After explorating Granada, Córdoba and Seville, we will be seeking a peaceful repose on the southern coast of Portugal. We love to walk; the beach, soft dirt pathways and cobblestones are our favorite stroling terrains. At 68, we enjoy the rhythm and vista of the shore, culture including slow meals and local music. There is definitely such a thing as too big and too much, as well as too little and too small, for our time and treasure. Our itinerary takes us to the region around the end of October and the beginning of November. Thus far our research has led us to Tavira or Salema. Thank you for offering your perspective and other recommendations.
I suggest Lagos. Salema is tiny, and Tavira has much less to offer than Lagos as well. There are lots of restaurants, good walking options, and all around great vibe. We were in Lagos for a week this past summer and would recommend it based on our experience.
I agree with the Lagos suggestion. Salema is vastly overrated by RS, IMO. I was disappointed I took the time to drive a few minutes off the main road to see it.
Lagos has a wide variety of beaches, cliff walks, great rock formations, cobblestone streets, etc.
I haven't been to Tavira but Lagos as so much going for it, it's hard to believe Tavira would be preferable.
I'm in the Algarve currently and hope to drive to Tavira. I will report back with my opinion if I do.
I like Tavira. It's more traditionally Portuguese than Lagos, which has expanded a lot in the last 20 years. The town straddles the river, linked by a characterful old bridge. The town centre is packed with small, independent shops and cafes. There is a large shopping centre to the east of the town centre with a cinema showing English language films if you have a bad weather day. A good walk is down to the salt pans or over to Cabanas then catch the train back. More popular with Portuguese people.
Lagos is larger and it too has a good choice of restaurants. More of a holiday resort than Tavira. Have a coffee in the main square or at the marina to people watch. Less popular for Portuguese holiday makers than Tavira.
Salema is over-developed and over-rated IMO. It maybe too quiet in November as some places close up for the winter. Salema is very hilly.
Another inland option would be Silves or Loule, both characterful places.
Just visited Tavira yesterday and would definitely recommend it. It is quite charming even for a day visit. And is one of the few places in the Algarve I would like to return to spend more time. It wins hands down (IMO) over Salema.
Using the A22, we made it back to Portimao in about an hour, so Silves and Lagos would work as day trips if you wished. Lagos is definitely worth it - if for nothing other than Ponte da Piadade. And the fort in Silves is a nice trip, plus parts of the town are quite charming.
We spent a week in Salema a few years ago and absolutely loved it. Yes it is small, but large enough for a quiet vacation. We were not there in November. I would go back there in a flash. The main downside is that at the time of the global economic downturn there were many condo developments that got stopped in their tracks and the sight of them looming up above the village proper was a bit disturbing. But it was not alone in this among Algarve or other southern Portugal communities.
On that same trip we visited Tavira and liked that as well. I would place that second to Salema.
Others might suggest Faro or Lagos, but I find them overdeveloped. Certainly more choice in accommodations, shopping, and restaurants, but not my cup of tea. Maybe it's because I first saw them in 1979 before they were "discovered". I suspect the same will occur in Salema and Tavira in the years to come, but for now those two communities retain the "Algarvian charm" in my mind.
If having to choose between those two, I'd suggest Tavira. It isn't too big and too much (especially not in October/November when all the summer tourists have left), whereas Salema is, although very pretty and picturesque (and horribly touristic in the middle of summer), too little and too small for any stay upwards from a few days. Also, Tavira will give you easy access to the Ria Formosa area with its islands just in front off the coast, which make for long beach walks. Here's some more info about Tavira and what there's to do there: http://www.enjoythealgarve.com/one-day-in-tavira/ . Wherever you end up staying, enjoy your travels!