The Algarve, kids and no car. I tell you how.
Before I took my seven year old to visit the Algarve, I investigated a lot about the region and one point was unanimous among travellers: you must hire a car to see the Algarve, unless you are happy to stay only in the hotel / resort.
Well, I do like the relaxation of hotels and resorts, but I also get itchy feet and need to get out and explore. In such a rich and stunning region of Portugal such as the Algarve it would have been a shame not to see beyond the lush setting of the fabulous PortoBay Hotel where we stayed. There was only a tiny detail: I didn't rent a car and wasn't planning on doing so. To make matters more challenging, my seven year old saw absolutely no point in leaving the grounds of the hotel, which offered vast indoor and outdoor swimming pools, kids entertainment, ice cream, yummy food all day long. To be fair, I could see his side, but he was going to have to see mine too. The first thing to do was to have a look around the little village where the resort is. Olhos D'Água has a strip of very basic shops and that is pretty much it. Albufeira, much more touristy is only a few minutes away, but I wanted to see more than the closest town. I wanted an adventure and this is exactly how I finally sold it to my boy. We were going to see a castle, a Moorish market, a very high mountain where he could climb and see two different regions of Portugal. And what's more, if he didn't complain about the walk I would treat him and would let him choose a fridge magnet! We high fived and off we went.
Before I proposed this outing, I found in the little village near our hotel a place called My Ticket Shop. Excursions and day trips to Lisbon, Seville, Lagos, Sagres and the one we chose Silves & Monchique. The return ticket cost 18 euros and included guide , a nice lunch and a glass of questionable quality wine at a simple and lovely restaurant near the mountains. I ordered the typical "assadura" and my son had the fish. I would ordered what he did next time without a doubt. If I could make one criticism to the day trip is that I felt it was quite rushed. We had forty minutes to explore Silves and that isn't nearly time enough. The quaint and beautiful town is home to one of the oldest Moorish castles in the country, a number of stunning churches, attractive cafés and shops and a great market with local produce. We rushed and I didn't think that was very fair. But we didn't have a car and were on a tour bus, so must follow the rules.
Our second stop was the stunning mountains of Monchique. An area of outstanding natural beauty and, lucky us, on a clear day we could see the Algarve and the Altentejo regions of Portugal. Sensational!
Again, a little rushed. We were invited to try some wine and drinks from the region and I would have certainly bought a few bottles, so maybe it was a good thing we had no time as my luggage allowance was not exactly generous. Monchique is also known for its mineral water fountains and wells. A lot of people go to the region to take some of the special water home as it is believed to help with all sorts of illnesses and health issues.
We were dropped off exactly where we started our trip from. I would have carried on as the whole day trip would have taken us to Lagos and Sagres, but one baby step at a time, my son was a brilliant travel buddy and got not one, but two fridge magnets and a cap!
We finished the day back at our gorgeous resort just in time for dinner. A toast to the explorers! Green wine for me, pineapple juice for him. Ice cream for both of us. Cheers!
- there are day trip shops in Albufeira. Lots of them, if you decide to explore without renting a car.
- bear in mind that to visit the famous beaches in the Algarve you might want to consider a car. Uber cars are reliable and we took a few of them. They are not much cheaper than the regular taxis, though.
- beware if the taxi drivers say you have to pay a return trip. You should only pay for your route. Nothing else. If they insist, ask for a receipt. They usually change their minds. Like in any trade, most taxi drivers are lovely and honest.
- next time I visit the Algarve, I will rent a car. But there is a lot you can do without having to.