35 TRAVELZONE LOVE FOR THE ALGARVE COAST A beach holiday on the stunning coastline of the Algarve was the grand finale of our road trip. It’s one of the most popular holiday destinations in southern Europe, and crowds throng to the golden yellow beaches. We based ourselves in Praia da Rocha, the resort town of its better known neighbour, Portimão. Unique among the high-rise hotels and apartment blocks, Vila Lido is a blue-shuttered mansion on the beachfront at the far end of a coastal boulevard, alongside a 16th-century fort. From our private terrace, we had a superb view of the 300m-long beach. The Algarve appeals to most holidaymakers. In the mornings, we took a refreshing dip in the ocean before driving out to sandy coves and fishing towns with brightly painted boats and whitewashed houses. While the golfers pay a small fortune to play the dozens of courses around Vilamoura, the marina attracts the jet-setters. The Yaris explored it all: in the far west, the windswept promontory of isolated Sagres overlooking the open Atlantic. In the east, the vast stretches of sand and the lagoon of the Ria Formosa, the border with Spain. In between, the winding roads lead to secluded half-moon beaches and eroded ochre cliffs. “Why are you going?” a friend asked when she learnt of our plans to explore Portugal. “Is it for the historic sights, architecture, food or wine?” I confessed that all of those were important to us, but equally so, the attractions of nature. Portugal offered all that we had hoped for, and more. SORTIE INTO SPAIN It’s a short drive from northern Portugal to Santiago de Compostela, the Spanish pilgrim city, whose old town is a designated World Heritage Site. We also travelled to Finisterre, aka Land’s End, the final and westernmost section of the celebrated pilgrimage route, the Camino de Santiago. Crossing the border into Galicia is seamless, but make sure to get cross-border documentation from the car rental firm. This is not cheap, but essential in case of a police check or breakdown. CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: The marina at Praia da Rocha, a bustling holiday resort on the Algarve, has a lively waterfront with plenty of restaurants and shops; the Algarve is a popular year-round destination with holidaymakers; the 800-year-old hilltop fortress of Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo overlooks Spain in the east. The region is known for its almond products; the diminutive halfmoon beach of Carvoeiro has dozens of lookalikes. From the clifftop to the soft sand is often a steep walk.
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