The team at Inside is constantly encouraging its readers to discover the region and all it has to offer. True to form, we decided to do just that, but this time we snubbed the more traditional means of transportation and hopped on three very different kinds of vehicles: a retro Vespa, a high-powered buggy and an ecofriendly tuk tuk. Here, we reveal a very different side of the area from a brand new perspective.

Sitting in Carvoeiro, we waited for our specially requested Vespas to be delivered, with images of Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in the 1953 film Roman Holiday floating around in our head. They didn’t disappoint: bright and shiny, this is retro-cool at its finest, and the best way to zip around Carvoeiro with admiring glances at every turn. It’s an investment that certainly paid off for Ralf and Ilenia, who founded the Vespa rental business Grasp a Wasp in Praia da Rocha in March 2012.

Alongside the great weather, Ralf explains why they chose the Algarve for such a business: “[A Vespa] offers much more than a car. You have ample view so you see everything, you’re air-conditioned naturally, you can sit on it in a wet swimsuit, and it boasts a luggage carrier where you can put towels, a bag, a picnic, or even a surf rack. They’re just ideal vehicles.” With nine Vespas to choose from (three are automatic), in a range of funky colours and boasting bright helmets with integrated sun visors and iPhone chargers, our pretty multicoloured number brought to mind images of picnics, romance and sunny days.

Those who are already familiar with riding Vespas or scooters in general will be in their element, although Ralf says it’s easy to learn how to control the gears. For everyone else, the automatics are the perfect choice. Leaving Carvoeiro, we headed towards Silves to discover the side-streets of the Medieval city without having to negotiate all the steep hills on foot. This is the perfect place to park up, visit the castle and maybe enjoy a light lunch.

After all, we were going to need it as we made our way into the Silves countryside for a very different driving experience indeed: the adrenaline-filled Bulldog Buggies. Set up last year by former car dealer Dan Savage, just east of Silves, this is the perfect way to venture out into the hills with a bit of excitement added to the mix. “It’s a scenic tour with a bit of fun,” says Dan, whose six buggies provide an experience that has earned excellent reviews on Tripadvisor.

Suitable for all ages, the usual circuit lasts around two hours and takes visitors on a trip they’re not likely to forget any time soon. “People are surprised to see this countryside is here; many visitors think the Algarve is just sand and sea.” To emphasise his point, Dan includes three stops in the circuit that epitomise the beauty of the area, including the Arade dam and what is perhaps the highest point around, with stunning views of the mountains on one side and the ocean on the other.

Most of the tour is off-road, with great terrain and spectacular scenery, although it is highly recommended to dress for the occasion, as the state of our clothes testified at the end of the tour (goggles and masks are provided). Dusty in summer, the best time to hop in these two-seater buggies is winter, “when the rivers are full and the grass is green”, or in March and April when the flowers are out.

After splashing through water at the end of the tour and looking decidedly dirty, it was time to clean up and get back on our Vespas to drop them off at Praia da Rocha, but not before stopping off at Portimão Marina for a well-deserved, freshly squeezed orange juice and dipping a toe in the sea. Vespas begrudgingly returned (it’s no wonder that people prefer to rent them out for days at a time), we thought we had earned a bit of a rest, and what better way to be driven around than by tuk tuk, a little piece of Asia brought to the Algarve by local company Allgav-TukTuk.

The brainchild of Vasco and Filipa Chaveca, the idea is to provide trips right to the heart of Algarvean towns and showcase their rich history and traditions from an insider’s point of view. Not only that, the vehicles are 100% electric and perfect for our narrow cobbled streets. Working in partnership with local hotels – “We are not selling a mass product, that is why we’ve decided to work with quality hotels,” says Vasco – the company provides one-hour circuits as well as private hire to get from A to B in a very unique, eco-friendly way.

With a capacity for six people, the big advantage of these little tuk tuks is that they can go where other companies can’t, in complete silence. And that’s how we made our way through the fishing town of Ferragudo and back to Carvoeiro: tired, a bit dirty, and completely silent as we enjoyed the very best of this piece of paradise.

Author: Inside Carvoeiro

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