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16.05.2017

The grey telescope prefers to be left alone, which means pre-summer is its favourite season. In our light evening coats we pursue, and it relents, allowing us to train a lens out onto the magnificent ocean where cliffs rise, moors sigh and surfers travel in wolf packs.

Just an hour from here, the cliffs disappear and bound beach coves stretch torpidly, turning into long sandy sweeps, and in neighbouring towns, beaches form dunes, making it easier for nudists (sorry, naturists) to find private “booths”.

And that’s the fun of planning a road trip through the Algarve, Southern Portugal’s stunning coastline. Towns close to each other have dramatically differently landscapes, and beach hopping – not that it could – seldom gets tedious. We even found one that combines our two favourite words – ‘beach’ and ‘library'. Surely, this is a foreword to a great vacation.

PS: Picking the right beach in a short time can be overwhelming, so here’s a quick drive through all our pit stops:

Faro: Fly into Faro (Lufthansa has a Mumbai-Frankfurt-Faro flight) and head straight to the old town where a maze of streets floored with old, chipping Portuguese tiles, give ample opportunities for you to use #IHaveThisThingWithFloors. Post on social, buy sunscreen and start your road trip, because after Faro, it’s beach time!

Sagres: The southwestern most edge of Portgual, Sagres is our favourite part of the Algarve. The beaches here are flanked by towering cliffs and accessed by winding flights of stairs where wild flowers grow. And the red lighthouse plucked out of Moonrise Kingdom is just the cherry on top. The Praia do Beliche beach is our pick, also favoured by surfers who live in caravans above.

Leave Sagres with a blushing box of flower salt, pink in colour and hand harvested, perfect to sprinkle on breakfast avocado.

Spotted here: Little bars like Pau de Pita, which outwardly look like village taverns, but inside house bartenders who make the most elaborate cocktails. Packed with hot surfer dudes with wind swept hair, post 8 pm.  

Leave Sagres with a blushing box of flower salt, pink in colour and hand harvested, perfect to sprinkle on breakfast avocado.

Lagos: Lagos' beaches are more caves than cliffs, and Praia Dona Ana is the best way to experience this. Take a boat out and float through the caves, many of which, when the tide is right, turn into secret beaches (see Benagil sea cave) or walk through a rocky tunnel that connects the two sandy sides of this beach. Meia Praia is better if you like long, crowded beaches where sun beds can be rented and kids can’t be controlled.

Spotted here: A Goth girl in a black bikini, drawing a heart in the sand and writing a boy’s name in it.

Tavira: Buy supermarket beer, take the mini blue train to the beach, and set up shop at Barril for long sand belts, giant ship anchors and clear warm water. Exhibitionists can walk to the far right for the nude beach.

On the way to or from Tavira, stop by the Ria Formosa natural reserve. It’s where the wild things are plus a waterfall called Pego de Inferno, which ends in a lush green pool where swimming is permitted.

Spotted here: Almost all of Tavira is obsessed with the octopus, so any restaurant you visit cooks it well. And some restaurants cook only this. Stop at A Casa, and get the polvo grilled with lemon and salt.

Ria Formosa where the wild things are plus a waterfall called Pego de Inferno, which ends in a lush green pool where swimming is permitted.

Note: The town of Porches, 20 minutes from Tavira, is where the amazing Vila Vita Parc hotel lives. It has the cutest private beach, bathed in Algarve sunshine, with towel booths and cabanas. Here the ocean must love you, because it sometimes leaves behind pink seaweed.

Albufeira: The love gets much louder in Albufeira where stag and hen parties drown out the sound of crashing waves. This city is tacktastic, but geographically a great base that allows for day trips to both the North and the South. It’s possible to live here but never visit any of its beaches or bars, which is what you should do.

Spotted here: If you must do Albufeira, a bar called Barber is where all the trim people go. Also hunt down sardine shops that look like casinos. Fly fishing!

Note: Lisbon is a two-hour drive from here, and on the way, if you haven’t had enough beach time already, stop at Praia do Meco beach in Sesimbra’s fishing village where you must have the red mullet at Bar do Peixe. For a private car, call Pedro on +351916900033, a local who speaks great English, shows you his kids’ pictures and knows all the best secret beaches. Even one we promised not to add to this list. 

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