Our expert insider Pedro talks us through a four-night sailing trip in a catamaran along the Algarve coast.
Welcome to the Algarve! Today, make your way to your beautiful new catamaran and meet your friendly crew who will welcome you on board in Portimão to start your adventure! Pick your cabins, get acquainted with the boat and discuss with your captain the route and program for the days ahead. Go for a sail, swim, relax, your vacation begins here!
This morning, hoist the sails and head to the beautiful sea caves and grottos of Benagil. We leave early to get there before anyone else. Explore by dinghy or hop on a stand-up paddle board and make your way to magical coves. Lunch is enjoyed on the boat as we anchor in a secluded bay or head to a local restaurant by the shore for fresh seafood. This day is about the cliffy and rugged coastline of the Algarve – there are over 30 caves and deserted beaches to look out for which the whole family are sure to love. Next, we head to the eastern Algarve where the landscape changes to long sandy beaches and deserted islands!
The time has come to head to the islands, perhaps the most special part of the trip… A natural park since 1987, the Ria Formosa is one of the seven Natural Wonders of Portugal. A stunningly complex lagoon system with a huge diversity of fauna and flora, it is in a permanent state of flux due to the influence of winds, currents, and tides.
The natural park designation does not only protect local wildlife, such as flamingos, seahorses, and precious birds, but also the small fishing communities who rely on traditional and sustainable fishing methods that otherwise would be lost to mass development.
The Ria Formosa encompasses an area of about 68 square miles and is protected from the sea by five barrier-islands and two peninsulas: the Peninsula of Ancão that the locals call Island of Faro, the Barreta Island also known as Ilha Deserta, the Culatra Island (where the lighthouse of Santa Maria is located), the Island of Armona, the Island of Tavira, Cabanas Island and, finally, the Peninsula of Cacela.
Around 85% of Portugal’s clams and oysters are fished among the four low Ria Formosa islands of Farol, Armona, Deserta and Culatra – the latter of which is home to many fishermen who will generously invite you to relax amidst a mountain of fresh shellfish and a glass of chilled Portuguese white wine.
This day would not be complete without a visit to the oyster nurseries in the Ria. Put on your boots, pull up your pants and let your hosts show you the way… while an oyster tasting and wine is prepared for you!
After an epic sunset and a night anchored in the beautiful surroundings of these islands, make your way to Cacela Velha, one of the most charming fishing villages in the Algarve that feels like it has been frozen in time. Overlooking the sea, the village was once a stopover for Phoenician and Greek travelers and later where Romans and Arabs settled. The fort in the village was built in the late 16th century (on top of 12th-century fortifications) to protect the Algarvian coast against piracy.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, fishing was the main industry in the village, and the head of almost every family member here was a fisherman. Now, this once thriving fishing village has just 11 residents! If you’re lucky, we might meet one today. Learn all about the past and present and the village’s last residents, get to know their artisanal fishing practices and tour along the lagoon. At the end of the afternoon, we’ll head to Cacela Island with a picnic hamper full of fresh and delicious seafood, accompanied by a chill bottle of vinho verde where we can enjoy the views and setting sun as it descends into the sea.
Make your way back to port, say farewell to your crew and perhaps continue your journey through Portugal. Contact the Madrid & Beyond team now to make this trip a reality! We’re waiting to welcome you.