What to do in Algarve, Portugal ? Best places to visit

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The Algarve, a region in southern Portugal, is your dream holiday destination! You may have heard of some of its cities like Albufeira, Faro, Lagos, Marinha Beach, and Praia da Rocha… Our travel guide will provide you with the best things to do in the Algarve. Portugal, though small, undoubtedly has it all: breathtaking green mountains in the north, adorned with vineyards, an almost desert-like landscape in the Alentejo region, and finally, the spectacular beaches of the Algarve region.

In addition to its unparalleled beauty, the Algarve offers a plethora of unforgettable activities and attractions that you simply can’t afford to miss. Explore our guide to uncover the must-see places in Algarve and the top wineries in Algarve you should visit

Why visit Algarve, Portugal?

The Algarve region in Portugal stands as the country’s premier tourist destination, renowned for its breathtaking cliffs, sandy islands, and delectable cuisine. Its golden beaches, adorned with impressive rock formations and scalloped bays, have made it a coveted spot among ocean lovers, water sports enthusiasts, and food aficionados alike. Moreover, atop these scenic vistas, you’ll find some of the best wineries to visit in Portugal, offering the perfect setting to bask in the sun and explore new producers.

Discover our map of the best towns and cities to visit in the Algarve region!

Algarve, Portugal : Best places to visit

1. Faro

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Let’s begin your Algarve adventure with a stay in Faro, the ideal city upon your arrival, conveniently located next to the region’s sole airport. Faro’s intimate size immediately immerses you in the local ambiance. Its warmth and tranquility, coupled with its charming old architecture, create an inviting atmosphere. Moreover, the protected natural area of Ria Formosa harbors a diverse ecosystem and stunning beaches.

Despite its allure, Faro remains remarkably unspoiled by tourism, perhaps due to its beaches being accessible solely via boat (15 min for 1.5€).

Explore our curated selection of top-notch hotels in Faro and delve into our dedicated travel guide to discover the best things to do in Faro, including visiting wineries near Faro.

2. Lagos

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Lagos, situated in the western Algarve, holds the title of the most captivating city in the region. Its magnificent beaches, crystal-clear waters, pleasant ambiance, and rich history make it an irresistible destination. The vibrant old town bustles with numerous shops, restaurants, bars, and traffic-free terraces. Moreover, just minutes away from the city center, you’ll encounter some of Portugal’s most stunning beaches, such as Dona Ana and Ponta da Piedade.

To behold the breathtaking cliffs and caves of Lagos, embark on a boat excursion for unparalleled views.

Lagos is also renowned for its exceptional surfing scene, catering to both beginners and seasoned surfers. With locations like Lagos, Sagres, and Albufeira, each offering numerous surf schools, you can easily learn the art of riding the waves.

3. Portimao

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Nestled in the western Algarve, Portimão is a coastal town that once thrived with its canning and sardine fishing industries. While tourism has taken over these activities, Portimão has retained its essence, if not enhanced it. The town seems to dance to the rhythm of the Arade River, which flows through its heart. In the evenings, strolling along the palm-lined Ribeirinha promenade on the Portimão docks immerses you in the vibrant atmosphere of this charming port in the Algarve. The presence of a moored pirate ship adds a touch of whimsy, evoking dreams of high-sea adventures. Across the Arade River lies Ferragudo, a quaint traditional Portuguese village accessible by boat, offering another dimension to your Algarve experience.

We highly recommend Bela Vista Hotel & Spa – Relais & Chateaux

4. Albufeira

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If you’re seeking a vibrant city center as your base, Albufeira is the perfect choice. Not only will you find an abundance of bars and restaurants to keep you entertained, but you’ll also be conveniently situated for exploring the stunning nearby beaches. Along the coastline, you can embark on a hike starting from Praia de Vale Centianes, following the trail of the 7 hanging valleys. This hike is straightforward and enjoyable, offering views of several beautiful beaches and cliffs along the way.

5. Olhao

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Street in fishermen village with white and blue houses and typical Portuguese pavement in Olhao, Algarve region – Popular travel destinations in Portugal

Olhão is a charming town nestled in the district of Faro, just 5 km east of Faro itself, boasting a population of around 45,000 inhabitants. Here, the rhythm of life harmonizes between tourism and fishing. Dreamy beaches are within easy reach, making it the perfect spot to indulge in delectable fish and seafood dishes.

Every August, during the Festival do Marisco de Olhão (Seafood Festival), the town comes alive with numerous shows and offers the opportunity to relish in the gastronomic specialties of the Algarve.

Wandering through the fishermen’s quarter and the city center, you’ll encounter typical whitewashed houses characterized by their straight lines, earning Olhão the nickname of the “cubist city”. Additionally, Olhão serves as an excellent starting point for exploring the Ria Formosa Park. From the port of Olhão, you can embark on a ferry journey to visit the islands of the lagoon, such as Ilha da Culatra.

Where to sleep in Olhão?

  • Consider staying at the Real Marina Hotel & Spa, situated upstream from the Ria Formosa marina and park. This modern complex boasts amenities such as a swimming pool, spa, wellness center, and two restaurants serving both local specialties and international cuisine. You can find spacious double rooms with luxurious decor starting from around €65 per night.
  • Alternatively, the Pure Formosa Concept Hotel offers a swimming pool, bar, and shared lounge. With several bars and restaurants nearby, this hotel provides double rooms accessible from €50 per night.

6. Tavira

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Tavira is an absolute must-visit when exploring the Algarve, boasting a truly splendid cityscape. Its Moorish-inspired architecture exudes an oriental charm characteristic of the region. Wander through its narrow, white-facade streets and discover magnificent buildings, including its impressive 37 churches. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit Ilha de Tavira, an islet just off the coast, offering miles of pristine sandy beaches. Time seems to fly by in this enchanting city, so consider planning at least two days to fully appreciate its beauty.

Where to sleep in Tavira?

7. Loulé

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If you’re seeking activities away from the typical tourist destinations in the Algarve, consider exploring Loulé, a tranquil town offering an authentic glimpse into Portuguese life, far from the hustle and bustle of mass tourism. Loulé’s large covered market is a picturesque attraction where you can immerse yourself in the local way of life. Wander through its narrow streets and you’ll be enchanted by the colorful laundry hanging on both sides, creating a charming scene. In Loulé, leisurely strolls are best enjoyed in the shade!

Find our selection of hotels to sleep in Loulé.

8. Sagres

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You’ll relish a visit to the most southwestern point in Europe, which hosts a majestic lighthouse and stands as one of the top attractions in the Algarve. The St. Vincent Lighthouse, constructed in its current form in the 1800s, serves as a guiding beacon for ships of all sizes navigating to Spanish and Portuguese ports in the vicinity.

A visit to the lighthouse is an absolute highlight not to be overlooked. With a history spanning 500 years, almost to the time when Christopher Columbus set sail for the New World, exploring the lighthouse is a journey through time. Admission to the lighthouse is free (though donations are gratefully accepted), and from the top, the panoramic view stretches for miles along the coast, offering a breathtaking experience.

Just a few kilometers from Cape Saint Vincent, you’ll find Sagres—a quaint town characterized by its narrow streets and tranquil, secluded lifestyle. Here, time appears to stand still, offering a unique atmosphere far removed from tourist crowds. Amidst the charming yet weathered facades and traditional cafes, you’ll uncover the essence of real Portugal and the authentic Algarve. Sagres truly comes alive around its fishing port, pristine beaches, and historic fortress, offering visitors a glimpse into its rich maritime history and coastal beauty.

The Fortress of Sagres stands as the sole accessible building in this region of the Algarve, making it an unmissable landmark. It’s impossible to overlook, as it looms at the end of the road, commanding attention with its imposing presence.

Exploring the Fortress of Sagres reveals a military structure perched atop the cliffs, offering stunning views. Essentially a simple wall, the fortress is flanked by cliffs on three sides. Beyond the fortress’s small chapel, visitors can embark on a delightful walk along the cliff tops, enjoying spectacular vistas from every vantage point.

What to do in the Algarve?

The Algarve has it all:
– Long white sand beaches,
– Small hidden coves with high cliffs,
– Impressive rock formations,
– Sea caves,
– Historic towns and villages,

What are the most beautiful beaches in the Algarve?

– Praia da Falesia and its colorful cliff
– Praia dos Tres Irmaos and its double arch
– Praia da Marinha and its many rock formations
– Odeceixe beach for something different
– Praia dos Tres Castelos for the feeling of being small

When to go to the Algarve?

With its 2,500 hours of sunshine per year, the Algarve region and its capital Faro, is an ideal destination all year round. Indeed, from January to December, there is a pleasant climate with sunshine and mild temperatures.

However, the best time to go to Faro and the Algarve is during the months of May to October, when the climate is the best. The end of spring and the beginning of autumn benefit from superb weather conditions with temperatures above 20°C. So, if you want to avoid the peaks of crowds, it is during the months of May, June, September and October that you will have to plan your stay.
Nevertheless, summer is an ideal time to travel to the Algarve with the promise of dry weather and high temperatures, averaging between 23 and 28°C. Peaks of heat can be felt, but the presence of the sea allows you not to be too inconvenienced.
 
In addition, summer is a busy season with many events. Among them, the Folkfaro is an international Folklore festival that offers parades, markets and street performances. It is an ideal meeting point if you are traveling to the Algarve with your family.
Moreover, if you are wondering when to go to Faro and the Algarve, know that autumn is a good season for a trip. Rainy days are rare unlike other parts of Europe and the climate remains very pleasant with temperatures close to 20°C.
 
You will definitely love traveling to the Algarve in winter. It is also a popular destination for tourists from northern Europe. There are temperatures around 15°C in December and very dry weather. So you can sunbathe even in the heart of winter.

Where is the Algarve in Portugal?

Southern region of Portugal
The main cities are Lagos, Portimao, Albufeira and Faro.
From Lisbon to Albufeira = 2h30 drive
From Porto to Albufeira = 5 hours drive
Evora to Albufeira = 2h15 drive

How to get to the Algarve?

The Algarve is a popular destination. It is therefore easy to access it:
 
– By plane – you can land at Faro airport
– By car from Lisbon or Porto or Spain – highways lead to the Algarve
– By train from Lisbon to Albufeira or Faro via the Alfa Pendular train
– By express bus from Lisbon to Albufeira or Faro and other cities

How to get around the Algarve?

There is a lot to see in the area: the many incredible beaches and the inland villages and mountains.
– by car – your best option
– by public bus – but you are very limited in terms of times and destinations
– by organized tours – if you are staying in one of the main cities, many companies organize tours to the best beaches and also inland.

Tolls in Portugal

The toll system in Portugal is quite crucial because it is almost everywhere. It may seem, at first sight, rather complex but we help you to see more clearly. There are 2 types of tolls in Portugal: the ordinary tolls that we know everywhere in France and the electronic tolls where the payment is completely dematerialized. These highways are marked with “Electronic toll only” signs (keep your eyes open!)
 
If you choose to rent a car in Portugal, the rental company will ask you if you want to rent the electronic box.
 
Portugal’s toll motorways are electronic and have no barriers. At each pass, the license plate of your car is recorded.
 
You can pay the tolls by 2 means:
 
– At the car rental company who will offer you when picking up the vehicle to take an electronic badge, i.e. €2.50 (the equivalent of the electronic toll in France). The motorway costs will then simply be invoiced as soon as your rental vehicle is returned.
– By going to the post office (CTT) from the 2nd day and up to 5 working days after your passage on the motorway to pay your toll charges at the counter (yes the time is very short!).
 
To prepare for your stay in Portugal, do not hesitate to take a look at the dedicated site for very precise information on the motorways of Portugal.