The name ‘Portugal’ conjures up images of Iberian prosperity; luscious wine valleys, sumptuous Mediterranean cuisine, and Catholic edifices heightened by splendid ringing bells.
When I had the opportunity to fly out to Portugal, I found that trips to main cities such as Lisbon had hiked up in prices. This was probably due to the influx of travelers during the spring break.
Then, in the cold hallway of a friend’s living room, I stumbled upon a short flight detailing at £17 from the East Midlands Airport heading to Faro. Spontaneously, my friends and I decided to visit this little province in the south of Portugal. At first, we weren’t quite sure about taking a holiday to a relatively unknown location, but a few quick clicks of research and a leap of faith booked us that trip along with our Air B’n’B’s.
Faro Faro Away
Faro was a beautiful sight. When the plane flew over its brilliant turquoise waters, I caught a glimpse of identical houses that resembled sugar cubes, dotting along the aqua waves of the Algarve shore. The beaches were covered with powdery white sand, and there were many activities to be tried in the waters.
This tiny municipality of Algarve is made up of a few nearby towns like Lagos and Estoi, which are a quick bus ride away. But its quiet charm may not be suitable for long periods of time – my four days there were spent with little things to do besides sun bathing and eating gelato. As beautiful as Faro was, the land was one for dreamers, and perhaps too slow for adventurers. But it all depends on your personality and preference for a holiday type.
So yes, the quainter areas of a country may not be everyone’s dream destination. Portugal is after all synonymous with its tourist haven of Lisbon, while Faro contends somewhat as an afterthought. But it is a thought worth having, and one that personally convinced me of the fact that the undiscovered places of a country can be great experiences too. Here’s why –
1) There are not many travelers around the area.
One can either love crowds or hate them. In my case, the small populations was a win for me, as I could sunbathe without fighting for the best spot. Restaurants were never too crowded, and we there was no tedious wait for our orders to arrive. Additionally, it felt safer. I could walk around with a group of friends with less anxiously than if the place was crowded. Plus, it was easier to visit the tourist spots without being swallowed by a mass of people.
2) Everything is cheaper.
Maybe it was a stroke of luck in terms of our booking times, but the departure and return trip cost much less than others headed towards one of the main cities. The food and accommodation in Faro were less costly, too. Plus, everything was localised and within walking distance. There was a huge variety condensed into one smaller, breathtakingly beautiful area.
3) It is much more relaxing.
This depends on one’s definition of ‘fun’. But after the hectic hustle and bustle of student life, I was ready for a relaxing holiday where the only strenuous thing needed to be done was deciding which restaurant to eat at.
Convinced yet? Well, Faro is not without its charms, so let these places of interest persuade you further:
Capela dos Ossos
The perfect balance of spiritual beauty and just plain creepy, this historical church is famous for its internal walls decorated with human bones and skulls. However, despite being a landmark, it was hard to find. Directly situated inside a church, there are some formalities to follow when visiting, and there was an entrance fee. However, it does make for an interesting gothic Instagram feed, if you’re up for that.
Cape St. Mary
For a fee of €13, we took a boat ride through the different islands nearby Faro and got to observe the different geological structures of the land. The waves were harsh on the day, and with face spraying sea salt and the sun shining down on our backs. But it was an adventure to be reminisced over steaming cups of coffee for years to come.
Palacio de Estoi
The story behind these romantic ruins was that a Portuguese prince took a woman from the North as his wife, and designed the castle to look like her old home to cure her homesickness. Curiously, walking in the secret gardens did make me feel like the story held substance.I could almost imagine the Princess languishing in the luxurious garden as she overlooked the horizon in the distance.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
All in all, this article is does not intend to force upon aspiring travellers a relatively unknown location. Common knowledge attests that a lot of people prefer to visit the bigger cities when touring a new country. But like the small geographic gem of Faro itself, this piece wants to leave an escapism of sorts. Think of this as a tiny reminder to uncover the smaller nooks of a country if you have the chance to, as you might just uncover an undiscovered jewel.
Written by Tennielle Callista Chua