Road trip to Portugal. Exploring Algarve

Driving 575 km from Porto to Lagos in Algarve. 575 km of pure delight for the sight, driving mostly on the coastal roads passing by such breathtaking and wild shoreline

The second stage of my trip took me from Porto to Lagos in Algarve or should I say south of the country.  Since I have done the 575 km in one day it felt like an intensive course about Portugal`s coastal area. It was not a trip carefully planned. All I knew were the hotels I was supposed to stay at and the dates, therefore, all the places I saw were just randomly picked following my inner compass. Needless to say that I am quite satisfied with it. I  love the ocean. All I wanted was to drive as much as possible on the coastal roads and to catch the sunset on my way to Algarve. Which…I did.

Atlantic Coastline, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Atlantic Coastline, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

It was not the perfect trip but when I look back I would not change anything, not even the crappy weather which stubbornly was following me everywhere. Ironically. that crappy weather allowed me to take some incredible pictures.

Nazare, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Nazare, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

Driving along the coastline I could not take my eyes from the ocean and every time I saw a sign on which was written “Cabo“ meaning cape or a“ faro“ meaning lighthouse I was stopping to see the view. The lighthouses are spread along the coastline and usually were built on the place of old fortresses which were guarding the shores.  This gave me the sensation that Portugal was like a fortress being  kept under constant siege by the Atlantic Ocean.

Nazare, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Forte de Sao Miguel Arcanjo, Nazare, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

But there weren’t always the armies of the Atlantic Ocean trying to crumble its walls, during centuries Portugal suffered from several raids by Vikings, French, English and Dutch pirates. The fort of Miguel Arcanjo which uses to offer protection to the old village of Nazare placed up on the cliff is now harboring the Lighthouse of Saint Miguel. Here seems to have been registered the highest waves being a heaven for surfers, but I tend to think that the entire Portugal coastline is a heaven for surfers. Only some places have more dramatic landscape than the other.

On the road with Camellia, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
On the road with Camellia, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

I would have drive close to the shore more but then I realized that in order to be in Lagos in time I should hurry up, so I went more inland taken a passenger, a Camellia blossom, I love Camellias and February is their flowering season,so Portugal we full with these wonders in every shape and colors. I had to have one for myself. I know it was selfish but I loved the color…For almost 200 km I went on the highway and I thought it would be boring but the sun was playing hide and seek from behind the clouds and I loved how the entire landscape was transforming under the changing light. I was passing through a soft rolling plane, covered by a fresh green carpet adorned with lots of  trees and mushroom like pine trees. It looked like Italy, yet it was not Italy, and I was more and more amazed by what I was seeing. Soon, though, I left the highway again returning to the side roads.

Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

I could have had an entire album filled only with pictures of the houses and palaces I took. I love the Portuguese Architectural Style, which according to the scholars is a mixture of  late Gothic, Spanish Plateresque, Flemish elements and Italian urban architecture. Which makes out of every house or palace a real architectural masterpiece in itself.

Vinyard, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Vinyard, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

I was running on the roads for so many hours when I stopped to take some air and listen to the birds singing at one of the vineyards I encountered on the road. It was a weekday but still there were no workers anywhere in sight. I would have thought it is deserted if I would not have seen few cars parked on the driveways and if vines were not already trimmed and ready for Spring.

I left after I bought a bottle of wine and the manager gave ma tour of the vineyard. Again, I was so surprised of how nice people can be in Portugal.

Vinyard, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Vinyard, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

Time was flying and by the look of it not long till the sun was setting. Ther was no more rain for hours and I was thinking that it might be a great chance to catch a sunset the way I planned even before I set foot in Portugal. I might not have planned anything on my trip, but a sunset on the Atlantic shore and driving along side it was definitely on my list.

Sunset, Sines, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Sunset, Sines, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

It was the very first sunset in Portugal, although not the first one on the Atlantic Ocean shores, though. I stopped on Sines Beach, a long strip of sand and waited  for the sun to descent.

Sunset, Sines, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Sunset, Sines, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

Lots of emotions and thoughts were tumbling in my head. I was happy and I was feeling so grateful. The strong breeze was bringing me the salty smell of the ocean, the ocean I love. I closed my eyes and tried to silent my thoughts and just listen to the calm sound of the waves. It was the calmest till now. I could not stop my running thoughts nor my emotions so I decided to continue my trip and watch the sunset through the car window.I thought I could watch the sunset while driving but pretty soon I stopped on a cliff close to Porto Covo, sat on a rock and watched the sun disappearing in the ocean. I was asking myself if there will  be something else during my trip able to top the feeling I had that very instance?

Reach for Magnolia Mar Apartments pretty late. I was excited after the day I had and I was not sure I will be able to sleep. I went on my room`s terrace, the sky was full of stars and I could hear the sound of the ocean`s waves calmly coming to the shore.  Let the door open and slept accompanied by the sounds of the ocean..,.I was in Algarve, not very far the Atlantic Ocean…Am I going to be amazed tomorrow , or I have seen everything there is to be seen till now..???

Cabo do Sao Vincente, ALgarve, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Cabo do Sao Vincente, Algarve, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

I do not know when I feel asleep but when the first ray of light entered my room so delicately trying not to disturb my sleep I was already up . I could not wait to leave the hotel and explore the surroundings. After a quick glance on #Google Maps, I decided to go straight to the southwesternmost point of Portugal as well as Europe‘s, Cabo de Sao Vincente. I thought that there will be nothing else to impress me in this trip.But, here it was, a thrusting piece of land standing up to the winds sweeping its barren cliffs being permanently chiseled either by the wind or by the powerful waves, Cabo de Sao Vincente.

Faro de Cabo do Sao Vincente, Algarve, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Faro de Cabo do Sao Vincente, Algarve, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

The remains of a former convent are guarding a lighthouse and as locals say, here is the best point to watch the sunset. A soft rain started again, oh lucky me, and the wind wanted to tell me his stories. The stories about the sighs of the sailors passing this cape  when they were saying goodbye to their country, entrusting their lives to the ocean. Looking around I was so sorry I haven’t planned to spend more time in Algarve because I could see a net of paths good for hiking going for miles along the shoreline, such spectacular and dangerous shoreline.

Information about the trains on Cabo Sao Vincente, Algarve, Portugal
Information about the trains on Cabo Sao Vincente, Algarve, Portugal

Hiking here is amazing but it comes with a warning. Being heavily eroded by the waves the cliffs can crumble in the most unexpected moments so walking too close is not recommended. Also, the  ancient Greeks called it Ophiussa (Land of Serpents), inhabited by the Oestriminis and dedicated here a temple to Heracles. The Romans called it Promontorium Sacrum (or Holy Promontory). They considered it a magical place where the sunset was much larger than anywhere else. They believed the sun sank here hissing into the ocean, marking the edge of their world. This part of the word was inhabited since neolithic so often you are going to see signs which will indicate the presence of Megalitos or Megaliths. I was chasing one of these signs and I found some Meglaitos but they were not looking very mega to me. But then I was thinking that those rocks must have faced thousands of years of constant erosion,  of course, it can’t be too big

Megalitos, Algarve, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Megalitos, Algarve, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

I would have stayed more in that remote corner of Portugal but there were more places to discover. I left Cabo de Sao Vincente but I continued to look back and made a promise to myself, that one day I will be back and I will explore that part of Algarve the way it deserves. Not very far from the lighthouse is Fortaleza do Belixe. It is open and you can walk around the courtyard but my recommendation is to go to the back and descend the steps carved in the rock which will take you closer to the ocean opening in front of your eyes an astonishing view.

Fortaleza de Belixe, Cabo sao Vincente, ALgarve, Portugal , by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Fortaleza de Belixe, Cabo Sao Vincente, Algarve, Portugal , by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

Three km from Cabo de Sao Vincente is Ponta de Sagres and its fortress. The coast offers several spectacular beaches and a long history on its shoulders. The more protected beaches around Sagres were used by the sailors when they were waiting for the ocean`s  waves  to be less strong so they will not risk their ship being  crushed by the rocks when they were beginning their expedition across the ocean.

Praia do Beliche, Algarve, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Praia do Beliche, Algarve, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

The best point to overlook the  entire coastline till Faro do Cabo de Sao Vincente is from the Fortress on Sagres Point. With a good lens and on a clear day one can capture in the picture even the lighthouse.

Praia do Tonel, Sagres., Algarve, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Praia do Tonel, Sagres., Algarve, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

I knew that Cabo Sao Vincente was just a small part of the Algarve and I have a lot more to see but somehow I did not care, I wanted to stay here more. Looking back with a sigh I left the place without seeing the rest of Algarve I knew then that this is the most beautiful place in Algarve…and I was right.

Countryside, Algarve, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Countryside, Algarve, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

I managed to cover most part of Algarve. From Lagos went East passing through every resort on my way to the Spanish border .Wandered around the countryside on my way to Moncinque in the mountainous area.

Countryside, Algarve, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Countryside, Algarve, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Praia dos Olhos de Agua, Algarve, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu
Praia dos Olhos de Agua, Algarve, Portugal, by Mirela Felicia Catalinoiu

After seeing all that I can say that Cabo de Sao Vincente was what I liked the most. The pure, raw elements of nature colliding and the rock giant, Cabo de Sao Vincente standing valiantly facing the wrath of nature. That is what I was looking for, what I was expecting to find when I came here. A place where the quiet green meadows are taking you to a coastline where the Ocean makes itself present by howling and sending its waves to hit the standing cliffs of this marvelous country. Probably that`s why this corner of Algarve is so popular among the surfers.

Came to Algarve without expectation driven by my love for the sea. Found a mysterious far away land. A land where the sun is going down marking the end of the world,well, the end of the known world in the  15th century. Probably many were wondering what might be behind the sunset? What kind of world lies behind it? This made me think that if they would not have followed their dreams we will probably never know what lies behind the sunset and the world we know today it would have been so different.  And then I realized that if I would not have followed my dreams I would have never set my foot in Portugal.  That was one of the moments when I need it to remind myself where I was and where I am now.

Life is always about choices. Even when the choices you have look a bit scary, it still worth to take the risk and try to follow what you believe in.