Algarve, Portugal Tour: PortiTours Jeep Safari
On our recent visit to Vilamoura, Portugal, we enjoyed the resort activities, marina, and beach near the fabulous Hilton Vilamoura As Cascatas Golf Resort & Spa. It would have been a travesty, though, to ignore what lies north of this area: the mountains of the Algarve region.
In an effort to learn more about the people, customs, and culture of this rural area, we booked an all-day Jeep Safari Tour with PortiTours. When I initially booked this, I thought it was a half day tour, so I was nervous when I realized we would be out 6.5 hours. Surely the kids would get bored and it would be a miserable day. I shouldn’t have worried: our driver, Mateus, and the driver of the other jeep, “Chicken Jorge,” kept the kids more than entertained, in addition to the interesting tour they gave.
Scenic Driving…and Stopping
Much of the driving was on rural dirt roads in the mountains with an occasional small village to drive through or look at from across the valley. The landscape was a stark contrast to the lush, tropical coast. The mountains hold red dirt farmland, cork and olive trees, flowing rivers, and humble homes and businesses. The jeeps have an open top to allow passengers to stand up and take pictures or you can always use the old-fashioned method: roll down the window.
One stop was in the midst of numerous cork trees, and Mateus educated us about Portugal’s cork growth, harvesting, and production. The tour was very relaxed, which meant the kids could listen to some of the presentation but also had the freedom to explore their surroundings while the adults learned more about this beautiful area.
Basket Weaving & Water Cane Crafts
We visited the workshop of an 82-year-old man who takes the water cane that grows in the area and crafts it into baskets, bird whistles, and other wares. The bird whistles, at around 3.5 euros each, are the best souvenir you can bring nieces, nephews, and friends! They also sold well-made baskets from small bread serving size to large laundry hampers.
There were also items made from the local cork ranging from key rings to bowls. I have a special appreciation for handmade items that represent the region we visit, and I could have lived it up here if luggage space weren’t a problem!
Farming, Beekeeping, and Moonshinin’
Another stop on the tour was to a couple’s small village farm. Here we were told how the bees in the area make the best honey because no pesticides are used on the plants and there are plenty of flowers to keep them busy. I’m fortunate to have a regular supply of fresh-from-the-farm, good tasting honey at home, but the bees of the Algarve may have the advantage. This honey was amazing!
We were allowed time to walk through their farm — a small garden area with a few fruit trees scattered about and chickens running the grounds. My kids enjoyed playing with a hunting dog and seeing a parrot as well.
Chicken Jorge also showed us how the owner of the farmer makes medronho, or “firewater” as it’s locally known. In a small distillery in an open-air building, the Portuguese version of moonshine is made. Samples were offered, but I left it to the other travelers in our group to be adventurous this time. There were also bottles of the local spirits for sale.
A Portuguese Lunch with International Guests
Lunch, which was included in the tour price, was served family-style in a typical Portuguese restaurant. It included a vegetable soup, salad, roasted pork, French fries, wine, and water. We sampled some of the piri piri sauce – a Portuguese “Tabasco” of sorts. The food was all very good and ample portions were available. As we ate, we enjoyed visiting with our fellow tour guests from Holland, Ireland, and England. It was truly an international delight!
I highly recommend PortiTours for your southern Portugal visit. They also have other tour options available, including river and sea tours in combination with the Jeep tour on land. The driver will pick your family up at your hotel saving additional taxi fare, and prices for children are only 50% of adult fares or even free on most tours for kids 4 and under. We used the concierge at Hilton Vilamoura As Cascatas to book this tour and had it charged to our room, making it a smooth and easy transaction for us.
Is your family ready to discover the Algarve region of Portugal?
- See all of our vacation photos from Portugal.
- Read about the rest of our family vacation to Barcelona.
Robyn fell in love with travel before kids and has found it even more wonderful since her kids have joined the family. She is married to an amazing…