Portugal was high up on my must-see list when I arrived in Spain. Just a quick hop away from Spain, the Algarve was the pick for a January, winter coastal reunion with one of my best friends. I loved it so much, the Algarve offers cute villages, remote beaches and authentic markets and restaurants. Olhão is a little fishing town, an easy train ride from Faro. It is also not crowded with tourists either.
What to do?
Bike along the coast
We hired bikes for €8 per day and set off along the coast. There is an off road cycling trail along the entire coast of the Algarve, so you could base your entire trip around this trail if you’re looking for a cycling holiday.
We got as far as Fuzeta (or Fuseta) which is a quiet little village and was the perfect spot for a picnic lunch and a quick dip (for some)!
This natural park is stunning, it is a protected coastal lagoon and paradise for bird lovers. You can easily spend a few hours here exploring the salt marshland, salt works and the tide mill.
Mercado de Olhão
There are two markets side by side and they are a must-see, there is so much fresh fish and beautiful, local produce. We stopped in and picked up some sun-dried figs and raspberries for our cycling adventure. On Saturday mornings there are also outdoor stores with lots of homemade cakes and jams.
The marina is a nice spot to sit and watch the boats and people passing by in the sunshine. There are a couple of cafes in front of the market, where you can get some local ham and cheese or a salad.
Go on a ferry trip out to one of the islands for a day trip. We went over to Ihla da Culatra, which has cute, little homes, so spend some time exploring the village, there are a couple of little restaurants and a long, sandy beach to walk along.
The locals are super friendly and we met a shellfish farmer coming in with his morning harvest. You can walk along to Ihla do Farol (lighthouse), which is not another island but at the other end of the island, here there is a red-topped lighthouse, hence the name.
It wouldn’t be a trip to the Algarve without fresh fish, so be sure to stop in at one of the many fish restaurants, there is no shortage!
Pizza na Pedra
This is a delicious Italian restaurant on the main street with a huge menu selection – lots of gluten free options including pizza and pasta. Be sure to ask for a table upstairs as there is a great view! We went there a couple of times – be sure to try the chocolate mousse!
Ice-cream is an essential on a coastal holiday and Gelato Davvero was so worth the visit! There were lots of flavours to choose from hazelnut, coconut and chocolate, were some of our favourites.
If you do go to Fuzeta then be sure to head to Casa Corvo for lunch. The meals were really simple and there was lots of fresh fish to choose from, sea bass, tuna and salmon, all grilled on the barbecue. The locals eat here too, so you know its good!
The Real Marina Hotel & Spa
If you visit in the off-season hotels are very affordable. In January, we were able to stay at the Real Marina Hotel. The hotel rooms were lovely and spacious. The breakfasts were really good with a lot of healthy options, ask for gluten free options and the pool was lovely!
Roaz de Bandeira House
When we went back in May, the season had kicked off so we stayed in a lovely guest house. It was very close to the train station and about a 10 minute walk to the centre. The rooms had recently been renovated and it was very clean. There was also a lovely garden area. The owners, Luis and Claudia were very friendly and helpful!
There is a kitchen too but unfortunately it was not open during breakfast, which was a shame as it was one of our reasons for choosing them so we could prepare our own gluten friendly meal. But they do have their own breakfast for €3, which did look very good!
I loved the friendly locals and pace of life in Olhão, it is a great escape!