How to Explore the Algarve but Avoid the Toll Roads25th March 2013
If driving abroad is new to you, there is a lot of information to remember, but when you throw toll roads into the mix too, it becomes down right complicated. A toll system was introduced onto some of Portugal’s major motorways back in 2011, but with a lack of direction from the Government on the correct way to enforce and collect the toll fares, car hire companies have developed different methods to help tourists get around during their holiday there. The A22 is the main motorway in the Algarve and this road, along with A23, A24, A25, A28 and A29, are now all toll roads. Plenty of information relating to the tolls can be found here.
Naturally, the highways tend to be the quickest roads, but, alternative routes allow you to see a bit more of the gorgeous Algarve! Many of the most popular tourist attractions and towns can be reached using different roads without having to pay the tolls and here are some excellent examples with links to the routes and maps to help you out.
Albufeira is undoubtedly the Algarve’s sweetheart! With a spattering of sandy beaches, endless accommodation options and amenities, a great atmosphere and an exciting nightlife, it’s appealing for people of all ages. The Old Town area is fascinating to explore and there are plenty of boat trips departing from the marina whilst the beaches are great for relaxing under the hot Portuguese sun. These factors make it one of the busiest towns in the Algarve which will likely be included in your plans, and it’s easy to reach using the N125.
Boasting yet another gorgeous beach, Quarteira is only 25 minutes by car using the N125 and then onto the N396. Nearby, Vilamoura is worth a visit when you’re in the area for its great shops and bustling marina.
Sagres & Cape St. Vincent Lighthouse
Sagres is the most westerly town on the Algarve coast and the beaches here are a great contrast to the calm beaches elsewhere along the coast. Taking the brunt of the North Atlantic, the windswept coastline gives way to impressive coastal cliffs, capped by the distinct Cape St Vincent Lighthouse. Instead of the A22, take the N125 and follow it all the way before continuing onto the N268 into Sagres itself!
Portimao offers a variety of attractions for visitors, making it another popular spot to visit during your time here. The dolphin spotting boat trips are great for all ages while the variety of boutiques, offering everything from clothes and shoes to perfume are ideal for finding souvenirs. Nearby, you can test your skills at one of the golf courses and when evening rolls around, the variety of restaurants and bars ensure a great night out.
Zoomarine is by far the most popular of Portugal’s family friendly attractions and is found not far from Albufeira and is therefore easy to reach on the N125 road. The dolphin, sea lion and seal shows, theme park rides, aquarium, opportunity to swim with dolphins and the 4D cinema ensure a great day out.
Route: Aqualand Theme Park
If you need to cool off but are looking for a location away from the beach, Aqualand is the top water park in the area, located in Alcantarilha. Again, you can use the N125 rather than the A22 to travel here and avoid the tolls! With rides like the Corkscrew and Kamikaze, plus plenty more, it’s as much for adults as it is kids!
The majority of visitors to the Algarve usually head west but Tavira bucks the trend in its location east of Faro Airport. It’s around 45 minutes by car using the reliable N125 road and well worth the journey for a beautiful town with plenty of history and things to see do. From here, you can also visit the Ria Formosa Natural Park which is not only a celebrated area of natural beauty but it’s also home to a rich variety of bird life including flamingos and king fishers plus plenty more.
As you can see, these routes have been calculated using Faro Airport as the starting point but it’s easy to change the starting point of your journey and get directions avoiding highways and toll roads!