A GREAT PORT VISIT TO PORTIMAO AND FERRAGUDO

Jun 20, 2024Cruises, Day Trips, Portugal0 comments

Does your upcoming cruise have a port stop in Portimao on Portugal’s Southern coast? If so, you may be wondering what to do there.

I certainly was unsure when I was planning my last cruise as I had never heard of this small town before. Read on to find out what I did, how it went, and what I would recommend.

Spoiler alert: Even though this was one of my favorite days on the cruise, it is one of the few ports I would recommend considering a cruise excursion!

Town of Ferragudo on the left and Portimao on the right. NCL Dawn anchored in the distance.

Ferragudo (left) is even prettier than Portimao (right)

Getting to Portimao on your cruise

Tender port Portimao

If you read any of my other port posts for this cruise, you will know that I barely ever stuck to my original touring plans. However, in all the other ports I had a pretty clear idea of what to do (even if I didn’t actually do it).

Not so in Portimao. In contrast to Zeebrugge or Gibraltar, there wasn’t one clear main destination/sight to see and I was undecided. And unlike Malaga or Lisbon this was my first visit so I was not familiar with the area.  I did come up with several vague ideas, but decided to just go with the flow.

This actually worked out great but based on my experience I would recommend you make more definite plans than me as the port is a bit trickier than some.

The first thing that set Portimao apart from other ports on this cruise was that it is a tender port, i.e. instead of the ship docking in town it anchors out at sea and you are shuttled to town in smaller boats.

If you visit Portimao (or any other tender port) it may be helpful to read my tips for tender ports but the main point is that getting to land will take a bit more time and effort than in other ports.

Portimao Tip 1: Make sure to allow extra time for the tendering process in your plans

Tender boat in Portimao

Tender boats arrive at Portimao

The tender process went off without a hitch but it is a bit of a ride to get to Portimao.  The boat docks at the port terminal which is about a 20 minute walk to the main tourist area and a good 30 minutes to the train station. I was rather suprised that there was no shuttle provided from the port to town.

Via Augusta in Lisbon with beautiful floor mosaics, sidewalk cafes, and pretty houses on both sides.

Terminal at Portimao Port

Walk into town from port to Portimao

Now, 20 minutes doesn’t sound like a very long walk but even in early May it was quite warm and I would imagine that it will get unpleasantly hot in summer.

There were only one or two taxis at the port so I strongly recommend to plan ahead if you feel that a longish walk in the Portuguese heat is not for you!

Portimao Tip 2: Plan ahead for how to get from the port to town if you don’t fancy walking in the heat!

I didn’t mind walking from the terminal to town in May and even in warmer weather it should be doable. But if you have plans to go even further, it does add quite a bit of time/walking just to get started.

I originally planned to walk to the Portimao train station which is located at the northern end of Portimao and take a train from there to the nearby town of Lagos.

But I had underestimated the effort and time needed to get from the ship to the station. After tendering and walking to the town center, I decided that it was a bit too ambitious for my taste.

I am sure it is possible but would recommend booking an excursion or at least a taxi or bus from the port to the station, especially if you want to visit more than one destination.

There does seem to be a bus (#33) that will take you part of the way from the port to town/station. This would save you quite a bit of walking in the heat but not much time.

Portimao Tip 3: Due to the hassle of getting to public transport, Portimao may be a good place for an organized tour

If you are travelling in the off season and/or are used to heat, walking into town is absolutely easy and fine if you don’t have more ambitious plans.

It is just the combination of getting from the ship to the station and then touring on your own that seemed a bit challenging.

During the walk from the port to town I saw some rather “interesting” cars. Not being much of a car person it is rare for me to notice them but these definitely stood out so I took a picture to share with you.

Busy street with elevator to higher street level at the end. The elevator is made of metal and reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower.

Quite interesting to see the inside of a car outside a museum

And right after another one – I am not even sure what this is (if you have a clue let me know).

Weirde yellow car with wood

So strange!

I don’t want to give the wrong impression though – the neighborhood was pleasant and not run down at all. It was just those two cars that were a bit strange.

Town of Portimao

Portimao itself was cute but maybe not worth an entire day unless you really want to take it easy.

There was a long line of booths selling (ship) excursions. There were several pirate boats and of course the most famous tours are to the sea caves.

Looking back, I kind of wish I had stopped to check out prices and times as they did look fun. I loved what I actually did but with a bit more planning could maybe have done both?

Plain church exterior of Sao Roque in Lisbon

The Portimao sea front is nice and has plenty of benches for a short break

Portimao Tip 4: If you pre-book a local excursion make sure to leave plenty of time for getting there

Fish Market Area

When you get to the long bridge stretching across the bay to Ferragudo, there is a rather uninteresting overpass. However, if you turn left you first come to a pleasant courtyard with fish restaurants and stores. Quite nice!

This was also the place where I first noticed a stork nest with storks! I was pretty excited to see those birds as I don’t think I had ever encountered them in the wild so I took a bunch of pictures.

Little did I know how many storks I was still to see!

Lisbon Church Sao Roque with painging on ceiling and golden niches

These storks preside over a charming fish market/restaurant area

Right behind this market area some narrow cobblestone streets with cute houses had a very unique Portuguese vibe!

Cobblestone lane with small houses in Portimao, Portugal.

May was a wonderful time to see lots of blooms

It was about at this time that I decided to give up on my walk to the station (and onwards travel) and to just walk to the small town of Ferragudo which is located right across the bay from Portimao.

Ferragudo

Let me start by saying that Ferragudo is adorable and well worth a visit. I am definitely glad I visited!

However, the walk dragged on a lot more than I expected and especially if you are visiting during hotter months it may be too much unless you really enjoy loooong walks.

And while the walk was pleasant enough it wasn’t especially pretty either. There is a train between Portimao and Ferragudo but as both stations are fairly far from the actual towns, this doesn’t save any time or effort getting from the port to the old part of Ferragudo.

So an organized excursion may be your best bet if you don’t want to walk.

Walking from Portimao to Ferragudo

If you do decide to walk, it is easy enough.

  1. Stroll along the seafront from the port to the main area of Portimao until you get to the long bridge across the bay (actually you will see two but I am talking about the first one).
  2. Cross the bridge and then follow the road to the right until you get to Ferragudo.

Walking from the port to the bridge took me around 30 minutes and the onwards walk from there to Ferragudo another 45 minutes. It’s about 2.5 miles so depending on your walking speed you may get there faster.

Bridge from Portimao to Ferragudo

A quick note about the bridge – on the way to Ferragudo I was talking to a fellow cruise passenger and it was absolutely fine.

However, on the way back I was on my own and did get a bit spooked on the bridge. I am not a fan of walking across metal bridges/walkways so your mileage may vary.

It was okay for me though I was definitely glad once I reached the end. Most people will not mind at all. But if you dislike bridges etc. be aware it is a really really long one.

Long metal walkway over bridge from Portimao to Ferragudo

As I dislike metal bridges like this I was definitely glad to reach the end

Portimao Tip 5: If you have difficulties with bridges/heights, the bridge between Portimao and Ferragudo my be a bridge too far, so to speak.

As I mentioned before, the walk wasn’t especially scenic for the most part. However, there were more storks than I could ever have imagined!

Basically, every chimney/roof/lamp post had a stork nest on it! Definitely something you don’t see everywhere and worth a look.

Sky Princess docked in Puerto Rico. Next to ship is a promenade with comfortable benches

Storks, storks everywhere

Exploring the town of Ferragudo

While Portimao is quite pleasant and would make a good spot to have a meal or relax a bit after taking a boat or bus tour, Ferragudo is still much more charming.

There are probably even prettier towns in this part of Portugal, but I am so glad to have visited Ferragudo as I loved its quiet charme.

While there were some tourists it was far from crowded (possibly because it was so early in the season).

Close to the entrance to town I came across a square with different restaurants and cafes. I just passed by but it would make for a lovely stop.

Botanical Garden Lisbon with steps and cactus

Several cafes/restaurants offer outdoor seatin

Branching off from this square was a narrow street with various touristy stores. So if you need some postcards, dish clothes, or other souveniers this would be a good place to shop at.

Cafe in small street in Ferragudo, Portugal

Ferragudo’s narrow alleys are inviting

Unfortunately, by this time I was in somewhat desperate need of a bathroom and didn’t much care about shopping!

I was also getting dehydrated and desperately looking for a solution to my problems.

After climbing up a steep street I came to a small grocery store and decided to at least get some water.

As I was paying I decided to ask the man at the check-out counter if there was a public bathroom nearby. After all, this is a tourist area so there must be one and I wasn’t having much luck looking on my own.

To my delight, he offered to let me use the bathroom in the store. I was so thankful – it really was very nice of him!

With both problems resolved, I was in a much cheerier mood checking out Ferragudo’s small church.

Portimao Tip 6: Make sure to wear plenty of sunscreen and a hat and take some water with you!

Traditional white church in Ferragudo

A typical Portuguese church on top of the hill

For some reason I did not go inside but now wish I had. I usually do check out churches so maybe it was closed?

Both from the back of the church and nearby streets you have a good view of a small beach (Praia da Angrinha) and the Fort of Sao Joao de Arade.

The small fortress/castle looked beautiful and very inviting but I was too exhausted to venture closer. Which was lucky as it is apparently privately owned so can not be visited. I do wonder who lives there?

Sloped street with colorful houses. On some, the paint is peeling off.

You could easily go down to the small beach

Due to the tendering and a longish walk it was already past 1 pm by that time. So I decided not to explore further but just sat at a little monument for a bit to enjoy the view before heading back to Portimao.

However, on the way back I still found a cute little street that is definitely one of the prettiest I have seen in a while. A real highlight of this trip!

I took plenty of photos so here are some of the pictures.

Tree with pink blossoms in charming street in Portugal

The stunning blossoms were a highlight of this May cruise

One thing I appreciated about Ferragudo was that while there were some tourists, it wasn’t as busy as many other charming Mediterranean towns overrun by visitors.

Cobblestone street with colorful houses in Portimao

This street had a wonderful sleepy vibe

White and yellow house in Ferragudo, Portugal

I loved the cheery yellow color on this building

Quiet street with colorful houses in Ferragudo

Have you seen a prettier and more colorful street?

Return to Portimao

The walk back actually wasn’t too bad (aside of that bridge), maybe because I had a clearer idea of how much further it was. Still, it took close to an hour to get back to main seaside square from Ferragudo.

Once I got back to the main square in Portimao (and was sure that I could easily get to the port on time), I bought myself a soda and took a bit of a break on one of the benches. At that point I also found a public restroom right there in town!

Other activities in/from Portimao

On a future visit to Portimao I would probably book a shore excursion to some other nearby towns, especially in the hot summer.

But other good options aside of Ferragudo if you are an independent traveler would be:

  • Take a boat tour from Portimao and spend the rest of the time enjoying Portimao
  • Take bus # 33 southwards to Praia do Rocha and spend part of the day at the beach
  • Get an early start, use bus or taxi to the station, and visit Lagos or Silves by train

Conclusion

My conclusion is a bit surprising. I absolutely loved my day and visiting Portimao and Ferragudo was a definite highlight of my cruise.

However, even in early May it was quite warm and exhausting and I don’t think I would have enjoyed it in the summer heat. It was a lot of effort to get to Ferragudo!

Personally, I love exploring on my own so don’t regret it in the least but depending on your taste you could probably do and see more with less effort.

Consequently, I would recommend a prebooked taxi or an organized excursion with free time if you aren’t on a tight budget. This will give you more time and energy to actually enjoy this charming part of Portugal!

Fountain with statues on Praco do Rossio

Hi, I am Kitty and I love to travel! Welcome to my blog, where I share all I have learned on my trips - good and bad - to help you have a better, cheaper, and more perfect vacation!

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