Life in a small town in Portugal’s Algarve offers year round friendships and all the facilities you will need. Here are five great options to think about.
Living in a small town in the Algarve provides a great combination of quiet relaxation, convenience and summertime liveliness. As the region is compact, you are never very far from a larger town anyway, so you never need feel isolated. The following five towns vary in size, with some little more than villages in the winter but with numbers swelling dramatically in the summer. Each has a community of both international residents and locals, at least a few shops and restaurants, and gorgeous scenery on all sides: all the essentials for a happy and hassle-free life here.
Although Ferragudo, in the western Algarve, has a small expat population, it remains undiscovered by most tourists, despite its location at the mouth of Portimão harbour giving stunning views and picture-postcard beaches.
While the town is big enough for its own shops, banks and restaurants, this truly is a “best of both worlds” option, because it’s just a short drive over a bridge to the small city of Portimão and the buzzing beach resort of Praia da Rocha. During the summer months, you can choose whether to head over to the action and or stay the quiet side of the marina and enjoy the beach.
Cabanas de Tavira
Cabanas de Tavira is a town with a growing reputation among expats and tourists alike. Although holiday home owners and regular visitors keep the place ticking over all year round, the contrast between July and November is striking, because during the summer months the place throbs with energy. For many fans of the town, this contrast is enjoyable. The vibrant summer season brings novelty and excitement to the area, but calms down just as the crowds start to become a bore.
The town itself is a picturesque maze of cobbled streets, and life is centred around a modern boardwalk, backed by shops, bars and restaurants. The Ria Formosa provides the view, and there’s an island beach just minutes away by boat.
While there’s enough in the town to prevent anyone needing to leave too often, those wanting a little more life and choice only need visit Tavira – no more than five minutes away by road or train.
Vila Real de Santo Antonio
Vila Real de Santo Antonio (VRSA) sits right on Portugal’s border with Spain. It’s an interesting place, larger than the others here, with its “downtown” area based on a grid system and centred around a large square. Just a block south lies the Guadiana river, with the Spanish border town of Ayamonte beyond. It’s possible to travel between the towns by ferry, making a quick “international trip” for a tapas lunch an easy indulgence for residents.
VRSA has an atmosphere of its own thanks to its frontier location, and stays lively all year around. It’s well worth a look.
Burgau is at the other end of the Algarve from Spain, but still within an hour’s drive of Faro airport (in summer anyway). Maybe not such a good choice for a weekend trip then, but look at what it has to offer to make up for the drive.
Like Cabanas, Burgau is a seasonal resort region where the population expands significantly in the summer. Also like Cabanas, it benefits from larger towns right on the doorstep. Praia da Luz is right next door (walkable via the clifftops), and Lagos is just a little further.
There’s plenty to keep you in the town, however, including a beautiful cove beach which is a fabulous suntrap, and a handful of local restaurants and shops. It might be an option for a retiree or long-distance worker who can stay here in the winter enjoying that amazing beach and the relative warmth compared to the UK, then rent it out all summer?
Lagoa is a sprawling town that acts as a hub for various cove beaches including Benagil and Praia de Marinha. This is well-established expat territory – hardly surprising when one considers the quality of the beaches here, which have attracted visitors for generations.
This region is picture-postcard Algarve, complete with steep hills and coves. If you’ve spent time in Cornwall, driving around can feel oddly familiar!
While Lagoa lacks a true “town centre” feel, what you get in return is a wide choice of villas with plenty of privacy, and easy access to all the Algarve’s tourist facilities, from water parks to golf courses.