Have you ever showed up to an airport with no idea where you will be flying to? I kind of did that recently! Suprise Trips arranged a city-break for me where they took care of booking flights and hotel using Expedia’s advanced technology. Three days before my departure, they told me that it was going to be sunny and warm so that I know what to pack for the trip. Out of curiosity, I started browsing all their 77 destinations trying to guess where I will be going. Obviously, it wasn’t Reykjavik. But I assumed it would be on the Mediterranean or Central Europe. I failed guessing my own destination… but that was all part of the excitement and anticipation of going to a mystery destination. Once I arrive to London Luton Airport, I get the e-mail I’ve been waiting for… It says: “You are going to Faro”.
City: Faro, Portugal
Surprise Trips concept is simple, you book a trip with your own budget, select some requirements such as number of people travelling and number of nights, on top of that the possibility to exclude 3 destinations of your choice. Once you’re done, you’ve basically just booked yourself a trip. But up to this point, destination is still a mystery. However, the team behind Surprise Trips reveals the airport and time from where you will be flying to. But only 2 hours before departure, another e-mail says where you will be spontaneously heading to… In my case, it was Faro.
I was really excited because I needed a sunny city break. My flight was delayed so it was finally the opportunity to know the basics about Faro. I started browsing on the internet and I realised that it’s in Algarve, Southern Portugal. I always wanted to visit there, see the pristine beaches and naturally wonderful caves. As my flight was further delayed, it gave me more time to understand where I was going but the fun really continues once I land.
It was also really funny when I was asked: “Why did you come to Portugal?”
I reply: “It’s a surprise”, striking a confused expression in people’s faces…
Clearly, surprises did not stop when my destination was announced. Faro and the region are really surprising. But one funny coincidence, I met a friend of a friend. Alright, get ready for this: I met this Australian friend in Novi Sad, Serbia. When I revealed my surprise destination on Facebook, he recommended me to eat at this restaurant where his friend from Spain works. The funny part is that she was not aware I was coming… Until I show up and say: “Hi”. The restaurant by the way is “Tasquinha Cruzeiro”. They serve delicious Portuguese specialties.
Day 1 in Albufeira
I spent my first day in Faro… outside of Faro! Well, Faro is a pretty city but I felt like I walked it all on my first night so I thought I’d take the whole day to go out explore Algarve province. I took the bus from Faro Bus Station to Albufeira. Distances are small but the bus takes ages… It is slower than any bus I’ve ever taken in Europe (including Montenegro!). So I was furious I was spending part of my day on transport. But it was okay as I got to Albufeira safely. The town is very touristy but so pretty so it was okay being part of all German, British and Russian crowds who were mostly excited for the Euro 2016 games showing up at the multiple bars and pubs of the Old Town. I kept randomly walking there.
Getting lost is my favourite activity and it’s worth it. I found small streets hidden from the crowds where locals enjoy their lunch, or time off and just be themselves. Being ‘themselves’ in Portugal means being slow… Indeed, people are so chilled which makes them also very friendly and approachable. They aren’t loud like their Spanish neighbours but they surely have some really funny jokes. And it’s interesting to note that most people speak good English! I’m surprised.
Moreover, some parts of Algarve feel more like a transition between Europe and North Africa so I was really feeling at home sometimes. Until it got cloudy and rainy… That’s when I felt like being in London. Bloody hell! I took this time to just relax. But as soon as it got sunny… I hit the beach. Albufeira’s Fishermen Beach is one of the most beautiful in the region. It’s really clean, fresh water, golden sand and all this typical beach things. It’s also filled with beach bars. I then climb up the roads to one of Albufeira’s viewpoints. It’s a great place to watch the beautiful nature and the city’s cute little houses.
I end up staying a couple of hours in Albufeira because I wanted to get to Praia Marinha which is meant to be one of the prettiest beach in the region. But no luck, no public transport goes there. So I just returned to Faro to catch few minutes on the main square’s big screen showing France v Albania at Euro 2016. I was then off for a drink at one of the bars of the city. As I was going to my hotel to sleep at midnight, clubs were just opening… I guess it was just about time to start the party in Faro. But the next day was a busy one for me…
Day 2 in Ilha Deserta and The Caves
One of the main attraction in Faro is Ilha Deserta. As its name suggests it’s a deserted island full of wildlife scenery with many different bird species. I got there with a small boat and a guide on a tour charged 30 euros. Although it was interesting, I found it expensive once the tour was over. As we arrived to Ilha Deserta, I chose to go on a 2 km trail on a wooden path. It was one of my highlights from the trip as I was connecting with nature directly, the island was really desert as I arrived early in the morning. I kept walking until I reach a beach and that’s where is meant to be the southernmost point in mainland Portugal. But it was also the nearest point to Tangier, Morocco. And I could definitely feel the same climate as Norther Morocco. I was quite happy to discover this island. The beach looks so dramatic with its white sand and clear waters.
I wanted to go into the water but it wasn’t a warm day. So I kept walking and took the 12.15pm ferry back. As I was going on a Caves tour departing from Vilamoura Marina at 14.30. I got there on time… It started getting warmer and I was feeling my skin getting tanned. I am not complaining about that!
The boat started heading West towards Albufeira. The view was looking nice but it got interesting one hour later once we passed Albufeira until we reach one of the main caves in the region from where we took a smaller boat for a closer look. It looked absolutely amazing and I wished I could stay longer but it wasn’t a private tour. So we head back to the bigger boat. Meanwhile, it was also time for a swim… So I jump off the boat hopping that I can stay the whole time permitted to swim but that didn’t happen. The water was extremely cold that as soon as I jump, I got back into the boat. And I guess, it was my first time swimming at the middle of the Ocean which is something I wouldn’t normally dare to do but I just surprised myself! The tour costs 25 euros including hotel transfer so I was happy about the good price.
More about Surprise Trips here. Watch the video below to see how my surprise city-break went.
Disclaimer: Thanks to Surprise Trips for sponsoring my trip. I appreciate that but all views on this article are mine.