Destination: Albufeira, Portugal
Recommended Airlines: Ryanair
Accommodation: Albufeira Sol Hotel and Spa http://www.conforhoteis.pt/pt/Menu/Hoteis/Albufeira-Sol/O-Hotel.aspx
Attractions: Algarve Shopping Centre, Albufeira Shopping Centre, Old Town, the Fishermans Beach, Montechoro Strip and the Zoomarine Water Park (Guia)
Restaurant Recommendations: Fuji Teppanyaki
Overall Experience Rating: 🎒🎒
Within the Algarve region of Portugal lies Albufeira – a small, historical coastal city, turned highly commercialized (almost detrimentally so) tourist hotspot. Albufeira was the chosen location of my sister and I’s brief March 2017 relaxation sistercation, as we had decided to visit literally a week shy of Spring Break, which according to locals, was their busiest season. However, this decision came at a bit of a price, as we experienced some seriously anomalous weather; for example, it was abnormally cold (by local and visitor standards, we even wore our winter coats at times) and there were inconsistent pockets of rain and then periods of aggressive torrential downpour. I truly felt as if I was in several different regions of the world, all at once. Ironically enough, the week before we arrived, it was blazing hot and on the day that we left, the weather returned to that same infamous humidity.
On this trip, we had a self-contained apartment in Albufeira Sol Hotel & Spa, which was situated incredibly close to the Montechoro Strip, the city’s major nightlife spot (roughly 5 minutes walk away).
We were fortunate enough to have a balcony overseeing a classic Mediterranean scene, rows of white houses crowned with brick red roof tops, often mounted with a single solar panel (kudos to our temporary neighbours who used sustainable energy, our planet thanks you). I also noticed that everyone appeared to have a pool at the back of their property, not that the weather at the time of our arrival, was conducive for using them. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful sight to wake up to every morning, an incredibly refreshing contrast to gentrified landscapes surrounding me back home. I will let you be the judge of our apartment, but I think it was pretty cute, had a super cosy, home-like feel and was definitely fit for its short-term purpose.
In addition, the spa was definitely one of my favourite features of the hotel; we had a field day there, using our monies worth of the jaccuzi, sauna and Turkish bath. I also appreciated that the hotel had a supermarket across the road and lots of nearby fast food eateries (despite everything closing incredibly early). Another slight inconvenience was the fact that public transport was very scarce in the area, so we were either walking or in a taxi. It wasn’t majorly problematic as taxis were fairly priced (don’t bet on this now) but it would’ve been nice to explore via a local bus too.
During our stay, the entire hotel was incredibly quiet; there were also quite a lot of elderly people visiting at the time, which possibly explains why. They all seemed to have scheduled their trips, just in the nick of time too. As I mentioned earlier, in just a matter of a weeks’ time, the area was to welcome an influx of multinational millennials and once again, become synonymous with hard core partying.
Ok, no more dilly dallying, let’s get stuck right in. I’m sure you guys are super eager (like sitting on the edge of your seats eager) to know what you can get up to in Albufeira, right? No problem. As always, your girl Mo has got you. Disclaimer: please note that due to the nature of this particular trip, we did not get up to lots of exhilarating activities whilst in Albufeira. Therefore, I’m going to include first-hand experience recommendations AND a few activity suggestions (which in hindsight, I wish we could’ve tired). You see? Two for the price of one. Gosh, I should be the patron saint of travel!
As the name suggests, Old Town is indeed the oldest part of Albufeira. It is incredibly picturesque, with narrow, cobbled streets which cohesively whine together to create a bit of a maze around the central square of bars, restaurants, pubs and clubs. True to the metaphor just applied, it’s easy to get lost in those tight walkways; luckily for you, if you aren’t interested in walking through all of it, there’s a little tourist “train” run by a company called Turistrem, which can take you to the 4 major stops within the area: 1.) Oura/ Areias de S.João, 2.) Forte de São João, 3.) Praia dos Pescadores 4.) Câmara Municipal. The train features 3 carriages, with the last one designed for disabled access.
Last year, a full day ticket, which included unlimited use (hop on and off) until 11 pm (the time of last train) was a bargain of €4. However, as of 2018, it appears as though Turistrem just couldn’t dodge the inflation bug and had to put an extra euro on top of the previous price. Although it’s a circular route, I think it’s a decent price to view the heart of the city in an alternative, novelty way.
Plus, it’s a really good way to socialise with other tourists… wait, can you guys sense a story fast approaching? If so, you are right. IT’S STORY TIME! On the topic of meeting new people, a group of 5 guys struck up a conversation with us, whilst on board the tourist train. One thing lead to another and we found ourselves in a little wager. The proposition: if we could correctly guess (with one guess only) which European country each of them were from, just by them disclosing the first letter of the name, they’d give us €100. We’re usually not the gambling type (we really ouchea struggling to live Christ-like) BUT we obliged their little game, knowing full well they didn’t have €100 to give. Low and behold, I KID YOU NOT, my sister guessed all 5 countries correctly (6 actually, because one was of dual nationality). She is the realest MVP that ever liveth, oshey to the osheyyyy (Yoruba 101: “ose” stylized as “oshey” means thank you).
Their reactions were priceless, shooketh would be a gross understatement. One of the guys actually took off his sunglasses, as to confirm reality, because he must’ve been thinking “my mouth shouldn’t write cheques that my bank account can’t pay for” – I know that’s what I’d be thinking anyways. To be perfectly honest though, even I was a little creeped out. I was just staring at my sister in pure astonishment.
In exchange for our win (I say ‘our’ like I did any of the work) we were simply invited out to free drinks at an incredibly boujee hotel, dripping in celebrity status. One of the guys, just so happened to be an employee at Salgados Palace Hotel (he even whipped out his employee card as a receipt). In order to further convince us, he just had to name drop Portugal’s poster-boy, Cristiano Ronaldo, as being a frequent client of the hotel. Although we didn’t take up his generous offer, you see my point, the tourist train is where the party is at. Don’t sleep on it when you’re in Albufeira. For more information, check out http://www.turistrem.com/route/
Praia dos Pescadores (the Fishermans Beach)
If you noticed, Praia dos Pescadores is one of the stops on the tourist train. It’s directly next to old town, so it’s a very central point to navigate to, from most hotels. It’s the perfect location for a quiet sunbathing session; alternatively, if you love water sports and adventure, the Algarve will be your spirit destination. Kayaking, abseiling, snorkelling, canoeing, coast steering – you name the borderline-deadly, adrenaline-satisfying, god-forbid-me-ever-doing activity, they’ve got it
Montechoro Strip (New Town)
Brace yourself for some brutal honesty – the Montechoro Strip was more or less dead when we visited. Honey, we traipsed up and down that strip, and there were only a handful of lively clubs, but that wouldn’t stop the tenacious breed of people that are street club promoters. After being accosted in the middle of the street, we often reluctantly followed them back to their clubs, went inside, heard crickets and saw tumbleweed blowing across their dancefloor, and then made a b-line directly for the exit. We deserve some accolades, because executing such a covert operation, without getting caught by the promoter, was a bit of an extreme sport.
Club Solo was by far the least disappointing venue, it was pretty packed with a very diverse crowd. They had reasonably priced drinks, shisha, good vibes and decent music. Although, it was predominantly mainstream chart stuff, the DJ did play some old school Afrobeats, namely P-Square. Interestingly enough, he also played a lot Afro-House and Afro-Trap (I honestly had no idea such genres even existed, prior to this trip, so thank you Albufeira ).
In closing, although Albufeira was a peaceful getaway, such a location can easily get boring, especially outside of it’s peak tourist seasons. However, luckily for us, my sister and I have a gift of making our own entertainment, anywhere we go. Also, if you aren’t a fan of the beach or extreme water sports, I think you’d appreciate a city break to Lisbon or Porto over the Algarve, as the area appeared to be so commercialized for tourists, that it lacked in any real cultural authenticity. That being said, that’s just my opinion – go and see for yourself!