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The Algarve - A tourism guide for 2024

The Algarve is the beautiful southern coastline of Portugal. It is a region blessed with glorious sandy beaches, picturesque fishing towns and a glorious climate, all of which combine to create the perfect holiday destination.

The Algarve is wonderfully varied; there are pristine beaches for families, waterparks parks for thrill-seekers, buzzing nightlife for partying or historic towns for a cultural trip. Along with the vibrant towns, there is over 200km of stunning coastline, a mountainous interior and tranquil nature reserves, all to discover.

For a holiday destination the Algarve is a hassle-free destination; the region is very safe, hotels are of a high standard, English is widely spoken, and the Portuguese are welcoming and hospitable.

For your holiday, the Algarve is a hassle-free destination; the region is very safe, English is widely spoken, hotels are of a very high standard, and the Portuguese are welcoming and hospitable. As well as being an outstanding holiday destination, the Algarve is also one of the least expensive destinations in Europe ( Post Office data from 2022 ), and is significantly cheaper than Spain, Greece or France.

There is so much to love about the Algarve, and we adore the region, so let us help you plan your trip to this fantastic region, with our free and independent guides. Related articles: Highlights of the Algarve - The best beaches - Family holiday guide

The Algarve

Ferragudo is a traditional Algarve fishing village

Where to go for your Algarve holiday......

With over 200km of coastline, 25 different resort towns and countless small villages, there is a lot of choice for your holiday to the Algarve.

The majority of tourists take their holiday in the central and western regions of the Algarve; between Lagos to the west and Vale do Lobo in the east (there is a map later in this section).

This region is close to the excitement of the Algarve, with its waterparks, mega-family-hotels, buzzing nightlife and vibrant holiday atmosphere. For a conventional 7-to-14-day holiday (family, couple or group) this is the area you wish to be based in.

Algarve beaches

The beautiful beaches just to the west of Praia da Rocha (which can be seen in the background)

The four largest resort towns of this region are Albufeira, Lagos, Praia da Rocha and Vilamoura, and all four boast beautiful beaches, great nightlife and endless holiday activities. Albufeira is the most popular holiday destination of the Algarve, and has something to appeal to everyone. There is the party focused "Strip", a street of bars, clubs and excessive revelry, while 2km on the other side of Albufeira is the "Old Town" a favourite with families and ex-pats.

Vilamoura is more sophisticated and refined, being centred around an exclusive marina and renowned for its four golf courses.

Praia da Rocha is lively and exciting, and traditionally attracted a young age of visitor, but recently has be reinventing itself as a more luxurious holiday destination.

Lagos is our personal favourite, as it is more of a vibrant city than a holiday destination. Lagos has the most Portuguese character of the four main resorts and combines a historic city with beautiful beaches.

Lagos algarve

The Forte da Bandeira once guarded the entrance to Lagos harbour

If you are seeking a more relaxed holiday destination, then consider one of the smaller Algarve towns (and there are many great choices!). These are great if you are travelling with young children or don't want the hecticness of a bustling resort town. Recommended smaller towns in the main tourist region of the Algarve include Carvoeiro , Alvor , Olhos de Agua and Praia da Luz .

Carvoeiro Algarve

Carvoeiro is a pretty town and popular holiday destination

Outside of the Algarve’s main tourist area The east of the Algarve is much less touristy, and provides a more authentic Portuguese experience.

Much of this coastline (between Faro to Tavira) is lined by the lagoons and waterways of the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa, and a ferry is needed to reach the beaches. This reduced access to the beaches means that there are fewer mega-hotels and sprawling villa complexes.

The town of Tavira is a highlight of the east Algarve, and has the perfect mix of Portuguese culture, characterful town, along with gorgeous beaches a 15min ferry ride away.

The western Algarve coastline (north-south coastline between Sagres and Odeceixe) faces the might of the Atlantic Ocean. This is a region of staggering beauty, with towering cliffs, wild wind-swept beaches and powerful seas. There is almost no tourist development here.

The arid interior of the Algarve is very sparsely populated, and rise up to the mountains around Monchique.

The map below shows the location of the best resort towns in the Algarve. The large resort towns are shown in green, the best medium sized towns in yellow and the finest villages in blue.

The large resorts (green): 1) Lagos 2) Praia da Rocha 3) Albufeira 4) Vilamoura Medium size resorts (yellow): 1) Alvor 2) Carvoeiro 3) Armação de Pêra 4) Olhos de Água 5) Quarteira 6) Tavira 7) Monte Gordo Small villages (blue): 1) Praia da Luz 2) Porto de Mós 3) Ferragudo 4) Galé 5) Cabanas

The weather of the Algarve

The Algarve has hot dry summers, pleasant springs and autumns, and winters which are mild but unpredictable.

The height of the tourist season is from July through to August and this is when the beaches are packed and hotels are sold out.

June and September tend to be popular months with couples, being outside of the school holidays and without the hordes of children, but there is still fantastic weather and a buzz about the region. September is actually the busiest month of the year, as non-child couples head on holiday.

The weather is suitable for spending time on the beach from May until October, and at the end of October the smaller resort towns close down for the winter.

Algarve weather temperature

Summary of the Algarve's Major Towns and Resorts

where to stay have holiday in the algarve

The Ponta da Piedade headland near Lagos

Where to go for your holiday......

Quick summary of the main resorts within the Algarve and links to the specific destination guides (Note: links open new tabs) Our favourite places in the Algarve - Tavira , Carvoeiro and Lagos Best large resort town - Lagos , Albufeira or Vilamoura . Best smaller resort town - Carvoeiro , Praia da Luz or Alvor For young children - Most all of the central Algarve (just not the Strip in the Albufeira) For teenagers - Albufeira to Olhos de Agua, and Praia da Rocha , Where to party - Albufeira, Praia da Rocha or Lagos For a mature and relaxing holiday - Tavira , Alvor , Praia da Luz , Carvoeiro or Olhos de Agua Expats favourite - Olhos de Agua and Albufeira Exclusive and stylish - Vilamoura or Vale Do Lobo Region Historic and cultural - Lagos, Tavira , Faro or Vila Real de Santo António Stag or hen do's - The Strip in Albufeira ( Stag do guide here ) Somewhere different - Faro , Tavira, Carvoeiro or Monte Gordo Golfing Holiday - Vilamoura , Albufeira or Quarteira Surfing Holiday - Sagres In winter - Albufeira, Lagos or Olhos de Agua (the Algarve is not a winter sun destination) Escape package tourists – Vila Nova de Milfontes , Burgau, Vila Real de Santo António If the Algarve is sold out or is too expensive in the summer - Lisbon or Porto (Lisbon and Porto both have great beaches, cheap flights and lots of accommodation, ideal for families and couples)

The Algarve as a multi-destination or touring holiday

Some of the most enjoyable Algarve holidays come from a touring or multi-destination trip. Each of the coastal towns has a very distinct atmosphere and appeal, and there are not long distances separating them.

Popular routes combine the calmer and relaxed eastern Algarve (Tavira or Vila Real de Santo António) with the buzz on the central Algarve (Vilamoura or Albufeira) then with the history and authenticity of the western Algarve (Lagos, Portimao or Sagres). Related articles: Touring holiday ideas

The Algarve for a family holiday

The Algarve makes for a great destination for a family holiday, both for young children or teenagers. For young families there are calm, smaller resorts (Alvor, Praia da Luz, Carvoeiro) with pristine beaches and safe sea waters.

Teenagers will love the buzz of the central Algarve, with its theme parks, water parks and numerous thrill activities (though parents may grumble about the expensive entrance fees....)

Overall, the Algarve is a hassle-free family destination, English is widely spoken by all, children will be welcomed in all restaurants/shops/cafes, and supermarkets stock all common goods and brands.

We have been visiting the Algarve with children and families for many years, and often the main complaint is why did they not discover the Algarve sooner! Related articles: The Algarve for families

For older teenagers and twentysomethings……

It’s finally the end of college, university or the summer break from listening to the monotony of your boss, and you and your group of friends need a dose of summer sun and fun; then the Algarve is the destination for you.

It is perfect for days lounging on the beach and fun-packed nights with a smattering of holiday-based activities. The Algarve is vibrant and social but is not as extreme as Bulgaria, Ibiza or Cyprus. Also, the Algarve does not have the ridiculous prices of the Balearica Islands.

To get the most from the Algarve, always be within walking distance of the larger resort towns (Albufeira, Praia da Rocha and Lagos), and visit between June and September. And most importantly don’t forget travel insurance!!!!

For visitors from the USA

Portugal is rightfully becoming one of the most popular destinations for US tourists; there’s history, culture, and diversity, while still being one of Europe’s least expensive countries to visit.

The Algarve is one of the most beautiful regions of the country, but it cannot be fully seen in just an extremely short excursion from Lisbon. If you’re planning to visit the Algarve, allow sufficient time (five or more days) and embrace the relaxed pace of life of the region.

As indicated before, hotels need to be booked well in advance during the summer. For a cultural trip head to Lagos or Tavira, while for 5-star/golfing break visit Vilamoura. Public transport does not have the same social stigmas as in the US, and buses and trains are widely used by everyone.

Warning, please read

There have been a number of sham residential letting websites, which have appeared on the internet, with bogus or copied listings (often of real apartments).

These websites look professional (guarantees, refund polices etc) and often the comparative prices are significantly cheaper.

Only ever book an apartment through a trusted website (booking.com, homeaway.co.uk etc) and never pay for accommodation by bank transfer. For more details please see the TripAdvisor forum post: www.tripadvisor.com/../Villas_Algarve.html

(link opens new link)

Note: This type of scam is not just limited to the Algarve but is found in all major tourist destinations. The Algarve is just ripe for it, as demand for accommodation outstrips supply.

Our most popular guides to the Algarve

Where to stay?

Where to stay in the algarve

What Algarve town is the best for your holiday?

Top 10 Algarve

Top 10 Algarve

What are the top 10 sights and activities in the Algarve?

Best Beaches

Algarve Best Beaches

Discover the finest beaches of the Algarve

For families

Algarve Families holiday

Is the Algarve a good destination for a family holiday?

Algarve day trips

What are the best places to visit during my holiday to the Algarve?

Albufeira guide

The largest and liveliest resort town of the Algarve

Lagos Portugal

History, beaches, and nightlife -Lagos is rightful popular!

tavira guide

The most charming town of the eastern Algarve

Carvoeiro Algarve

Family-holiday destination on a magnificent coastline

faro guide

The historic city of Faro has much more than just it's airport

vilamoura Algarve

The Algarve's slice of sophistication and exclusivity

Silves Algarve

The ancient capital of the Algarve, with an impressive castle

Praia da Rocha

Praia da Rocha Algarve

Exciting resort town set on a stunning beach

Loulé Algarve

Experience authentic Algarve in this pretty market town

Alvor Algarve

The Algarve's finest mid-size resort town

Praia da Luz

Praia da Luz Algarve

Where to escape the masses, to relax and unwind

Sagres Algarve

Dramatic scenery and outstanding surfing, at the far western Algarve

V ila Nova de Milfontes

Vila Nova de Milfontes

Authentic Portugal on the undiscovered Alentejo coastline

Vilamoura guides

  • Vilamoura introduction
  • Sights & activities
  • 1 week in Vilamoura
  • When to visit Vilamoura?
  • Vilamoura Beaches
  • Vilamoura day trips
  • Airport to Vilamoura

Lagos guides

  • Lagos Introduction
  • 1 Week in Lagos
  • The Ponta da Piedade
  • Praia da Rocha intro
  • Day trips from Rocha
  • Portimão guide
  • Rocha beaches

Algarve Guides

  • Algarve Introduction
  • Best town in the Algarve?
  • Day trips in the Algarve
  • Algarve for Families
  • Itineraries and tours
  • The Algarve for Teenagers
  • Sold out Algarve
  • Faro Airport
  • Driving in the Algarve
  • Lisbon to the Algarve
  • Faro Introduction
  • Faro top 10
  • Faro's beaches
  • Airport to Faro
  • Day trip to Faro
  • Bone Chapel

Carvoeiro guide

  • Carvoeiro introduction
  • Carvoeiro beaches
  • Sete Vales Suspensos hike
  • Carvoeiro day trips
  • Ferragudo day trip

Alvor Guide

Alvor Introduction Alvor weather Alvor day trips Airport to Alvor

Albufeira guides

  • Albufeira introduction
  • 1 week in Albufeira
  • Albufeira beaches
  • Albufeira day trips
  • Praia de São Rafael beach
  • Airport to Albufeira

Portugal guides

  • Where to go in Portugal?
  • Top 10 Portugal
  • 1 week in Portugal
  • A weekend in Portugal
  • Top 10 beaches

Tavira guides

  • Tavira Introduction
  • Tavira top 10
  • 1 Week in Tavira
  • Tavira beaches
  • Tavira day trips
  • Anchor cemetery

Algarve Towns

  • Armação de Pêra
  • Monte Gordo
  • Olhos de Agua
  • Praia de Luz
  • Vila Nova de Milfontes

The best tourist destinations in Portugal

Aveiro , Braga , Batalha , Cascais , Coimbra , Estoril , Evora , Guimaraes , Lisbon , Nazaré , Obidos , Madeira , Peniche , Porto , Sesimbra , Setubal , Sintra , Tomar , Troia Peninsula , Viama Do Castelo

Practicalities for The Algarve

The Algarve is served by Faro airport, and this airport is conveniently positioned in the middle of the Algarve.

The majority of tourists who visit the Algarve will be based in the section of coastline that extends from the Praia da Rocha to Vilamoura, all of which are located to the west of Faro airport.

Outside of this area more traditional and quieter Portuguese towns can be found.

Summary of the Finest and most Popular Towns in the Algarve

Tavira – the algarve’s hidden gem.

Tavira is a delightful town that is situated on the banks of the slow flowing Gilão River.

The town of Tavira has reminded unchanged despite the advent of mass tourism, and provides the visitors with a charming town centre of cobbled streets, lined with traditional houses, which lead all the way up to the ancient castle.

The glorious beaches on the Ilha de Tavira are reached by ferry and the route passes through the protected series of mudflats and salt water lagoons of the Ria Formosa Natural Park. Tavira is laid-back, traditional and our personal favourite town in the Algarve. For a guide to Tavira please visit Tavira-Algarve-Portugal.com (link opens new window)

Tavira Quick Summary Ideal For - Couples who wish to discover the unaltered side of Portugal, or any visitor looking for a peaceful relaxing holiday in a wonderful town. Not suited For - Party goers, since Tavira is a traditional and calm town. Families with older children, as Tavira is a long way from the water parks, zoos and adventure that most children want to visit during a holiday.

tavira river front

The river front of Tavira

Albufeira – The Algarve’s Most popular resort

Albufeira is the most popular resort town of the Algarve, and this is because it excels at everything wanted for a holiday destination. The beach is massive, there are great holiday activities and the pretty old town is crammed full of restaurants, shops and bars.

For groups and party goers there is “the Strip”, a road full of themed bars and outrageous clubs, which is just far enough (2km away) from the Old Town not to annoy other tourists.

As Albufeira is the largest resort, the summer season is much longer, and there are still things going on during the low or off season. There are many enjoyable day trips from Albufeira for those visitors who wish more than just a beach, while the massive all-inclusive hotels are great for tourists who simply wish to relax.

Albufeira Quick Summary

Ideal for – Generally most visitors. There are great facilities, fantastic hotels and well over a 100 different places to eat out at. Not suited for – Visitors who wish to escape the summer crowds, Albufeira is very busy in the summer and prices sometimes reflect this.

Albufeira beach

The massive beach of Albufeira

Lagos – History and Stunning Scenery

Lagos is on the very western edge of the Algarve and is one of the region’s most fascinating and interesting towns.

Lagos is set on a stunning coastline of massive sandstone cliffs, wide beaches and crystal clear waters. Within the vicinity of Lagos is the Dona Ana beach, which is considered to be the finest in the Algarve, while further along the coast are the stunning cliff formations of the Ponta da Piedade.

Lagos has an important history as a major trading town, a rich history that is reflected in the varied sights throughout the town, which include the fort, a selection of pretty churches and even an ex-slave market.

From Lagos there are enjoyable day trips to the small fishing village of Sagres, or north into the Algarve hills. For a guide to Lagos please click here (opens new window)

Lagos Quick Summary

Ideal for – Visitors who want more than just sun, cheap food and drink. Active couples who want to visit and experience a lot during their holiday. Not suited for – Party animals; the night life is more restaurant and food based.

Vilamoura – The Algarve’s Exclusive Town

Vilamoura is the super-rich’s playground in the Algarve. The whole town was purpose-built as an exclusive destination that is focused around the larger marina and is filled with million dollar yachts.

The town boasts six championship-grade golf courses and is the location to be based for a golfing holiday, just expect expensive green fees. Vilamoura is smart, stylish and trendy, and completely without the signs of neglect found on the edges of many other Portuguese towns.

Vilamoura Quick Summary

Ideal for – Golf holidays, an upmarket holiday in a very exclusive area Not suited for – Bargains or visitors on a tight budget.

Faro is often over looked as a tourist destination, being primary used as a transport hub for the airport, train or bus services, but this beautiful city has a lot to offer.

Faro boasts a charming historic centre, which is circled by ancient Moorish walls, and a pleasant pedestrianised shopping zone. Departing from the marina there are boat tours which explore the Ria Formosa National Park and visit some of the quietest beach in the Algarve.

Faro’s main beach, the Praia de Faro, is surprisingly low-key considering it is just a 5 minute bus journey from the airport. For a guide to Faro please click here .

Faro Quick Summary

Ideal for – Short stays (1-2 nights) or as the first destination due to the close proximity to the airport. The great transport links means that Faro is a good base from which to explore the Algarve. Not suited for – Sun worshipers, the main beach is a 15 minute bus ride away.

Praia da Rocha – Good alternative to Albufeira

Praia da Rocha is a large and hectic summer resort, that crams in visitors during the summer season. There is a massive beach (larger than Albufeira’s beach), which on following the coastline changes into little coves hidden behind giant sandstone cliffs.

The resort has countless bars, restaurants and shops but has a much more modern appearance than Albufeira. 2km north of Praia da Rocha is the large but sleepy town of Portimão; for beaches and nightlife it's better to be based in Praia da Rocha, and not Portimão. Praia da Rocha is suitable for families as well.

Praia da Rocha Quick Summary

Ideal for – Families and young couples wishing a fun and social holiday Not suited for – Visitors seeking cultural or historic sights.

Quarteira – Budget Vilamoura

Quarteira is where the non-millionaires of Vilamoura live and work, but it is just a 10-minute walk from Quarteira along the coast to it’s exclusive neighbour Vilamoura.

Quarteira has a much better beach than Vilamoura and a pleasant promenade extends for the length of the beach. Quarteira offers great value accommodation, food and drink but the town has very bland appearance with large apartments, hotels and none of the Portuguese charm found in other locations.

Quarteira is much quieter and smaller than Albufeira or Praia da Rocha.

Quarteira Quick Summary

Ideal for – Great value and golf holidays Not suited for – Visitors seeking culture, history or a pretty Portuguese town.

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With many of the country’s safest and loveliest beaches, and a year-round balmy climate, it is not surprising that the Algarve is the most popular holiday region with some of the best beaches in Portugal . The Algarve is the most southern region in Portugal, stretching the southern Atlantic coast from Vila Real at the border to Spain in the east to Sagres in the west.

Places to visit in the Algarve

Olhao and the islands, cacela velha, vila real de santo antonio and around, the central algarve resorts, armacao de pera, the serra de monchique, the western algarve, the west coast of portugal, carvoeiro and around, travel ideas for portugal, created by local experts.

Iberian Blend - Porto and Galicia

7 days  / from 3090 USD

Iberian Blend - Porto and Galicia

Neighbour countries - Portugal and Spain, different and similar at the same time, will surprise you with hospitality and loveliness. This itinerary includes the route of the Northwest part of Iberian Peninsula and offers you to meet beautiful Porto and stunning Vigo in Galicia/Spain.

The Real Algarvian Experience

7 days  / from 3047 USD

The Real Algarvian Experience

Experience and discover the real Algarve – taste local produce, drinks and traditional dishes, visit heritage sites and participate in culinary activities. If you are passionate about the people’s culture and gastronomy and want to learn more, this itinerary is for you.

A self drive to Portugal's North and Center

11 days  / from 1744 USD

A self drive to Portugal's North and Center

Starting in fascinating Lisbon, this trip allows you to discover Portugal both on your own as well as with guided tours. Driving further up north you'll explore Coimbra and Porto before heading to the Douro Valley and Alentejo.

When deciding where to go in the Algarve, take into consideration that stretches of the central coast between Lagos and Faro are mostly heavily developed, especially Faro . But even here the beaches are first-rate, as are the facilities. Also there are areas in the western Algarve around Sagres and Tavira where the surroundings are more attractive, with laidback resorts and low-key development.

To the west of Vilamoura, you’ll find the rocky outcrops and cove beaches for which the Algarve is best known, especially around the main resorts of Albufeira , Armacao de Pera (Armação de Pêra) and Lagos . The coast becomes progressively wilder as you head west, where attractive smaller resorts include the former fishing villages of Burgau or Salema, and the historic cape of Sagres – thought to be the site of Henry the Navigator’s naval school. The string of villages along the rougher west coast, as far as Odeceixe, are quieter still, with limited facilities but fantastic wild beaches ideal for surfing.

The eastern coast between Faro and the Spanish border is very different. Most of it is protected within the Reserva Natural da Ria Formosa, a series of barrier islands fronted by extensive sandy beaches. That means taking a short boat trip to reach the sands, which has helped preserve the towns from large-scale development. The resorts here have a more Portuguese feel than those in the central stretch, and first-choice bases here would be Faro itself – capital of the entire region – as well as Olhao, Fuseta, Cabanas or Tavira , all of which offer easy access to the sandbank islands.

Inland Algarve is still relatively undeveloped, especially around Alcoutim on the Spanish border. The Roman ruins of Milreu and the market town of Loulé are both worth an outing from Faro, while the old Moorish town of Silves is easily accessed from Portimão. Towards the west of the region, Caldas de Monchique is a quaint spa town in verdant woodland that makes up much of the picturesque Serra de Monchique mountain range.

Traditional portuguese town of Olhao, Algarve, Portugal © S-Studio/Shutterstock

Traditional portuguese town of Olhao, Algarve, Portugal © S-Studio/Shutterstock

There are few actual sights in Olhao (Olhão), 8km east of Faro . Still, with a vibrant market, attractive riverfront gardens and atmospheric backstreets, it’s an appealing place to spend some time. It also makes a great base from which to visit the surrounding sandbank islands of Armona and Culatra or the Quinta da Marim environmental centre.

The largely pedestrianized old town boasts some superb tile-fronted buildings, quirky shops and bars, while the flat roofs and narrow streets are striking and give a North African look to the place – perhaps not surprisingly, as Olhao had traditional trading links with Morocco.

The town was granted its charter by exiled king João VI to thank the local fishermen who sailed a small boat, O Caíque de Bom Sucesso, across the Atlantic to Brazil in 1808 to give him the good news that Napoleon’s troops had left Portugal. The amazing journey was completed with the most basic navigational aids. Today, a replica of the boat is moored on the water behind the market. It occasionally runs boat trips along the coast, ask at the turismo for details.

Around 10km east of Olhao, the fishing town Fuseta (Fuzeta) is one of the least “discovered” resorts on the Algarve. It is served by regular bus as well as the main Algarve rail line, probably because of its shortage of accommodation. It is not the most beautiful town in the region, but it retains some character as a working fishing port. Its daily routine revolves around its fishermen, whose colourful boats line up alongside the river in town. In summer Fuseta also attracts a lively community of campers. The two communities usually mingle at the line of lively kiosk-cafés spreading down from the ferry stop towards the river beach.

The town’s backstreets straddle a low hill facing the lagoon, sheltered by the eastern extremity of the Ilha da Armona. Many of the local fish find their way to the small covered market on Largo 1° de Maio, on the road running parallel to the river. On Saturdays the market expands into a flea market that lines the adjacent pedestrianized Rua Tenente Barrosa. Continue up this road to reach the town’s little palm-tree-lined central square.

The waterfront of modern shops and apartments faces broad gardens that are largely taken over by the campsite. Beyond this is the estuary beach, a fine stretch of white sand that weaves up to a wooden lifeboat house, though more exhilarating and cleaner waters are found over the lagoon on the Ilha da Armona.

Six kilometres east of Tavira – past the golf course at Benamor – lies Cabanas, named after the fishermen’s cabanas (huts) that formed the original settlement. Today a kernel of backstreets is still made up of pretty fishermen’s houses along with a line of low-rise shops, cafés, restaurants, and bars facing a picturesque river estuary edged by a neat wooden walkway. Moored fishing boats testify to the village’s former mainstay, though today the economy is largely driven by tourism thanks to the glorious sands on Praia de Cabanas over the estuary.

Things to do in Cabanas

Ferries shuttle passengers to the Praia de Cabanas from a small jetty opposite Restaurante O Monteiro in the east of town. Cross the dunes and you’re faced with kilometres of golden sand, plus a couple of seasonal beach cafés. A perfect spot for swimming, sunbathing and relaxing before grabbing a yummy lunch or sunset dinner.

There are three golf courses in the area for golfers, a 17th century Sao Joao da Barra fort, now turned into a luxury seafront hotel for those who love relaxing. For nature lovers, you can take a boat ride to the waterways of the Ria Formosa Natural Reserve, ideal for birdwatching.

Best time to visit Cabanas

The best time to visit Cabanas is typically during September and October, when the temperature is in the high 20s. The Summer months are of course the hottest, with temperatures sitting in the mid 30s. Spring is cooler, as with winter, at around 17 - 20 degrees; perfect if you want some winter sunshine.

Perched on a low cliff facing the estuary, 10km east of Cabanas, the whitewashed village of CACELA VELHA is a reminder of how the Algarve must have looked half a century ago. Apart from a few café-restaurants, there are no tourist facilities, just a pretty church and the remains of an eighteenth-century fort – and even that houses a maritime police station and is closed to the public. Offering exhilarating views from its clifftop, Cacela is highly picturesque and, despite the Quinta da Ria/Quinta da Cima golf courses just to the west, it’s rarely overrun by visitors. The only time the place gets busy is during the Moorish Nights in July – a four-day festival of Arabic food and Moorish-inspired events, including a souk.

The beach below the village has been rated as one of the best in the world, and it would be hard not to agree. To get to it, follow signs to “Fábrica”, just west of the village, around 1km downhill. From here a ferryman can take you over to the beach (daily in summer, but only during good weather the rest of the year).

Vila Real de Santo Antonio (aka Vila Real) is a pleasant border town, the terminus for the trans-Algarve railway line. The ferry across the Guadiana from here to Ayamonte is still the most fun way to cross the border. The construction of a modern road bridge just north of the town in the 1990s greatly affected the town’s former role as the Algarve’s main access point to Spain.

Nevertheless, it’s still an interesting place to spend a few hours, exploring a central grid of streets that radiates out from a handsome main square, Praça Marquês de Pombal, ringed by orange trees, low, white buildings and pleasant outdoor cafés. The square is named after the king’s minister, who helped rebuild the original town after it was destroyed in a tsunami following the 1755 earthquake. Indeed the grid plan, dating from 1774, is very similar to that of Lisbon’s Baixa.

On the north side of the square, Rua Teófilo Braga, the pedestrianized main street, leads inland from the riverfront Avenida da República to the Centro Cultural António Aleixo, the town’s former market building now used as an innovative space for temporary exhibits and the occasional film, and which also dispenses tourist information. The streets surrounding the cultural centre have a certain low-key charm, bristling with linen shops, electrical retailers and grocers, while the riverside gardens offer fine views across to the splash of white that is Ayamonte in Spain.

Some 40km north of Vila Real – and best approached by car along the road that hugs the Guadiana River – is the extremely attractive border village Alcoutim. It has a long history as a river port, dominated in turn by Greeks, Romans and Arabs who all fortified the heights with various structures; the castle dates from the fourteenth century and offers fine views over the river.

The entrance fee includes access to a small archeological museum by the main gates, which traces the history of the castle, its active service in various battles and the remnants of earlier structures on the site. From the castle, cobbled backstreets lead down to the small main square, below which is the appealing riverfront. Currents are too strong for safe swimming, but you can take a boat across the river to the Spanish village of Sanlúcar, a mirror image of Alcoutim, with its own ruined castle; or swim at the river beach (praia fluvial) in a small tributary off the Mértola road.

The central Algarve from Faro to Lagos encompasses some of the region’s best beaches – but also its most intense tourist development. Despite this, Quinta do Lago, Vale do Lobo and Vilamoura are low density and upmarket: purpose-built resorts with great facilities including marinas, top golf courses and tennis centres. These resorts don’t have much traditional culture, though there’s a little more of that at neighbouring Quarteira, a high-rise resort with a fine town beach and a renowned fish market.

For Getting around Central Algarve resorts, a road train trundles along the seafront, round town and back to the market every hour or so.

LOULÉ, 18km inland from Faro , has always been an important centre of commerce and is still best known for its markets. It has recently grown to a fair size, though its compact centre doesn’t take long to look around. The most interesting streets, a grid of whitewashed cobbled lanes, lie between the remains of its Moorish castle (now a museum) and the thirteenth-century Gothic Igreja Matriz, with its palm-lined gardens in front.

Armacao de Pera (Armação de Pêra), 15km west of Albufeira , fronts one of the largest beaches in the Algarve, which spreads east all the way to Galé. Beach aside, it is not the greatest looking of resorts; high-rise buildings and apartments straggle along the town’s main through-road, tempered only by a pedestrianized promenade overlooking the central part of the sands.

The remains of Armacao de Pera’s fortified walls are at the eastern end of the resort, where a terrace in front of a little white chapel provides sweeping views. But the town beach is fine and if the main section is crowded, just head further east, beyond the cluster of traditional boats on the fishermen’s beach towards Galé, where things are quieter. Aside from the beaches, the other local attraction is 4km up the main N125 at Porches, where the most famous of the Algarve’s chunky and hand-painted pottery comes from – the main road is lined with shops that sell it.

Eighteen kilometres northeast of Portimão, with a superb castle whose dramatic ring of red walls gradually reveal themselves as you approach, SILVES is well worth at least a half-day’s visit. While under Moorish occupation, the town was the capital of the Algarve – indeed it was the Moors who named the region al-Gharb (“the west”), and built Silves into a well-fortified and sophisticated place. The town’s golden age came to an end, however, in 1189 with the arrival of Sancho I and his large, unruly army of Crusaders, who laid siege to thirty thousand Moorish inhabitants in the citadel for three months. When the Moors’ water and food supplies finally ran low they agreed to open the citadel gates in return for Sancho guaranteeing the safety of its inhabitants. The Crusaders, however, ignored Sancho’s pledge and killed some six thousand Moors as they gleefully took the fortress. Silves passed back into Moorish hands two years later, but by then the town had been irreparably weakened, and it finally fell to Christian forces for good in 1249.

The Serra de Monchique is a rolling mountain range separating the Algarve from the neighbouring Alentejo district. Its slopes are made up of deciduous oaks and chestnut woods and it’s one of the few areas of Portugal that shows off dazzling autumn colours. Its highest peak – at nearly 900m – is Fóia, from where, on a clear day, the views stretch over the south coast of the Algarve and west across to Cabo de São Vicente. Sadly this area also bears the brunt of the summer fires that seem to rage annually, though the woodland is generally quick to recover.

Caldas de Monchique

Set in a beautifully wooded ravine, CALDAS DE MONCHIQUE was a spa even in Roman times and was once popular with Portuguese royalty. It was sympathetically restored in 2000, transforming a somewhat ramshackle spa resort into a tourist village – and the results have been fairly successful. The cobbled, tree-shaded main square, fronted by the pseudo-Moorish windows of the former casino (now an exhibition hall), is surrounded by lovely nineteenth-century buildings and the wooded setting is a delight. At the foot of the village, the modern thermal spa offers specialist treatments – including water massage, jet-showers and a steam room.

MONCHIQUE, 6km from Caldas, is a sizeable hilltown best visited for its market, held on the second Friday of each month (by the helipad): check out the local smoked hams and distinctive wooden furniture – especially the distinctive x-shaped chairs. There’s also a weekly Sunday market on the main square, Largo 5 de Outubro, though the town is liveliest during the Feira dos Enchidos Tradicionaes (Traditional Sausage Fair) in March, when restaurants lay on special menus. The old town is dotted with beautifully crafted metal sculptures of local characters made by a contemporary Lisbon artist, which you can spot on the waymarked route to the ruined seventeenth-century monastery of Nossa Senhora do Desterro, signed uphill from the bus station. Only a rickety shell of this Franciscan church remains, but it’s a lovely fifteen-minute walk up.

There’s a beautiful, winding 8km drive from Monchique up to the Serra’s highest peak at Fóia, though the summit itself – bristling with radio masts, and capped by an ungainly modern complex sheltering a café-restaurant and shop – can be an anticlimax, especially if clouds obscure the views. On a clear day, however, the vistas are superb.

The coast west of Lagos , as far as Sagres , remains one of the least spoiled parts of the Algarve, largely thanks to the Parque Natural da Costa Vicentina which prohibits large-scale building on the coastline west of Burgau. As a result, the resorts – certainly west of Luz at Burgau and Salema – remain largely low-rise and low-key. Most of the coast is linked by a craggy coast path and you can easily walk between the villages: Salema to Luz, or Luz to Lagos , in particular, are beautiful routes.

Once past the modern suburbs, Burgau, 5km west of Luz, is a pretty little former fishing village of narrow cobbled lanes which tumble down a steep hillside to a fine sandy beach set below low cliffs. Fishing boats still line the lower roads, which double up as slipways, while narrow alleys weave around to a miradouro viewpoint. In July and August the village is somewhat mobbed, but at other times it retains a distinct character, with locals cooking fish on tiny grills outside their homes.

At the bottom of an attractive valley, Salema is no longer the thriving fishing village it once was, but its tight warren of fishermen’s houses above the eastern end of a fine, sandy bay now form the hub of an attractive resort. Many of the old houses are now converted into inexpensive holiday lets: look for signs in the windows. A plume of modern development spreads steeply uphill, but at least the white villas are in keeping with the old town, and its beach only gets busy in high season.

The west coast of the Algarve faces the full brunt of the Atlantic, whose crashing breakers and cooler waters have largely deterred the developers. Nevertheless, the rocky coastline is punctuated by fantastic broad beaches accessible from the small villages of Carrapateira, Odeceixe or, a little further inland, Aljezur.

This is popular territory for surfing, camping and hardy nudists who appreciate the remote beaches. Be warned though: the sea can be dangerous and swimmers should take great care. In 1995 the stretch of coast from Burgau to Cabo de São Vicente and up through the Alentejo was designated as a nature reserve, the Parque Natural da Costa Vicentina. This afforded the rugged scenery a certain amount of protection, though it also means that accommodation is scarce and it is better to have your own transport.

Aljezur (pronounced “alj-ezoor”), 16km north of Carrapeteira, is the liveliest town on this coast, though some way inland from any beaches. The main coast road passes through a prosaic, modern lower town where you find banks, the post office and a range of cafés and restaurants. The more interesting historic centre spreads uphill beyond the bridge over the Aljezur River, a network of narrow cobbled streets reaching up through whitewashed houses to the remains of an eleventh-century Moorish castle, a lovely picnic spot and where you can see the remains of the cistern and grain silos. It’s a lovely walk up to the castle with sweeping views over the valley, via a cluster of museums (see also Walks in and around Aljezur).

The Casa Museu Pintor José Cercas displays the works and collections of local artist José Cercas, who lived in the house until his death in 1992. His well-observed landscapes and religious scenes are complemented by the attractive house and pretty garden.

Some 10km southwest of Aljezur, Praia da Arrifana is a superb, sandy sweep set below high, crumbling black cliffs which shelter a tiny fishing harbour. The beach is excellent, and surf competitions are sometimes held here. Several simple café-restaurants lie along the road above the beach, all serving grilled fish at moderate prices.

Walks in and around Aljezur

The active historical society in Aljezur has marked out an attractive 4km Circuito Histórico around the old town, with historical sights marked by plaques in English and Portuguese. Before the river silted up in the fifteenth century, Aljezur was a major port, and the route passes buildings such as the tollhouse, once used to check weights and goods as they arrived. The town also marks the crossover point of two major long-distance walking trails: the Via Algarviana, which runs for 300km from Alcoutim in the west to Cabo de São Vicente in the south; and the Rota Vicentina, which runs for 340km from Santiago de Cacém in the Alentejo, sharing the southern route to Cabo de São Vicente with the Via Algarviana.

The attractive village of Odeceixe tumbles down a hillside opposite the broad valley of the Ribeira da Seixe, below the winding, tree-lined main coast road. Sleepy out of season, its character changes in summer when it attracts a steady stream of surfers, campervanners and families, lured by a superb beach and a very laidback atmosphere. Everything centres on the single main street and a small square, Largo 1 de Maio, where you’ll find some lively bars, plenty of cafés, a couple of minimarkets, post office, bank and craft shops.

The beach, Praia de Odeceixe, is 4km west of the village, reached down a verdant river valley, the fields either side neatly cultivated with corn. A road-train trundles between village and beach during July and August, but it’s a lovely walk along the road as well, following the river to a broad, sandy bay framed by low cliffs. Praia de Odeceixe is one of the most sheltered beaches along this stretch of coast, offering superb surfing and relatively safe swimming, especially when the tide is out. There’s lots of parking above the bay, as well as a cluster of houses and cafés, some offering quartos (rooms to rent).

Carrapateira and its beaches

Some twenty kilometres to the north of Sagres is the low-key village of CARRAPATEIRA. There’s not much to the village itself, but most people are drawn by the nearby Praia da Bordeira, a spectacular beach backed by giant dunes, a tiny river and crashing surf. A couple of kilometres south of Carrapateira (signed off the main road), there’s a further fantastic broad, sandy bay, Praia do Amado, with a couple of seasonal cafés. Backed by low hills, it’s particularly popular with surfers, and there’s a surf school here.

A whitewashed former fishing village nestled into sea cliffs, the small resort of Carvoeiro must once have been very attractive, but now its small cove beach has to support the prostrate bodies of hundreds of tourists shipped in to what has become an overblown resort.

Things to Do in Carvoeiro

Apart from the obvious activities such as swimming, sunbathing and generally just relaxing and enjoy the beach, there are other places to explore should you want more of an adventure. From the beach itself, local fisherman run boat trips to the nearby caves. You can also visit the impressive rock formations of Algar Seco, 1km east of town, where steps lead down low cliffs to a series of dramatic overhangs above blow holes and grottoes. They are accessible via the coast road, or by a road train that trundles out from Carvoeiro every hour or so.

There are two superb cove beaches a few kilometres to the west of Carvoeiro, though you’ll need your own transport to reach them from town. First up is Praia da Caneiros, with a rock stack jutting from the sea off its lovely beach and a superb beachside restaurant, Rei das Praias. A couple of kilometres further on, Praia Pintadinho is almost as appealing, with a simpler café-restaurant.

Best time to visit Carvoeiro

The Summer months in Carvoeiro can be quite hot, the best time to visit the Algarve region is between April and June, when temperatures sit nicely at around 25 degrees, the same for September and October. It is never particularly cold, with the lowest avergae temperature sitting at 11 degrees in January, when rainfall is at its highest.

Around Carvoeiro

Carvoeiro is a small town, so once you've explored it's streets and relaxed on the beaches, you may be looking for a day trip. Nearby is Silves, a historical town with a Moorish castle and pretty riverside walks. A nice way to see Silves is by taking a boat trip up the Arade River from Portimao.

Facing the sprawl of Portimão across the Rio Arade estuary, FERRAGUDO is an attractive former fishing village centred on a strip of palm-fringed gardens that spread up to the cobbled main square, Praça Rainha Dona Leonor. A waterfront promenade lined with fish restaurants skirts the estuary – you can take various boat trips from here, most linking up with those departing from Portimão.The old town spreads steeply uphill behind the estuary, its warren of atmospheric cobbled backstreets gathered around Ferragudo’s church, with a terrace that offers great views. The town has an estuary beach, which gets progressively more appealing as it approaches the impressive Castelo de São João do Arade. The castle (closed to the public) faces its partner fort in Praia da Rocha across the river, both of which were built in the sixteenth century to defend Portimão against attack.

The nearest ocean beach lies a couple of kilometres south, where you’ll find the broad sands of Praia Grande at the mouth of the Rio Arade, with a scattering of restaurant-bars.

Sited on the broad estuary of the Rio Arade, Portimão has made its living from fishing since pre-Roman times, but today it's a sprawling modern port of around forty thousand people. Few of Portimão’s buildings made it through the 1755 earthquake – the Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Conceição is a rare survivor, retaining a fourteenth-century Manueline door, though most of the church was rebuilt in the late seventeenth century. The surrounding streets are pleasant enough, filled with shops selling lace, shoes, jewellery, ceramics and wicker goods, while the main shopping streets are around the pedestrianized Rua Diogo Tomé and Rua da Portades de São José.

The most attractive part of town is the riverfront, where a series of squares – Largo do Dique, Praça Manuel Teixeira Gomes and Praça Visconde de Bivar – are filled with outdoor cafés by gushing fountains. Heading up the river and under the road bridge you’ll find a series of open-air restaurants serving inexpensive grilled-sardine lunches. The narrow streets just back from the bridge – off Largo da Barca – are Portimão’s oldest, with more than a hint of their fishing-quarter past.

Set slightly inland on the Rio Alvor, the port of Alvor, 6km west of Praia da Rocha , briefly achieved fame as the place where Dom João II died in 1495. Although much of the town was razed in the 1755 earthquake, it still boasts a sixteenth-century Igreja Matriz with Manueline doors and pillars carved into fishing ropes and plants. Despite the inevitable development, the old core around the church and the central Praça da República retains some character, while the harbour itself is a delight, lined with colourful fishing boats and aromatic fish restaurants. Two-hour boat trips to various places along the coast leave from here. From the harbour it's a short walk uphill to the ruins of Alvor’s castle, which dates back to the thirteenth century but now houses a children’s playground.

Exploring Alvor

From here, Rua Padre David Neto leads onto Rua Dr Frederico Romas Mendes, the main drag lined with bars and restaurants. This stretches down to the riverside Largo da Ribeira, marked by a modern statue of a fish, where you’ll find half a dozen fish restaurants overlooking the picturesque Rio Alvor. Head right as you face the river and a path leads up the estuary for a tranquil walk; bear left and it is a ten-minute stroll past fishermen’s huts and riverside cafés to the Praia de Alvor, an enormous beach backed by café-bars.

Praia de Alvor

Praia de Alvor is a beach of stunning measures - spanning several kilometres, the sands are soft and the waters blue. You will find a long boardwalk close to the beach that leads you to the pretty Ria de Alvor Nature Reserve. When you're not busy enjoying the beach and sunshine, check out the local church and castle.

Getting to Alvor

If you are staying in the town of Alvor, the beach is just a short walk away. From Lagos and Portimao there are buses to the village, and if traveling by car; Alvor is well sign-posted. Close to the beach is a parking lot that is shockingly cheap at 1.50€ for the full day.

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written by Mani Ramaswamy

updated 17.04.2024

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14 Top-Rated Attractions & Places to Visit in the Algarve

Written by Paul Bernhardt Updated Dec 22, 2023 We may earn a commission from affiliate links ( )

The Algarve is Portugal's southernmost region, and one of the most popular vacation destinations in Europe. Blessed with a superb coastline and some of the country's loveliest beaches , the province enjoys hot, dry summers and short, mild winters. Warm sea temperatures and gentle winds add to its allure.

The Algarve is a land of contrast, and there's plenty of things to do. More than fifty percent of all visitors to Portugal spend their holidays here. The popular and more developed central region offers lively coastal resorts, first-rate tourist amenities, and some of Portugal's best golf courses .

Farther east, a string of sandbar islands and lagoons form part of a beautiful and protected natural park, and a distinctly Spanish atmosphere pervades the border towns and villages. Over to the west, a very different Algarve beckons. Wilder and more remote, this is a place to escape the crowds and where surfers seek communion with a restless Atlantic Ocean.

For more sightseeing ideas, see our list of the top attractions and places to visit in the Algarve.

2. Vila Real de Santo António

3. alcoutim, 7. vilamoura, 8. albufeira, 10. portimão, 11. serra de monchique, 14. the west coast, tips and tours: how to make the most of your visit to the algarve, map of attractions & places to visit in the algarve, exploring more of the sun-soaked algarve.

Faro's Old Town

Busy Faro is the capital city of the Algarve, and its international airport is the gateway for many tourists arriving in southern Portugal. As the largest city in the region, Faro accommodates around 50,000 inhabitants and is a modern industrial and manufacturing hub.

It is the Old Town , however, that sightseers will want to visit. Enclosed by sturdy defensive walls, Faro's Cidade Velha sits on Roman and Moorish foundations. The town was badly damaged by the great earthquake of 1755, and what you see today dates mostly from the 18th and 19th centuries.

A warren of cobblestone streets and leafy squares surround the landmark cathedral . Explore farther, and you'll find a number of cafés and restaurants tucked discreetly between rows of tidy houses and artisans' workshops. An excellent museum exhibits treasures unearthed in the area and further afield.

The nearby esplanade harbors a small marina, beyond which lies an expanse of lagoons and wetlands teeming with marine life. This beautiful natural park is also composed of numerous islets and enormous sandbars with their own fabulous beaches , including one named after the city.

  • Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Faro

Praça Marques de Pombal

You're as likely to hear Spanish spoken here as Portuguese for this is about as near to Spain as you can get without actually crossing the frontier. Indeed, the shops and markets of Vila Real de Santo António are geared towards visiting Spaniards, but this pleasant border town also has a number of tourist attractions worth investigating.

The excellent Arquivo Histórico Municipal on Avenida da República chronicles the region's almost vanished sardine and tuna canning industry with a spirited interactive exhibition that's free to visit.

The handsome main square, Praça Marques de Pombal , features an eye-catching mosaic sun burst radiating from a central obelisk and is ringed by orange trees and plenty of inviting cafés and restaurants. A fun-filled diversion is to take the ferry from the quay near the marina to the Spanish border town of Ayamonte , with its colorful tapas restaurants and traditionally styled delicatessens. The ferry, which also carries cars, takes around 20 minutes to cross the River Guadiana.

A 10-minute drive north of Vila Real is the spruce village of Castro Marim , which is dominated by an imposing 13th-century castle . Open to the public, its massive ramparts afford fine views over the surrounding coastal Reserva Natural do Sapal nature park.

Alcoutim

The eastern Algarve's barren and sparsely populated interior is rarely visited, and for the most part remains well off the tourism map. But some 40 kilometers north of Vila Real is the wonderfully scenic border village of Alcoutim.

The drive alone is worth the detour. Rather than using the IC27 dual carriageway, follow the road that hugs the Guadiana River , a broad, meandering waterway that provides a natural border between Spain and Portugal. A smudge of whitewash announces this riverside gem, and the tiny hamlet looks as though it has been created from the imagination of an exceptionally talented artist.

Once a strategic river port controlled in turn by Greeks, Romans, and, notably, Arabs, Alcoutim later played a role as the setting for the peace treaty signed in 1371 between King Fernando I of Portugal and Enrique II of Castile.

It's still a sleepy and tranquil Alcoutim that greets visitors today. The best way to begin sightseeing is by exploring the 14th-century castle (the entrance fee includes access to a small archaeological museum by the main gates). The castle walls afford stunning views of the vicinity and take in the Spanish village of Sanlúcar de Guadiana , set on the opposite bank of the river.

A regular ferry service shuttles between the two villages, but there is an alternative and absolutely exhilarating way to cross the river. On the Spanish side, high above Sanlúcar, is the only cross-border zipline operator in the world. As well as speeding from one country to another, you also cross a timezone - there is a one-hour time difference between Spain and Portugal.

Tavira

Near the coast in the eastern Algarve, Tavira is one of the region's prettiest towns. Sited on both sides of the broad River Gilão , this is a destination celebrated for its historical legacy, a past shaped by the Romans and later by the Moors, whose settlement by the river was topped by a castle , still visible today.

The hipped roofs that define much of Tavira's architecture are unique to this part of the Algarve. So, too, is the number of churches - 21 in all - that embellish the old town. Straddling the river is an elegant bridge , built in the 17th century on Roman foundations.

An amble along the riverfront is one of the best ways of appreciating Tavira; the palm-lined gardens are flecked with color in the summer months, and a nearby market brims with fresh fruit and vegetables.

Ferries depart from the quay to the Ilha de Tavira , a favorite destination for sun seekers and one of the few islands in the area where camping is permitted. Alternatively, you can join a sightseeing cruise along the Ria Formosa , a beautiful and unspoiled waterway and part of a protected natural park.

  • Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Tavira & Easy Day Trips

Olhão

The Algarve's busiest fishing port, Olhão is all about the ocean, and some of the best seafood restaurants in the region are on Avenida da República , the town's vibrant thoroughfare.

Another reason for paying Olhão a call is to browse its incredible harbor front market - the biggest and most animated on the coast. Open at daybreak, the fish market is filled to the gills with an extraordinary array of produce, sleek and silver, and the freshest you're ever likely to taste. Complementing this Atlantic harvest is a rural riot of just-picked fruits and vegetables, a farmer's choice of delicious country fare.

While it radiates a palpable North African atmosphere with its casbah-cluster of whitewashed flat-roofed houses, Olhão is bereft of any major tourist attractions. However, the waterfront town is a great base from which to explore the pristine Parque Natural da Ria Formosa . Visitors can follow a wonderful network of nature trails and discover a wealth of wildlife within its various habitats.

For others, it's Olhão's proximity to the fantastic near-deserted sandbar islands of Armona , Culatra, and Farol that lures them to this particular pocket of Portugal.

  • Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Olhão

Loulé

Far from the coast, Loulé is a busy market town of singular character and a fascinating past. The town is best known for its covered fruit and vegetable market , one of the busiest and most entertaining in the Algarve. The sprawling collection of stalls, cabins, and kiosks are arranged in a late 19th-century red-domed building with distinctive horseshoe-shaped windows. On Saturday mornings, the market spills out into the surrounding streets when farmers from outlying districts come to sell their crops.

Loulé has always been a lively commercial hub. The Moors built on Roman foundations to create a thriving center of commerce and constructed a castle here in the 12th century to protect their interests. You can walk the ramparts for fine views over the old town, and there's a small museum set within the grounds.

Arab influence is everywhere. Wander Loulé's backstreets, and you'll discover the ruins of an Islamic bathhouse , the hammam de Al-'Ulyà . In the beautiful 16th-century Capela Nossa Senhora da Conceição , decorated with stunning azulejos tiles, part of the floor reveals the foundations of a 12th-century Moorish house . Explore further, and you'll stumble upon the Igreja Matriz de São Clemente . The church's lofty bell tower originally served as a minaret.

About 25 kilometers northwest of Loulé, Alte is a picturesque village snuggled in the foothills of a mountain range and dotted with flower-filled gardens. To absorb the town's quaint local color, sightseers can stroll along the narrow cobbled streets with their charming white-washed houses or relax at one of the many cafés.

Vilamoura

No less than five championship golf courses cluster in and around Vilamoura, making this upmarket coastal resort a favorite with those who want to practice their swing or improve their handicap. Some hotels offer their guests preferential green fees and other inducements such as free shuttle services to and from the clubhouses.

Vilamoura is also synonymous with Portugal's largest marina facility, which offers 825 berths and can accommodate vessels up to 60 meters in length. The esplanade is lined with designer boutiques and pricey restaurants, and is fabulous for people watching, especially in August when Lisbon's jet set tread the boards clad in their designer best.

This is a family-friendly destination with plenty of activities for kids. The boardwalk is the jumping-off point for coastal cruises and other water sports activities, and you can hire pedalos on the sand at Praia da Marina . Elsewhere, the family golf park is an 18-hole mini-golf layout themed around ancient Rome.

Actually, the Romans were here, and the area features the ruins of a 2nd-century villa complex, Museu Cerro da Vila , complete with sunken baths, salt tanks, and striking mosaics.

Albufeira

Albufeira is the destination of choice for many Algarve holidaymakers. Its central location on the coast of southern Portugal makes it one of the region's most accessible resorts, and it's a favorite with tourists from across Europe and beyond.

Set on sandstone cliffs above a wide sandy bay, the Albufeira of old was once a quiet fishing village, nothing more than a cluster of whitewashed cottages, a chapel, and a church. Step back further, and it was the Romans who built a castle here, strengthened later by the Moors .

Little remains of their presence, but what Albufeira lacks in historical interest it more than makes up for with its animated spirit and vacation-time atmosphere. The resort's neon-lit streets illuminate a plethora of hotels, cafés, restaurants, and entertainment venues. Top-notch leisure facilities exude an all-round appeal, and Albufeira is often the preferred choice of families.

But the destination's biggest crowd-puller is its beaches . Some of the best stretches of sand in the Algarve are within walking distance of the resort, spectacular cliff-backed coves lapped by warm, shallow water. This is why Albufeira is the tourist capital of the Algarve.

  • Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Albufeira

Silves

Lying across a hill overlooking a fertile valley embroidered with orange groves, olive trees, and vineyards, Silves is one of the most scenic towns in the Algarve. The landscape, however, is dominated by the town's splendid castle - the grandest monument to Islamic rule in the region.

Built by the Moors in the 11th century on Roman foundations, the castle's dramatic profile is enhanced by its copper-red walls, sections of which extend into the town below. This was Xelb , the Moorish capital of the al-Gharb ("the west"). Another fine example of Islamic presence can be seen in the Museu Arqueológico , where the star exhibit is an impressive Arab water cistern with an 18-meter-deep well.

Silves is worth exploring at leisure. Downhill from the fortress is the Sé (cathedral), built between 1242 and 1577 on the site of Xelb's Grand Mosque. Opposite is the 16th-century Igreja da Misericórdia , replete with a fine Manueline side door.

The town itself is delightful, especially the area along the riverfront, which is lined with a small market and some excellent restaurants. Cruise boats from Portimão tie up here near the old bridge.

Silves Map - Tourist Attractions

Historically associated with the Algarve's once thriving cannery industry, Portimão has successfully reinvented itself as a destination for tourists who prefer to stay in an urban setting yet remain within shouting distance of a beach resort environment.

The region's second largest city, Portimão enjoys an enviable location overlooking the banks of the River Arade . Endowed with an award-winning museum and a noted theater complex, the city is basking in its reputation as one of the region's liveliest cultural hubs. It's also an international port of call for luxury cruise ships en route to the Mediterranean.

An eclectic choice of tourist attractions and amenities is close at hand. The award-winning Museu de Portimão is one of the region's most engaging visitor attractions . Housed in a former cannery building, the museum chronicles the history of the town's fishing and canning traditions using state-of-the-art interactive effects. Also on display are rare artifacts from pre-historic, Roman, and Islamic periods.

Offshore, a fabulous artificial reef - the first in Portugal - attracts diving enthusiasts from around the world. Inland meanwhile, a Formula 1-standard racetrack hosts sports car championships and other high-profile competitions.

A modern marina set at the mouth of the estuary is within walking distance of one of the Algarve's most famous beaches, Praia da Rocha - a beautiful and alluring stretch of golden sand that fronts the lively tourist resort of the same name.

Serra de Monchique

Offering an alternative to the Algarve beach scene is the Serra de Monchique, a rolling mountain range that adds a dramatic perspective to the region's western countryside. Skirted by fragrant meadows of wildflowers, Monchique's slopes bristle with chestnut and eucalyptus, the verdant habitat sustaining an abundance of wildlife.

A network of nature trails snake through the shady woodland; one leads all the way to Fóia , at 900 meters the highest point in the Algarve. On a clear day, the spectacular panorama embraces the region's entire western landmass including Lagos and Sagres, and the Atlantic Ocean beyond.

The pleasant hill town of Monchique is an excellent base from which to explore the area and is noted for its traditional handicrafts: look out for the cadeiras de tesoura , the x-shaped folding wooden chairs based on an ancient Roman design.

And it's the Romans who first took advantage of the warm, curative waters that nourish Caldas de Monchique , a charming spa tucked away in a wooded ravine in the foothills of the Serra. Set around a cobbled square furnished with a restaurant, café-art gallery, and bed and breakfast accommodation, the modern thermal spa offers a tantalizing menu of therapeutic treatments and rituals.

Lagos

Lagos is the western Algarve's liveliest resort town. It's also of great historical significance. Prince Henry the Navigator launched Portugal's Age of Discovery from Lagos in the 15th century, and the nobleman later became governor of the Algarve. His extraordinary vision, and the bravery of the intrepid explorers who set sail for uncharted waters, helped place Portugal on the world map, and Lagos is proud of its seafaring heritage.

The town's medieval collection of castle walls, graceful churches, and stout sea defenses always captures the imagination of visitors, but it's the coastline that lures holidaymakers. A stunning run of cliffs, caves, and grottoes provide the backdrop to some of the most scenic beaches in the Algarve. A series of spectacular ochre-splashed rock formations contrasts with sparkling azure waters, and the best way to appreciate this idyllic environment is by boat - Lagos's extensive tourist attractions and activities extend to sightseeing cruises and dolphin safaris .

Shopping here is good and inexpensive, and a wide choice of cafés and restaurants provide plenty of culinary distraction.

Cabo de São Vicente lighthouse, Sagres

Around 120 kilometers west of Faro, Sagres, continental Europe's southwesternmost community, basks in glorious isolation and is the Algarve's least developed coastal resort. It was here that Prince Henry the Navigator (1394-1460) is believed to have established a school of navigation on a windswept promontory near the town, thus heralding Portugal's remarkable period of maritime exploration.

The chunky walled Fortaleza seen today dates from the 17th-century, but inside the walls, you'll see a giant pebble wind compass, the Rosa dos Ventos , said to have been used by Henry. The adjacent 15th-century chapel of Nossa Senhora da Graça was certainly built on his orders.

Ancient Greek chroniclers described nearby Cabo de São Vicente as "the end of the inhabited earth," such is the austerity of this stark, windblown cape. The lighthouse serves as a navigational beacon, not just for shipping, but also for thousands of migrating birds, and there's a bird-watching festival here every October.

The town itself wakes up in summer to welcome a predominantly young crowd drawn to inexpensive accommodation, simple restaurants, and proximity to some truly fantastic beaches.

Sagres is Europe's surfing capital , and the destination hosts legs of the World Surfing Championships.

Praia da Bordeira

Precipitous sea cliffs, wide-open beaches, and a restless Atlantic Ocean define the character of the Algarve's west coast. Devoid of development, this remote and untamed stretch of coastline is the preserve of the more spirited traveler. Surfers worship the region, drawn by the outstanding rollers that crash onto Praia da Bordeira , Praia do Amado , Praia da Arrifana, and other sandy arenas. Surf schools abound, with many offering free transfers from Faro airport.

Traditional villages untouched by tourism dot the landscape, places like Carrapateira and Odeceixe . Accommodation is scarce, and very often it's the humble campervan that prevails. Unfussy restaurants serve succulent grilled fish and other delicious seafood dishes.

The entire region falls within the boundaries of the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina , and you can follow a number of footpaths, both inland and along the coast, that showcase its wild and rugged scenery. For a worthwhile cultural diversion, head for the lively town of Aljezur and visit the ruins of an 11th-century Moorish castle , set on a hill with uninterrupted views of the valley below.

Numerous Algarve tours and activity options are available on land and sea, many running throughout the year. These organized tours include expert guides, so you can learn more about the destination while you see the sights.

  • Sightseeing by Boat: A popular maritime pursuit is the Kayak and Snorkel Trip in Lagos , a guided excursion along the Atlantic coast. This active three-hour tour delves into sea caves and ancient grottoes for a different perspective of the Algarve. If you prefer not to paddle, the Ria Formosa Natural Park 4 Islands Boat Trip is an excellent choice. Departing Faro, this 4.5-hour tour is conducted at a leisurely pace aboard a 12-person catamaran through one of the most beautiful marine reserves in Europe.
  • Sightseeing by Bike: Take a four-hour cycle through the beautiful countryside, past small towns, farmland, and coastal scenery. This Small-group Bike Tour can be tailored to suit your fitness level.

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To fully appreciate the Algarve's unique allure, study our Portugal itineraries page for ideas on where to go and what to see . Top tourist attractions in the region include a number of historic castles and world-class golf courses . Several of Portugal's most modern and luxurious beach resorts are found here and of course, the Algarve is renowned for its wide choice of fantastically picturesque beaches .

Suggested Routes in the Algarve Map - Tourist Attractions

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25 Things to Do in The Algarve for an Amazing Trip

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LOOKING FOR THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN THE ALGARVE

You are in the right place as this article is all about the best things to do in the Algarve, regardless if you are coming alone, with a group, or as a family.

Before I lived in Portugal, I had never even heard of the Algarve. As a Canadian, I traveled throughout Europe, but the second I stepped foot in the Algarve for the first time in 2020, I fell in love . It was like nothing I’d ever seen before — it was breathtaking 🤩.

The Algarve is renowned for its sun-drenched coastline, charming old towns, and a rich history that blends together influences from various cultures, including the Romans and Moors. Ready to explore the entire region?

The Algarve: Fast Facts

algarve tourist information

If you do want to come to the Algarve, there are some things you need to know before we start our list of the top things to do and what’s worth seeing in the Algarve.

  • The Algarve is a beautiful, expansive region that covers approximately 5,000 square kilometers of southern Portugal’s coastline.
  • The main point of entry to this region is the Faro Airport, which is the region’s international airport.
  • There is a direct train line from Lisbon, which conveniently stops at Albufeira and Faro. A high-speed train operates between the two cities, and it takes around 3 hours.
  • If you prefer road travel, FlixBus is available , providing connections to other cities.
  • The most popular cities in the Algarve are Faro, Albufeira, Vilamoura, Lagos, and Portimão, each offering it’s unique charm and spectacular views.
  • Consider renting a car for ultimate flexibility, especially if you plan to visit the many resort towns scattered along the coastline. However, UBER is also available in the Algarve.

25 Best Things to do In The Algarve Things to do in he Algarve

1. visit the benagil caves.

algarve tourist information

The famous Benagil cave, also known as  Algar de Benagil , features a stunning hole in its ceiling, creating a natural skylight that illuminates the sandy beach within. It’s a must-visit spectacle for anyone venturing into the Algarve region.

The cave itself is located close to several popular Algarve destinations, including Lagos (45 minutes away), Albufeira (30 minutes away), and Portimão (45 minutes away). There are also several ways to visit the caves, including bus, car, public transportation, or via a tour like a boat ride or kayak experience.

Be aware that the cave gets crowded, especially during the summer season (or high season), so if you do come, try to come either early in the morning or in the evening. Many tours offer either sunrise or sunset experiences, like this First Inside Benagil Cave Tour.

⭐️ Want to learn more about the Benagil Caves? Read my article: Benagil Caves Portugal, The Ultimate Guide .

Things to do in the Algarve

2. have lunch under a 2,000 olive tree.

algarve tourist information

Sure, the Algarve has its fair share of sun, sand, and beaches. But take a short trip inland, and you’re in for a unique treat — a chance to enjoy lunch and wine underneath a 2,000-year-old Olive Tree at the Morgado do Quintão Estate.

Located between Silves, Monchique, and Lagoa, this family-owned estate has been growing grapes for around 300 years. It was founded by the Count of Silves in the 1800s . Today it is one of the Algarve’s premium wine estates.

The Estate itself hosts multiple experiences, including a lunch or dinner underneath the Olive tree , as well as wine tasting and vineyard tours . They also sell their own wines at the property, offer spa services, and even have cottages for rent if you’d like to stay for a while.

🍷 I personally had the pleasure of having lunch at Morgado do Quintão Estate , and I had the best time — you can read more about my experience here.

3. Tandem Skydiving Algarve

algarve tourist information

Ready for a different view of the Algarve? Try this tandem skydiving tour . It begins with a 20-minute flight over the beautiful coast. Once you reach a height of 15,000 feet, you and your instructor will leap out of the plane.

You’ll experience about 70 seconds of freefall before landing safely on Portimao’s soft sandy beaches. This skydiving adventure is a unique way to see the Algarve from above. This incredible experience also includes all the necessary equipment and a safety briefing.

4. Hike the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail

algarve tourist information

Elected as one of the best hikes in Europe by European Best Destinations , the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail is a scenic route that runs from Praia da Marinha in the east to Praia de Vale Centeanes on the west coast.

This is a popular , easily accessible trail with portions of the wooden walkway that take you through typical arid Algarve vegetation over the rocky golden beaches, steep cliffs, and unique rock formations of the Algarve coast.

The hike itself is around 11km, which will take you around 6 hours to complete. A moderate fitness level is recommended to participate comfortably. The trailhead entrance is a 5-10 min drive or taxi ride from the town of Carvoeiro.

You can easily hike the trail yourself. However, there are also numerous tours, like this By Land & By Sea – 7 Hanging Valleys Trail + 2 Hours Cruise or this From Olhão: Seven Hanging Valleys Guided Hiking Day Trip that can take you there.

5. Go Coasteering and Cliff Jumping in Lagos

algarve tourist information

Looking for an adrenaline-fueled adventure in the Algarve? Consider this coasteering tour near Lagos . With a small group, you’ll travel to a beach nestled against towering rocky cliffs, ready for a day of exciting outdoor activities.

Here, you’ll climb jagged rocks, leap off cliffs, swim in the azure sea, explore hidden caves, and discover secluded beaches over a few action-packed hours. This trip takes you to places that are typically off-limits, offering a unique perspective on the Algarve.

The tour includes convenient transfers from Lagos , all required equipment, and expert guidance, ensuring a safe and unforgettable experience.

6. Visit Castro Marim & Have A Mud Spa Experience

algarve tourist information

Travel through time by visiting the quaint historic town of Castro Marim in the Algarve’s southeastern corner, right next to the Spanish border. The landscape is dominated by salt ponds, wetlands, a 13th-century medieval castle, and a 17th-century fortress.

As you stroll through the town, you’ll be greeted by whitewashed houses, castle walls, narrow cobbled-stone streets, and picturesque squares. Along with these stunning landscapes and incredibly historical buildings, this small town is also known for one more thing: the Spa Salino Água Mãe .

5,000 years ago, salt was already being produced in the salt pans of Castro Marim. And today, these salt pans are known for having some of the world’s most pristine salt crystals. They also provide a unique mud spa experience that is truly one of a kind.

Here individuals can float in the mineral waters of these salt flats, apply saline clay on their bodies or enjoy one of the main therapeutic and relaxing massages offered by the spa. You’ll also learn about the centuries-old salt production process.

7. Go Surfing

algarve tourist information

The Algarve has about 200km of  stunning coastline, which means that there are plenty of opportunities to frolic in the water. If you are looking for something more than just a relaxing day on the beach, I recommend surfing .

If you are looking to surf, the west coast of the Algarve offers bigger surf, cooler temperatures, and wild nature. Some great spots include Praia da Bordeira, and Praia do Amado. However, you can take surf classes just about anywhere in the Algarve — including Faro , Albufeira , Portimão , and Lagos.

8. Eat Seafood in Olhão

algarve tourist information

Take a journey to Olhão, a gem in the Eastern Algarve known for its bustling fish market and Moorish-influenced architecture. This is a place where tradition meets the sea, making it a paradise for seafood lovers. Here, local fishermen haul in the day’s catch, providing the freshest ingredients for the town’s renowned seafood restaurants.

Olhão isn’t just about the sea, though. Take a stroll through the old town, and you’ll discover charming cobblestone streets lined with traditional cube-shaped houses. The distinctive flat rooftops and external staircases showcase the area’s North African influence.

🌅 For a unique experience in this small fishing village, book this By The Morning – Beach Breakfast  or this When The Sun Goes Down- Sunset Picnic experience (minimum two people)

For nature enthusiasts, Olhão is the gateway to the Ria Formosa Natural Park, a labyrinth of islands, lagoons, and marshes teeming with wildlife, which brings me to the next activity.

9. Take A Boat Trip Through the Ria Formosa Natural Park

algarve tourist information

Journey into Ria Formosa Natural Park ( Parque Natural da Ria Formosa ) , a stunning labyrinth of lagoons, marshes, and barrier islands stretching across 60 km along the Algarve coast from the outskirts of Faro to past the town of Olhão.

This remarkable natural reserve is a unique oasis brimming with diverse wildlife, particularly a haven for birdwatchers with hundreds of different species visiting throughout the year.

At the heart of the park, five barrier islands — Barreta, Culatra, Armona, Tavira, and Cabanas — protect a vast lagoon system, their pristine beaches, and quaint fishing villages accessible only by boat. Each island has its unique charm

10. Try Oysters is Culatra

algarve tourist information

Are you ready to have some of the best oysters in your life? I went on this tour , and although this was my first time enjoying oysters, everyone in the group agreed these were some of the best they’d ever had.

Welcome to Culatra, an island in the Ria Formosa Natural Park, home to a tight-knit community of around 900 residents, all interconnected through a shared life by the sea.

As you step onto the island, you’ll be introduced to the local seafood workers, who provide insight into their sustainable harvesting techniques. You’ll also meet with Silvia, the island’s dynamic president. She’s guided the community towards a cleaner, plastic-free environment, with a particular focus on caring for the younger and older inhabitants.

Her work and their stories create a shield, preserving Culatra from the impact of mass tourism and transforming it into a true sanctuary.

11. Go Dolphin Watching

algarve tourist information

Embark on a thrilling ‘Seafari’ cruise from Lagos, Alvor or Portimã o, offering you the rare opportunity to observe wild dolphins in the vast Atlantic.

The Algarve coastline is a hub for an abundance of marine life, notably including a thriving population of dolphins. Species such as the common dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, and even the occasional visiting orcas are known to inhabit these waters.

This exciting journey aboard a rigid-hull inflatable raft ensures a close-up encounter with these playful creatures as they leap and glide through the waves. Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture this unique marine spectacle that boasts a 95% success rate of dolphin sightings.

12. Take A Classic Food Tour in Lagos

algarve tourist information

Discover the rich flavors of the Algarve on this classic food tour in Lagos . Over the span of three hours, you’ll have the opportunity to visit four distinct local eateries, sampling up to 10 traditional Portuguese dishes paired with a local drink. For morning tour enthusiasts, there’s an additional stop at Lagos’s bustling Mercado Municipal Market.

This journey, expertly guided by locals, leads you through charming narrow streets, immersing you in the region’s history and culture. Not only do you get a taste of authentic cuisine, but you’ll also discover architectural gems and hidden stories.

This guided tour is an excellent introduction for those exploring the Algarve for the first time, equipping you with valuable insights to fully enjoy your stay in this beautiful part of Portugal.

13. Visit Praia da Coelha

algarve tourist information

Discover Praia da Coelha (Rabbit Beach), a small but spectacular beach located on the Algarve’s southern coast — 5km west of Albufeira . Surrounded by striking cliffs and lush vegetation, this secluded cove is a paradise for those seeking a peaceful beach retreat away from the typical tourist hustle.

With its golden sands and crystal clear waters, Praia da Coelha offers stunning natural beauty and ample opportunities for swimming, sunbathing, and beachcombing . The nearby trail along the cliffs provides breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean, making it a must-visit destination for nature lovers and tranquility seekers alike.

⛱️ This is a great family beach with its safe, sheltered waters and the seasonal lifeguard service .

14. Spend the Day At Praia Da Marinha

algarve tourist information

Situated near the town of Lagoa (near Benagil), Praia da Marinha is known for its spectacular caramel-colored cliffs intricately shaped by erosion, set against the backdrop of the clear turquoise waters of the Atlantic.

The beach itself, a stretch of golden sand nestled between these awe-inspiring cliffs, offers a peaceful retreat for sunbathing, while the crystal-clear waters are ideal for snorkeling. Perhaps the most defining feature of Praia da Marinha is the “M” shaped double natural arches in the cliff face.

Whether you’re navigating the cliff-top walking trails, swimming in the azure waters, or relaxing on the sandy shore, Praia da Marinha is an unforgettable slice of the Algarve’s natural beauty.

15. Take in the Beauty of Ponta Da Piedade

algarve tourist information

Welcome to Ponta da Piedade, a natural spectacle located in Lagos that forms a key part of any Algarve Portugal itinerary. Renowned for its impressive sandstone cliffs punctuated by hidden grottos and sparkling turquoise waters, Ponta da Piedade is a haven for those seeking natural beauty.

Various Boat tours are available , offering close encounters with these geological wonders, while hiking trails provide breathtaking panoramic views from the cliff tops. It’s a must-see destination in the Algarve for nature enthusiasts and photographers alike.

16. Go Scuba Diving

algarve tourist information

One of the best places to scuba dive in Portugal is in the Algarve. The Atlantic Ocean along the coast is considered one of the cleanest in all of Europe. It also has one of the largest artificial reefs in Europe — perfect for scuba diving.

The Algarve has many  reef dive sites  as well as  shipwreck sites . You can also dive from all the main towns, including Lagos, Faro, Sagres, Portimão, and Albufeira.

One of the best places to scuba is the Ocean Revival Park . Four Portuguese Navy Warships were deliberately sunk in the same place to create an artificial reef. It is known as one of Europe’s top diving sites. Be aware that you need an advanced open-water license to be able to dive.

17. Go On a Jeep Safari with Distillery Visit & Lunch

algarve tourist information

Embark on an adventurous Jeep safari that takes you right into the heart of the Algarve’s hidden landscapes, particularly the captivating Serra de Monchique.

Your route brings you through untouched locales, traveling on rustic paths that wind through the unspoiled vistas of the Algarve. Small, whitewashed villages dot your path.

A highlight of your adventure will be a visit to a local distillery, where you can sample medronho , a potent local brew, and witness traditional honey-making practices. Cap off your journey with a sumptuous lunch served in a classic local restaurant

18. Take a Picture At Algar Seco

algarve tourist information

Have you heard of Algar Seco? Located just a 15-minute walk from Carveoiro, it is home to quite the Instagrammable spot.

Algar Seco in Carvoeiro is like a natural playground made by the sea. Erosion over millions of years shaped cliffs into caves, rock pools, and windows that look right out onto the ocean. One famous spot, “A Boneca” or “The Doll,” is a small cave in a rock that used to look like a doll. From inside this cave, you can see out to the sea.

⚠️ This a small space, and there might be a line of folks waiting to take their picture, so be mindful of your time.

19. Walk on the Carvoeiro Boardwalk

algarve tourist information

The Carvoeiro Boardwalk is a wooden path that follows the coastline, offering stunning views of the sea and cliffside. The boardwalk starts in the town of Carvoeiro and ends at Algar Seco.

A gentle stroll here will immerse you in the beauty of the Atlantic Ocean.. Don’t forget your camera – the photo opportunities are endless. From sunrise to sunset, the boardwalk is a perfect place to enjoy the charm of the Algarve’s landscape.

20. Visit the End of the World: cabo de são vicente

algarve tourist information

Step into the edge of the world at Cabo de São Vicente, located in the extreme southwestern tip of Portugal. This historic landmark is steeped in tales of seafaring adventures and ancient maritime legends, and it served as a sacred ground to the Romans, who called it Promontorium Sacrum.

As the westernmost point of the Algarve , Cabo de São Vicente offers stunning views of the vast Atlantic Ocean. On-site, you’ll find an imposing lighthouse, one of the most powerful in Europe, which continues to guide ships navigating the treacherous coastal waters. Nearby, the Fortaleza de Sagres stands sentinel over the coastline, providing a glimpse into the region’s rich history.

21. Explore Vila Real de Santo António

algarve tourist information

Say hello to Vila Real de Santo António, a charming town nestled right on the border of Portugal and Spain. Its quaint appeal lies in its tree-lined squares, a marina dotted with bobbing boats, and its timeless 18th-century architecture.

A visit here takes you on a journey back in time, from the stately Pombaline buildings to the iconic 19th-century obelisk standing proudly in Marquês de Pombal Square. In addition to the rich history, you can indulge in the local cuisine at the seafront restaurants and cafes.

For a delightful shopping experience, explore the town’s numerous small boutiques and the bustling daily market. As a final stop, take a walk along the Guadiana River for views of Spain.

22. Visit the Octopus Capital: Santa Luiza

algarve tourist information

Santa Luzia is dubbed the ‘Octopus Capital’ due to its long-standing tradition of octopus fishing. The local fishermen have developed unique techniques for catching octopus that have been passed down through generations. The village is renowned for its abundant octopus catch and the exceptional dishes that local chefs create from this sea creature.

In addition to its fishing prowess, Santa Luzia, with its narrow cobbled streets and charming traditional houses, exudes an authentic Algarvian charm.

Moreover, Santa Luzia is close to the stunning beaches of Terra Estreita and Barril, adding a beachside appeal to its quaint village charm.

23. Explore Roman Ruins

algarve tourist information

The Romans left behind several remarkable ruins in the Algarve. One notable site is Milreu Roman Ruins (Ruínas Romanas de Milreu) near Estoi, which features well-preserved remains of a Roman villa with intricate mosaics, baths, and a temple.

Another significant Roman site is Cerro da Vila in Vilamoura , showcasing ruins of a Roman fishing village, including a bath complex and a museum. Additionally, the Roman Bridge of Silves (Ponte Romana de Silves) in Silves and the Roman Villa of Abicada (Villa Romana de Abicada) near Portimão are worth exploring to witness the Roman heritage in the region.

24. Swim at Praia da falésia

algarve tourist information

Located near Albufeira and Vilamoura, Praia da Falésia (translated to Beach of Cliffs) is one of the longest beach beaches in the Algarve. Stretching over 6km long, the beach is known for its red and orange-colored sandy cliffs.

In 2018 Praia da Falésia was considered the  number one beach in Portugal , the  third best beach in Europe,  and  the number 12 best beach in the World  by TripAdvisor. Its natural beauty and relatively calm sea conditions make it a great spot for swimming and enjoying water activities.

25. Visit Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina

Things to do in the Algarve: Visit sudoeste alentejano e costa vicentina

The Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina region is a fantastic choice for those seeking natural beauty, a rugged coastline, and a more tranquil experience in the Algarve.

This area, located along the southwestern coast of Portugal, is characterized by stunning cliffs, pristine beaches, and a protected natural park. It offers opportunities for hiking, birdwatching, and enjoying unspoiled landscapes.

The charming towns of Zambujeira do Mar, Odeceixe , and Sagres are worth exploring, and you can discover picturesque beaches like Praia da Arrifana , and Praia do Amado. Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina is a haven for nature lovers and those seeking a quieter coastal experience away from the bustling tourist crowds.

Things to do in the Algarve: FAQs

algarve tourist information

What is The Algarve best known for?

The Algarve is famous for its stunning coastline, beautiful beaches, and vibrant tourism industry. With picturesque cliffs, crystal-clear waters, and a mild climate, it offers an ideal setting for relaxation and outdoor activities.

The region is known for its resort towns, golf courses, water sports, and charming fishing villages. Additionally, visitors can explore historical landmarks, savor delicious seafood cuisine, and experience the warm hospitality and rich cultural heritage of the Algarve.

Is the Algarve worth going to?

Yes — the Algarve is definitely worth visiting! It offers a wide range of attractions and experiences that make it a popular destination for travelers.

What time of year is best to visit Algarve?

The best time to visit the Algarve and enjoy its best beaches largely depends on your preferences.

The summer months (June to September) offer warm temperatures, a vibrant atmosphere, and lively beach scenes. If you prefer a more tranquil experience, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons of spring (April to May) and autumn (September to October), when the weather is still pleasant but the crowds are thinner.

algarve tourist information

However, if you’re interested in milder temperatures and exploring beyond the beach, the winter months ( November to February) can be a good option, although swimming might not be as enjoyable.

What town is best to stay in the Algarve?

Lagos is one of the best towns to stay in the Algarve. Located in the western Algarve, it offers a delightful combination of natural beauty, historical charm, and a lively atmosphere.

Lagos features stunning beaches, such as Praia Dona Ana and Meia Praia, along with a picturesque old town with narrow streets, vibrant restaurants, and a lively nightlife scene. It also serves as a convenient base for exploring nearby main attractions like Ponta da Piedade, Praia da Rocha and Sagres.

How many days in Algarve is enough?

To get a taste of the region’s highlights, a minimum of 3 to 5 days is recommended. This allows time to explore a few different towns, relax on the beaches, and indulge in local cuisine.

However, if you want to delve deeper into the Algarve’s offerings, such as visiting more secluded beaches, taking day trips to nearby attractions, or engaging in specific activities like golfing or water sports, extending your stay to 7 to 10 days would be more suitable.

algarve tourist information

What is the most touristy town in the Algarve?

Albufeira is widely regarded as the most touristy town in the Algarve. Located in central Algarve, it attracts a large number of visitors due to its extensive tourism infrastructure, vibrant nightlife, and abundance of tourist-oriented amenities.

Final thoughts: Things to do in the Algarve

algarve tourist information

The Algarve is a perfect destination for travelers seeking a great time, and the best way to explore this beautiful region is through a road trip. With its breathtaking coastline, picturesque resort towns, and charming off-the-beaten-track spots, there is something for everyone.

Embark on a boat tour to witness the stunning views of the limestone cliffs, visit Tavira Island for a short walk on the sandy shores, and marvel at the orange trees dotting the landscape. A short drive away, you can experience the unique sand dunes and indulge in fresh fruits on a Saturday morning market.

Whether you choose to stay in a luxury hotel or venture into the region’s hidden gems, the Algarve promises a great thing to do for every traveler. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore this incredible region and witness its top attractions while enjoying the perfect time for a memorable getaway.

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Yvonne Ivanescu is the founder of Now in Portugal and Now in Rio Swim, an ethical and sustainable swimwear company. She is a writer, editor and marketer with over 10 years of experience.

Storytelling is her second nature and she wants to share the magic of Portugal with the rest of the world.

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Looking for the best Benagil Cave Tours? You’re in the right place as the top 10 best cave tours to Benagil are all listed in this article.

15 Top Boat Tours in Lagos Portugal: Grottoes, Cliffs, & Caves

15 Top Boat Tours in Lagos Portugal: Grottoes, Cliffs, & Caves

Looking for the perfect boat tours in Lagos Portugal? You’re in luck — this article outlines the best Lagos boat tours to add to your itinerary.

Algarve in November Weather: Uncover the Magic of Portugal’s Sunny Coastline

Algarve in November Weather: Uncover the Magic of Portugal’s Sunny Coastline

November is a magical time to visit Portugal’s Algarve coast. But the question still remains, what is Algarve in november weather like? Let’s find out.

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9 Bucket List Things To Do in Algarve, Portugal

9 Bucket List Things To Do in Algarve, Portugal

The southern Algarve region is the jewel of Portugal , boasting a breathtaking coastline, epic caves and archways, year-round great weather, and waves that make it a surfers paradise. The surrounding nature will steal your heart, and the charming whitewashed villages are no exception. Spend your days hiking, at the countless beaches, and wandering the cobbled streets in the balmy afternoon sun. Discover our bucket list of things to do in the Algarve.

1. Cliff walk at Praia da Marinha

Arguably the most picturesque beach in Portugal; Marinha Beach and its surrounding cliffs are one of the things you must do in the Algarve. The beach is a stretch of soft sand surrounded by limestone cliffs and turquoise waters.

Here are all your hotel options in Algarve.

best things to do algarve portugal cliff walk

But the real highlight here is the path along the cliffsides giving you jaw-dropping views. Follow a 1.5-kilometer walk where you pass the Arco Natural, the so-called heart-shaped rock, which is actually an optical illusion towards the popular Benagil Cave. If you’re feeling adventurous, take a kayak to discover Marinha Beach and the Benagil Caves.

Book a kayaking tour in advance

best things to do algarve portugal saltinourhair

2. Algarve’s beautiful beaches

The main reason for visiting the Algarve is the endless number of beautiful beaches. There’s something for every kind of beach lover, from protected coves with limestone caves to long sweeping white-sand bays. The beaches that lie close to Lagos are beautiful for swimming and relaxing, but for excellent surfing, head a bit further out of town.

Also see: Complete 3-week Portugal Travel Guide

algarve portugal most beautiful beaches

Praia de Dona Ana

One of the closest beaches to Lagos town, Praia de Dona Ana, is popular with locals and travelers. It’s a medium-sized yellow sand beach with beautiful calm turquoise waters shadowed by the Algarves’ token limestone cliffs.

google maps phone

Because the beach is sheltered and the water is calm, it’s perfect for snorkeling and swimming. What’s more, it’s described as one of the best beaches in the Algarve!

Portugal road trip

Portugal road trip

Praia do Camilo

A bit further up the coast from Dona Ana is the sandy paradise of Praia do Camilo. Discover its crystal clear emerald and turquoise ocean and the incredible rock formations that surround the beach. Over time, the weather has created holes in the cliffs, forming natural tunnels and archways through other beaches.

Did you know? That most sunscreens are harmful to the corals? Read all about reef-safe sunscreen here.

algarve portugal things to do Praia do Camilo

Praia do Vau

The city of Portimão owns its own set of incredible beaches. Mostly occupied by locals instead of tourists with many secluded hidden beaches to be found.

algarve portugal lagos best things to do

Albufeira Beach

Besides Albufeira’s good party scene and charming old town, it also has beautiful beaches to offer. Wide beaches with relatively calm waters make for a lovely swim. However, you might want to avoid the high season (June – Aug) as these beaches will be packed with people.

albufeira beach

3. A Day Trip to Ferragudo and Carvoeiro 

Ferragudo is a charming fishing village that has kept its traditional charm with its whitewashed houses, narrow streets covered with flowers, and a fishing boat-filled harbor. Bring your camera because the town is very picturesque. It also is a great place to sit in the sun and enjoy some pastries. Ferragudo is a 40-minute drive east of Lagos.

Also visit: The fairytale palaces and castles of Sintra

algarve tourist information

The picture-perfect village named Carvoeiro lies 10 minutes away from Ferragudo. Carvoeiro’s small beach and its traditional houses are tucked away between two towering cliffs. Different from Ferragudo, Carvoeiro is very lively, with a lot of good restaurants and shops. Tip: Get a fantastic lunch at Organic .

algarve portugal village Carvoeiro

4. Benagil Caves

The otherworldly Benagil Cave is one of the unique places in the Algarve. The cave is created by natural erosion, with a worn circle in the ceiling providing a unique light incidence.

Benagil Cave algarve

Visiting the cave is only advisable by SUP to rent at the beach or join a boat tour. Although it’s a very short distance from Benagil Beach, swimming is inadvisable due to quickly changing tides.

Book a boat tour to explore the Benagil Caves

9 Bucket List Things To Do in Algarve, Portugal

5. Algarve’s rough West Coast

The fresh breeze and rough coastline of the West Coast of the Algarve are something not to miss. The enormous sand beaches are rougher and often much quieter!

algarve portugal lagos Bordeiras Beach

Estrada da Praia

Follow the scenic loop named Estrada da Praia. The dirt road takes you along 10 different viewpoints indicated by letters ranging from A to J. The road is only accessible by regular cars and not allowed to access with a motorhome. We’ve added the exact loop to our Google Maps Locations .

algarve portugal sunset

Praia do Amado

Praia do Amado is a huge sweeping bay backed by rolling green hills and earthy red cliffs. The high winds here make it a very popular spot for water sports fanatics, particularly for surfers, with many international surf competitions.

Best of all, its west-facing position means you are in for a spectacular sunset!

portugal algarve things to do Praia do Amado

Bordeira’s Beach

Not far away from Praia do Amado lies the stunning 3km long beach of Bordeira. Follow the wooden walkways across the flat cliffs and down to the wide, open beach. Because of its huge size, the beach always feels quiet and secluded.

How to get there: 30 minutes drive from Lagos or 10-minute drive north up the coast from Praia do Amado. You can also walk between the two beaches in under an hour, along the coast path.

algarve tourist information

6. Discover the Algarve’s surfing culture

Incredible beaches, high winds, and waves of the Algarve make it a hub for all kinds of watersports. The most popular are surfing and kitesurfing, and there are a ton of schools to choose from.

Book a surf lesson in advance

best surfing cascais portugal

On the other hand, the smaller, more protected coves around Lagos have beautiful calm water, perfect for kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. This is a popular way to discover the caves and cliffs that make the Algarve famous. Not only that but there is also the chance of seeing some amazing marine life, like dolphins!  

Tip: Whichever watersport you try, please make sure to wear a reef-safe sunscreen .

best things to do algarve guide

7. Visit Ponta da Piedade

Ponta da Piedade is one of the most well-known things to do in the Algarve. These rocky cliffs offer breathtaking views across both sides of the coastline, all the way down to Sagres. Enjoy the views, or descend the many steep stairs down to the water’s edge. However, the best way to admire the rock formations and caves is to see them from the water by joining a boat or kayak tour .

This tiny but charming surfers’ village Sagres is home to the most southwestern point of Europe. Sagres has a handful of sunbathing beaches, but it has rougher waves at most times of the year due to its location. At this same location stands the impressive Cabo de São Vicente lighthouse. You will also experience some of the most spectacular sunset locations here ( book a sunset tour here ).

Also read: Lisbon City Trip – Best Things To Do

road trip algarve portugal

9. Shop Ceramics

If you don’t know Portuguese ceramics yet, they are beautiful. The designs are a blend of traditional and modern crafts and are available in any kind of color and design. Take gifts or, even better: tableware for your own house. Our favorite place is Ceramica Paraiso . Note: Take cash with you as there is no option to pay by card. (Jan 2021)

portugal algarve ceramics

How to visit the Algarve

Faro is the main airport in the Algarve. This is where you will arrive from any international flight to the Algarve.

To move around the Algarve easily, we highly recommend renting a car or a campervan! A campervan is a great option if you want to save on accommodation and have surfboards or other equipment to carry with you. Read more about how to travel through Portugal by campervan .

We recommend to rent a car in Portugal through Sunny Cars with free cancellation and insurance included. Book your rental car here .

how to travel algarve portugal

Where to Stay

The Algarve is a traveler’s paradise, especially for the ones who love to surf or spend time at the beach in the European summer. Because of this, there are lots of hostels and guesthouses for a very reasonable price throughout the entire south coast. However, you’ll also find lots of beautiful hotels and resorts with stunning ocean views.

Hotels in the Algarve 😴

Lagos Atlantic Hotel

If you have a campervan in Portugal , there are lots of great spots to park up on the clifftops outside. Use the park4night app to find all campsites, including reviews and amenities.

campsite portugal

Salema Eco Camp

An absolute campsite gem where we personally spend way longer than intended was Salema Eco Camp. It’s a stunning hill and forest area with a relaxed atmosphere and a fantastic trendy restaurant on site. It’s advisable to book this campsite in advance as they are usually fully booked throughout the entire year!

campsite

Best Time to Visit the Algarve

September/October is the best time to visit the Algarve. It’s at the end of the main tourist summer season, so things are much quieter and cheaper. This means you can enjoy the beauty of the coastline with few tourists but still have nice warm sunny days.

Alternatively, April and May are great months to visit too. Be aware, though, that the water in Portugal is pretty cold all year round! 

Also read: Best Places to visit in Portugal

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13 best things to do in the Algarve

Regis St. Louis

Jul 12, 2023 • 7 min read

algarve tourist information

The beautiful Algarve coast is just waiting to be discovered through this wealth of activities © JulPo / Getty Images

The sunny beaches of the Algarve make the perfect backdrop for a wide range of activities.

You can hike along a sea cliff, surf world-class breaks or look for birds and dolphins just offshore. There are teeming markets to explore, islands to wander across and maritime museums packed with relics from the past. 

If you’re not on the hunt for an active vacation, the Algarve is also a fine place to do nothing at all. You’ll find many gorgeous beaches for some downtime and dramatic overlooks to take in Portugal ’s prettiest sunsets. Even the essentials – eating and drinking – are elevated here, as you savor just-caught seafood and local craft beers overlooking the seaside.

Here are some of the best things to do in the Algarve.

1. Bite into a sea-tasting percebe in Vila do Bispo 

Just inland from the west coast, the town of Vila do Bispo is one of the finest spots on the planet to sample the tender crustaceans known as percebes (goose barnacles). Though they’re unsightly in appearance (not unlike the misshapen hoof of some small, extra-terrestrial creature), the juicy snap, mouth-watering flavor and faintly salty finish of a percebe make consuming one like getting a kiss from the sea. 

Though percebes are known throughout Iberia, it’s here that fishers still harvest by hand the small barnacles that attach themselves to the wave-beaten cliffs outside of town.

Planning tip:  You can sample the fruits of their labors at several Vila do Bispo restaurants, including Solar do Perceve. 

A woman sits on the the cliffs looking toward Praia da Marinha and dramatic rock formations, the Algarve, Portugal

2. Watch the sunset from Praia da Marinha 

From the lofty headland of Cabo de São Vicente in the west to the sands of Praia de Santo António in the east, the Algarve has no lack of fabled spots for watching the sunset. For pure drama, though, it’s hard to top the Praia da Marinha . Towering cliffs surround this tiny beach just east of Carvoeiro , and as the daylight dwindles, you’ll see the sky light up with auburn hues behind the striated rock formations. 

3. Sip a craft beer at Dos Santos 

One of the Algarve’s best microbreweries serves up liquid perfection from a brewery and vineyard located a short drive east of Portimão. Dos Santos turns out a good tasty range of beers, including a pilsner, lager, IPA and stout, all made with the highest-quality ingredients.

In fact, brewers here follow the Reinheitsgebot or German Purity Law, which means these beers don’t have additives or chemicals and are made with just four ingredients: water, hops, yeast and malted barley. You can get more insight into the brewery and sip fine beers in the taproom, which has a terrace overlooking the sunny vineyard.

Planning tip:  You can also visit the winery next door or have a meal in the restaurant. It's a popular spot, so it's wise to book in advance to avoid disappointment.

4. Ride the waves off Carrapateira 

The west coast (part of the Costa Vicentina ) has some of the best breaks in the Algarve. If you’ve got skills, you’ll find plenty of variety, with the best waves in winter. Less experienced surfers will find plenty of gentler breaks as well.

You can learn the ropes at places like Amado Surf School , which offers everything you need – lessons (private or group), lodging (you can pitch a tent too), and all necessary gear.

A flamingo silhouetted in the sunset light wades in the wetlands of Parque Natural da Ria Formosa

5. Look for flamingoes while paddling in the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa

A vast area of lagoons, barrier islands and inlets lies near the town of Faro. This is the Algarve at its most pristine and a vital habitat for migratory birds. You might see flamingos, herons, storks and other wildlife on a tour with Formosamar .

The sustainably-minded outfit runs excursions by bicycle and motorboat, though we prefer their trips by kayak, during which you can glide peacefully over mirror-like waters while guides share a wealth of knowledge about these biologically rich wetlands. 

6. Browse for fresh fruits at one of the best markets in the region

The Algarve is packed with mercados , bustling tall-ceilinged markets where you can browse some of the region’s finest produce from field and sea. Olhão has a standout market , spread across two historic red-brick buildings – one dedicated to seafood, the other to fruits and vegetables.

Planning tip:  Saturday morning is the best time to go, as that’s when the action spills out onto the square in front.

7. Look for dolphins off the coast of Sagres

Feel the salt spray as you zip across the water, watching dolphins leap through your wake. The scene is all the more dramatic against the backdrop of Sagres ’s soaring cliffs and under seabirds flying overhead.

While dolphin-watching cruises are common across the Algarve, Mar Ilimitado earns high marks for its exceptional guides. The company was founded by two marine biologists with a deep passion for ocean conservation.

A female hiker on the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail (Percurso dos Sete Vales Suspensos) admires a view of a lighthouse and striated rock formations, the Algarve, Portugal

8. Walk the cliff tops along the Percurso dos Sete Vales Suspensos

Near the beach of Vale Centianes, just east of Carvoeiro, you can head off on one of the Algarve’s most scenic day hikes. The so-called “ seven hanging valleys trail ” takes you above serene coves and up to lookouts above dramatic rock formations arching out into the sea.

While mostly flat, the trail does have a few ups and downs, sometimes leading you to the edge of inviting golden beaches. You’ll regret it if you forget to bring along your swimsuit. 

9. Play castaway on a deserted island

Ilha Deserta (“deserted island” – also known as Ihla da Barretta) isn’t quite as forlorn as it sounds, with sunseekers making the trip out for a relaxing day away from civilization.

Despite the other visitors, the island is uninhabited, and you’ll find plenty of space on the sandy beach, which stretches for 7km (4.3 miles) off the coast of Faro . Reserve ahead for the fresh catch of the day at the island's only restaurant, Estaminé . Get here by catching a ferry operated by Animaris .  

10. Treat yourself to a decadent meal at Vila Joya 

One of the best restaurants in Portugal, Vila Joya has two Michelin stars and fans across the globe. With three decades at the helm of the kitchen, chef Dieter Koschina serves up a changing menu that showcases the freshest of seafood and inland produce, layering on creative accents from Central Europe and the Far East. Book a terrace table and watch the sunset over the ocean while lingering over a multi-course meal.

Planning tip: If one evening isn't enough, Vila Joya also has luxurious rooms, some even with a private pool.

11. Take memorable snapshots at Ponta da Piedade 

Just south of Lagos, you can stand on a headland and breathe in the salt-tinged breezes while gazing across the towering sandstone formations lapped by crashing waves. After snapping photos from every angle, walk down the many steps to some equally dramatic vantage points along the water’s edge. 

A man looks up into the opening of the inside the Benagil Caves, the Algarve, Portugal

12. Paddle through a beam of sunlight inside the Benagil Cave

One of the Algarve’s most impressive sights is the vast sandstone cavern tucked off a rocky headland east of Carvoeiro. Accessible only by sea on calm days, entering this space can feel like crossing into another world, with the sea a rich aquamarine hue as sunlight streams through the halo-like opening high overhead.

You can get there on motorboat tours from Carvoeiro, but it’s more fun to go by kayak. Go for a sunrise or sunset tour to experience the caves without the crowds. 

13. Learn about age-old fishing traditions at the Museu de Portimão

A thoughtfully designed museum in Portimão takes visitors on a journey into Portugal’s seafaring past. Archeological finds relate to prehistoric communities, the ancient Romans, Islamic times and Portimão’s more recent days as a fishing center.

The museum is set in a handsomely restored canning factory, which once played a pivotal role in the local economy. Temporary exhibitions explore a mix of maritime themes and works by local artists and designers.  

This article was first published Jun 14, 2022 and updated Jul 12, 2023.

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Visiting Algarve, Portugal: 19 Tips & Tricks for First Trip

By Author Jurga

Posted on Last updated: May 8, 2024

Visiting Algarve, Portugal: 19 Tips & Tricks for First Trip

Visiting Algarve (Portugal) for the first time and wondering what to expect?

When is the best time to visit? How long and where to stay? Should you rent a car or can you use public transport? Can you use credit cards or do you need cash? What to pack?…

You’ll find answers to these and other questions about visiting Algarve in this guide.

Whether you are going to the Algarve for a relaxing beach holiday or are planning a road trip and are mostly interested in sightseeing, our experience-based tips and practical information will help you get the most out of your trip. Find out!

Top 3 Experiences Not To Miss in the Algarve:

  • Benagil Cave boat tours . More info: How to visit Benagil Cave .
  • Ponta da Piedade boat trips . More info: How to visit Ponta da Piedade .
  • Dolphin watching .

Travel tips and information for visiting Algarve region in Portugal

Here are our top tips for visiting the Algarve:

1. Visit in the shoulder season

Algarve is a year-round destination that has a lot to offer at any time of the year. However, there is a huge difference if you visit the Algarve in the summer or in the low season.

If you are looking for warm weather, sunshine, beach life, and water activities, then you’ll love the Algarve in the warmest months.

However, Algarve is one of the most popular summer vacation destinations in southern Europe. So it will come as no surprise that the whole coast gets really busy in the summer months , particularly in July and August.

If you don’t absolutely have to take your annual holidays in July or August, consider coming in May – June or in September – October. It will still be nice and warm (and busy too), but not nearly as much as in the summer.

Also if your primary focus of visiting Algarve is sightseeing, consider traveling in the spring or in the fall . Not only will it be less busy, but it’s also not as warm and the weather is more comfortable for excursions. Plus, accommodations and rental cars are cheaper.

Winter months are very quiet and many seasonal businesses are closed between November and March. The weather is usually still mild with cold nights and there is always some chance for rain. But it’s a very nice time to visit if you want to experience the region without the crowds. Sunrises and sunsets are absolutely amazing in the colder months too.

TIP: One of our favorite months to visit Algarve is April and the end of October – the beginning of November. The weather is usually warm and sunny, but not too hot for sightseeing and long walks. Most places are open and it’s pleasantly lively but never too busy. The negative side is that it’s often too cold to swim in the sea or even in an outdoor pool, but if you are lucky with the weather, even this is possible. Plus, you can enjoy the most amazing sunsets at this time of the year.

LEARN MORE: Algarve in April – Algarve in November – Algarve in December

Traveling in Algarve in the low season - enjoying a beautiful sunset near Sao Rafael Beach

2. Do some research on what you’ll want to see and do

The Algarve region is quite big and has a lot more to offer than it looks at first sight.

Many of the nicest places are spread out along the long coastline, but there are some hidden gems inland too. In addition to the nicest towns and natural landmarks, Algarve has lots of water parks , fun activities , etc.

So be sure to do some research and decide which places you want to see and what you want to do. This will influence some other choices that you have to make, such as how many days to spend in Algarve, where to stay, or whether to rent a car.

TIP: Even if you are visiting Algarve for summer vacation and your main goal is to sunbathe, swim, and eat delicious food, be sure to book at least a few excursions to explore the beautiful Algarve coast!

Also, if you want to experience the more traditional side of the Algarve region, explore beyond the most popular coastal areas. Take a day trip to the old capital of the region, Silves, drive up to the Monchique mountains or visit the more authentic towns of eastern Algarve, etc.

LEARN MORE: Top Places to See & Best Things to Do in Algarve

Traveling to Algarve - Albufeira town

3. Book in advance!

This is the most important tip that we give our readers nowadays. No matter where or when you travel, booking ahead is the best way to guarantee that you get the best rates and – when it comes to experiences – that you can actually visit certain places.

Anyway, for the Algarve, you just need to book your flights, accommodations, and potentially a rental car in advance. There are also a few tours – like boat trips to Benagil Cave or kayaking at Ponta da Piedade – that are best booked ahead.

How long in advance to book also depends on when you travel. If you are visiting Algarve between May and October, we advise booking your accommodations and rental car as soon as you know your travel dates. The prices soar in the peak season. Plus, the later you book, the less choice you’ll have.

As far as activities go, we recommend booking them at least a few days in advance. But if you’re not flexible with your schedule, just reserve them when preparing your itinerary.

In July – August, you may want to make reservations for the most popular restaurants as well (usually a day or two in advance is enough).

PRO TIP: We personally use and recommend Booking.com for accommodations and nowadays also for car hire , and GetYourGuide for tours and excursions. Not only can you find all the best offers in one place, but all these companies also offer free cancellation (often even up to 24-48 hours before the trip), so you keep all flexibility and can always rebook if you find a better deal later or if your travel plans change.

Also, book everything yourself! It’s really not difficult these days. That way, you know exactly what you are getting, can read customer reviews, compare prices, etc. You can’t imagine how often I see people complaining in Facebook groups about the location or quality of their hotel (room) and it’s always the people who booked package holidays. The worst thing is that most of the time they also pay much too much for what they are getting.

READ ALSO: Algarve Itinerary for First Trip

Algarve travel tips - Benagil Cave

4. Stay at a nice resort with beach access

No matter when you visit Algarve, I highly recommend looking for a hotel close to the beach. The closer the better. If you can, book a room at one of the seafront resorts. It will make your vacation so much more special!

Imagine waking up and watching the sunrise in the distance, enjoying sea views during breakfast or dinner, and going for a walk at the beach at sunset…

If you are here for the beach holidays, it will also be so much more relaxing not having to carry all your beach stuff for several miles or struggling to find parking space close to the beach, etc.

But also if you are road-tripping and are mostly interested in exploring the sights, staying at a nice seafront hotel will make your Algarve road trip so much more memorable.

TIP: If traveling between April and October, be sure that your accommodation has air conditioning and that there is a swimming pool. In the winter months, an indoor pool is a big plus because it’s usually much too cold to swim outside (most pools in the Algarve are not heated).

Here are some of the best-value seafront resorts in the most scenic part of the Algarve coast, from the center of the region to the west:

  • Alfagar Village in Albufeira.
  • Grande Real Santa Eulalia in Albufeira.
  • NAU Sao Rafael Atlantico in Albufeira.
  • Tivoli in Carvoeiro.
  • AP Oriental Beach in Portimao.
  • Pestana D. João II Beach & Golf Resort in Alvor.
  • Carvi Beach Hotel in Lagos.
  • Cascade Wellness Resort in Lagos.
  • Memmo Baleeira in Sagres.

Good to know: Even the best 4-5* resorts in Algarve are usually very affordable in the lower season. So if you are looking for a special treat, you don’t have to break the bank. We’ve stayed at some really nice hotels in the fall and in the winter for 100-150 euros per night/room. Those same hotels can cost 300-500 euros per night in the summer. However, it’s important to compare and book ahead, which brings us to the next point.

Alfagar Hotel pool with sea view in Albufeira Algarve Portugal

5. Pick the location of your accommodation wisely

Where exactly to stay in Algarve will depend on what you plan to do and which places you want to see.

You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you booked a hotel in Faro just because it’s close to the airport whereas all the places you want to see are located in western Algarve and require at least an hour’s drive each day.

Also, keep in mind that many places in the Algarve are quite hilly, especially in the western part of the region. So if you have mobility issues or are using a stroller, be sure to double-check the location of your accommodation, how accessible it is, etc.

However, keep in mind, that the most scenically located hotels are usually standing high on the cliffs, and getting to many of the nicest beaches in Algarve involves steep staircases.

As already mentioned, the Algarve region is big, so we recommend picking a place (or several) depending on the location of the sights that you plan to visit.

TIP: If you are looking for just one centrally located place to stay in Algarve , we recommend staying anywhere between Albufeira and Lagos. (See these guides for more info: Best Places to Stay in Lagos and Best Places to Stay in Albufeira ).

Whereas if you are making a road trip, you may want to stay at a couple of different locations. For example, start with a few days in the east (e.g. Faro or Tavira ), followed by a couple of days in the center (e.g. Albufeira or Carvoeiro), and then finally, a day or two in the west (e.g. Sagres ).

Of course, the best place to stay will also depend on how you plan to travel around – more info below.

READ ALSO: Where to Stay in Algarve

Steep cliffs of Falesia Beach in Algarve Portugal

6. Decide if you’ll rent a car

The majority of visitors to the Algarve come here for beaches and don’t rent a car. Indeed, if you are planning on spending most of the time in and around your resort, then it’s better not to rent a car.

Car hire can be pricey and parking is difficult in the summer season. Plus, taxis are quite cheap and you can also use apps like Uber or Bolt which makes it very convenient if you need to travel short distances. And if you want to see one or two places further away, there are plenty of organized tours or private companies offering transfers.

Public transportation is available in Algarve, but it’s not always ideal unless you have lots of time and are very flexible. For example, some trains don’t run between noon and 4 pm, etc. Many buses only run a few times a day. Plus, many coastal sights are really not easy to reach by public transport.

So if you want to explore Algarve to the fullest, then renting a car is by far the most convenient way to make the most of your trip. Just be sure to double-check that your accommodation has parking!

We use Booking.com’s car rental website for car hire in Algarve (and take the full insurance option through them too). Most of the time, we rent a car from Faro airport, but you can also easily drive to Algarve from Lisbon in about 2-3 hours. No matter which airport you fly to, you can find all the best deals for car rental in one place on this website.

PRO TIP: Take pictures and/or videos of any scratches that your car might have when picking it up. Some companies will make you pay a lot of money for any tiny scratch, even if it was there when you got the car. That’s just one of the reasons why we prefer to pay a bit more for the full insurance option – it’s just not worth the stress.

Good to know: Most highways in Portugal have a toll system that only works electronically. Car rental agencies will explain to you how it works. Also, if you are planning on driving to Spain, inform the rental agency about it when picking up the car. You’ll need to pay an additional fee (usually around 80 euros), but if you don’t do this, your insurance and/or roadside assistance may not be valid outside of Portugal.

Renting a car is the best way to explore Algarve

7. Read the small letters

When booking rental cars or accommodation in the Algarve, be sure to read the small letters.

For example, some hotels ask for security deposits, especially if you are traveling with a big family or a group of friends. We’ve heard of places asking for 200-400 euro cash deposit per person. Imagine having to leave 1000 euros in cash if you are traveling with a family…

Luckily, this is not the case in most places and we never experienced it ourselves anywhere. From what I hear, this is also something that they usually only ask from people who booked package holidays, come for hen and stag parties, and/or don’t have a credit card. Most of the time, the hotels simply swipe your credit card in case of any incidentals and that’s it. We personally never had any issues anywhere. But it’s worth checking if it’s mentioned anywhere when you book, just in case.

The same with rental cars . First, you will need a credit card to rent a car, that goes without saying. But some companies also block rather big amounts (sometimes as high as 1200-2500 euros!) on your credit card to cover potential damages. The only way to avoid this is to take additional – often overpriced – insurance through them…

As already mentioned, we always take full insurance when renting a car through Booking (it’s much cheaper than with rental companies directly!). But also there, we always check the conditions of the provider that we chose and try to only rent with companies that take no more than a few hundred euros deposit. That way, our credit cards remain usable for the rest of the trip.

Pink sunset and palm trees on a beach in Algarve Portugal

8. Stay longer

There’s a lot more to do in Algarve than just the main sights that everyone goes to. Even for the main sights, you really need at least 4-5 days, but you can also stay for a few weeks and still just scratch the surface of what the Algarve has to offer.

So if you can, plan a longer stay! It’s always nice to have some extra time to enjoy the beaches and other sights rather than just take a picture and move on.

Staying longer, you will be able to visit a few lesser-known villages (don’t miss Alte !) and explore the rugged Atlantic coastline in the west and not just the famous sights in the south… You will also have more opportunities to try local food and enjoy all kinds of fun activities (such as parasailing, kayaking, or hiking – just a few of our favorites).

Good to know: Quite a lot of hotels in Algarve have a minimum stay requirement, and not just in the summer season. It’s not always the case, and even if they have it, it’s often just 2-3 days, but you will have more (and nicer) accommodation options to choose from if you stay in one place a bit longer.

READ ALSO: Best Things to Do in Algarve with Kids

Traveling in Algarve region in Portugal

9. Making a road trip? Prepare a good itinerary!

If you are traveling to Algarve with the purpose of exploring the nicest places in the region, you really should take some time to prepare a good itinerary.

A lot will depend on how much time you have, but even if you are only visiting for a few days, you can see some of the nicest places – if you plan well.

Depending on the season, pick the places and activities that interest you the most and see how to best fit it all in with the time that you have. If you can, plan some extra time too.

TIP: When preparing your trip itinerary, keep in mind that everything will take much longer in the high season. First, it’s very warm so exploring is more tiring and you’ll likely want to take more ice cream breaks, cocktail breaks, and use pretty much any other excuse to look for some shade or cool off a bit. And second, traffic is busier, parking is hard to find, ferries and restaurants are full, etc.

This brings us to the next point.

Algarve travel tips - Cape St Vincent Lighthouse

10. Start your days early

No matter when you are traveling or what you plan to do in Algarve, it always pays off to start your days early.

First, it’s quieter on the roads and there is more chance that you’ll find a convenient parking spot. Second, it’s not as warm in the morning. And finally, it’s not as busy meaning that you can enjoy the sites and activities to the fullest.

Here are a few examples to illustrate what I mean:

If you want to explore the nicest sea caves and grottos of Algarve coast , it’s best to book the very first available tour (usually 8-9 am). The most popular places get so busy by 10-11 am that the experience is just not the same anymore. Plus, the ocean is usually calmer in the morning which makes it easier to kayak or enter the sea caves by boat.

If you are visiting the most popular beaches in Algarve, you should also try to arrive early. Parking is a big issue at most beaches, so that’s the main reason to get an early start. But even if you are not taking a car, you may want to come early in order to be able to rent beach chairs and umbrellas or secure a nice spot with some shade, etc. This is especially the case in the peak season, of course.

If you want to enjoy the scenery of the famous Seven Hanging Valleys Trail , it’s also best to start early. Not just because of limited parking, but also because of the sun and the heat. In the summer, you really don’t want to be hiking here in the afternoon.

The same counts for Algarve’s water parks . Most of them open at 10 am. If you arrive early, you can usually do quite a few rides without having to queue. In the peak season, the water parks get so busy that people complain about being able to do just 5 or 6 rides in an entire day. We did more rides in these parks during the first hour simply by arriving early and going to the most popular attractions immediately.

READ ALSO: Best Water Parks in Algarve (+ Top Tips for Your Visit)

Algarve tips - kayaking at Ponta Piedade in Lagos

11. Bring cash

While more and more businesses in the Algarve accept credit cards and other electronic means of payment these days, cash is still king in Portugal . So it’s always good to have some euros in your pocket.

Also, be sure to double-check if a restaurant accepts cards before sitting down at the table. Otherwise, you’ll have to do the dishes afterward (just kidding, of course). But they will politely point you to an ATM nearby.

Good to know: We noticed that many businesses in the Algarve have pretty much permanent signs ‘Multibanco out of service’ or ‘cash only’ . While not always the case, often it simply means that they prefer you to pay in cash. If you inquire about it, very often it turns out that they take cards anyway.

PRO TIP: Be careful which ATMs you use. In Portugal, look for ‘Multibanco’ ATMs that belong to local banks. They are usually located next to the bank building or in the shopping centers. However, 99% of ATMs that you see in the Algarve, belong to ‘Euronet’. They are literally on every corner, sometimes a few of them lined next to each other. Avoid these at all costs if you can. They charge notorious fees and give the worst exchange rates…

Also, if your card is in another currency than euro, make sure that you always choose to do the transaction in euros. That way, the conversion will be handled by your local bank and not a bank or a company that operates the ATM. The rates you get from your bank are always better. Always.

This also counts for making payments by card. If the machine offers to do an exchange for you, always refuse it and proceed in local currency (in the case of Portugal – in euro).

Multibanco out of service sign at a restaurant in Algarve Portugal

12. Dine at local restaurants

Algarve might be known as a beach destination with some fantastic resorts offering an All-Inclusive formula, but we highly recommend that you skip those hotel buffets and give local restaurants a chance.

Even if your hotel has a half-board package or an All-in, go out for lunch or dinner at least a few times. It’s just part of the experience of traveling in the Algarve!

Not only will you eat better, but often it’s cheaper too. Plus, you will be supporting local businesses and helping preserve the authenticity of the region.

There are so many amazing restaurants all over Algarve. Just keep in mind that the location of the restaurant doesn’t always say much about the food quality or the service. There are some amazing restaurants at the most touristy locations and not every restaurant that looks super local is great either.

One thing that is usually constant though – if you have a nice view, you often pay a lot more. In some cases, it’s well worth it, and in some – not so much.

TIP: Do some research, check recent reviews on Google Maps, and you will find more great options than you’ll ever have the time for.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE TO READ: Our Favorite Restaurants in Albufeira

Seafood Cataplana - traditional dish at a local restaurant in Algarve Portugal

13. Don’t worry about the weather

Algarve enjoys over 300 days of sunshine per year. And even if it rains, it hardly ever lasts longer than a few hours. So the weather is the last thing you should worry about.

Yet, somehow, it seems to be the biggest concern most people have before their trip to Algarve.

I am a member of a few Algarve groups on Facebook and there is literally not a day that someone wouldn’t ask about the weather. No matter if it’s summer and there is not a cloud in the sky or if it’s shoulder season and some weather apps show 30% chance of rain, so many people seem to be really worried about how it will influence their trip.

Stop worrying, really! First, you can’t influence the weather. Second, there is no way anyone can predict what it will be like in a few months or weeks from now. And finally, the weather is usually great and the sun is shining all the time. Even if your app shows rain, it hardly ever rains. But if you do get some rain, remember that the region needs it really hard and that locals are happy with every drop of water.

Good to know: Most rain falls between November and February, with an average of 4-6 ‘rainy’ days in the winter months. But you really never know.

Just a few examples based on our recent experience. Usually, April can be rainy and September is dry. Yet, we recently spent 3 days in Algarve in April and it didn’t rain once, and September had a few days with heavy rain in a row. I was once in Algarve in February for 5 days and the weather forecast showed rain every day. In reality, it rained for 1.5 hours one morning and that was it.

Important! Please be considerate of how you use water when you are visiting Algarve. Remember that every drop counts!

Algarve beach on a sunny day in November

14. Pack wisely

What to pack for the Algarve depends so much on the season when you visit and what you plan to do while you are there.

In the summer , packing for Algarve is easy since it’s always warm. Swimwear, light summer clothes, and sandals/flip-flops is all you really need. However, you should always bring a sweater with you (or you’ll be cold on the plane), but you’ll likely never need it in Algarve unless you like to stay up very late. In that case, you will be very happy to have a sweater as the nights can get cold even in the summer.

TIP: We highly recommend packing a UV T-shirt if you are planning on spending lots of time in the water. It’s especially great for kids since you don’t have to worry about applying sun cream every few hours. If you are thinking of visiting some water parks, water shoes can be a lifesaver too. The ground gets very hot and you can’t use the slides wearing flip-flops.

In the spring and in the early fall , it’s always wise to pack a sweater and a light rain jacket, in addition to summer clothes. Most likely, you will be wearing shorts and T-shirts all the time, but sometimes it won’t be enough, especially in the evenings. Also, if you are taking a boat tour, it is always good to have a windbreaker.

In the late fall and in the winter, definitely bring a pair of long pants and a few sweaters, plus a somewhat thicker jacket. You may not need a jacket (every day), but you can’t count on it. Plus, the moment the sun goes down, it gets quite chilly. The best way to dress is in 2-4 layers because it can get really warm during the day and freezing cold at night. Sometimes, you can go from three layers to T-shirts and back to sweaters and jackets in a matter of several minutes.

Additional recommendations:

  • Pack good walking shoes or sneakers if you are planning on doing any sightseeing or hiking.
  • Leave high-heeled shoes at home. There are cobbled stones everywhere and it’s quite hilly in many places too.
  • If you have some space in your luggage, pack a towel. There are so many places to go for a swim, plus many hotels/resorts charge for pool towels. We usually take our quick-drying travel towels with us.
  • Bring a swim cap with you (!). Every hotel and resort we have been to in Algarve asks you to use pool caps in indoor pools. Otherwise, you can usually buy one at your hotel.
  • Pack a waterproof phone case if you are planning on taking any boat trips.
  • Don’t wear your best clothes for boat excursions by speedboat, kayak, and similar. Ideally, you wear swim clothes since everything gets splashed with salt water.
  • Pack a reusable water bottle and fill it up whenever you can – you’ll need it, especially in the summer.

Algarve coastline in Ferragudo

15. Don’t forget sun protection

The Algarve sun can be really harsh and if you are not careful, you will get burned very quickly. Every single day, we see people who look like red lobsters.

And this is not just in the summer and definitely not just on the beach or by the pool. Even if you are just exploring the towns or taking a short boat trip, you really should use sun protection.

Be sure to apply plenty of sunscreen lotion, wear sunglasses and a sun hat, cover your shoulders, and look for some shade whenever possible. And do this from day one because the first day is usually when it happens before you even think of it.

Lazy river at Zoomarine Algarve

16. Know that things are laid back

Just like in many southern European countries, things are a bit more laid back in Portugal than you might be used to at home. Remember that it’s part of the culture and that people are more relaxed and happier because they don’t stress about everything all the time.

Sometimes, it may take them a bit longer to bring you the menu or take your order at the restaurant, so be patient.

That being said, we find that everything runs pretty smoothly and efficiently in Algarve, even more so in the most popular tourist areas. It really doesn’t happen often that we find the service too slow, but that’s also likely because we learned to relax.

TIP: Don’t go to a restaurant if you are in a hurry, take things easy, relax, and you’ll be just fine.

Spring flowers and colorful buildings in Tavira Portugal

17. Be respectful

However, please also remember that the fact that Portugal is more relaxed and laid back does not mean that you can be disrespectful. Algarve might be a holiday destination for you, but it’s home to so many people, and you are just a guest.

Just a few examples.

While you can wear very casual clothes at most places, many (beach) restaurants ask you not to come inside in swimwear. And even if they don’t say anything, remember that nobody enjoys seeing someone walk or stand next to their table wearing nothing more than a string… It really doesn’t cost much effort to put on a T-shirt and some shorts or a dress, even if you are just going for a cocktail or an ice cream.

Oh, and don’t get me started on beach chairs. Yes, the never-ending beach chair dance that you see in so many beach destinations… 🙂 Nowadays, most hotels in the Algarve ask you not to ‘reserve’ the chairs if you are not around. And yes, they sometimes remove your stuff too. If everyone simply uses the chairs when they need them, there is usually no shortage. So there is really no need to run to the pool at 7 am. You are on vacation, so enjoy it (and let others do the same).

If you are on holiday with a bigger group of friends, don’t act like an a$$. If you wouldn’t do certain things at home, don’t do them here either. There is no need to be loud at the restaurant, scream in the middle of the night, leave rubbish behind, or let the water run for no reason… It’s all so passé ;).

I know, I probably sound like a grumpy old woman now, but if you spend as much time in Algarve as we do, you start to wonder why some people are determined to ruin such beautiful destinations with their inappropriate behavior…

Ok, rant over. 🙂 We have some more tips for you – see below!

Algarve hotel sign saying that it's forbidden to reserve chairs

18. Learn a few words of Portuguese

There is probably no bigger insult to a Portuguese than to hear you speak Spanish to them. So either stick to English (it’s really easy in Algarve as pretty much everyone speaks English), or learn a few words of Portuguese.

Just a simple ‘hello’ or ‘thank you’ and a smile goes a long way!

Here are a couple of words that you may find useful:

  • Hello – Ola!
  • Good morning – Bom dia (used until noon).
  • Good afternoon – Boa tarde (used after lunch).
  • Good evening – Boa noite (used after dark).
  • Please – Por favor .
  • Thank you – Obrigado (if you are a man) or Obrigada (if you are a woman).

People walking in the old town of Lagos Portugal

19. Relax & Enjoy

I can’t describe it in words, but there is just something about the Algarve that immediately puts you in a vacation modus.

The moment you step off the plane in Faro, you see the sun, the palm trees, and people walking around in shorts, and you forget all the worries…

This beautiful region is truly one of the best vacation destinations in Europe. With stunning coastlines, rich culture, and a wide array of activities, the Algarve truly has something to offer to all types of travelers. Add blue skies, sunshine, amazing food, and wine, and you have all the ingredients for a perfect trip.

So relax and enjoy it!

Cocktails at a beach in Algarve at sunset

So, these are our Algarve travel tips. I hope that it gives you a better idea of what to expect and helps you plan a great holiday or a road trip.

Have a great trip!

TIP: On our blog, we have tons of travel guides for the entire Algarve region, but also the rest of Portugal, plus the most popular islands. If you are planning a longer trip and are looking for more travel tips and information, you can find a few of these articles highlighted below and the entire overview on our Portugal travel page . Check it out!

More travel inspiration for Portugal:

  • Best Things to Do in Lisbon
  • Best Things to Do in Sintra
  • Best Towns and Cities in Portugal
  • Best Day Trips & Tours from Lisbon
  • Best Things to Do in Madeira
  • Best Things to Do in São Miguel (Azores)

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Visiting Algarve for the first time - tips and tricks

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Home » Travel Guides » Portugal » 15 Best Things to Do in the Algarve (Portugal)

15 Best Things to Do in the Algarve (Portugal)

A soft climate tempered by the Atlantic, soft sandy beaches, mouth-watering cuisine, exhilarating coastal scenery; it’s no wonder that Portugal’s Algarve is one of Europe’s favourite holiday destinations.

We’ll run our finger over the best things to do in the Algarve, from unwinding on dreamlike beaches to exploring coastal caves, teeing off at some of Europe’s leading golf courses and getting lost in charming old towns.

We’ll also add some heritage to track down, like the Church of São Lourenço, decorated with exquisite blue tiles, or Faro’s monumental Arco da Vila gate.

Lets explore the best things to do in the Algarve :

1. Ponta da Piedade

Ponta da Piedade, Algarve, Portugal

The headland south of Lagos is nothing short of stunning.

The tortured limestone stacks and cliffs have a reddish tone and are honeycombed with natural arches and caves.

You can take the steps down to the clear water, which is completely protected by the rocks and has an enchanting emerald colour.

To experience it all you can gaze at the view from the headland, which stretches all the way to Cape St Vincent in the west and then head back to Lagos to board a motorboat for a voyage exploring the caves and creeks.

2. Praia da Falésia

Praia da Falésia, Algarve

Pushing on for almost seven kilometres is a golden sandy beach traced by cliffs streaked with various ochre hues.

The competition is stiff, but this may be the greatest beach in the Algarve and is also one of the longest in Portugal.

Those cliffs have a lot to do with it, as the combination of the pale sand, azure sea and russet red rocks make this a beautiful walking destination in the off season.

There’s a cliff-top path through pine groves and with panoramic views.

Come at sunset when the light is phenomenal.

3. Cape St Vincent

Cape St Vincent

At this cape in Sagres you’ll be standing at the southwesternmost point in Europe.

Beyond geographical significance, it’s also a jaw-dropping setting, with cliffs 75 metres above the ocean and cinematic views of the rocky seascapes to the north and also to the east towards Sagres Point.

A ton of naval battles have been fought in the ocean off the cape, and there’s a lighthouse here, built in 1846 on the foundations of a derelict convent.

There are now a couple of gift shops, as well as a small but worthwhile museum about the cape and its history.

4. Praia da Rocha

Praia da Rocha

Another awesome beach, Praia da Rocha combines the Algarve’s craggy coastal scenery with its pristine sands and rolling surf.

You can get to the foot of the strange rock formations for photos, and if you don’t mind the climb can follow the coast around to discover secret beaches framed by these hulking sculptured rocks.

The main stretch is a vast, low-shelving beach with consistent waves that surfers can ride.

Behind and to the east is the 17th-century Fort of Santa Catarina, designed by the Neapolitan military mastermind Alexandre Massai.

5. Church of São Lourenço

Church of São Lourenço

In Loulé there’s a Baroque church from the 18th century that you owe it to yourself to see.

If the whitewashed exterior is unassuming, the inside will just blow you away.

The walls and ceiling are completely clad with fabulous blue azulejos (traditional tin-glazed ceramic tiles) dating to the 1730s.

They are so extensive that the church is often called Igreja de Louça (Church of China). The tiles were crafted by Policarpo de Oliveira Bernardes, recognised as one of the masters of the art and depict scenes from the life of St Lawrence.

6. Algar Seco

Algar Seco, Algarve, Portugal

Another spot to admire the Algarve’s gnarled red rock formations can be found in Carvoeiro, a little way east of the resort’s centre.

The ocean has eroded out the cliffs here to form little hollows, caves and small rocky outcrops.

There’s a boardwalk at the top of the cliff presenting you with some great photo opportunities of the grottoes being buffeted by the ocean.

More intrepid visitors can negotiate the steps that have been etched into the rock to get down for a better view of the caves.

7. Tavira Island

Tavira Island

This is a long, narrow barrier island a few hundred metres off the city of Tavira.

You can get there by boat, which leaves from the city’s marina and nearby Quatro Águas, or cross the bridge at Santa Luzia and catch a tourist train that runs in the summer.

You’ll know why you made the crossing as soon as you arrive; the Blue Flag beaches on Tavira Island are out of this world, even by the high standards of the Algarve.

They go on for 11 kilometres and have a wide strip of soft white sand bordered by dunes.

8. Dolphin Watching

Dolphin, Algarve, Portugal

At all of the main marinas along the Algarve you’ll see ocean boat trips advertised.

There’s deep sea fishing for instance, but the experience you’ll really treasure is dolphin spotting.

There are large numbers of common and bottlenose dolphins in the ocean off the Algarve, so you’re almost guaranteed to have a successful expedition.

This is also made easier by the creatures’ inquisitive nature, and before you know it pods of up to 50 will be keeping you company.

The best companies bring a marine biologist along to give you added insights about the dolphins habits and physiology.

9. Lagos Old Town

Lagos Old Town

The historic centre of Lagos is a joy to roam through.

It is encircled by large chunks of its old walls, which were updated in the 1500s on top of much older Moorish defences.

Between the 16th and 18th centuries Lagos was the capital of the Algarve, and you’ll be aware of its status at the town’s museum, which has hundreds of years or artefacts including coins dating to the 4th century.

You can devote the rest of your time to just ambling around the narrow cobblestone streets, happening upon historic buildings like the 15th-century slave market (Lagos was once the centre of Europe’s slave trade) and the Baroque Church of Santo António, which is also festooned with blue azulejos.

10. Arco da Vila

Arco da Vila

In 1812 one of Faro’s Moorish waterfront gateways was given a Neoclassical update.

It was commissioned by Francisco Gomes de Avelar the Bishop of Faro and drawn up by the Italian architect Francisco Xavier Fabri.

There’s a belfry (crowned with a stork’s nest), clock, balustrade and in an alcove above the portal is a statue of Thomas Aquinas hewn from marble.

And as you walk through the portal you’ll still be able to see traces of the original Moorish stonework.

It’s quite a thrill to know that you’re treading the same path as hundreds of years-worth of visitors to the city.

11. Forte de Nossa Senhora da Rocha

Forte de Nossa Senhora da Rocha

Capping a promontory near Lagoa is a fortified enclosure that dates back to before the arrival of the Moors in the 8th century.

There isn’t much evidence of the fortress as it was pulled down in the 19th century, but you will find an old hermitage with a terracotta tile roof.

The whitewashed walls and cliff-top position create an almost ethereal scene.

You can peek through the gates of the chapel or bask in the majestic ocean vistas and look down at the neighbouring Praia Nova and Praia da Senhora da Rocha beaches.

12. Monchique

Monchique

So far nearly everything has been on the coast, but the Algarve has an extensive inland region.

This is most picturesque around the Serra de Monchique, a mountain range acting as a buffer between the Algarve and Alentejo to the north.

This includes the Pico da Foia, which at just over 900 metres is the tallest mountain in southern Portugal.

Outside the summer Monchique is the best place in the region for walks, in cool hills coated with strawberry trees.

One hillside above the town has the remnants of a 17th century convent, while the centre of Monchique is also a joy for its cobblestone streets and whitewashed houses with colourful window and doorframes.

Golf, Algarve

Up to the 1960s the game of golf was practically unheard of on the Algarve.

Fast forward 50 years and it’s a very different story.

This is up there with the best golfing destinations in Europe.

Considering the size of the region, the choice is unbelievable: There are 42 courses at 35 different clubs, so it’s fair to say that wherever you are in the Algarve you’ll never have to travel far for a round.

A few of the best to keep in mind are Oceanico in Vilamoura, Palmares near Lagos, Quinta da Ria and the pair of innovatively designed courses at Quinta do Lago.

14. Waterparks

Waterpark, Algarve

These are always obligatory if you’re holidaying with children, and fortunately the Algarve has a few waterparks competing with the best in Europe.

Side & Splash in Estômbar is the largest in Portugal, and one of the largest on the continent, with 16 slides and pools and almost two hectares of open grassy areas for sunbathing.

Aquashow Park in Quarteira is maybe for older children as some of the slides are not for the faint-hearted, like FreeFall, the highest slide in Europe at 32 metres.

Zoomarine Algarve meanwhile has an animal park with live shows together with its new “Beach” area with a wave pool, fine white sand and waterslides.

15. Algarve Food and Drink

Chicken Piri Piri

On the Atlantic it will come as no surprise that the fish and seafood is divine in the Algarve, whether it’s crab, oysters, squid or a shellfish medley in rice dishes.

But the fish that shows up the most is the humble sardine, which is just right grilled and served with salad and a white wine.

Chicken piri-piri is another star; it’s barbecued chicken marinated in a sauce made with the piri-piri chilli, which was first imported by Portugal from its former colony in Mozambique.

For an authentic accompaniment to your morning coffee you can grab a pastel de nata at a bakery.

This is a tasty custard tart flavoured with almonds.

15 Best Things to Do in the Algarve (Portugal):

  • Ponta da Piedade
  • Praia da Falésia
  • Cape St Vincent
  • Praia da Rocha
  • Church of São Lourenço
  • Tavira Island
  • Dolphin Watching
  • Lagos Old Town
  • Arco da Vila
  • Forte de Nossa Senhora da Rocha
  • Algarve Food and Drink

Algarve Portugal Tourism

Algarve Tourism Guide

Essential algarve tips, trip planner and complete accommodation guide.

View of a beach in Algarve, Portugal

S un-worshippers from all over Europe come to the continent’s southwestern tip for some of its most beautiful beaches , magnificent cliff scenery , fantastic grottoes , world-class golf courses and luxury or family-friendly resorts. Algarve is Portugal’s most visited region, but while it’s a top summer destination for Europeans, it remains a place to be discovered by everyone else. This makes it Europe’s most famous secret, as it’s officially promoted.

Visitors find beaches of every type here -- from people-packed bays with magnificent rock formations to secluded coves, dune islands with golden sand stretching as far as the eye can see, and wild, remote and nearly deserted stretches backed by breathtaking cliffs for nature lovers (and naturists). The waters are shallow and calm for swimming or have the perfect waves for surfers (novices and pros alike). The entire coast is very clean, as certified by the Blue Flag flying at almost every beach.

This was considered the edge of the Earth before sailors ventured into the unknown during Portugal’s golden age of exploration, and there’s something thrilling about standing on what was once considered the end of the world . Windswept capes and pristine landscapes still make it feel that way today, giving it a romantic atmosphere. Although one of the most devastating earthquakes in history destroyed almost everything in the region in 1755, it preserves exotic and traditional architecture , and there are historic sites worth exploring. Then there are the reasonably-priced resorts, the golf, the water parks and surfing that made it a hotspot, and you have a destination for all types of travelers, of all ages and tastes, who want to return time and again.

Algarve Travel Planner

Helpful insider tips to plan the perfect days in the region:.

Hotel in Albufeira, Algarve

Where to Stay The Best Areas and Hotels

Beach in Albufeira, Algarve

The Best Beaches Choose the Right Beach For You

Heart-shaped cliff in Algarve

Top 10 Attractions The Best Things to See and Do

Albufeira, Algarve

Top 10 Destinations The Best Cities and Villages to Visit

Benagil Cave, Algarve

The Best Caves Must-See Natural Wonders

Train to Algarve

Transportation Guide How to Get There and Around

Which part of algarve is best.

The Algarve region could be divided into three sub-regions -- the east, central, and western Algarve. Each offers a different experience, so where you go depends on what type of holiday you want to have:

Central Algarve

Beach in Algarve, Portugal

This is where tourism in Algarve was born in the 1960s and the favorite area of British, German and Dutch tourists . It goes from Faro to Portimão and is the most developed area . Some former fishing villages are now major resorts with high-rise apartment buildings and hotels, looking more like Miami or Costa del Sol in some parts (such as Praia da Rocha and Quarteira ). However, there are some extraordinary beaches and caves , including many of the region’s most beautiful (by Lagoa , Carvoeiro and Alvor ), some crowded, others secret, only accessible by boat and waiting to be discovered. Vestiges of a more traditional Algarve can be found in narrow whitewashed streets and on quiet coves. This is where you also find the most luxurious resorts ( Quinta do Lago , Vale do Lobo and Vilamoura ), the water parks and the liveliest nightlife (in Albufeira ). Inland is the historic town of Silves , with the Algarve’s best-preserved castle. Due to the variety of attractions for all budgets, it’s the most visited part of the region.

Eastern Algarve

Beach in the Ria Formosa Natural Park, Portugal

It goes from the Spanish border to the main city and regional capital (Faro, where there’s the international airport), and is mostly visited by Portuguese and Spanish tourists . The coastline says goodbye to caves and cliffs and hello to miles of dunes, lagoons, marshes and a series of sandy islands in the Ria Formosa Natural Park , home to some of the region’s best and most spacious beaches. It’s quieter than the central region and has charming small towns and villages like Tavira , Cacela Velha , Castro Marim and the fishing port of Olhão . These preserve traditional architecture of Roman and Moorish influence and are more typically Mediterranean when it comes to climate and water temperature.

Western Algarve

Lagos on the Algarve coast, Portugal

From Lagos to Sagres are small fishing villages and scenic beaches with golden rock formations . In Sagres the landscape changes, with soaring cliffs hiding breathtaking beaches for surfing and naturism . This west coast is the Costa Vicentina , considered the wildest in Europe . While Lagos has become popular with young tourists for its photogenic beaches, Sagres and Costa Vicentina still enjoy relative obscurity and remain the almost exclusive destination of surfers, hippies and naturists.

Algarve Tourism - Frequently-Asked Questions

When is the best time to visit algarve.

Algarve’s Mediterranean and Atlantic climate gives it pleasant weather throughout the year, with warmer and sunnier winters than elsewhere in Europe, but it’s never warm enough for the beach between November and March. However, temperatures and the sea are just fine for golfers and surfers in spring and autumn. The height of the tourist season is July and August (especially August, when families from around Portugal descend to the southern shores), so that’s when you find the beaches at their most crowded and prices at their highest. The best time to go is therefore late June or early September , especially for couples who prefer child-free environments at the beaches and hotels. The weather is suitable for sunbathing from late April to early October . The driest months are July and August, with an average of just one day of rainfall in July and zero days in August. June averages two rainy days and September has about five. There are twelve daily sunshine hours from June to August. High temperatures average 28C (82F) in June, 33C (91F) in July and 32C (90F) in August.

What is Algarve known for?

Algarve is known as one of the sunniest regions in Europe and with some of the continent’s finest beaches , extraordinary rock formations , amazing caves and golden cliffs . It is also one of the most beautiful places in the world ! It was first settled by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthagianians, and later by the Visigoths, but it was the Romans and the Moors who most left their mark. There are traces of Roman villas and mosaics around the region, while the many almond, fig and orange trees; latticed chimneys and white domed buildings reflect the Moorish heritage. When the kingdom of Portugal was founded in the 12th century in northern Iberia, it expanded south and conquered “Al Gharb” (“the West”). It was officially made part of Portugal in 1267. Two centuries later it played a major role in the Age of Discovery , when Prince Henry the Navigator established a pioneering navigation school in Lagos and Sagres, where ships were built and expeditions launched. The most visited monument in the region is the prince’s fortress in Sagres , which is a European Heritage Site for its significant role in European history and culture.

What is the most beautiful town in Algarve?

Most people will agree that Tavira is the best-preserved Algarve town and therefore the most beautiful. Others prefer Lagos, since its coastline is stunning and its beaches some of the most photogenic in the region. Carvoeiro is the winner of the smaller towns, serving as a gateway to some of the best and most famous beaches.

How many days should I stay in Algarve?

While many people do head to Algarve for just a weekend, it’s a destination for an extended holiday in the sun. The average length of a trip to Algarve is two weeks . Many people stay for a week, but there are families that stay the entire month of July or August. If you just want to get to know the region, five to seven days will be enough to experience the highlights, including the more famous caves, beaches, islands and monuments. In a grand tour, stopping at the main destinations, we recommend two days in Faro (including a trip to one or more of the islands), two days in Albufeira (beach-hopping), three days in Tavira (including a trip to Cacela Velha), two days in Carvoeiro (for the famous caves and beaches nearby), two days in Lagos, and two days in Sagres (which should include the beaches of Costa Vicentina).

Is Algarve Expensive?

Algarve has always been known as a budget-friendly destination , but that of course depends on where you stay and dine. There are luxury resorts and Michelin-starred restaurants, but also budget apartments and hotels for families, and restaurants serving good-value meals of fresh fish and other local delicacies. It’s certainly cheaper than St. Tropez, Sardinia, Ibiza, Mallorca and the other Balearic islands, or the Greek islands. In fact, it consistently ranks at the top of best-value beach destinations for travelers from the UK and around Europe. It’s considered the most affordable destination for summer holidays in the Eurozone, with prices about 25% lower than on the Costa del Sol, across the border in Spain.

Is Algarve Safe?

Portugal is a very safe country (it consistently ranks in the top 5 in the annual list of world’s most peaceful countries), but, naturally, in a major tourist destination like Algarve, unfortunate episodes do occur. Violent crime is very rare and the vast majority of tourists have a problem-free holiday, but always use common sense as you would back home. Always be aware of petty crime like pickpocketing in crowded places and never leave valuables in your car. It’s also a good idea to head back to your hotel as soon as you spot rowdy tourists and drunken behavior in nightlife areas, where trouble sometimes arises.

How to Go to Algarve

Algarve can be reached by regular flights from most major European capitals, and low-cost airlines also offer seasonal services from smaller cities. The international airport in Algarve is in Faro, which is roughly at the center of the region. There are also 30-minute flights and trains from Lisbon (the slower Intercidades train service takes 3 hours and 30 minutes and the faster Alfa Pendular takes 3 hours).

Do you need a car in Algarve?

You don’t need a car in Algarve if you stay in the major towns of Albufeira, Lagos, Faro, Vilamoura, and Tavira, where beaches are within walking distance and there are good public transportation links (trains, buses or ferries). However, to explore some of the best beaches and the smaller towns, you do need a car, have to rely on taxis or Uber (which will increase the cost of your holiday significantly), or have to plan your itinerary very carefully and use the often very infrequent buses.

Is English spoken in Algarve?

You’ll find that Portugal is the southern European country where English is better and more widely spoken, especially in the cities of Lisbon and Porto , and in Algarve. The British make up the biggest percentage of tourists in the region, so you can expect no problems communicating in English at hotels, most restaurants and shops.

Algarve Tourism - Quick Tips

Algarve, Portugal

(See links to the different destinations at the bottom of this page)

Best Large Resort Towns - Albufeira, Lagos, Vilamoura

Best Small Resort Towns - Alvor, Carvoeiro

Best Small Villages - Burgau, Salema

Best Destinations for Families - Albufeira, Praia da Luz

Best Destinations for Young Tourists - Albufeira, Lagos, Praia da Rocha

Best Destinations for Mature Tourists - Albufeira, Alvor, Carvoeiro, Tavira

Best Destinations for Surfing - Costa Vicentina, Sagres

Nightlife Destinations - Albufeira (Praia da Oura), Praia da Rocha, Vilamoura

Luxury Resorts - Quinta do Lago, Vale do Lobo

Low-Cost Destinations - Armação de Pêra, Quarteira, Monte Gordo

Best Destinations for Culture and History - Faro, Lagos, Tavira

Golf Destinations - Praia dos Salgados (Albufeira), Quinta do Lago, Vale do Lobo, Vilamoura

Winter Destinations - Faro, Tavira

Official Algarve Tourism Office

Everything you need to plan your visit to Algarve is on this website. It offers complete and entirely independent information from locals and travel experts, not sponsored by or associated with any local institution or organization. However, if you still have any questions when you arrive, pass by the official tourist office at Faro airport. If you’re not arriving by plane, you’ll find tourist offices in all of the region’s main towns. They’re usually found in or around the main squares or pedestrian streets.

Algarve Map

Algarve Tourist Map

Complete Algarve Guide

Where to stay.

Top 10 Hotels

Beach Hotels

All-Inclusive Hotels

Hotels with Pool

Romantic Hotels

Design & Boutique Hotels

Luxury Hotels

Best Hostels

Budget Hotels

Family Hotels

Best Apartments

What to See and Do

Top 10 Attractions

Top 10 Places to Visit

Top 10 Monuments

Best Caves and Cliffs

Romantic Places

Algarve in Winter

50 Best Beaches

Nude Beaches

Secret Beaches

Surfing Beaches

Gay Beaches

Albufeira Beaches

Alvor Beaches

Carvoeiro Beaches

Costa Vicentina Beaches

Faro Beaches

Lagos Beaches

Olhão Beaches

Portimão Beaches

Sagres Beaches

Tavira Beaches

Transportation

Algarve Transportation

Faro Airport

From Lisbon

Other Portugal Destinations

Lisbon Beaches

Places in Algarve

Armação de Pêra

Cacela Velha

Castro Marim

Costa Vicentina

Monte Gordo

Quinta do Lago

Ria Formosa Natural Park

Vale do Lobo

Vila Real de Santo António

We Travel Portugal

Albufeira Portugal

Albufeira, Portugal: The Ultimate Guide to Albufeira [2024]

Albufeira is the biggest and perhaps most widely known of the Algarve resort towns. A once quiet fishing village now turned into a pure out and out tourist destination. Despite its reputation, it remains ever popular today with a lively mix of locals, seasonal visitors, and of course tourists. How exactly does a prime beach destination by day mix with an infamous party destination by night? Well you could easily describe it as a twin town, with a twin personality. With different areas for those looking for different experiences. Read on to find out everything there is to know about Albufeira, and if it’s the right destination for you!

A Brief History of Albufeira

Underneath the town and mass of development are the remains of a fishing village. Even before it was a small Portuguese fishing village the area was occupied by the Romans and the Moors. Its name today, reportedly comes from the Moorish al-Buħayra. Which means related or near to a lagoon.

Albufeira would be one of the last hold outs of the Moors, before eventually falling to the Christian forces of Afonso III in 1249. Moving towards more recent centuries it became a fishing hub, and the town grew to accommodate a large fishing industry. However, during the latter half of the 20 th century fish exports would decline, and the local fisheries only supported the local towns people.

Albufeira Algarve Portugal

Modern day Albufeira

Its economic decline would change considerably during the 1960s and 70s. Package holidays meant sun seekers from all over Europe could now experience, the sun, sea, and sand of warmer climates. The likes of Albufeira in Portugal, and Benidorm in Spain rode the wave. In Albufeira today, you can still see the scars of this rapid development, 1960s and 1970s concrete apartment blocks, mixing with uninspiring multistorey hotels. Underneath it all, and within the old town, the charming, cobbled streets, pastelarias and even a little bit of history do remain. It just completely depends on if you want to look and experience it, or not.

Albufeira Old Town

The old town is perhaps the most charming of Albufeira’s streets, and one of the few areas that still has a somewhat traditional feel. The main streets lined with calçada, and much smaller cobbled streets are definitely worthy of getting lost in. Although you will never be far from a ticket or souvenir shop. Supposedly there are over 100 cafes, bars, and restaurants here as well, so you are never far from a refreshment either! From the old town, it’s hard to decide which direction to head to. You can head west to its marina, south to discover its incredible beaches, or east for an introduction to the more infamous side of Albufeira.

Albufeira Old Town

Albufeira New Town – The Strip – Avenida Francisco Sá Carneiro

You can’t mention Albufeira, without mentioning ‘the strip’. For those unaware, the strip is actually around 3km from the Old Town. Which is how, and why, Albufeira can balance these twin personalities. That’s not to suggest that the old town is quiet or sensible in the evening, it’s just a slightly quieter experience. The strip is located on Avenida Francisco Sá Carneiro and is around 2km in length. However, its most popular and dense area is the southern 700m stretch known as Areias de São João. It is packed with bars, pubs, clubs, and international restaurants.

The Strip Albufeira Portugal

Walking along the strip is an experience. During the afternoon the terraces fill with drinkers awaiting the night ahead, and once the sun sets neon lights will guide them to an array of clubs and discos. Cheap drinks, cheap food, and an over-the-top party atmosphere is what the strip is known for, and what it delivers. Picking a hotel anywhere near the strip during the high season is only recommended if that is what you want. Bars, kebab shops, and café’s offering English Breakfasts, keep the atmosphere alive throughout the night, and into the following morning. There really isn’t a particularly quiet time, so you’ve been warned.

The Strip Albufeira Algarve

Miradouro do Pau da Bandeira

Heading back towards the old town and Albufeira’s main beach will lead you to the impressive Miradouro do Pau da Bandeira. It’s a fantastic look out point that gives you incredible views across the beach, and the whitewashed old town. You can look out east for views across Praia de Albufeira, or west across Praia dos Pescadores and into Albufeira. It’s well worth a stop and a few moments to appreciate some of the beauty that Albufeira does offer visitors.

Albufeira Museum – Museu Municipal de Arqueologia

To delve into Albufeira’s history, then its small Archaeological Museum is worth a quick visit. It’s located in the old town in the former town hall. Spread across two floors you’ll find several exhibits covering the Roman, Islamic, and Modern era. Most of the artifacts come from the surrounding area, so it’s great local museum. It costs €1 to enter, and children up to the age of 14 can enter for free.

Albufeira Church – Igreja Matriz de Albufeira

To continue on the cultural theme, take a short walk from the museum to the grand Igreja Matriz de Albufeira. Compared to other regional churches the whitewashed 18 th century could almost be called plain. However, it does fit in well with its surroundings in the old town. Its construction dates to around 1782. Head inside and you’ll find a large altarpiece of the patron saint of Albufeira – Our Lady of the Conception (Nossa Senhora da Conceição).

Igreja Matriz Albufeira

Albufeira Marina

Approximately 1.5km from the old town is Albufeira’s Marina. The modern marina surrounded by colourful developments is a completely different experience than both Albufeira’s old town, and The Strip. As a daytime activity, it’s a more peaceful experience and a walk around the marina is a nice change of pace. There are multiple bars and restaurants, but overall, the area is unhurried compared to the wider town. It’s also the departing point for many of the coastal excursions and tours you can take from Albufeira.

The Best Beaches in Albufeira

With the main sights covered, perhaps now we should turn our attention to the beaches in Albufeira. It is after all, widely known as a beach resort! Albufeira technically has two beaches that the town directly opens into – Praia dos Pescadores or Fisherman’s Beach, and Praia do Túnel or Peneco. All of these beaches exhibit the superb characteristics of the region, soft golden sand, and clear blue water.

Praia do Tunel

Praia dos Pescadores – Fishermans Beach

The Fisherman’s Beach is named after the original inhabitants of the town. The 100m wide sandy beach would have been where the fishing boats were pulled up and looked after. Despite its romantic name, this is one of Albufeira’s most resort-like beaches and it can get very busy during the high season. The beach front area of Albufeira is also a mini resort of such, with a variety of bars and restaurants for refreshment. You’ll also find shops selling anything you might have forgotten for your day on the beach. Multiple sections are life guarded, and you’ll find your usual beach resort facilities like sunbed and parasol rental.

Praia do Túnel or Peneco

Although it appears to be one large beach, this stretch of sand is actually divided into two. As you head west along the Praia dos Pescadores you’ll soon find yourself on Praia do Túnel. It’s the same supreme stretch of sand, but at this end you’ll find a couple of interesting features. Located at the far eastern edge of the beach is the first. Elevador do Peneco – the Peneco Elevator. Resulting in divisive opinions, it’s either an impressive concrete structure housing an elevator. Or an unnecessary eye sore on a beautiful beach. In our opinion it’s a futuristic and unique focal point. It’s glass and concrete platform offers some incredible views, and it allows access to the beach for those of lower mobility. We recommend visiting and deciding yourself!

Albufeira Elevator

The second feature is the 20m tunnel that leads from the beach, directly onto Rua 5 de Outubro of Albufeira’s oldtown. The pedestrian only tunnel adds another unique way of getting from the centre of town, right to the beach. To the beach itself? Well, it’s the same blue flag beach mentioned earlier. As well as all the usual facilities like lifeguards and sunbed rental, you’ll also find a beach bar. Which also offers refreshments, free toilets, and changing rooms. Of course, the rest of the town and its restaurants aren’t far either!

Praia de Albufeira

Directly west of those two beaches, and separated by a small pier, is Praia de Albufeira. Yes, confusingly, Praia de Albufeira is not directly part of the old town of Albufeira but slightly offset from it. It is also sometimes referred to as Praia do Inatel, named after the hotel complex on eastern section of the beach. It’s the same supreme stretch of sand that forms a gently curved bay and offers views into Old Town Albufeira. Once again, you’ll find all the facilities you’ll need for a day on the beach.

algarve tourist information

Praia da Oura and Praia da Oura East

To the west of Albufeira’s main beaches are Praia da Oura, and Praia da Oura East. These two beaches are much closer to The Strip so are slightly less family oriented and more popular with young adults and a party atmosphere. The area surrounding the beaches is almost a mini resort in itself dominated by large hotels, but you’ll also find smaller cafés and restaurants. You’re also only a very short walk from The Strip.

Praia da Oura

Praia das Marias and Praia das Silvas

Praia das Marias

Don’t be fooled by the locals and media calling these secret beaches. Compared to the much bigger beaches closer to Albufeira. These are much more reminiscent of the famous west Algarve beaches you’ll find closer to Lagos. Although they are much smaller and surrounded by cliffs, they are widely known and get equally busy during the summer months.  Praia das Silvas is served by a small café, which also offers sun bed and parasol rental. Continuing further to the east will lead you to Praia da Oura (Leste). As it’s the furthest beach, Praia da Oura Leste is often the quietest.

Praia da Oura East

A Family Destination – Tours, Trips and Activities

The town and beaches aside, Albufeira offers a massive number of activities catering to all ages. Looking at the coast, there’s a whole variety of boat trips and tours. For the wildlife lovers, dolphin watching out at sea is an incredible activity. If you want to experience the sea, and a sunset then you’ll also find sunset catamaran cruises to take things at a slower pace. For the more active, you can also experience the coastline and its caves by kayak or paddle board. Looking back inland, you’ll find an array of waterparks and adventure parks in proximity.  

For those looking to explore the regions fantastic wines, there’s even a few vineyards to explore and wineries for wine tastings. For those that want to visit the more traditional and historical Algarve, then Albufeira is connected to the towns of Silves and Loulé by public transport.

Somewhere to Stay in Albufeira?

Albufeira is a big enough resort that it caters for every budget, from lively hostels and budget hotels, to 5 star resorts.

For a a stunning beach front option then one of the best places to stay is the Hotel Sol e Mar Resort . The town centre hotel has a fantastic location and a selection of its own pools. For a more family friendly options with a focus on activities and great pools take a look at the Jupiter Albufeira Hotel – Family & Fun . For the full list of  hotels in Albufeira check this list here .

Should You Visit Albufeira?

So, the final question. Should you visit Albufeira? We hope to have provided a balanced guide here, covering both its good and bad bits. Make no mistake, Albufeira is one of the most popular and widely known Algarve resorts, as such it’s also a launch pad of Portuguese discovery of sorts.

In amongst the international eateries and tourist fare, you’ll find a few Portuguese gems, the beaches are of course stunning, and it is easy to explore a more authentic side to the Algarve. Alternatively, it is an out and out resort destination, it offers everything you could possibly need without having to go very far. For many families and tourists, Albufeira is all they wish to see of the Algarve. There is after all a good reason it become the most popular resort.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Albufeira!

algarve tourist information

5 thoughts on “Albufeira, Portugal: The Ultimate Guide to Albufeira [2024]”

Do you have any suggestions for accommodation in an area of Portugal that is perhaps not quite so touristy? We would like to stay for a month in an apartment. Thank you .

Any of the bigger towns with more of a local year round population – Loulé, Faro, Portimão would be good places to start. However, June to September even these places have plenty of tourists!

We’ve just spent 2 weeks in Albufeira for the first time at the end of October. The weather has been mostly fine. 2 rainy days out of 14 but we have good tans. We stayed at a small guest house 5 mins from the old town. Nothing spectacular but served our needs very well.Only £543 for 2 people for 2 weeks. Plenty of places to eat and drink. Worth shopping around as prices vary a lot. We are not night time people so we stick to backstreet bars and restaurants which there are plenty of. We did visit the strip in the daytime which was nice and explored the old town and the beaches. We had an amazing day swimming with dolphins at zoo marine. This park is very good and would highly recommend.

Is the Luna Ocean Club in a good location for a 3 night stay over August? We are keen on the beach and restaurant options but note that it only has a 7.7 point rating on booking.com other option is Aqua Pedra Dos Boutique Hotel that is $300 more but looks further away

It’s around half way between the old town, and the hectic strip, so looks to be in a quieter area if that’s what you want. Also easy walking distance to Praia dos Alemães, so looks great for a beach holiday!

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The Planet D: Adventure Travel Blog

Where to Stay in Algarve: 5 Best Areas To Stay In 2024

Written By: The Planet D

Updated On: May 15, 2024

The Algarve is definitely the first place that comes to mind when you think of the great beaches in Portugal. And for good reason! Located along the Atlantic coast, it is known for its dramatic scenery, with scenic beaches backed by orange sandstone cliffs and sea caves like Benagil. As it’s located just above North Africa, you can enjoy at least 300 days of sunshine a year. So, it doesn’t matter when you decide to visit; you are always in for a treat. But deciding where to stay in the Algarve can be difficult with so many amazing areas to choose from.

One thing that we found a little difficult when we first visited The Algarve region was deciding on where we should stay to best enjoy it. It’s a tough choice between Lagos, Albufeira, and small fishing villages like Salema in central and western Algarve and Faro and Ria Formosa Natural Park in the East. There was just so much choice. Each section of the region has a different personality, and we’ll help you narrow down which personality best fits yours.

We know how important it is to find the right neighborhood for your trip. Here’s where to stay in Algarve – with our extra advice on the best hotels and resorts in each area.

Where to stay in Algarve Coastline

It’s no wonder that people are flocking to the Algarve. The region covers the entire southern coastline of Portugal, stretching from the Spanish border to its western tip near Lagos. We loved our time in the Algarve and would recommend it to anyone who is planning to visit Portugal.

Why You Should Listen to Us

We know the Algarve like the back of our hands. You can read all about our adventures in this beautiful region on our blog; in fact, keep your eyes out because we’ll drop in some links to guides based on our experiences when relevant.

We know some people love the social element of a popular tourist resort. In contrast, others prefer a historic old town or a romantic setting on a rooftop terrace. Travel is for everyone, and we want to match you with your ideal area  and  hotel in the Algarve.

Praia Dona Ana Algarve Portugal

Where To Stay in the Algarve

It’s safe to say that the Algarve is huge. It incorporates 16 different municipalities, and where you choose to stay in the Algarve can massively impact your trip. While you have four main choices (inland countryside, city, towns, or fishing villages), there’s so much variation in each area’s personality and tourist sites.

Whether you want a central location for nightlife, sandy beaches for a relaxed beach holiday, or historical sites for sightseeing, we’ve got you covered. Here’s where to stay in Algarve.

Ponta Da Piedade Algarve Portugal

Don’t have time to read the full article?

Here’s a quick summary of all our top recommendations if you’re in a rush.

  • If You’re a First-Time Visitor:

We’d suggest staying in Albufeira as a first-time visitor. Albufeira has a beautiful old town and is located in central Algarve. It has plenty of golden sand beaches and attractions like Benagil Cave and dolphin-watching tours.  Musical Hostel  ($),  Alisios Hotel  ($$), and  Monicca Collection Suites & Residences  ($$$)

  • Our Favorite Areas and Hotels Overall: 

As a whole, we love Carvoeiro, Albufeira, Lagos, and Vilamoura. And if location doesn’t matter as much to you, these are our best hotels per budget level across the entirety of the Algarve.  Tilia Hostel  ($),  Dom Pedro Vilamoura  ($$), and  Tivoli Carvoeiro Algarve  ($$$)

  • If You Want Alternate Accommodation to Hotels: 

Everyone can respect the freedom that alternative accommodation gives you. If you don’t fancy staying in a hotel, don’t worry: the Algarve has so many villas, apartments, and studios you can rent. Here are some of our favorites:  Colina da Lapa & Villas  ($),  Casa Margo  ($$), and  Monicca Collection Suites & Residences  ($$$)

Where We Stayed: Tivoli Carvoeiro Algarve

When we most recently visited the Algarve coast, we stayed at  Tivoli Carvoeiro Algarve  in the beach holiday town of Carvoeiro. We found this 5-star property absolutely gorgeous, and its location on a cliff overlooking Praia do Vale Covo really blew us away. It’s definitely where to stay in Algarve for luxury and novelty views.

There’s a complimentary shuttle service and a daily breakfast buffet. We liked the complex’s outdoor swimming pools and spa; there’s even a dive center onsite. The rooms themselves offer either balconies or terraces, some of which have ocean views (worth the splurge if you value that outdoor space).

1. Carvoeiro: Our Recommendation

Carvoeiro, Atlantic Coast.

Carvoeiro is an ever-so-slightly sleepy resort town. It’s quieter than Albufeira and even Vilamoura. Still, it offers an alternative base for those who want a less touristy experience in the Algarve. Carvoeiro has some beautiful beaches, including Praia do Paraiso, Praia do Carvoeiro, and the nearby Praia da Marinha. It’s somewhere to stay in Algarve for laidback exploration of its beaches, boardwalks, and clifftop caves.

You can hike the Carvoeiro Boardwalk, which leads you along 570 meters of coastline dotted with explorable caves. The boardwalk eventually leads you to Algar Seco, a beautiful area of rock formations. The town center is full of cafes and bars, while most people spend their days on the beach enjoying those plentiful 300 days of Algarve sunshine.

Carvoeiro Algarve Accommodation recommendations

Carvoeiro might be quiet, but its location makes it an ideal base for sightseeing. You are just a 30-minute bus or 20-minute car ride from Portimao, a port city with an old town and thriving marina. If you rent a car , as we did, you can sightsee nearby attractions like the Fort of Santa Catarina de Ribamar (a medieval fort) or venture to the Moorish Castelo de Silves. And if you  really  want to be part of the main tourist crowd, you can drive just 30 minutes east to Albufeira and its Benagil Caves.

Pros and Cons of Carvoeiro

A sandy beach in Carvoeiro.

  • A comparably quieter atmosphere with scenic beaches
  • Lots of natural attractions, like caves
  • Easy day trip access to major tourist areas

Cons: 

  • It’s still busy in peak months; it isn’t like staying in the rural Algarve
  • You’ll need a car to sightsee more remote areas
  • Accommodation can still be expensive

Highlights of Staying in Carvoeiro

Carvoeiro Boardwalk Algarve

Carvoeiro is a beautiful base if you love natural scenery. It has a great handful of outdoor attractions and activities. Here are a few of its main highlights.

  • You can hike along the Carvoeiro Boardwalk to Algar Seco Rocks
  • You can relax on beaches like Praia do Paraiso or Praia de Carvoeiro
  • You can take a day trip to Albufeira or to Portimao
  • There are lowkey cafes and bars throughout the town center

Best Places to Stay in Carvoeiro

Where to stay in The Algarve Tivoli Carvoeiro

Carvoeiro is a small town, so your main option is to stay in the town center or its outskirts. However, it does sprawl a little, spreading inland and along the coastline.

Stay along the coastline if you want ocean views or easy beach access. However, if you’re more of an urban lover, stay in the town center, which means being just a few minutes’ walk from cafes and bars.

Luxury: Tivoli Carvoeiro Algarve

Tivoli Carvoeiro Algarve Hotel

Tivoli Carvoe i ro Algarve  is the 5-star hotel we’ve just told you about. This place took our breath away. This contemporary hotel sits on a clifftop overlooking Praia do Vale Covo and has a couple of beautiful outdoor pools. Think of sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean from a dramatic section of coastline.

There are two great on-site restaurants at Tivoli Carvoeiro Algarve, including a special seafood restaurant inspired by Atlantic produce and flavors.

You can also enjoy onsite spa facilities, including an indoor swimming pool, steam room, sauna, and fitness center. Tivoli Carvoeiro Algarve’s facilities and incredible location really set it apart from the rest in Carvoeiro. If you want luxury accommodation, you can’t beat it.

Mid-Range: Castelo Guest House

Castelo Guest House  is beautiful. This gorgeously-designed property resembles a castle and sits on a clifftop overlooking the ocean. Its location means guests enjoy sweeping views of the sea and nearby beaches; some guest rooms even feature private terraces.

If you choose to splurge (which we’d recommend), you can wake up and enjoy your coffee with a private terrace view. The guest rooms have ocean-themed decor, though, including blue feature walls and fish-themed backdrops. Castelo Guest House is full of personality; it’s exactly what you want from a mid-range hotel in Carvoeiro.

It doesn’t have an outdoor pool, but with a beautiful beach just 10 yards from its front door, this hotel really wins for its central location.

Budget: Colina da Lapa & Villas

Colina da L a pa & Villas  is a little way out of the town center, but for this price, who cares? You can get a standard apartment for some of the lowest rates in Carvoeiro. You get a one-bedroom apartment with a spacious lounge and fully equipped kitchen—fantastic for sticking to a budget by avoiding eating out.

The decor is traditional, with terracotta-style tiles and abundant natural lighting. You’ll love the balcony seating area. You’ve also got all the handy amenities like a washing machine.

Colina da Lapa & Villas has a communal outdoor pool and a kid’s playground. Onsite bike hire is available for a quicker way to the town center.

2. Lagos: Culture-Focused Visitors

Where to stay in Lagos Algarve

If you want a culture-focused trip, Lagos is where you should stay in the Algarve. This beautiful waterfront town has a historic old town, which is dramatically surrounded by a wall that dates back to the 16th century when Lagos needed protection from pirates. It’s got that “stories to tell and cobbles to walk” vibe. And you’ve got aesthetic (we’ll refrain from the word easy) steep wooden steps down to the beautiful beach of Praia do Camilo just outside the town center. It has history and beaches in equal measure – which sets it aside from other options in this guide.

If you want sightseeing and sunbathing, Lagos offers many more cultural attractions. You can walk through the white-painted buildings of the old town, visit the Castle of Lagos, and learn about Catholicism at the beautiful Igreja de Santo Antonio church.

Beaches of Lagos Algarve

In terms of location, Lagos sits in the far western Algarve. The town is surrounded by fishing village after fishing village, and most of the surrounding day trip regions are arid hills or coastal sea cliffs.

You can venture a little further to Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano Costa Vicentina, which has more greenery and is as lush as Portugal’s hiking trails get. You can also day trip to hotspots like Albufeira relatively easily if you rent a car, taking around an hour one way. Lagos is a little further out of the way, but it is brilliant for any culture lovers.

Pros and Cons of Lagos

Sunset in Lagos Portugal in the Algarve

  • Culturally rich, with a walled old town, churches, and fortresses
  • Close proximity to beaches
  • Still within day trip distance of main attractions like the Benagil Caves
  • Further from main attractions and better suited to those who have already visited the Algarve
  • Accommodation can be expensive
  • Still gets crowded with tourists

Highlights of staying in Lagos

Lagos is historical and walkable, making it perfect for walking tours, guided or unguided. Here are a few of the main highlights.

  • Walking the old town and admiring aesthetic white-painted buildings and 16th-century walls
  • Learning about local history at the Castle of Lagos
  • Visiting the street art of Lagos’ downtown areas
  • Enjoying the calm waters of Praia Dona Ana

Best Places to Stay in Lagos

Best Places to stay in Lagos Algarve

Lagos is a gorgeous place to stay in the Algarve, and it offers quite a bit of variety. If you want historic surroundings and a really traditional environment and accommodation, you could stay in the old town. Alternatively, you could stay outside the old town, in its more funky downtown area, or near the residential suburbs of Ameijeria.

If you prefer to be close to the coast, you can stay in the southeastern region of the town, which has immediate access to Praia Dona Ana and Praia do Pinhao.

Luxury: Marina Club Lagos Resort

Marina Club Lagos Resort  is a centrally located 4-star property in Lagos. As an aparthotel, it offers studios and three-bedroom apartments. Marina Club Lagos Resort is absolutely ideal if you want the luxury of a self-catered experience and the spaciousness of your own apartment in Portugal.

Each modernly decorated unit features its own balcony, maximizing your private outdoor space. The grounds are huge, too, with a communal garden and an outdoor swimming pool to enjoy and soak up a tan.

There’s a spa and restaurant onsite, available for guest use at a slight extra fee. Marina Club Lagos Resort is a great luxury option when choosing this Algarve town.

Mid-Range: Infante Guesthouse

Infante Guesthouse  is an intimate mid-range accommodation choice right in the middle of Lagos. The guesthouse is only split over two floors, offering a mixture of five single and double rooms. If you prefer a smaller property and more personal stay, this is the place for you.

Each room has air conditioning, a TV, and an en suite bathroom with complimentary toiletries. For more flexibility, you can also book a room with a kitchenette if you feel like eating in.

The real highlight of Infante Guesthouse is its beautiful sun trap of a rooftop terrace, with scenic views of nearby beaches. Your closest is Batata Beach, sitting just 250 yards away. Intimate and brilliantly located, Infante Guesthouse is ideal on a mid-range budget.

Budget: Sol a Sol Hostel

Sol a Sol Hostel  is a fun-loving youth hostel that welcomes guests from 18 to 50 years old. It is right in the middle of the town center, and he admits it’s a little noisy. It’s best suited to sociable butterflies and those wanting to party in Lagos.

You can book a private room with an en suite if you prefer privacy. You can also book a spot in a mixed or female-only dormitory.

The facilities at Sol a Sol Hostel include a BBQ area, a sun terrace, and a desk that organizes regular experiences like snorkeling tours. This budget-friendly property is great fun.

3. Albufeira: Nightlife and First-Time Visitors

The historic old town of Albufeira.

If this is your first time visiting the Algarve, Albufeira is where you can stay in the Algarve region to let your hair down. It has two main neighborhoods: the old town and the strip. In the old town, you’ll get traditional white-painted buildings, cobbled streets, cute markets, and al fresco seafood restaurants. You’ve got clubs and bars along the strip – perfect for evening entertainment. You can see why Albufeira is so popular amongst visitors to the Algarve. It has a great balance and an exemplary tourist infrastructure.

Beach at the White City of Albufeira Algarve

In the town center itself, you’ve got a really cool escalator to the old town, Praia dos Pescadores, for inner-urban sunbathing and endless traditional plazas and shops. Albufeira really stays “alive” at all hours. You can always find somewhere to sit down and enjoy tasty food. Or historic architecture to admire. And while it lacks the culture of Lagos, it makes up for it with excellent access to sightseeing tours and day trips. Albufeira has plenty of guides available to shuttle you out to find more cultural or historic sightseeing opportunities.

You’ve really got a prime location when you choose to stay in Albufeira. You’ve got easy access to scenic beaches and day trips galore. You are right in the middle of the central Algarve, so nowhere is longer than 1.5 hours away by car. It’s a fantastic choice for first-timers visiting the region.

Pros and Cons of Albufeira

Marina at Albufeira Algarve

  • It is full of places to eat and shop, with a walkable town center
  • You have easy access to beautiful beaches
  • There’s a lot of tourist infrastructure, including tour operators
  • It lacks lots of onsite cultural and historical attractions
  • It can get busy

Highlights of staying in Albufeira

This busy resort town is hard not to love. You’ve got the coastline, traditional old town, and the fun-loving strip. There’s a balance of everything, with plenty of trip highlights:

  • Take the escalator to the old town for a stroll amongst traditional houses
  • Kick back on Praia dos Pescadores
  • Visit the Museu Muncipal de Arqueologica
  • Take a boat tour to the caves or go dolphin-watching

Best Places to Stay in Albufeira

Best Places to Stay in Albufeira

Albufeira sprawls pretty large. You can stay along the strip, near or in the old town, or down by the coastline.

It’s up to you. We recommend choosing early, though, so you can book in advance without worrying about accommodation being sold out. Here are some of our favorites:

Luxury: Monicca Collection Suites & Residences

Monicca Collection Suites & Residences  is a beautiful seafront aparthotel. This 4-star property is built in a striking pyramid shape and offers spacious private balconies for each apartment choice. You can select anything from studios to a deluxe two-bedroom suite that sleeps six adults. It’s a great choice if you’ve got a large group wanting luxury accommodation in Albufeira.

Each apartment has a kitchenette and a spacious living area. A daily continental breakfast and an onsite bar for coffee and cocktails are available.

When you aren’t sightseeing, you can also enjoy a large outdoor swimming pool and garden—perfect for a refreshing dip or building up your tan.

Mid-Range: Alisios Hotel

Alisios Hotel  is a tight-knit, friendly hotel set almost directly on the beach. Perched on a grassy slope, you literally step out the front doors and take a few steps before hitting a sandy beach. Its location is to die for.

It wouldn’t make sense  not  to have a panoramic deck with this type of view, and Alisios Hotel’s deck doesn’t disappoint. The deck has a food service and an all-day bar if you don’t fancy walking into Albufeira. You’ve also got a heated saltwater pool, plus private balconies in each guest room. There are views at every corner of Alisios Hotel, which ironically caught our eye.

The old town is roughly 1km away, and you can rent bicycles onsite to make the journey a little smoother. It’s peacefully located, hugging the coastline and beaches rather than the dense sightseeing and party crowds. But you aren’t too far away that you can’t join them when you want to.

Budget: Musical Hostel

Musical Hostel  has a mixture of casual dormitory rooms, all featuring bunk beds with privacy curtains as a thoughtful touch. It is basic but fantastic for those on a budget – something that’s reflected in its glowing reviews.

You get access to a shared kitchen, which is great for saving money in Albufeira. It’s also located smack bang in the middle of the town center. Being centrally located is valuable for sightseeing and even walking back to your hotel after a night on the strip. It’s comfortable being located close to all the main happenings.

As a nice twist, the Musical Hostel also has a hot tub, so bring a swimming costume!

4. Vilamoura: Golfing and Luxury Resorts

Luxury accommodation in Vilamoura Algarve

Vilamoura has the nickname of “Portugal’s Monaco”. This white-painted luxury resort town is where you’ll find peaceful golf courses and luxury resorts with a grand outdoor swimming pool and 5-star amenities. Vilamoura is your best bet if you want a luxurious stay in the Algarve. It has some of the fanciest resorts and best hotels, most of which come with access to at least one golf course and nearby beaches. It’s where to stay in Algarve if you have a taste for the finer things in life and prefer a more serene atmosphere.

Golfing in Vilamoura in the Algarve Portugal

Vilamoura’s flashy marina is the perfect backdrop for an evening stroll along the waterfront. You can also see Cerro da Vila, an archaeological museum containing the remains of a Roman villa. You’re also within a medium-length walk from the fishing village of Olhos de Agua, a working fishing village at the other end of Praia da Falesia. You’ve got a central location for sightseeing and day-tripping to places like Albufeira but a quiet base for those “at home” days. Vilamoura is a little bit hidden in plain sight.

You’re only a 30-minute drive from Faro and the major Faro Airport, making this a convenient place to stay on the Algarve coastline. Luxe and refined, Vilamoura is a lovely place for anyone seeking solace.

Pros and Cons of Vilamoura

Old town of Vilamoura in the Algarve

  • Lots of golf courses
  • Easy beach access
  • Central location for Faro Airport and general sightseeing
  • You need guided tours, shuttles, or a rental car to access major attractions and sights
  • It can feel a little stuffy and less authentic in terms of culture
  • It can be expensive

Highlights of staying in Vilamoura

Vilamoura is glitzy and laidback. There’s a big emphasis on dining and golfing, with the extra opportunities for sailing, yachts, and admiring Roman ruins. You can see why it’s so popular. Here are the main highlights:

  • See the Roman villa remains at Cerro da Vila
  • Sunbathe on Praia da Falesia or walk along to Olhos de Agua
  • Play a round of golf
  • Take a guided day trip to somewhere like Albufeira or go dolphin-watching

Best Places to stay in Vilamoura

Best Places to stay in Vilamoura

Luxurious Vilamoura is ideal for anyone who likes a slower pace on holiday. It has plenty of greenspace thanks to its golf courses and easy access to a sandy beach or two. What more could you want?

Vilamoura definitely gets our vote for a luxury trip to the Algarve. Here are the best hotels you should consider:

Luxury: Four Seasons Vilamoura

Four Seasons Vilamoura  doesn’t need much introduction. Everyone knows the Four Seasons chain, and this property doesn’t let it down. This resort has a lagoon-style pool and overlooks the Pinhal championship golf course. For avid golfers, the private entrance to this 18-hole course is a real luxury.

True to its resort approach, Four Seasons Vilamoura has plenty of onsite entertainment and restaurants. The buffet and a la carte dishes are available, and there is a well-stocked pool bar for cocktails on the loungers.

There’s a spa for guest use, including hot tubs and a sauna. And in terms of rooms, you can book anything from studios to two-bedroom apartments. All of the options come with kitchenettes, giving you that extra bit of flexibility.

Mid-Range: Dom Pedro Vilamoura

Dom Pedro Vilamoura  is a gorgeous 4-star property just a couple of minutes away from Vilamoura’s marina. It offers easy access to all the hubs of activity that Vilamoura offers, with restaurants and bars right on your doorstep serving cocktails and seafood galore.

Within the property’s boundaries, you can access a private outdoor swimming pool. On the days you don’t feel like an outside dip, there’s a spa onsite with an indoor pool, gym, and jacuzzi.

The elegant guestrooms range from classic doubles to family room suites. Some even have private balconies and ocean views.

Budget: Conii Hostel & Suites

Conii Hostel & Suites  is a fantastic place to stay just along the coastline in Vilamoura. Vilamoura isn’t known for its budget-friendly accommodation, so snap this one up with both hands. You can enjoy a mixture of dormitories and private rooms throughout the 1896 renovated property.

A communal kitchen area is a blessing when it comes to saving money on Vilamoura’s steep restaurant prices. You can also catch a daily breakfast here.

The eastern edge of the Algarve overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

Finally, we’ve got the gem of the eastern Algarve. Faro is the regional capital and where to stay in Algarve for serious sightseeing and access to quieter beaches in its offshore islands. Most tourists flock to centrally located destinations like Albufeira, bouncing straight out of Faro Airport into a taxi to accommodation further up the coastline. Whether you choose Faro or not, don’t make this mistake; it’s a great place to visit even for half a day.

You’ve got the Faro Marina, Igreja de Santa Maria, and the Regional Museum of the Algarve. There’s beautiful architecture, too, like the Arco da Vila and Igreja da Ordem Terceira de Nossa Senhora do Monte do Carmo. Faro’s a perfect storm of formal cultural attractions and aesthetic streets where you can just wander and admire the architecture at leisure.

Carmo Church in Faro Portugal

That’s also all without addressing its stunning beaches. Because most tourists rush off to the beaches in the center of the Algarve, Faro’s beaches stay comparably quiet. You’ve got the beautiful expanse of Barrinha Beach, Praia de Faro Este, and Lighthouse Beach. All of these are located on barrier islands off the mainland, many of which are only accessible by boat shuttles. You’ve also got access to all the natural beauty of Parque Natural da Ria Formosa, where you can take kayaking tours and birdwatch.

Faro is the most major city in the Algarve and the largest hub in the east. Just an hour’s drive further east takes you to the Spanish border, passing smaller resort towns less frequented than those in the western Algarve. It feels a bit like the end of the road or the Algarve’s last  real  outpost.

Pros and Cons of Faro

  • Lots of formal attractions, like museums
  • Quieter beaches located on novel barrier islands accessible by boat
  • Easy access to nature at the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve
  • Fewer tourists as everyone tends to bounce straight out of Faro, heading further up the coast
  • As a city, it still gets busy
  • The beaches are further away
  • You’ll have to take a day trip to major attractions like the Benagil Caves

Highlights of Staying in Faro

Faro Museum in the Algarve Portugal

Faro does formal sightseeing really well. It has a great selection of museums and attractions within walking distance of each other. And if you do fancy an adventure, you’ve got the allure of barrier island beaches. Here are our top highlights of staying in Faro:

  • Take a kayaking tour through Parque Natural da Ria Formosa
  • Hop on a boat in Faro Marina and take a day trip to the offshore island beaches
  • Admire the architecture of Arco da Vila
  • Visit the Regional Museum of the Algarve
  • Day trip along the coastline to places like Benagil

Best Places to Stay in Faro

Best Places to Stay in Faro Algarve Downtown

The city center is your main option when staying in Faro. In central Faro, you’ll find a rich selection of accommodation options, all within walking distance of the marina and main attractions.

Alternatively, you could stay on one of the more built-up islands like Culatra. This way, you have easier access to the nearby beaches while still just being a boat ride away from central Faro and its attractions. It all depends on what you prefer – beaches or sightseeing. For the sake of this section, though, we’ll give you the best hotels in central Faro.

Luxury: 3HB Faro

3HB Faro  is a chic 5-star property just to the east of the city center. The hotel is set on a cobblestone street, and its exterior opens into a massive infinity pool overlooking the old town of Faro. Guests can enjoy al fresco dining and drinks on a dreamy rooftop terrace or slink back to spacious rooms for 24/7 room service.

Guestrooms range from standard twin rooms with a private bathroom to elaborate suites with added living space. The interior design is modern and warm, with yellow lighting and plenty of wooden tones.

As if all that wasn’t enough, 3HB Faro really comes into its own with its extra facilities. You get an indoor pool, spa area, and a gym to squeeze in a workout or two during your stay. It’s a luxurious base to call home when visiting Faro.

Mid-Range: Luxury Guest House_Opus One

Luxury Guest House_Opus One  is beautiful. The guesthouse has a private outdoor pool, set serenely in a courtyard and lit by candles at night. Guests can also access a garden, shared lounge, and terrace to relax outdoors in the Algarve sunshine. It has an intimate feel and is much quieter than some major resorts further up the coastline.

Aside from all those facilities, you can also access a hammam and an onsite bar—perfect for socializing. The guestrooms range from standard double and twin rooms to suites with a spa bath on your private terrace. There’s plenty of range to suit either end of the mid-range budget spectrum.

Before you leave each morning, you can also choose between an a la carte or continental breakfast onsite. This property keeps everything comfortable and convenient.

Budget: Tilia Hostel

Yellow-painted  Tilia Hostel  just has such a feel-good vibe. You can choose from various dormitory rooms, each decorated with chunky wooden-cut bunk beds. There are mixed and female-only dorms, so you can pick whichever makes you feel most comfortable.

If you do want that extra privacy, you can reserve standard twin rooms and double rooms. Obviously, these have higher prices—plan for a more mid-range budget with private rooms.

With a shared kitchen onsite, you’ll be able to save tons on eating out. Just pick up some groceries and settle in for a chilled night.

FAQs: Visiting the Algarve

Enjoying the nightlife in The Algarve

The Algarve coast is beautiful. You’ve got some of Europe’s best beaches at your fingertips and really striking orange cliffs, along which you’ll find plenty of hiking trails and sea cave attractions. In addition, the inland area is just as scenic, with white-washed cottages decorated with yellow or blue woodwork and products like carobs hanging from trees.

Whether you want a city break for a few days or a beach holiday for a week, it has a destination to suit you. But before you finalize your choice, what about some quick FAQs? You never know; these could just sway your decision.

What is the best area of the Algarve to stay in?

Albufeira is the best place to stay as a first-time visitor, as you can experience Benagil Cave and the beautiful old town.

What is the most beautiful part of the Algarve?

All of the Algarve is beautiful, but the central Algarve has the most impressive beaches, caves, and orange cliffs. The eastern Algarve has Ria Formosa Natural Reserve if you prefer green space, and the western Algarve is better for fishing villages and major towns.

Is Lagos or Albufeira better?

Lagos is a bit smaller, but it has more historical attractions and authenticity. Albufeira is larger and very geared towards tourism and nightlife, but it still has amazing attractions like Benagil and its traditional old town.

What is the most charming town in the Algarve?

Lagos is beautiful, and its historical attractions and stories give it a unique sense of charm. It’s a little bit quieter than other destinations like Albufeira; think of it as the pretty wallflower of the region.

Most charming towns in the Algarve

Where Not to Stay in the Algarve

The Algarve is very safe in terms of crime level. As long as you take basic safety precautions, you won’t have any issues in any of the regions. However, there are some areas we’d recommend avoiding when it comes to where to stay in Algarve.

For a start, we’d steer away from choosing accommodation near any airports, especially Faro Airport, which is really distanced from anything else. You’ll get tons of noise pollution. And as a general rule, airports in the Algarve are set away from anything and everything they could disturb. This is great for the surrounding communities, but it means you don’t want to be booking accommodation with proximity to the airports in mind.

A collection of private villas in the Algarve.

We suggest that you’re cautious about booking rural inland accommodation. Don’t get us wrong, there are  so  many beautiful rural villas to rent in the Algarve countryside. However, we recommend booking these if you feel comfortable renting a car, as public transport in these areas is severely limited. You should also have a good understanding of wildfire risks. Always have an evacuation plan and a basic understanding of how wildfires spread and how to stay safe in the event of one.

If you aren’t confident in car hire or managing wildfire risks, we’d suggest staying along the coast. There is plenty of transport and town center accommodation where you can walk everywhere.

Geography of the Region

Lively marina scenes at the Praia da Marinha.

To truly consolidate the Algarve regions, you must understand how this works together. What’s the layout of the Algarve?

Well, the Algarve sits on Portugal’s southern coastline, stretching horizontally and facing North Africa. It stretches from the Spanish border to a western tip marked by a rocky headland with a historic lighthouse.

In the western Algarve, you’ve got fishing towns and villages, as well as the main town of Lagos. It has plenty of rocky headlands and steep coastal cliffs and is perfect for a quiet holiday. In central Algarve, you’ve got Albufeira, the main hub of nightlife and organized tourism, and quieter towns like Vilamoura, famed for its golf courses and luxury resorts. The central area of the Algarve is the best choice if you’re a first-time visitor wanting an easy-to-navigate tourist infrastructure.

In the eastern Algarve, you’ve got the regional capital of Faro, with its major airport and coastal wetlands of its nature reserve. Further east towards the Spanish border, you’ve got smaller resort towns better suited to those who have already visited the Algarve a few times.

The Planet D in The Algarve Portugal

As you can tell, deciding where to stay in Algarve really depends on what you enjoy doing. Do you want sightseeing tours and boat tours? Multiple resort swimming pools? Or a quiet outdoor swimming pool in the Portuguese countryside? Whatever you choose, we hope you have a fantastic time. If you need further information, check out our  ultimate 3-day Algarve itinerary  and guide on  how expensive Portugal is to visit .

Travel Planning Resources

Looking to book your next trip? Why not use these resources that are tried and tested by yours truly.

Flights: Start planning your trip by finding the best flight deals on Skyscanner

Book your Hotel: Find the best prices on hotels with these two providers. If you are located in Europe use Booking.com and if you are anywhere else use TripAdvisor

Find Apartment Rentals: You will find the cheapest prices on apartment rentals with VRBO . 

Travel Insurance: Don't leave home without it. Here is what we recommend:

  • Allianz - Occasional Travelers.
  • Medjet - Global air medical transport and travel security.

Need more help planning your trip? Make sure to check out our Resources Page where we highlight all the great companies that we trust when we are traveling.

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About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine , the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

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  1. The Algarve, Portugal a Tourism and Holiday Guide

    The Algarve - A tourism guide for 2024. The Algarve is the beautiful southern coastline of Portugal. It is a region blessed with glorious sandy beaches, picturesque fishing towns and a glorious climate, all of which combine to create the perfect holiday destination. The Algarve is wonderfully varied; there are pristine beaches for families ...

  2. Algarve

    Discover the Algarve, a sunny region with high quality beaches, diverse landscapes, rich culture and hospitality. Find out more about golf, spas, activities, cuisine and attractions in the Algarve.

  3. The Algarve travel

    Discover the best attractions, beaches, activities and tips for visiting the Algarve, Portugal's sunny south coast. Explore the natural wonders, historic sites, cultural events and local cuisine of this popular destination with Lonely Planet's expert guidance.

  4. 8 of the best places to visit in the Algarve

    Discover the Algarve's beaches, culture, history and nature with this guide to the region's top destinations. From Sagres to Lagos, find out what to see and do in Portugal's southernmost tip.

  5. 10 things to know before going to the Algarve

    Learn about the best places to stay, eat and explore in the Algarve, a sunny region with cliff-backed beaches, seafood and villages. Find out how to book ahead, travel green, pack smart and speak some Portuguese.

  6. THE 15 BEST Things to Do in Algarve

    2023. 12. Praia dos Olhos de Água. 2,626. Beaches. Golden sands and calm waters welcome visitors to this scenic beach, fringed by caves and fresh water springs, with dining options and a quaint village nearby. See ways to experience (5) Learn how recommendations for the rest of the page are selected.

  7. The Algarve Travel Guide

    Get information on The Algarve Travel Guide - Expert Picks for your Vacation hotels, restaurants, entertainment, shopping, sightseeing, and activities. Read the Fodor's reviews, or post your own.

  8. The Algarve Travel Guide

    Experience and discover the real Algarve - taste local produce, drinks and traditional dishes, visit heritage sites and participate in culinary activities. If you are passionate about the people's culture and gastronomy and want to learn more, this itinerary is for you. view trip ⤍. 11 days / from1728 USD.

  9. 14 Top-Rated Attractions & Places to Visit in the Algarve

    1. Faro. Faro's Old Town. Busy Faro is the capital city of the Algarve, and its international airport is the gateway for many tourists arriving in southern Portugal. As the largest city in the region, Faro accommodates around 50,000 inhabitants and is a modern industrial and manufacturing hub.

  10. 27 Best Places In The Algarve: Must-Visit Destinations

    Explore iconic destinations like Lagos, Faro, and Albufeira for their historical charm and vibrant atmospheres. Discover hidden gems such as Praia da Marinha and Ponta da Piedade for stunning natural beauty. Dive into the local culture in towns like Tavira and Silves, where history comes to life.

  11. Algarve Itinerary for First Trip (3-5-7 Days) +Map & Insider Tips

    This is our recommended Algarve itinerary for first trip: DAY 1: East Algarve. DAY 2: Central Algarve + Benagil Caves & dolphin-watching. DAY 3: Most Beautiful Coastlines. DAY 4: Ponta da Piedade & Lagos. DAY 5: Sagres & West Coast. Below, you can find a detailed day-by-day itinerary with more info, tips, and photos.

  12. 25 Things to Do in The Algarve for an Amazing Trip

    6. Visit Castro Marim & Have A Mud Spa Experience. Travel through time by visiting the quaint historic town of Castro Marim in the Algarve's southeastern corner, right next to the Spanish border. The landscape is dominated by salt ponds, wetlands, a 13th-century medieval castle, and a 17th-century fortress.

  13. 9 Bucket List Things To Do in Algarve, Portugal · Salt in our Hair

    1. Cliff walk at Praia da Marinha. Arguably the most picturesque beach in Portugal; Marinha Beach and its surrounding cliffs are one of the things you must do in the Algarve. The beach is a stretch of soft sand surrounded by limestone cliffs and turquoise waters. Here are all your hotel options in Algarve.

  14. 13 best things to do in the Algarve

    Here are some of the best things to do in the Algarve. 1. Bite into a sea-tasting percebe in Vila do Bispo. Just inland from the west coast, the town of Vila do Bispo is one of the finest spots on the planet to sample the tender crustaceans known as percebes (goose barnacles). Though they're unsightly in appearance (not unlike the misshapen ...

  15. A Local's Guide to Travel in the Algarve, Portugal

    More Portugal travel info: For more Algarve travel information, check out our 7-day Algarve itinerary and this article on 5 hidden gem Algarve towns. If you could use some one-on-one help planning your itinerary, consider scheduling a Portugal travel consultation with one of our Local Experts! How to plan a trip to Portugal. 10-day Portugal ...

  16. How to spend the perfect holiday in the Algarve

    But first stop for dinner at Boia in Salema - a little fishing town. The house special is a caldierada de peixe (a very typical fish stew) but try the sardines when in season and a crisp white ...

  17. Visiting Algarve, Portugal: 19 Tips & Tricks for First Trip

    Here are our top tips for visiting the Algarve: 1. Visit in the shoulder season. Algarve is a year-round destination that has a lot to offer at any time of the year. However, there is a huge difference if you visit the Algarve in the summer or in the low season. If you are looking for warm weather, sunshine, beach life, and water activities ...

  18. 15 Best Things to Do in the Algarve (Portugal)

    2. Praia da Falésia. Source: Katvic / shutterstock. Praia da Falésia, Algarve. Pushing on for almost seven kilometres is a golden sandy beach traced by cliffs streaked with various ochre hues. The competition is stiff, but this may be the greatest beach in the Algarve and is also one of the longest in Portugal.

  19. ALGARVE Portugal TOURISM Guide

    The Algarve region could be divided into three sub-regions -- the east, central, and western Algarve. Each offers a different experience, so where you go depends on what type of holiday you want to have: Central Algarve. This is where tourism in Algarve was born in the 1960s and the favorite area of British, German and Dutch tourists.

  20. Albufeira, Portugal: The Ultimate Guide to Albufeira [2024]

    March 25, 2024 by Ana Veiga. Albufeira is the biggest and perhaps most widely known of the Algarve resort towns. A once quiet fishing village now turned into a pure out and out tourist destination. Despite its reputation, it remains ever popular today with a lively mix of locals, seasonal visitors, and of course tourists.

  21. Where to Stay in Algarve: 5 Best Areas To Stay In 2024

    2. Lagos: Culture-Focused Visitors. If you want a culture-focused trip, Lagos is where you should stay in the Algarve. This beautiful waterfront town has a historic old town, which is dramatically surrounded by a wall that dates back to the 16th century when Lagos needed protection from pirates.