Road trips. Those words immediately conjure thoughts of carefree holidays, following the open road as far as the eye can see, aiming for the horizon with great tunes and not stopping until you stumble upon a gorgeous beach or a river to cool off in. And with the cold of winter setting in for us in the European northern hemisphere, it’s only natural for us to be dreaming of such last minute holidays for next year that are incredibly easy to organise and a heap of fun to do!

Photo 17-07-2014 15 12 41

During the heyday of last summer, my boyfriend and I looked at what holiday we had left at work for the year and scoped out last minute flights to somewhere. Anywhere. We wanted out of England and to be somewhere where we could aim for that horizon and step on the pedal. Flights to Portugal’s Faro airport popped up, and for a mere £100 return flight we just couldn’t say no! In a blink of an eye, we had packed our shit, grabbed our passports and waved goodbye to the English landscape for the arid and blindingly bright sun of Portugal.

IMG_8088

IMG_5809

Portugal has such a diverse range of landscapes that range from the resorts and pumping tourist area of the Algarve, to the dusty red soil of the scrub inland, to the windswept rugged west coast. We hired a car from Faro airport and caught some Zzz’s at Faro’s Baixa-Portugal Terrace hostel. I highly recommend this airy hostel as the rooftop serves free breakfast with fresh figs whilst you stare out at the white rooftops starkly contrasting against the brilliant blue skies.

IMG_5773

Top tips for a brilliant road trip:

  1. Check to see if you need/have a credit card to collect your hire car. We managed to get away with it this time, but the adrenaline was pumping when we noticed the huge signs saying, “No credit card. No car”. GULP.
  2. Get a cable to play tunes off your iPod as being on the road without music = blasphemy.
  3. Stock up on snacks and water for the journey. You never know how far you’ll travel without even a sign to the nearest snack shop/petrol station.
  4. Bring a sat nav or smart phone which will allow you to navigate easily. It’s fine to use regular old school maps… if you can navigate well. NOTE: I am not a great navigator.
  5. Do a little bit of research of places you want to hit up on your route. To drive aimlessly can sometimes mean you’ll miss that turning that would have led to an epic beach or a stunning cliff top.

We were heading up to the Alentejo Coast of Portugal. There is a teeny airport in the area, but it was cheaper and easier to fly to Faro and journey up from there. Hey, we were wanting to road trip!

The Alentejo Coast is a world away from the Algarve. We’re talking expansive sandy beaches, awesome surf, craggy intimidating cliffs and dusty red soils reminiscent to a Western Australian landscape. The area of Alentejo blankets a third of Portugal and is wild and beautiful, with actual tumbleweed that echoes the population: sparse and empty.

sophie saint alentejo coast portugal road trip

IMG_8086

Photo 17-07-2014 14 02 06

Only 7% of Portugal’s population live here, and with the minimal tourism it’s a place to travel on a real budget. You definitely need a car in these parts to really explore, but the main arteries of motorways are straight and simple. The A22 will whisk you north but you can deviate via Sagres down smaller roads to see the sleepy medieval towns.

Lemon trees and vineyards line the road (so tempted to nick a few), and the cork-oak trees atop rolling hills are the only interruptions to your horizon. Fun fact: Alentejo produces two thirds of the world’s output of cork.

sofa

During the summer months, the temperature can reach a scorching 30 degrees (or more) but the wind that whips off the Atlantic is a sweet relief. That same wind rips through the waves during these colder months to bring surf that intermediate and well-experienced surfer will absolutely love.

In the summer, the waves are calmer for beginners so a heap of surf camps are dotted on the coast. Odeceixe Surf School take advantage of the sandbanks and small waves in the whitewash to train novices, and the same company do sessions at Amoreira Beach and Arrifana Beach.

IMG_6865

IMG_5913

Photo 17-07-2014 16 33 37

The top beaches of the Alentejo Coast:

  1. Praia da Arrifana: Quiet and virginal, it stretches in a long graceful curve that is hauntingly quiet in the off-peak season.
  2. Zambujeira do Mar: Soft white sands create this beach bum’s dream and attracts a beachpacker and surfer crowd. It gets jam-packed when the large music festival, Festa do Sudoests opens. But outside of that time you can enjoy chilled atmospheres and delicious seafood dishes of sardines and marisco (shellfish).
  3. Villa Nova de Milfontes: A whitewashed picturesque village with sun-bleached streets. You can safely swig a mojito here confidently knowing it wont break the bank.

laadies brunching

2PicMonkey Collage

We stayed inland at an airbnb place called Orada that was set deep in the Costa Vicentina National Park Reserve, which I wrote about in August. Not only did this place have daily yoga, but also it was a zen place of organic foods, WWOOFERs (Willing Workers Of Organic Farms), herbs planted in glass bottles, hammocks and dream catchers. It was the perfect retreat to plant our base for the road trippin’ adventures. It was a place for the soul, meditation and raw food. YES PLEASE.

sophie saint travelettes alentejo coast portugal road trip

With all the beach bumming, sometimes it’s nice to mix in a bit of sight seeing. As I previously mentioned, there is an abundance of sleepy medieval towns. The region’s rich history of Roman conquerors has led to a scattering of fortresses and castles. Aljezur has a majestic hilltop castle that gives epic views of the surrounding countryside and at the base of the hill there are a ton of little shops that sell cork leather bags, beautiful jewellery and crocheted hammocks. A host of shops that sell the wares to fulfil your Pinterest dream.

PicMonkey Collage

IMG_8087

IMG_5880

The Alentejo Coast is a sleepy place where time doesn’t exist. You can chill-out and regroup here on a last minute holiday. After a few days exploring the isolated and untamed coastline by car, you can kick back and relax. All you need to do is grab a car and a good companion and hit the road, ladies!

All photographs by Sophie Saint and Sam Whinnett

sponsored content

 

 

Thanks to Falcon Holidays for helping to bring you this post.

Sophie Saint was one of the original travelettes, from 2009 – 2017. After fleeing the UK with ink barely dry on her graduation certificate, she traversed the world with a backpack and spent a few years living in Melbourne – one of her favourite cities in the world.

She finally returned to the UK after a few years where she now whiles time away zipping off for European escapes, crocheting and daydreaming of owning her own hostel somewhere hot to live out eternal summers. See what she’s up to over on her blog saintsonaplane.com and instagram: @saintsonaplane