Why did we pick Albufeira for a two-week vacation?
We absolutely love the Greek Islands but sometimes the accommodation there leaves a little to be desired. We had visited Madeira in recent years and loved everything about it. As Madeira is a Portuguese Island we thought we would go the whole hog and visit mainland Portugal.
Just how we decided on Albufeira as a destination I am not sure. Possibly the travel company offered us a good deal and we thought why not. As it turned out, for us The Algarve and Albufeira was a mixed bag.
Arriving in Albufeira
We flew to the Algarve, Portugal, from Manchester Airport in the UK landing at Faro airport on a blazing hot afternoon, tired and sticky, obviously desperate to get to our accommodation. We needed to shower, change our clothes and start to unwind but this is where we had our first problem.
There were only a handful of us looking for the small coach which would take us to our resorts, but no-one could find it. Eventually a very laid back driver realised that he had forgotten to put the number on display in his coach. No wonder nobody could find it; still problem solved, off we went, eventually.
The journey from Faro Airport to Albufeira was not long but was boring as it followed the main road along the coast passing factories, car dealerships and shops. Not very picturesque but I have experienced worst. Having droppped various people off at hotels in the area there was just one other couple left with myself and hubby.
The driver stopped outside a large hotel and demanded that Hubby and I disembark. I said to hubby "this is not our hotel" but he thought the driver must know best. As soon as I disembarked the driver hot-footed it around the small coach to the other side and was off leaving us to wander into the hotel.
The receptionist was lovely as she gave us our directions to our actual hotel; it is only four or five minutes along the road she smilingly told us. 20 Minutes later hot, sticky and cranky we found our hotel. Had we known it was that far we would have taken a taxi. The mountain of luggage I always take abroad was certainly difficult to lug about.
Of course eventualy we laughed about it but we did complain to the travel company when we returned home. If we had been elderly or infirm we could have been in trouble being so unceremoniosly dumped.
We had travelled with a well known travel firm. However these days they do not supply a rep on all of their coach links. A rep did ring us just as we arrived in our room cheerfully asking if everything was alright now that we were settled in. Of course he got an ear bashing.
Unfortunately our hotel left a lot to be desired. We had asked for a quiet room and thought that may be why ours was a bit duff. However speaking to other guests they felt the same. The Perola Do Algarve, as it is or was called, means Pearl of the Algarve, but it was anything but and should be rated lower. If it had been cheaper it would not have seemed so bad. As it was, it was over-priced.
Our accommodation in Madeira had been so lovely that The Perola came in a poor fifth or sixth place by comparison. Yet they were star rated the same and cost a similar price. Situated down a slope, off a backstreet, just behind a large supermarket, there was little scenery around the hotel.
The images in the holiday brochure had been carefully taken so that it looked as if it was possible to walk directly from the Hotel to the coast, but it was not. There were many negatives about this hotel but this report is about Albufeira.
The hotel staff were all charming, thoughtful and did their best to offer help when needed. The reception staff provided us with a few basic directions and a small map of Albufeira, and off we went to explore.
Albufeira has a lot to offer but it is very commercial. The old town which used to have just a few amenities and the Fisherman's beach is now crowded with bars, shops and tourists.
The beaches of Albufeira are lovely clean sand but it is hard to find a deserted spot. Sunbeds and parasols are for hire and they are not overly pricey. With restaurants and cafes almost on the beach it is easy to leave the sun bathing for a spot of lunch and return later.
The Old Town
In the old town there is a square with many side streets and alleyways leading this way and that. It is a lively and vibrant area which has a market sort of feel. Just near where there is an archway leading through to part of the beach there is a tourist office. Here you can get timetables for the tourist train and buses. They will also provide you with maps and more.
If you decide to wander around the old town you may find yourself exploring upwards. We did and came across a small but interesting museum. It was also nice and cool away from the heat of the day.
Wandering further on through and past the old town you will find lots of little treasures. We found a restaurant perched out over the cliffs with spectacular views. We also came across Cliff Richard Street which was a bit strange. However I understand it is something to do with a wine of his, from Portugal.
We ended up walking towards the next small resort and harbour and found this more peaceful and less over developed.
In the opposite direction, away from the old town, is Albufeira's Strip. This is a long stretch of road which holds the bars and clubs of Albufeira. For those who want a noisy, modern travel experience of clubs and booze at night this is the place for you. All age groups visit at night, I guess some for the 'experience'.
We only visited during the day and there are some nice places to lunch plus plenty of shops to browse if that is your thing.
At night we preferred the cafes and bars of inner Albufeira. If you seek them out you will find good food and company but the choice is yours. There are burger bars and the like if you prefer.
Albufeira can be loud and brash. We visited in late August and saw the resort change as September approached. There were less children and young families and more couples arriving all the time. The weather was still hot and we had no bad weather at all in the two weeks we visited the Algarve.
Most tourists travel around Albufeira on the tourist train which operates on a circular route taking in The Strip and the Old Town. There was a train stop not far from our hotel and so we used this train occasionally. Some days we would walk one way or take the train, and then walk to another beach near a train stop. The train travels along the road and does struggle at times with some of the hills. Return tickets are cheaper but the tickets are a good price anyway.
There is a bus station in Albufeira and good bus routes. We never actually used any of these buses at all though. The station was across town and we could not be bothered to find it.
We tend to book local tourist excursions and generally enjoy these. From the Algarve we visited Lisbon, Gibraltar, Seville, Lagos, Sao Vincente and Zoomarine. We booked through our hotel and found that we had paid more than we needed to. Speaking to fellow travellers we discovered that many of them had paid a quarter of the fee we had been charged. So the advice here is to shop around for the best deals. Book such trips with local offices which you will find dotted around places such as Albufeira Old Town.
Tips and advice if visiting Albufeira
Overall, for me, Albufeira was just too commercial.
We still had a great holiday as that was down to our state of mind. There is no point grumbling when you are on holiday, just look for the fun and enjoy what is there.
I guess Albufeira had a lot to live up to as our previous year's holiday to Madeira had been such a great success. Our hotel in Albufeira was disappointing and on the whole the resort was just too much like England with sun for us to enjoy it completely.
There were some great places to experience within easy reach of Albufeira.
Reflecting on the holiday later though made me realise that Albufeira was not the perfect destination for us. Not for a two week stay anyway.
But it may be for you?
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