Benagil Cave/Cliffside Boat Ride

There are a gazillion (true word – fact checked!) tours from many parts of the Central and Western Algarve to the Benagil Cave. It’s one of the most photographed spots in the Algarve and our boat tour operator tells us, the default photo for Windows 95! Dating ourselves, are we?

It was a pretty warm, humid day in May. Portugal has just opened up I went on Airbnb Experiences and found a boat tour from my current hometown, Portimaio, Portugal, to the coves nearby. The Benagil Caves are world famous. Most of this Southern Portuguese coastline is lime cliffs, coves and surf. I am not a particularly sporty person. I love being by the beach, hearing the waves, looking at the coast, cliffs, etc. I’m not a good swimmer and somewhat fear the ocean. So, you are not going to find me surfing or swimming. I would go out on a kayak as long as I have a life jacket!

This tour only cost me about 20 Euros, or just under $25 USD at the time of this writing. Well worth the cost. The tour departed at 11am and was roughly 2 hours total. Just enough to see what you would like to see. It also gives you an opportunity to see the coast from the ocean perspective. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I must point out that the tour company was Atlantis Tours, I want to give them some props. They were very professional and, as almost everyone I’ve come in contact with in Portugal, very friendly.

Check out my quick film of my day out.

Silves – Moorish Stronghold in the Algarve

Today was the second day that monuments were allowed to reopen in Portugal. In honor of being able to go do some touristy things, I went to the town of Silves which is about 20 minutes door to door from my spot at the Quinta dos Vales. The town of Silves was settle by the Romans but the influence of the Moors is evident in its most famous attraction, the Castle at the top of the old town. The Moorish stronghold had its heyday in the 1100s during their occupation of the Iberian Peninsula.

Parking is easily accessible. It’s located next to the public market which lies by the Arade River just south of the old town. Or just have Google maps tell you where the Lidl Silves is and the public parking is almost right in front of that on the river side. From the parking, if you are an able-bodied individual, you should get up to the castle in probably about 10 minutes. My iWatch said it was .30 miles. I turned on the exercise app and thought I was going to get a half mile or more in and was sort of disappointed. 😦

Castle interior
Castle interior

The cost to enter was just 2.8 euros. A very reasonable price for such an imposing fortress. Within its walls the structure has a bar, not yet open as of this writing, bathrooms, these were open, a nice garden area with several fountains several benches and also an area which appears to be currently under archaeological excavation but which I believe is no longer being excavated. And, impressively, there is a cistern which currently is holding an exhibit on the Iberian Lynx. The views as you might expect of the surrounding area are pretty impressive.

As this was the second day of Portugal opening its monuments, I was one of very few people in the structure. On my visit I only saw about five or six other tourists. On my way back down, I stopped over at the Cathedral da Se which unfortunately was closed for lunch!

I meandered through some of the streets. There were several restaurants allowing outdoor seating and of course the groups were small, as per regulations. Before departing, I took a nice walk along a riverside path which was adjacent to the parking area. In the parking area there is a municipal market, exposition center, campground, a skate park with a couple of skate ramps, and a few cafes along the river. Again, the cafes along the river and the municipal market were following current protocols and only allowing outdoor seating. As not much was still open, I only spent a couple of hours in the town before returning to my home base at the vineyard.

If you want to learn more about Silves, it’s history, and the Algarve, check out some of these links:

https://www.algarve-tourist.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castle_of_Silves

https://www.portugalist.com/things-to-do/silves-castle/

Another Beach – Carvoeiro

Another beautiful cliffside beach in the town of Carvoeiro. I go walking along the Algor Seco boardwalk on a lovely day in March.

It’s 2021 but Portugal is just emerging slowly from the COVID lockdowns imposed in mid-January. A lot is expected to open after the Easter Break or April 5th. The town of Carvoeiro when I visited is almost abandoned. Less than 5 sun tanners on the beach and the restaurants are only available for “take away” – “to go” for us Americans.

The boardwalk is an easy, maybe 1 km in each direction. Easily accessible for all abilities. I think the iWatch said it was about a mile round trip. This is, what I’m told, a quieter part of the Algarve. Although I think downtown Carvoeiro, what must be the “party” strip from the beach to the center of the medieval quarter of town, is probably loud and busy in Summer in a normal year.

Today, I almost have it to myself. One of the reasons I chose the vineyard property is that I am less than 5 miles from beaches like this but I will be away from the crowds and the noise in the evenings. I can come down here, enjoy the beach, have a drink by the beach and then take an Uber back to the vineyard and relax. There are bbq facilities at the vineyard, I have a full kitchen and can enjoy making a quick meal in the evening and enjoy the quiet of the countryside and I still have a nice view of the vineyard to boot. Although, I am next to a dog rescue and do hear some dogs at night, but it’s better than drunken revelers arriving at your apartment, condo or hotel complex at 1 a.m., or late, any given night!

These beaches remind me of Southern California in some ways. We have some nice cliffside beaches, I’m looking at you Salt Creek Beach, but a lot of these beaches here in the Algarve are only accessible by boat, paddle board, kayak, etc. I look forward to exploring them further when it’s permissible.

On my way here, I took the Google maps route which did not lead me through the center of town but skirted it a bit. I went through a very nice neighborhood with high fences and once in a while you had a peak of a stunning home. Once in a while you could see the view of the ocean beyond. In my mind I thought, “this is the Beverly Hills or Bel Air of the Algarve”. So far I’ve only been to a couple of beaches and I look forward to exploring more for Southern Portugal’s coast.

  • Benagil Cave/Cliffside Boat Ride
    Benagil Caves
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    Today was the second day that monuments were allowed to reopen in Portugal. In honor of being able to go do some touristy things, I went to the town of Silves which is about 20 minutes door to door from my spot at the Quinta dos Vales. The town of Silves was settle by the […]
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I’ve reached the beach

For all you non 80’s children, Reach the Beach is a fantastic album by the FIXX.
If you’re interested, you can hear it in its entirety here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5An9Ii1Tbk

Portugal is still in lockdown and has recently announced that the lockdown will be extended until end of March. The good news is that some things will open up as soon as next week – the week of March 15th. They are also announcing their plan for the gradual reopening in the next couple of days. Portugal, especially this Algarve area, relies heavily on the summer tourist crowds which would typically start arriving from May and run through to October. My plan is to be in Portugal until end of May and hopefully pay a visit to the family around the US Memorial Day timeframe. After that, I hope the rest of Europe is also a little more open and I could venture out. Whether that’s going to involve proving you’ve had one of the accepted vaccines is yet to be seen but there is heavy talk about requiring this to enter certain countries. I believe most of the EU will require such evidence from the casual tourist once they feel there’s been enough time for most of the adult population to get vaccinated.

I arrived on March 1st and made sure to self isolate for the prescribed 10 days. Yesterday I went in to the town of Portimaio and visited the Praia da Rocha. There are a lot of bars/restaurants that line a man made boardwalk – all completely closed at the moment. There were just a few people down at the beach taking a walk but you are not supposed to go to sunbathe. Other than actually being on the beach, everyone was obeying rules of distancing and not just being idle. I had a delightful 2 mile walk mostly along the elevated boardwalk. It was probably in the upper 60’s – about 20 Celsius. I need to start thinking in Celsius! Not a cloud in the sky. I didn’t have sunscreen and got a bit of color in my hour or so out there. I can’t imagine wanting to be here in the height of summer when it’s probably around 30 or more Celsius – that’s above 85F. I’m not one for really warm weather. I bought an investment property here and hope to have it rented in the high season and hang out here in the low season, which is generally November through April. Last and perhaps some of this year being the exception.

It is often said that the Algarve has aspects of Southern California, and I do believe it reminds me a lot of the Laguna Beach area, where I was just from. There is a lot of surfing and mountain biking for those seeking some sports. They also love canoeing and paddle boarding, hiking, etc. I can’t wait to venture out a bit further as things relax. Next week I have my first doctor appointment – on St. Patrick’s Day! I’ll let you know how it goes.