After a particularly stressful day at work, my husband walked in the door (around 11pm) and said "we are going on vacation next weekend. I'd like to go to Portugal." Ok, then. We set about making plans and pulled together a very last-minute trip. It turned out to be the best little vacation our little family has ever had. I had no expectations whatsoever about Portugal because I really haven't heard much about it, but it certainly didn't disappoint. The food was fantastic, the people were warm, kind, and incredible with our children, most everyone spoke English, and the coastline was absolutely breathtaking.
Our hotel was overlooking the beach Porto Praia del Mos in Lagos, which was smack-dab in the middle of the Algarve. There was more than enough to see and do in Lagos, but we also did a day trip to the End of the World and Salema to visit the beach there. It was less than an hour drive from our hotel- perfect with kids. We went to the Algarve at the end of June, and it was perfect. Not too hot, and not too many tourists. We literally had the beach to ourselves every evening after 6pm (see the pictures to believe it), and we'd happily enjoy the beauty of our surroundings until the sun went down.
One of the most memorable experiences was a boat cruise from Lagos that toured the coast and then went out into the bay to look for dolphins. They never guarantee that you will see them, of course, but we were lucky enough to see more dolphins than I could have ever imagined. The experience brought me to tears. I marveled at the beauty of the delightfully friendly creatures who jumped just feet from us as my darling children pointed, laughed, and squealed in delight at the scene before them. The pictures don't do the experience justice (as usual), but at least you can get an idea of how close they were to us.
I think one of the best trips you could ever take would be a 1-2 week tour of the Algarve in Portugal and then bits of southern Spain (and do NOT miss the Alhambra). It would be an ideal holiday if you're looking for a perfect mix of culture and relaxation.
Put Portugal on your list!
Lagos, Algarve, Portugal:
Vila do Bispo (aka The End of the World) looking out at Cape St. Vincent:
Yes, that man is fishing right on the edge of the cliff. He wasn't the only one either.
Salema, the Algarve, Portugal
Porto Praia del Mos, Lagos, Portugal (our hotel overlooked this beach. It was absolutely incredible)
See, we had the beach to ourselves. That's my tiny son out there chasing seagulls.