What to expect during off season in the Algarve, Portugal
Leaving Atalaia for the Algarve
At the end of our last week house sitting in Atalaia de Cima we had to sadly say goodbye to Angel and Biscuit, our pets for three weeks. We were lucky to be heading to the Algarve for another month of house sitting in Portugal rather than going home - I don’t think I could have taken that! By this point, Portugal had stolen our hearts and we really wanted to live here permanently. We still had our hired car (Clem Fandango - just so we could say “Yes, I can see you Clem Fandango!” - a favourite quote from the series “Toast”) and planned to take our time driving down to the Algarve to see some countryside. We passed through rolling hills full of vineyards, all asleep for the winter and tiny quiet villages of crumbling farmhouses and orange trees. It made us realise how much there is to see in Portugal, especially off the beaten path. We kept fantasising about when we have our van we’d be coming back to explore it all at a slower pace, rather than just passing by to get to another destination. Alas, we had to get to the Algarve before dark so we headed out to the highways to speed up our journey. The motorways are fast, direct and there’s hardly anyone on them because they are tolled but they are boring drives! Do some research about the tolls before you drive in Portugal because they can turn out expensive. Don’t end up on the most expensive toll road because you panic trying to avoid a big truck! At least it got us to our destination in one piece (although my nerves were ragged at the end!).
Peace and quiet in the Algarve
Olhos d’Agua is a small fishing town on the Algarve and, in the off-season, a lot of the bars and restaurants are closed. We were happy though that it was peaceful and quiet. In high season, so we were told, it gets packed, especially with families, but it would be nowhere near as loud or busy as huge summer resort towns like Albufeira. It definitely has a more relaxed and local feel to it and luckily it has kept its atmosphere even though it’s surrounded by the tourism boom of the Algarve. After finding the little residential street where the apartment block was we went straight up to the top floor and found our front door. We were going to be here, house sitting for a whole month so we were glad all the walking in Atalaia prepared us for 4 flights of stairs every day! For this house sit, our task was to upgrade the furniture and stage the apartment for professional Airbnb photos, which Neil could easily do. We unpacked the car and then strolled down the small gravel road to the middle of town and found only one place open. It was a Japanese restaurant, which we were delighted with. So we relaxed, tucked into tasty teriyaki chicken and rice and sank a cold beer. We’d had a long day and the food sent us into coma-mode! Just what the doctor ordered! After a little stroll to the town’s pretty little beach, we headed back to the apartment for an early night.
Rolling up our sleeves
The next morning, the sun was shining and we got to appreciate the view from the huge terrace (an advantage of being on the top floor). We could overlook all the other buildings and apartments in the town and see the ocean beyond - it called to us! However, we had work to do, so we got ourselves organised and headed out to Ikea and the Algarve Shopping Mall to start gathering new furnishings for the apartment. Tess (the owner) had given us a list and a budget so we had fun picking things out and it felt like we were shopping for our own apartment! Over the next week we perfected the place, building furniture and hanging curtains. You can check out the listing on Airbnb here. That’s all our handiwork and we are super proud! Obviously, Neil is extremely talented so the photos are awesome!
Exploring the Algarve
With all of our hard work done we planned a few trips and places to visit. We were amazed at how much the Algarve has to offer and we really feel that each place we explored deserves it’s own write-up. We went to a few towns like Albufeira, Faro, Tavira and Loulé. We spent time out at Bengali caves and swam at Marinha Beach and did some hiking in Monchique and Rocha da Pena. Click on any of those links to read our adventures and see more beautiful photos and epic videos. In the meantime, if you’re planning a stay in the Algarve and Olhos d’Agua sounds like your kind of place, then check out our top tips for your trip.
Where to eat in Olhos d’Agua
Symbiosis Pub & Bar
This is a fantastic late-night bar that serves delicious snacks and creative cocktails. The staff were so happy and welcoming and the pictures on the wall show their hard work in creating this cool and funky local. We were treated to live music on Fridays and the atmosphere was fantastic - you can see it in our video. There was actually a cocktail called “The Big Neil” so it was meant to be! We were so glad we found the place, we had a great time there. We highly recommend the quesadillas and tapas and definitely try some of their amazing cocktails - the guys really know their stuff.
We ended up coming here so often for our sunset dinner, the friendly staff knew our order! It’s right on the promenade above the small beach beside all the fishing boats. You can’t get fresher fish than right beside where all the fishermen hang out and it’s great for traditional Portuguese cuisine. They do amazing grilled meats served on skewers and lovely homemade chips (I’m addicted to the chips in Portugal - they’re just like my granny used to make!). It’s perfect for a chilled out evening by the ocean with a couple of drinks, enjoying some of the best sunsets you’ll ever see and watching the local fishermen catch everyone’s dinner.
What to do in Olhos d’Agua
This beach was about a ten-minute walk from the apartment through a sandy gorge with brightly coloured cliffs on either side. We couldn’t believe our eyes when we stepped onto the beach. It’s huge and beautiful and the high cliffs, as far as the eye can see, are the bright reds and golden hues of sunset. Neil captured truly spectacular footage with his drone which you can see in our video. This place is gorgeous any time of year and it’s so massive I doubt it ever feels too crowded.
Praia da Oura
We had great fun on this beach. It’s clean and safe (we’re not strong swimmers) and there are beautiful rock formations and caves you can walk through when the tide is out. There’s plenty of places to eat along the boardwalk - a touch on the expensive side but if you’re just looking for sand and waves it’s perfect. It’s quite close to Albufeira so it’s probably packed during the busy season in July and August.
Pine Cliffs Resort
We stumbled across this resort by accident. While we were walking on Falesia Beach we noticed a boardwalk leading up to the cliffs and we decided to check it out. It turned out to be the entrance to the resort with the boardwalk leading to an elevator. The resort is perfectly placed on the cliff top looking out over the ocean and the grounds are beautiful. It’s a large high-end resort with a hotel, a few restaurants, private villas, swimming pools, a golf course and more. If you’re looking for luxury in the Algarve, or a snazzy restaurant with some fine Jazz to accompany your meal, you can’t go wrong here!