Octopus didn’t taste nearly as bad as I thought it would, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to eat all of Erin’s goat cheese and apple as we sat at a rickety table in old Faro. Seafood-lovers will feel right at home in the Algarve, but it’s the secluded beaches and charming rooftops that I loved the most.
Faro was an adventure in more ways than one, and I’ve got something new for you! For the first time (ever) I made a little video of our trip. It’s a very homemade video that shows the parts of our trip that my blog alone can’t capture. Yep it’s the work of a newbie, but I’m always up for trying something different!
We spent four nights in Portugal which was the perfect amount of time to explore Faro and enjoy the beaches of Ria Formosa. Our apartment was in a shared house with two of the loveliest Airbnb hosts I’ve ever met. The highlight was the rooftop which had four different spaces to chill out and enjoy the sunsets, a BBQ or entertain the cat, Amigo.
With a few hours until check in, we dropped our bags and wandered around the old town in search of the Capela dos Ossos, a Bone Chapel behind Igreja do Carmo, a beautiful baroque-style church. The eerie chapel walls are decorated with thousands of bones and skulls of monks and cost us €2 to visit both the church and its unusual skeletal addition.
A short walk from the Capela de Ossos is Faro Cathedral, a pretty, modest church built atop a Roman temple and the spot where a mosque once stood. Today it is a Roman Catholic cathedral and museum with rooftop views across the lagoons of the Natural Park.
Faro is typically overlooked by tourists to the Algarve, and it shows by the small number of tourist attractions confined to the city’s old town. The bone chapel and cathedral are the two major sights along with the Ria Formosa. That being said, the cafes and restaurants feel very tourist-centric.
On our first night, we visited the city’s oldest restaurant, Dois Irmaos. It looked quaint, and we sat on the square outside which was ideal. I tried Bacalhau a Bras, which is shredded cod with onions and tiny fried potatoes in scrambled eggs – with olives! If you know me, you’ll know that this is something I’d be very reluctant to eat even just a year ago, but it was tasty.
The shops were surprisingly good and independent boutiques far outnumbered souvenir shops. I loved Sardinha de Papel which sells tiles, pottery, crafts and jewellery. There was also a peculiar tinned sardine shop which was lined with colourful tins donned with birth years and fun facts.
With short and sweet sight-seeing, we were left with lots of time to relax on the beaches around Faro. We took the bus out to Faro Beach where we heard the locals go, but we soon regretted this. The sand was gritty and the water full of algae and dense seaweed. The better beaches, we discovered, were not a bus ride away but a boat ride away. Ilha do Faro and Baretta Island, or Ilha Deserta (Deserted Island) are by far the best beaches in this part of the Algarve.
You can take a boat taxi (this is only cost effective if there are more than five of you), the ferry, or the quicker shuttle speedboat to Ilha Deserta. We discovered these islands on a three-hour boat tour and returned the following day to stay for longer. Ilha do Faro is the most southerly point of Portugal and has a beautiful lighthouse called Santa Maria. The beach here is stunning, but noticeably busier than Ilha Deserta thanks to the island’s various beach bars and cafes.
Our favourite was Deserted Island for its waves, sparkling water and empty beach that went on for kilometres. We spotted storks on the way there, but sadly no flamingos! The island has one inhabitant and a solar powered restaurant and snack bar if you get peckish. We decided to pack a lunch instead as we knew we wouldn’t want to leave the beach once there. Our snacks came from Urban Bakery in Faro which I highly recommend!
Our last day was spent reading on the beach, enjoying the city’s food and drinking wine on the rooftop with Amigo. I’m eager to go back to Portugal to explore more of the Algarve and the cities of Lisbon and Porto next!