A good holiday has to have many elements (sunshine and good company are usually fairly crucial) however, one ingredient remains undisputed: good food.
Sampling a county’s culinary delights is a major part of any getaway – whether you’re just heading across the border or flying 12 hours to be immersed in a completely new culture.
As a continent, Europe is extremely varied in its approach to lining ones stomach – and Portugal’s southern-most region, the Algarve, is no stranger to mouth-watering local delicacies.
Algarve Region Of Portugal
Boasting an impressive coastline running right along the south and west of the region, the Algarve is surprisingly well known for its seafood.
There is always a large array of fresh fish dishes on restaurant menus and seafood options are lovingly produced with the local catch of the day. Restaurants are easy to come by and many offer views of the pretty Algarve beaches ready for you to soak up while you eat.
Given that many Portuguese specialties don’t translate well into English here’s the low down on some of those must-munch menu favorites:
Camarão – Prawns served with garlic and piri-piri and washed down with chilled vinho verde.
Arroz de Peixe – Fish rice! The rice and fresh fish is cooked with tomatoes and peppers and garnished with fresh coriander or mint – a real Algarvian classic.
Massada de Peixe – Fish with pasta. Replace rice with pasta and you have a delicious dish guaranteed to satisfy a rumbling tum.
Feijoada de Buzinas – Bean stew with Whelks. Bean stews are a popular Algarvian dish and come with a variety of different seafood’s (or meats) added to the mix.
As well as whelks, you can also find Feijoada de Choco (bean stew with cuttlefish) and Feijoada à Portuguesa (Bean stew with lots of cabbage, pork, bacon and sausage!)
Cataplana – this dish is served in copper dishes and includes either pork, clams, fish, chicken or rabbit.
Of course not every restaurant focuses on Portuguese food with many first-rate international restaurants popping up throughout the region.
As well as local restaurants, you can also eat in the many first-rate Algarve hotels. Quinta Bonita Luxury Boutique Hotel in Lagos is a fine example with the chef sourcing local, organic produce and wine coming from local Portuguese boutique wineries.
Pequeño Mundo is definitely worth investigating as not only will your taste buds be teased by the delicious French cuisine (the Crepe Suzette is to die for) the setting – an old Portuguese villa – is pretty special too.
It makes a really romantic setting if you are looking to impress and the service is second to none.
Nevertheless, whichever Algarve accommodation option you go for, one Portuguese delight you should definitely add to your ‘to-taste’ list is sardine – just maybe lay off the room service. Checkout our Lisbon Travel Video
Exploring Peneda Geres National Park, Portugal
We were so excited when we found out about Oporto Adventure Tours, a new company which offers tours from Porto and Braga to Peneda Geres, the incredible national park. The company has made one of the best parts of Portugal accessible for tourists to visit in just a day – making it a must-do for anyone visiting Porto. Together with Carla, our guide, and 3 Portuguese couples, we jumped in the Jeep and started our adventure along the narrow winding roads to the park.
Horse Riding Through a Village
After driving further and deeper into the park, and stopping by to swim in a crystal clear lagoon, we arrived in a small rural village.
The tiny village has only 100 residents, and being so far from civilization they don’t use money – instead, they trade services with each other.
The car stopped by a horse stable, where a little boy greeted us with a big smile – we were all supposed to jump on a horse and ride through the village. My legs were shaking already before I climbed on the horse, and for some stupid reason I chose the biggest one because I made up in my head that it was older and wiser. This turned out to be completely wrong, since me and my horse didn’t get along at all..!
As soon as we set off, my horse went straight for the bushes on the road side and branches above his head – all he wanted to do was eat, eat and eat, and he was getting increasingly frustrated by my nervous commands.
It didn’t matter what I did, because my horse had a will of his own; he stopped to drink when he wanted and ate when he wanted, and while Nathan was enjoying the incredible views and atmosphere, all I could focus on was my horse. While I was blaming everything on the horse, I knew that it was probably just me again. I guess I should have learned my lesson from last time in New Zealand when a horse kicked me so hard I flew several meters in the air – at least this time I didn’t fall off, so maybe I’m getting better?
Waterfalls and Secret Lagoons
The Portuguese couples we traveled with had been to the park many times before, but the reason they went with Carla on the tour was because they wanted to explore parts of the park that they didn’t know about. Carla took us to places that are not only unknown to foreigners, but to many of the locals.
After an exhausting walk through some of the park’s most rugged areas, soaked in sweat, we finally arrived at one of the most beautiful lagoons I have ever seen.
The water was turquoise and absolutely crystal clear, surrounded by smooth cliffs and a pouring waterfall in the corner. Although we had already taken a swim in another lagoon (that one with green clear water) we were so warm and sweaty we couldn’t wait to jump in. We spent a long time cooling off in the pure ice cold water, jumping from the cliffs and sunbathing on the rocks – it was freezing, but your body gets numb after a while so it’s fine 😉
Views and Wildlife
The nature in Peneda Geres is incredibly varied, from lush forests, cascades and massive waterfalls, to rugged rocky hills. There is a lot of wildlife in the park, from wolves to wild horses and the Cachena Cattle, which are typical for the area, and which were everywhere on the road side as we drove back home. Carla had really given us a unique experience and showed us places we would never have been able to find on our own, and we would definitely recommend that you check out their tours when you visit Porto.
Oporto Adventure Tours Overview