Miles of white sandy beaches, lagoon islands, and shallow dune landscapes – I’m talking, of course, about the Sotavento region of Portugal, the eastern region of the Algarve, which stretches east from Faro to the border of Spain.
Sotavento forms a contrast to the so-called rocky coast, which, as the name suggests, is characterised by rugged rocky coasts and picturesque bays.
From the TUI BLUE Falesia, Sotavento can best be explored by hire car. Alternatively, you can also take part in one of the organised excursions. I hopped in the car and explored the eastern Algarve coast on my own. You can find out my insider tips and impressions now! 😉
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Roadtrip through Sotavento – untouched and authentic
Along the Sotavento coast from Faro via the fishing villages of Olhao and Cacela Velha to Tavira, you can get a great impression of the eastern Algarve. You’ll be surprised by the contrast of the landscape compared to the rocky Barlavento (western) coast. Sotavento and the Ria Formosa Nature Park are surrounded by vast dune landscapes and endlessly long bright sandy beaches. An absolute hallmark of the beaches on the eastern Algarve coast are the offshore islands, which resemble a large sandbar. As one might put it: it is better to swim in calm waters – the influence of the Atlantic is much less noticeable in Sotavento, which makes it even more tranquil and inviting.
In the villages, the locals maintain their fishing tradition. The originality and authenticity are clearly noticeable in the eastern Algarve.
So in the car and off we go: #sotavento, here we come!
Faro – Old town feeling and bright sandy beaches
After half an hour, I reach the city of Faro, the capital of the Algarve and one of the most interesting places here, in my opinion. Most connect Faro only with the airport, but the city has so much more to offer.
The marina and the picturesque old town with its cathedral Sé are particularly worth seeing. In the narrow streets typical of Portugal, you can take a relaxing stroll and admire the Portuguese architecture.
After a short stop in the old town, I make my way to the coast, to the Praia do Faro sandy beach. It is only here that I really understand why this region is characterised as the “sandy Algarve” among some travellers. The beach is located on an offshore island, which can only be reached by a bridge. Upon arrival I see… – Sand!
Those looking for beachy relaxation can spread their towel on the Praia do Faro sandy beach.
Sand and beach stretch as far as the eye can see. I take off my shoes and walk along the water. I relish the feeling of the warm, fine sand between my toes and breathe in the fresh sea air – wonderful!
Olhao – fishing village with Arabic flair
From Faro, we continue to the coastal village of Olhao at the foot of the Ria Formosa. The city has the largest fishing port in the Algarve, and even today fishing is the largest source of income for the residents.
A visit to the fish market with its wide selection of freshly caught fish and seafood is a must here. It’s really a great experience to explore the colourful market.
Olhao also boasts an exceptional and interesting architectural style throughout the city that distinguishes it from the rest of the region. Nowhere else in the region can you find an architecture with an Arab influence.
The two to three-storey block-shaped houses, also called cubes, were built here based on the North African model.
The beaches of Olhao can only be reached by boat, as they are located on offshore islands. The question is, is it worth the trip?
If you’re a beach person who enjoys the peace and quiet of “lonely” islands, you should definitely take the longer route to the beautiful lagoon islands Ilha da Armona and Ilha da Culatra. It’s worth it!
Cacela Velha – picturesque little village on the Ria Formosa
This dreamy coastal village has a population of just 100 and consists only of a church, a fortress wall, and small houses. It is precisely this pristine authenticity that makes the place so special.
Here you can still find the old white houses so typical of Portugal, whose windows and doors are painted with colourful stripes. If you ask me, a very nice photo motif for your next Instagram post 😉 #portugalvibes
From the former fortress wall you also have a unique view of the sand dunes, the shimmering Atlantic Ocean, and the Ria Formosa Natural Park. I sit down on one of the benches and enjoy the view.
Tavira – Sotavento’s hostpot
For many, Tavira is “the place to be” when it comes to describing Sotavento.
The river Gilão flows through the centre of the city. Bridges connect the town centre with the historic old town.
The atmospheric old town of Tavira is very impressive, especially for history buffs and culture lovers. Here you can see many historical records of different ethnic groups such as the Phoenicians and Romans.
I was particularly impressed by the church of Tavira: High tiled mosaics adorn the walls and a shining gold altar catches my eye immediately. The so-called Fado Concert, featuring a melancholy Portuguese music style recognised by UNESCO in 2011 as a World Heritage Site, also regularly takes place here. (Very good!)
I’m now drawn to the beaches.
The beaches of Tavira are located on an offshore island. Boats regularly sail from the old town to the sandy beaches. Alternatively, you can park in designated car parks and walk the rest of the way to the beach.
A total of four beaches line the approximately 11-kilometre dune. The most famous is the Ilha de Tavira. Here you will find everything you need for an extensive beach day: From plenty of sunbeds and umbrellas, to numerous snack bars and restaurants, to a water sports provider. This beach is especially popular with families. If you are looking for a little more peace and quiet, I can heartily recommend you the Praia da Terra Estreita.
I now enjoy the last rays of sunshine and then make my way back to the TUI BLUE Falesia. Sotavento is ideal for a day trip. Stroll through the pristine villages in the morning, take a boat to the sandbank in the afternoon and relax on the bright, gorgeous beach – this is a holiday!
So remember: Head east to find the sandy region of Sotavento. For a complete contrast, head west to the impressive and rocky Barlavento.
And where do you like it better? In rocky Barlavento or sandy Sotavento? Let me know in the comments!