The Algarve of Portugal, the southernmost region, is best known for its beaches, and spectacular they truly are.
However, there is a wealth of interest inland too, with small villages in the foothills and spread along rivers, all linked together with expanses of citrus orchards and olive groves, random whitewashed properties with terracotta rooves, and a not inconsiderable bus / road / rail network making touring a manageble and enjoyable experience.
I arrived in Faro (capital of the Algarve) by bus from Seville (and before that from the north of Spain). The bus (Terminal Rodovario) and train (trem) stations are a few minutes walk away from each other so I was able to amble from one to the other to comare prices.
Tavira, to the east, was my first stop and you can get there by both modes of transport: train is quicker (30 minutes), but more expensive, and buses (taking 1 hour) seem to be more often. This website is an excellent source of information.
There are two bus stops in Tavira: Porta Nova and Tavira, but you must stipulate which destination when buying your ticket (always buy in advance), as they are slightly different prices.
There seem to be two sides to Tavira: the old town and the newer developments (above) where lots of the ex-pats live. Most people I speak to really like this place and there is not only a lot to see, but good beaches and good countryside restaurants nearby as well if you have a car, so no wonder it is popular. For cyclists and walkers, it is a great setting-off point – there is a network of cycle routes and you can now walk from Tavira to Santiago de Compostella. The locals are geared up to having vistors around all the time and are courteous and understanding, speaking excellent English.
This beautiful square has lots of cafes and restaurants where you can sit outside and enjoy the leafy view.
Pedras del Rei
The Tavira area was the first place I ever went abroad when I was a young teenager with my parents. It was memorable for a number of reasons, not least the trip to the beach which was reached by a little train and boat. When I accepted Tracy’s kind invitation, I had no (conscious) idea that her new place was near this early holiday destination, so you can imagine my pleasure when I was taken for a late afternoon walk only to be faced with a sign saying Pedras del Reí. The memories came flooding back!
Praia do Barril
I also visited the beach across from Fábrica and the small village of Cacela Velha, both located in the Ria Formosa Natural Park. Like much of the coast in this area, the beach is situated on a spit of land which is separated from the mainland by a strip of water, so we took a boat across.
Casela Velha – beach and village
Cacela Velha is a small village in the parish of Vila Nova da Cacela on a hillside next to the Ria Formosa, between Tavira and the town of Monte Gordo.
From there I returned by car to Faro airport (thanks to Tracy and David, wonderful hosts), and took a bus to Albufeira. The posters at the bus stop do not all contain truthful information as far as I could tell, so careful!
Many thanks to the folk on the houzz.com plant forum for help with plant identification