This article originally appeared on Express.co.uk
Stacey Denton goes off the beaten track to discover rugged cliffs, pristine beaches and plenty of culinary treats...
As I sat at the beachside restaurant, a glass of wine in hand, about to tuck into freshly caught John Dory, I found myself mesmerised by breath-taking views.
The waves were crashing in and the secluded beach was framed by beautiful limestone coves.
It was pure escapism – exactly the kind of holiday my husband and I had been after when we’d booked our trip to the Algarve.
We were staying in the town of Sagres – located in the rustic southwest, with its rugged coastline – where it’s easy to feel a million miles away.
In reality, we had flown less than three hours from London into Faro and had undertaken a manageable hour and a half drive down the coast.
Sagres offered a great base to explore a less commercially developed side of the Algarve, and we stayed at Pousadas de Sagres, a lovely traditionally styled hotel on dramatic cliffs, providing incredible sea views.
The beaches and winds mean that Sagres is also a great surfing destination, and I was determined to give it a go.
Taking a beginner’s lesson with the experts at Freeride Surf School, I spent a morning learning the craft and even managed to stand up on my board… well, for a few seconds at least.
The instructors will be sure to give you an unforgettable experience and even give you a few good tips for eating and drinking in the local area.
The next day, we visited the harbour and took in Sagres Fortress and the lighthouse at Cape St. Vincent by Sagres Point – perfect places to soak up those picture-perfect views and walk off the amazing Portuguese food.
This notorious stretch of land and sea was often plundered by pirates throughout history, including Sir Francis Drake.
It’s also worth heading to the town of Lagos, around 35 minutes away.
With multiple beaches and striking rock formations, plus plentiful bars and restaurants, it’s far less laid-back than Sagres, particularly around the bustling marina.
Fish dishes, unsurprisingly, are as plentiful as they are delicious.
One particular local speciality we tried was lulas recheadas – squid stuffed with spicy sausage – that was washed down perfectly by another excellent local wine.
Strolling through the old town area we also sampled a couple of Dom Rodrigos, a traditional dessert made with egg, almond and cinnamon.
Moving easterly across the Algarve we then spent our remaining days in the Lagoa area, with the historic Silves, the former capital of the Algarve, among our highlights.
With some parts dating back to the 8th Century, Silves Castle justly claims to be one of the best-preserved Moorish fortifications in Portugal.
Just a 30-minute drive from Lagoa town, you can find a wealth of fine restaurants, many of which have Michelin stars.
But if you are on a budget, try the inexpensive Hexagone for modern Mediterranean and O Alambique, in Silves, for more traditional Portuguese dishes.
Other local towns offer equally impressive offerings.
Guia is the home of piri piri chicken, while in Portimão we ordered fresh grilled sardines.
Wherever you head, you will struggle to find a bad clam dish (another of the Algarve’s specialities).
Before our trip came to an end, we enjoyed our favourite sweet treat, pastéis de nata, a Portuguese version of a custard tart, while watching our final sunset on the beach.
It’s not hard to see why this beautiful corner or Portugal is so popular; the Algarve definitely hit our sweet spot.
1 Kids and adults will love the Freeride Surf School in Sagres. The winds make it a perfect spot to try surfing.
2 Head out on the Cape Cruiser in Sagres to spot whales and dolphins.
3 The Cerro da Vila ruins (the remains of two Roman villages near Vilamoura) is a great spot to take in some Portuguese history.
4 Visit beautiful Tavira, 25km west of the Spanish border, an ancient Moorish town with a fascinating history and beautiful beaches.
5 Hitch a ride on the Dreamwave pirate boat.
After setting sail from Albufeira, you can enjoy the area’s amazing rock formations and see the pretty fishing village Armação de Pêra.
6 Tuck in at the Chicken Shack in Quarteira, which serves authentic Portuguese chicken.
7 Visit 18th Century São Lourenço Church, just outside Almancil, considered one of the gems of the Algarve.
8 When the mercury rises, take a trip to Aqualand in Alcantarilha, a water park with an amazing 120ft slide for thrill seekers.
9 Go souvenir shopping in Lagoa, which is known for its wonderful pottery. You can make your own or browse the local crafts.
10 Hit the beach. You are spoilt for choice in the Algarve, though Praia do Camilo is a particularly idyllic spot to catch some rays.
Flights with Ryanair to Faro from 16 airports in the UK, including London Stansted, Luton, Liverpool, Bristol, Glasgow, Newcastle and Belfast, start from £24.99 one way for travel between August and October (subject to availability).
Rooms at Pousada de Sagres Hotel start from £100 per night for a classic room, based on two sharing with one meal included.
For lessons with Freeride Surf School visit frsurf.com and for more on the Algarve go to visitalgarve.pt.
Check out the Try Somewhere New podcast to discover more things to do in the Algarve