 30 stunning courses and golf resort hotels. Most of the courses in the Algarve allow visitors so you do not need to be a member to play.
For the less energetic of us the beaches go on for miles and miles lining the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. One thing to be careful of is going into the sea. I find on a lot of beaches when you go to the sea it seems to go from knee depth up to your shoulders in only a few steps, the waves get quite choppy too so be careful if you are not a strong swimmer and keep a close eye on children and of course hold on to your shorts!
For the water babies there are plenty of watersports on offer, with most beaches offering surfing, kite boarding, jet skis, diving and banana boats. You see a lot of those parachute things on the back of a boat too but I'm way too wimpy to try that one out.
There are are a number of water parks all over the Algarve, splash and slide is a good one but my favourite has to be the Zoomarine, this is in Guia which is just outside Albufeira. Here there is a range of activities, you can watch a dolphin show, go on water slides, a big wheel, pirate ship, diving show and bird show. It is like a little bit of a water park, theme park and animal park all in the one place I loved it.
Parque Aventura is one I have wanted to see for a while but never managed to squeeze in. This is in Albufeira where you spend most of your time up trees doing various assault courses and zip lines, over 4s can join in too it looks like great fun.
Krazy world is an animal themed amusements park which is great for kids, it was very busy when we visited so it's best to get there early and avoid the Portugese school holidays. They have snakes, alligators, turtles, pony rides and many more animals. There is an indoor soft play area and ball pool, more climbing up trees and mini kart racing. It can be a bit pricey, it was around 10 euros for adults and 6 euros for children which wasn't too much but once we got in we found that some of the activities like the pony rides were charged seperately and the food and drinks were quite a bit more than everywhere else. Definitely worth a trip for kids though.
There are plenty of souvenirs and local crafts in shops in most Algarve resorts, there are a few clothes shops too but if you're a serious shopper you need to get to Forum. It is just as you are approaching Faro and is well signposted and has every kind of shop you could wish for from clothes, childrens shops, household stores, supermarkets, handbags and jewellry to food outlets and a cinema. It is open until midnight and looks lovely at night and as it's open air you won't be too hot and crowded.
There are numerous beautiful churches and monuments dotted all over Portugal and the Algarve has many of them. There are castles, you can go to the most south western part in Europe, in Monichque there are hot springs and spa below the city, there are mountains, roman remains and fortresses. So much to see you could never be bored but I personally think the best way to see some of the sights is with the jeep safaris up the mountains and the boat trips showing you caves and cliffs. Unfortunately I don't drive, but if I did I would go for a fortnight and hire a car for a few days to see all the things I haven't yet got to see.
I could go on all day about the things to do but I shall move on to Albufeira and the town itself which is seperated into two areas, the strip and the old town. The strip used to be known as the drinking area it was where the parties and nightclubs were, the tacky sports bars and the 18-30s groups but it has completely changed over the years. It is now extremely family friendly, the bars and restaurants are good and inexpensive. I've never had a bad meal or drink in Portugal and although I'm not a seafood fan the fresh fish is fantastic.
Most bars and restaurants have free drinks for children, some may have children eat free. There are pool tables, playstations, xbox, internet and other activities to keep them occupied all free of charge.
From the strip you can take this little bus which looks like a train to the old town. The train is around 2 euros return or 3 euros for a day ticket. We got a day ticket one day to go to the old town to have a look around. It takes about 15 minutes on the train/bus. The old town is so pretty, lovely little clothes shops, souvenirs and you couldn't even count the bars and restaurants. The beach is clean and beautiful though it gets very busy. There is now a lift from the beach up to the top of the steps where a lot of the apartments and hotels are situated free of charge.
There is so much to see and do, there was a man doing sand sculptures in the town that we were fascinated by and lots of street entertainment.
We went back to the old town again on the evening and it seems this place transforms it is the place to be. The countless bars are all lit up, have outdoor seating areas and all you can see is people, sparkly cocktails, street performers and you just don't know where to look. We found it a little bit too busy in August and unfortunately one of my friends was pick pocketed so this put us off going back another night but I'd love to go again perhaps in May or September when it wouldn't be as busy.
The Marina in the Algarve actually took a lot of finding it is quite a long walk from the old town but it is worth it. There are fantastic apartments painted in bright colours it reminds me of something from a disney film. There are lots of different boat trips leaving from here if you'd like to go on one. We just went to see it and have lunch and the prices were still cheap for food and drink and lovely upper end bars and restaurants.
Albufeira is the perfect place to stay if you want to be close to everything, all of the excursions are close by so there is no baking in coaches for hours. There are lots of shops selling the day trips and excursions so it is worth shopping around before buying them from a rep where they are usually more expensive. I can't complain about anything there and can't wait to go back. I could have done with more than a week though there was too much to see and do and not enough time to relax.
For those wanting something a bit more on the quiet side Tavira is stunning. It's a small fishing town in the south east of the Algarve. It is one of the oldest cities and the architecture is beautiful. There are plenty of beaches but my favourite is the beach in Cabanas which is actually in the middle of the sea and somebody takes you over in a small boat to the beach which is really funny, it is clean and the waters are clear and beautiful. Anchor cemetry in Tavira is a load of anchors in the ground to remember the tuna fishing days in Tavira.
Tavira has been built up a little bit more in the last few years but is still peaceful quiet and charming. There are enough bars and restaurants to keep anyone happy but there is not a lot to do. It is perfect for a relaxing holiday if you're happy just to wander up the pretty, cobbled streets but if you will have to travel if you want exciting daytime activity.
Praia da Rocha
Unfortunately this place is more famous for the disappearance of Madeline McCann than for the place itself which is a shame as it's lovely. I didn't stay here, just visited for the day it was nice, again quieter than Albufeira but with enough to do. My parents had a week here before and said it'd make a lovely family destination. It has more high rise buildings and hotels than a lot of the Algarve but it is still a beautiful place.
The Algarve is a cheap place to go the most we ever paid between two for a meal with drinks was still under 20 euros. The food is nice and the people are helpful and friendly. Some of the amusement parks can be a bit expensive for families but by shopping around and booking in advance there are good deals to be got.
The weather in the Algarve is fantastic, unfortunately the first time I went I got heat stroke and the last time I went was far too hot in the middle of August. I would go back to any part of the Algarve again but I think I would go earlier or later in the year, a great family destination with lovely people and lots to do for everyone!
Summary: A great place with something for all ages