Updated: Oct 24
When you think of the Algarve, you generally see a region populated by German and English vacationers. But there is another Algarve, with its charming whitewashed Moorish villages lined with lattice chimneys and orange orchards, and its red-cliffed shoreline.
The Algarve is situated along the coast, but it offers more than just beaches; inland, you'll find lush vineyards, pristine nature reserves, and rocky mountains. It's one of those places where you can either do everything or nothing at all. Whether your ideal vacation entails lounging on pristine beaches or mountain hikes, the area has plenty to offer every kind of traveler.
General info about Algarve
The Algarve is more than just its beaches because of its more than 3,000-year-long heritage. You can see the rich heritage and history of the Algarve in the structures, cuisine, and languages, which have been impacted by a variety of historical civilizations, including the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, and Moors. Aljezur, Lagos, Silves, Faro, Tavira, Castro Marim, and Alcoutim are just a few of the numerous towns that have museums, churches, forts, and castles that showcase the magnificence of Portuguese history, its people, and their traditions.
What to do at the Algarve
The majority of visitors travel to the same beachfront area in the center of the Algarve, where developers appear intent to cover every last green space with concrete. The best places to find a true escape are the lonely lagoons east of Faro, the uninhabited seashore in the west, where Portuguese explorers perfected their skills before heading out to explore two thirds of the world, or the pine-covered hills inland. In the area, there are 88 beaches that have earned the Blue Flag.
East Coast of Algarve
Visit the Ria Formosa nature reserve to see the Algarve's more sedate side. Here, you'll find endless sandy beaches, island lagoons, and the occasional seaside tavern. Look for species such as spoonbills, turtle doves, Iberian chiffchaffs, and the more rare purple gallinule at the Quinta do Marim center, which is located within the reserve and is made up of mudflats and dunes. The characteristic Portuguese water dogs call it home as well.
Tavira, which is situated on the palm-lined banks of the River Gilo, is the most picturesque city on the coast. Its many architectural styles reflect its ancient history, which dates back to 2000 BC. A Roman bridge, Moorish whitewashed homes, and multiple 18th century churches can all be seen while meandering through the town's maze of cobblestone lanes. The villages of Silves, with its recently rebuilt castle, and the fishing port of Olho, with its white cube cottages and one of the Algarve's liveliest and most scenic markets selling a vast variety of seafood and regional produce, also have further Moorish architecture.
Albufeira, the largest and best-known resort in the Algarve, has whitewashed houses lining the cobblestone streets of its historic center. Although the main strip between Faro and Albufeira is the most developed component of the coast, where a multitude of luxury high rise hotels and a timeshare apartments blight the landscape. The central Algarve is the best place for families to stay because it has beautiful sandy beaches and lots to do. There are numerous top-notch golf courses there, notably those in Vilamoura and Quinta do Lago, making it a popular destination for golfers.
Discover a bit more about Portugal:
West Coast Algarve
Prince Henry the Navigator lived at Sagres, a small ancient village on Portugal's rocky southwest coast, during the 15th century's Age of Discovery, when he planned expeditions into the unknown. Today, the bay is dominated by a white fort that was constructed atop the reddish cliffs. On a clear evening, this is the best site to see the sunset. Private coves and gorgeous beaches with crashing waves can be found all along the Sagres coast. Surfers frequently visit the beaches at Praia da Bordeira, Zavial, and Ingrina.
Algarve Top activities and attractions
The Algarve, which has a 155-kilometer-long coastline, is the ideal beach location. Water sports enthusiasts can enjoy time canoeing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, or jet skiing at the beaches along the south coast. The Atlantic beaches, on the other hand, are more untamed and wild; these are better suited for more daring vacationers who don't mind making a short trip to the beach. Beautiful, tranquil waters at Praia de Dona Ana make it the ideal place for swimming and snorkeling. Travel to Ponta do Piedade in the interim; it is a stunning headland with ragged limestone cliffs that naturally form arches and caverns.
The Algarve is the perfect region for cultivating wine because of its mild environment and abundant sunshine. Wine connoisseurs have a wide range of options for excursions and tastings due to the nearly 30 producers and over 2,000 vineyards that are scattered along the coast. Some of our favorites include Adega do Cantor, which was created by musician Cliff Richards, Quinta do Morgado da Torre, which makes exceptional Alvor wines, and Quinta dos Vales, which has a large selection of red, white, and rosé wines.
A thrilling water sports ride is an additional option to enjoy the Algarve's coastline. You're never too far from a water sports facility because to the great marinas and harbors that line the coast. While those who want to relax can ride the waves on a kayak, stand-up paddleboard, or go scuba diving beneath, those looking for adrenaline-fueled fun can go jet skiing, surfing, flyboarding, and parasailing.
There are many beautiful coastal cliff-top walks, but Serra de Monchique offers a change of pace from the Algarve's beach landscape. Take one of the nature trails through lush forest all the way up to Pico da Foia, the highest point in the Algarve at 900 meters, for jaw-dropping views over the nearby sea and cities. As an alternative, the Rocha da Pena walk leads you through wooded areas where vibrant wildflowers thrive among smoky thyme and rosemary.
Best areas to visit and stay in Algarve
This well-liked vacation destination enjoys a convenient coastal position, which makes it an excellent base for exploring the Algarve. Albufeira, formerly a tranquil fishing community perched on sandstone cliffs, now provides a wide range of lodging options, dining establishments, bars, and activities like dolphin watching and diving trips. Although some of the Algarve's best beach stretches are located close to the town, Albufeira's biggest lure is its beaches.
Where to stay:
For the Luxury: NAU Sao Rafael Atlantico
For the Joy: EPIC SANA Algarve Hotel
Direct at the Beach: Hotel Sol e Mar Albufeira - Adults Only
Spa Adventure: Regency Salgados Hotel & Spa
Great Experience: Auramar Beach Resort
Olhos de Água
Olhos de Gua, located in the Algarve, is a lovely vacation community built around a beach cove. Despite being a well-liked travel destination, it nonetheless preserves a laid-back vibe and its beginnings as a fishing community. The stunning Praia da Falésia beach and the Praia Santa Eulália beach are also close to Olhos de gua. Additionally, there are several day trip options available from the area, including boat cruises, water parks, and historic cities to visit.
Where to stay:
For the View: PortoBay Falesia
Editors Pick: 3HB Falésia Garden
Cute Boutique Hotel: Velamar Boutique Hotel
The village of Quarteira, which is especially well-liked by native Portuguese people, is an excellent option for those seeking a more genuine experience away from the tourist crowds. Beaches, shopping, dining, and nightlife are all found in Quarteira, so you should include it on your agenda. Due to its proximity to some of Portugal's and the Algarve's top golf courses, the town is frequently used as a base for golfing vacations.
Where to stay:
For the View: Dom Jose Beach Hotel (Plus)
For the Fun: Aquashow Park Hotel
Praia da Luz
Located in the western Algarve, this picturesque beach village is curved around a magnificent sandy bay. When you're not enjoying the beach or participating in water sports, wander along the promenade and stop at one of the outdoor cafes for a refreshing beverage. The town's gently sloping coastline and selection of family-friendly restaurants make it a fantastic destination for families to vacation. Although Praia da Luz is a quiet small village, Lagos, where you can find all the nightlife and shopping you enjoy, is only five kilometers away.
Where to stay:
For the Lifestyle: Vila Luz
For the Style: Baia da Luz Resort
Lagos has a wide variety of tourist attractions. The port city is located along the Rio Bensafrim's bank and served as the starting point for numerous naval expeditions during Portugal's spectacular Age of Discovery. Walls built in the sixteenth century contain the old town's charming cobblestone streets, gorgeous squares, and picturesque churches. Beyond the barriers are some very amazing beaches and a contemporary but not unduly ugly sprawl.
Where to stay:
For the Experience: Villa Zawaia B&B
Great Location: Hotel Marina Rio
Spa & Resort: Belmar Spa & Beach Resort
Amazing Place: Villas D. Dinis - Charming Residence (adults only)
Vilamoura has expanded over the past few decades to more-or-less encompass Quarteira to the east, making it more of a big area than a town in and of itself. One of Europe's largest beach resorts, Vilamoura is almost in the centre of the Algarve coast and only 15 kilometers from the main airport at Faro. Almost every sport, form of entertainment, and amenity imaginable may be found inside the 20 square kilometers of purpose-built resort. Vilamoura is unquestionably a top-notch vacation destination because to its broad, well-designed roads, well-kept public areas and gardens, and 6 golf courses.
Where to stay:
Living like a local: The Residences at Victoria by Tivoli
For the Atmosphere: Apartamentos Honorio - Pool and Garden
The capital of the Algarve has a stronger sense of Portugal than other tourist destinations. It's unfortunate that so many tourists only pass through this underappreciated city because it's a great place to stop for a while. It boasts a charming port, well-kept parks and plazas, and a charming ancient town encircled by medieval walls. Museums, churches, a bone chapel, and outdoor cafes may be found amid the old town's meandering, cobbled pedestrian lanes, squares, and buildings, which were rebuilt in a variety of styles after suffering successive blows from marauding British soldiers and two significant earthquakes.
Where to stay:
Great Guest House: Avenue 41 Guest House
For the Experience: Casa Saudade luxury rooms
Authentic Feeling: Lemon Tree Stay
Spoil Yourself: 3HB Faro
Amazing Cost / Benefit: Golden Beach Guest House & Rooftop Bar
Portimo, the second-most populated city in the Algarve, has a Phoenician history. The city is ragged around the edges, but it features a long waterfront promenade and also an excellent museum which has been built in a former fish cannery. Most visitors merely pass through it on their way to Praia da Rocha. Additionally, you may go skydiving from its airport or enjoy a boat tour along the Rio Arade.
Where to stay:
Great Guesthouse: Villa Moments - Guest House
For the Beachfront: RR Hotel da Rocha
For the Luxury: TURIM Presidente Hotel
The little, elongated village of Sagres, which looks out over some of the Algarve's most breathtaking scenery, has an otherworldly atmosphere thanks to its sea-carved cliffs perched above the roiling ocean and its wind-whipped strongholds that link it to Portugal's long history of piracy. Only here are white storks known to build their nests on cliff cliffs.
Where to stay:
For the Luxury: Memmo Baleeira - Design Hotels
For the Family & to Relax: Pousada de Sagres
Authentic Experience: Cercas Velhas
How to arrive at the Algarve - Travel Guide Algarve
The regional airport serving the Algarve is at Faro Airport, which is four kilometers outside of Faro, the region's biggest city. This is the airport you'll be flying into, regardless of where you're staying on the Algarve. In Portimo, there is also a smaller airport, but fewer flights land there.
Faro international airport (Telephone Number is 00 351 289 800 800; Website: www.ana.pt)
AIRLINES FROM THE UK
Jet2 (0871 226 1737; jet2.com)
Flybe (0871 522 6100; flybe.com)
British Airways (0870 850 9850; ba.com)
TAP Air Portugal (0845 601 0932; flytap.com)
When should you visit the Algarve
Visit the Algarve in the spring or the fall instead of the summer to avoid the heat and the crowds, when the fields are bursting with yellow and pink rock roses and wild arum lilies. Off-season vacations are also available in the region because to the mild winters. It will likely be bright and warm enough in February for outdoor picnics, though the temperature will quickly drop in the early evening. Did you enjoyed our Travel Guide Algarve? Let us know in the comments below or check as well our other Hotels in Portugal.