Friday, 27 April 2012

The Algarve - Portgual


The Algarve in Portugal may be world renowned as a haven for golf lovers, but it certainly has a lot to offer runners too.

It is not actually a city itself, but a group of towns and small cities. Located on the southern most coastline of Portgual, the area mostly has good weather all year round making the most of all the beautiful sea walks, beaches and golf courses.

I was here on a golfing trip but made sure to pack my trainers. Our hotel was located in Carvoeira in Lagao, a small quaint coastal town set on a bay, with dramatic clifftop views out to sea. A really cool little place, the kind you would just stumble across rather than plan to visit.

In case you are thinking I am some kind of high roller, let me just say now that I won this holiday in golf tournament, otherwise I would be probably be in the airport holiday inn!

I wanted my run to try and incorporate some of the cliffs and beaches as I knew with so much golf lined up during the day, there wouldn't be much time to visit them otherwise.

Setting off from the hotel on Estrada do Monte Paraiso, I travelled eastbound from the middle of the town and towards the more rural part of the coastline. The idea of this route was that with this would let me get a better view of the coast without the obstruction of the hotels and villas that line the cliff tops.

If you're going to run in Portugal, it goes without saying bring your sunscreen because it gets VERY hot...The sea breeze often disguises the fact and next thing you know you are burned, so definitely be prepared. Nobody wants to look like a tomato by the pool!
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The western part of the Algarve is full of secluded coves and beaches like this one near Carvoeira
The street was one way but soon joined up to the main road running through the town. However because this is such a tiny town in every sense of the word, the 'main' road is nothing more than your average single carriageway with pavements on either side.

The road does though connects a lot of the resorts and residential areas to the town so it gets quite busy in the evenings with people heading out to eat.

Now running east parallel to the coast on Estrado do Farol, you get glimpses of the bay with all of the fisherman and yachts through gaps in the buildings to your right, but the best views will come later - be patient.

Another feature of the Algarve is the cuisine. Man the seafood is so good here! With so many tourists, there are a bunch of good restaurants and you don't need to pay silly prices because there is so much competition. Being a seaside town, you know it is all going to be fresh (hopefully!).

The road travels through the central shopping area full of gift shops and local independents, and then the further east you travel the more you come across first hotels, and then villas and retirement accommodation.

As it heads east, it really gets interesting as the road begins to weave left and right up and down some really surprisingly big hills. However your reward at the top of each climb is a spectacular out to sea.
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A beach near Vale Do Lobo
As to probably be expected on the cliff tops, this is one of the most undulating of all of the routes I have created so be prepared for some real steep climbs. Probably best to run in late afternoon before dinner or early in the mornings. I ran at around 4pm after golf.

After 4.9km, the road came to an end at the top of one of the cliffs. I allowed myself a short break to really take in the coastline.

Similar to many clifftops, the formation and erosion of the rocks creates several small coves and caves below, with at least ten or more secluded little beaches. Some have been manipulated to offer tourist friendly beach bars offering deck chairs etc whilst others are 100% untouched, with only natural gradual stepping stone like access.

Satisfied, I simply followed this route back to the hotel. Not one of the longest, measuring in at just under 10km in total, but with the heat, the hills and golf it was just about right.

Another great route if in the Algarve is to pick up the beach at Vale do Lobo, follow all the way west to Vilamoura and then weave your way back. The beaches here are more traditional so you can include an actual run along the beach without running into a cliff or a cave!
Offering some fantastic views along one very quiet road, it is a nice little run that I would certainly repeat if I went back. Now for some seafood!

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Summary:
Start - Estrada do Monte Paraiso, west Carvoeira

Journey - East on Estrada do Farol, follow road all the way until it finishes at dead end 4.9km. Repeat route home. Spectacular views of coastline and out to sea.
Finish - Restaurante O Boteco, Estrada do Monte Paraiso, west Carvoeira


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