Portugal’s famed Golden Triangle is a great way to relax and indulge in all that the area has to offer.
With a sunny climate, luxury villas and a beautiful natural setting, the hardest decision visitors will have to make is whether to unwind at the beach or by the pool.
What to do & see Portugal’s Golden Triangle
Almancil makes up one corner of the Golden Triangle, and is a useful stop for shopping for essentials on the way out to your final destination.
It’s also home to the São Lourenço church, which is a stunning example of classic Portuguese architecture and decor, as well as the Estádio Algarve, where it’s possible to watch both local and charity football matches – more notably, it was the site of Euro 2004!
For those looking for a golfing experience with their sweetheart, the Golden Triangle is golfer’s heaven as it has 12 world-class golf courses and features several tournaments throughout the year.
Many of these courses are located nearby the Quinta do Lago complex, including the Pinheiros Altos, San Lorenzo, and Quinta do Lago North and South courses.
Quinta do Lago is also on the border of the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve, and hiking trails lead into a serene countryside with pine trees and lakes.
In town, visitors can buy local crafts such as pottery and ceramics and can feast upon local seafood.
The nightlife is a draw here, with several highly-rated restaurants, bars, and clubs… making it a perfect setting for a romantic weekend.
Life in the Golden Triangle
Quarteria, with its Vilamoura complex, makes up the third point of Portugal’s Golden Triangle.
A fishing port, it is famous for its lovely beaches and boardwalk, and it offers a marine life show that is extremely popular with vacationing families.
This would be the perfect setting for a romantic walk on the beach or to catch the sunset with your special someone.
For those a little out of town can pick up supplies here, as well as souvenir handicrafts.
A trip out to the Roman ruins of Cerro da Vila is also a popular day trip.
The resort towns and luxury villas of the Golden Triangle are known for their luxury and also for their safety.
You can opt for a private rental which is a guaranteed, hassle-free experience and will give you that private romantic setting you’re looking for.
From water sports to fine dining, nightlife to the solitude of the Great Outdoors, Portugal’s Golden Triangle is a top destination for a truly relaxing holiday.
Driving in Portugal
Landing in Faro, one of the closest European cities to the equator, it’s so warm that you can see the heat sizzling from the surface of the runway.
In a nutshell, Portugal is a country-sized oasis that shares its tourism popularity, beautiful landscape and Latino atmosphere with neighbouring Spain.
Still, it has a passionate identity of its own and only those with a heart for adventure can truly experience it all.
The best way to get around Portugal is by car – there are trains and buses, but they are pretty unreliable (strikes) and take a long time.
Book a rental car with air conditioning and you’re free to follow this guide to exploring Portugal in the most awesome way possible – cruising along its western coast.
You’re starting in Faro because you’re about to embark on a round trip, one which can be done within just two days, so this city will be your second-home for the remainder of your holiday and its location on the southernmost tip of Portugal’s mainland means it’s almost tropical – the perfect base for a driving holiday.
Plus, you can get a quality deal from Holiday Autos on car hire at Faro Airport – 20% off for certain cars booked before October 31st – so, with a car fully equipped with air-con and enough cup holders to carry multiple thirst-quenching cans of lemonade, you’re set for the open road north.
Travel tales over coffee…
First, you need to stop off at Café Alianca, just 10 minutes from the airport – over 100 years old, this place is something special and if the architecture of the Jose Pedro da Silva building isn’t enough to convince you, the feeling of the fresh coffee washing down a traditional Spanish pastry will.
Heading out of the city…
Take the A22 westbound, away from the main highway and onto the open coastal road travelling north (N120).
This route is the best as you don’t lose any time and you can spend more time in the Old Town of Sines – the midway point between Faro and Lisbon.
The roads in Sines are lined with palm trees and the battlements of the town castle, looking out into the Atlantic, provide the perfect setting for an early photo in your adventure album.
Two hours to the capital…
Now, you can link up to the A2 highway from here quite easily but it’s all about the shoreline drive, so stick to the N261 and head towards Cambado.
The sheer size of the sun as it sets into the Atlantic on your left is worth the detour alone – this is why you picked up a car rental in Portugal.
Quick tip: Make sure you take a right onto the N253 not the N253-1, when you have the choice.
Basically, follow the signs for Motinha, then ignore Motinha altogether and follow the N253 through to the A2 … it’s not as complicated as it sounds and even if you do get lost, all those villages along the Estuario do Sado river are beautiful in their own right.
Once you’re on the A2 (there’s an electronic toll by the way – if you don’t have the change, you can take a ticket and pay the euros at the post office when you get to Lisbon), it’s time to focus on the road… or take some more scenic diversions as you pass through Setubal – a city famed for its beaches and wine (best to stay off the latter when behind the wheel).
Entering the city via the Ponte Salazar suspension bridge, over the Tagus River, really lets you know you’ve arrived in the capital – all the raw Portuguese culture is behind you and in Lisbon, you’ll be welcomed with an array of travellers from all over the world, along with some passionate Lisbon too of course.
Checkout our Lisbon Travel Video
The traveler’s meal…
You can head into the touristy centre of town but the hostel-surfers in Europe will all agree that a bar like Pavilhão Chinês is what the real Lisbon is all about.
Sit down in this quirky venue, decorated by what looks like a hoard of stolen merchandise from the capital’s Ancient Art Museum, and tuck in to the tapas here – the ridiculously well-dressed bar staff are particularly proud of their dishes and you can fill your belly in Portugal.
Stay a night or two…or five…
Now, you’ve seen Faro, you’ve seen Lisbon, and you’ve seen some mesmerising Portuguese trails along the way – now you have a choice:
Stock up on some Lisbion photo moments in a whistle-stop tour around the city (make sure you visit Jeronimo’s Monastery) and head back to sunny Faro the next day.
Take it slow and enjoy everything this traveller’s hub has to offer, both in the city and out on the suburbs (Sintra Cascais National Park is another Portuguese paradise only really reachable by car, on the outskirts of Lisbon).
Keep heading northbound along the coast to Porto, the second-largest city in the country and one of the best holiday locations in Europe.
Whatever you choose, you’re memory-making holiday in Portugal will only get better as it goes on – take advantage of the many places for wine tasting in Portugal – then you’re free to travel the entire country – the best bit has to be returning to Faro and knowing exactly where to pick up the best coffee, this time it will be you swapping the travel stories and travel tips with fresh road-trippers.
4Rooms – Stylish B&B In Porto (Foz) – REVIEW
When arriving in Porto, we took the bus over to Foz, a beautiful residential area of the city, and checked into 4Rooms, a Bed & Breakfast hotel which has gained quite a lot of attention during recent years.
4Rooms is located on a small, narrow, cobble stoned street in the old Foz, which locals like to describe as the real Porto.
“Nobody lives in the center of Porto, instead, people live in Foz, and staying in this area will give you a very different experience compared to the center”, says our host Katrina.
And that, is exactly what 4Rooms is all about: experiencing Porto from a different angle.
The B&B is surrounded by colorful mural buildings, small corner shops and cafes, and is just a 5-minute walk from the beach – the B&B is a very stylish little gem, designed by Eduardo Souto de Moura, a famous Portuguese architect who won the Pritzker Prize in 2011.
Since the place only has 4 rooms you get a very personal service from the attentive staff who truly give you the service of a 5 star B&B, with free snacks and drinks that were re-filled several times a day, iMac, iPhone docking station, small kitchenette, jacuzzi and obviously amazing interior design all over.
Our favorite was the window in the roof above our heads, which we kept open during the night so we could gaze at the stars.
Katrina would help you with all the advice you needed, with places to eat and things to do in the area, and they could even organize personal tours and take you around Porto and its beautiful surroundings.
If you’re looking for a unique B&B with friendly service – 4Rooms is the place to go when visiting Porto!
Price: from €110 to €545 (depending on the room)
Hotel Infante Sagres, Porto REVIEW
After a long day of Port wine tasting, we finally checked into Hotel Infante Sagres, which couldn’t have given us a better ending to our day.
We didn’t have to worry about the usual map confusion and spending half an hour looking for the hotel, because it was just there, right in the middle of the center in the best location of Porto city – perfect.
When checking in at the reception, we were offered a glass of Port, which was very fancy, but by then we had probably had over 10 glasses of Port that day already.
The luxury boutique hotel looked amazing inside, with high ceilings, crystal chandeliers, fire places and hang out lounges, and even a couch in the elevator.
With a museum, two terraces, a spa, a bar and beautiful restaurant which made you feel like a royalty when having your breakfast in the morning – you can easily understand why it’s part of the “Small Luxury Hotels of the World” collection.
The hotel is a very elegant and traditional 5-star hotel, and we really appreciated the small details like the magazines and chocolates that were handed out every afternoon, and being surrounded by some great cafes, bars and restaurants – we never had to walk very far.
If you feel like splurging out on your trip to Porto, this is definitely the place to do it, and you can’t get a more central location than this!
Hotel Infante Sagres Overview
Price: €275 (ranges from €107 and up)