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I am confused. I just watched a Rick Steves video about Salema and he was raving about it as golden sands and undeveloped from May 2018. Now I have read twice in the travel forum that Salema has become too developed. I plan a few days in Salema based on Steves' recommendation. Can anyone else tell me about their experience in Salema?

Posted by
4150 posts

I went to Salema on my first trip to Europe, back in the late 1980s. It seemed jaded, crass, touristy, and the locals seemed fed up with the tourists and grumpy. Overall it was a downer, I didn't like the place. I've heard other people say they loved it, it's oozing with charm. Rick Steves (still) seems to like it.

I stopped there again about 10 years ago. I thought it was OK, not wonderful but not awful either (although the weather was pretty awful when we were there, which didn't help).

Maybe I'll try it again in a few years, perhaps it (or I) will have mellowed and we will resonate with each other?

Tastes vary. Sometimes you catch a place on a good (or bad) day. Sometimes it's more about you than it is about the place. No guarantees in life. There are worse problems to have than finding a beach town to be kinda meh.

Posted by
579 posts

Salema was very relaxing and enjoyable after 10 days of museums and travel. I covered it pretty well in my Trip Report of 10/10/2015. I’m sorry, not sure how to copy a link to the report. I loved my stay at Amare BnB - the breakfast was the best of the trip. The restaurants for the most part, served tasty food. I especially enjoyed the seafood stew at a sleepy little restaurant right on the water on a rainy afternoon. Some might consider the town developed and not the sleepy fishing village it used to be. I had no other place to compare it to at the time, so I loved it.

Happy travels

Posted by
724 posts

I’m one of those that thinks RS vastly overrates Salema. I stopped by there in 2016 and was sorry I had spent the time to drive from the main highway down to the town.
After living in Portugal for three plus years, there are so many other places to visit that are so much better, IMO.
The Algarve in general is not my favorite part of Portugal, but if you must visit that area, Lagos or Tavira are much better places to stay.

Posted by
3000 posts

I first stayed in Salema about 15 years ago, when it was pleasant, as it was less developed than nearby Luz and Burgau. I always rent an apartment. It’s very hilly, so not ideal if you have mobility issues or have young children.

I don’t use the beach there, I always drive to Zavial, Furnas or the beaches on the west coast, north of Vila do Bispo. The supermarket is a 5 minute drive north of Salema on the N125 at Budens. The town beach is safe for children, but so are most Algarve beaches. The sea is cold there, even in summer.

All the beaches in Portugal have golden sand.

About 10 years ago, a development called The View was built, which added about 25% to the size of Salema (50 units). This was pre- crash and the developer did well, selling 2 bed apartments for 400,000 euros, so they bought another larger site at the top of the hill and started to build over 100 more units - this was 2007 and you can guess what happened in 2008 - they went bust part way through construction. The site was mothballed for 5 years or more until the bank sold it on to a holiday company to run as a complex and it’s now been open a couple of years.

These 2 developments have changed the character of Salema and not for the better. The sites are at the top of the hill, so many seem to drive down to the beach and the restaurants, but parking is limited.

These days, I would stay in Tavira as a first choice as it has retained more of its character and Lagos second. You need a car for Salema as public transport is limited.

Posted by
5 posts

I want to thank everyone for their reply. It looks like I will look at Tavira as a better option or simply skip the Algarve and add extra days to my stays in Ever and further north. Thanks again. Great to be able to have access to such a wealth of experience and knowledge.