The Algarve is a region south of Portugal, from which you may recognize these localities: Albuefeira, Faro, Lagos, Marinha beach, Praia da Rocha… This Travel Guide will tell you the best things to do in the Algarve. This small country definitely has it all: breathtaking green mountains in the north, covered in vineyards, an almost desert landscape in the Alentejo region, and finally the spectacular beaches of Algarve.
In addition to unparalleled beauty, there are many unforgettable activities and attractions in the Algarve that you absolutely do not want to miss. Check out the best places in the Algarve you must see and visit!
Why visit the Algarve, Portugal?
The Algarve, Portugal is the country’s most popular tourist destination with breathtaking cliffs, sandy islands and delicious cuisine. Its golden beaches with impressive rock formations and scalloped bays have made it a coveted destination among ocean lovers, water sports enthusiasts and even foodies.
Best places in the Algarve: Top 7 Algarve towns to visit
Start with Faro, the ideal city to stay on your arrival, as it is located right next to the only airport in the region. Its small size instantly immerses you in the local atmosphere, it is warm and quiet, its old architecture is charming, and the protected natural area of the Ria Formosa is home to a rich ecosystem and magnificent beaches.
Strangely it is not touristy at all, probably because its beaches are only accessible by boat (about 15min for 1.5€).
Where to sleep in Faro?
- Aqua Ria Boutique Hotel is located right in the center of Faro, close to shops, restaurants and historical sites. You can find beautiful, spacious and comfortable rooms for two, from around €65 per night.
- Hostel Casa d’Alagoa is a hostel located in a historic building on Praca Alexandre Herculano. The establishment offers accessible double rooms from around €45, and beds in dormitories, for around €20 a night.
- Aeromar is a small hotel located on Faro beach, less than 50 meters from the ocean. It has a restaurant that offers Mediterranean and Portuguese cuisine, and a terrace overlooking the sea. It offers beautiful rooms for two, from around €75 a night.
Lagos, located in the western Algarve, is for us the most interesting city in the region. Indeed, the beaches are magnificent, the water is crystal clear, the city is pleasant, lively and has a strong history. The old town is lively with lots of shops, restaurants, bars and terraces sheltered from traffic. But it is above all that a few minutes from the city center, you can discover some of the most beautiful beaches in Portugal such as Dona Ana and Ponta da Piedade.
To admire the magnificent cliffs and caves of Lagos, nothing better than a boat trip. It will offer you nice views.
Where to sleep in Lagos?
- B&B Ocean View, slightly out of the way, fair prices. For very small budgets, there are also dormitory beds!
- Casa Do Mar. Good value for money, it is an apartment split into 3 bedrooms. So you can have the kitchen. 10 minutes walk from the center of Lagos!
Located in the western Algarve, Portimão is a seaside town that has shone for many years for its canning and sardine fishing activities. Today, tourism has replaced these activities, however you will see that Portimão has lost none of its soul, quite the contrary. Portimão seems to live to the rhythm of the Arade, this freshwater river. In the evening on the docks of Portimão, you have to stroll along the Ribeirinha lined with palm trees to enjoy the atmosphere that reigns over this small port in the Algarve. There is even a pirate ship moored, enough to make you want to set sail! On the other side of the Arade barges, is Ferragudo, a small traditional Portuguese village that can be reached by boat.
Where to sleep in Portimão?
- Low budget: Hotel Made Inn
- Average budget: Jupiter Marina Hotel – Couples & Spa
- Very comfortable: Bela Vista Hotel & Spa – Relais & Chateaux
If you are looking for a base with a lively city center, Albufeira is the ideal place. Not only will you have all the bars and restaurants available to entertain you, but you will also be well located for visiting the beautiful surrounding beaches. Along the coast, a hike is possible from Praia de Vale Centianes on the trail of the 7 hanging valleys. The walk is simple and pleasant, you will see several beautiful beaches and cliffs.
Where to sleep in Albufeira?
Olhão is a town of about 45,000 inhabitants which is located in the district of Faro, about 5 km east of Faro. In this charming town, the activity is divided between tourism and fishing. The dream beaches are just a few steps away, and it is the ideal place to taste delicious fish and seafood dishes. Every year, during the month of August, during the Festival do Marisco de Olhão , the Seafood Festival, many shows are organized and you can savor all the gastronomic specialties of the Algarve.
In the fishermen’s quarter and in the city center, you can also discover typical whitewashed houses with very straight lines, which has earned the city the nickname of “cubist city”. Olhão is the perfect starting point for exploring the Rio Formosa Park, and from the port of Olhão, you can also board a ferry to go to the islands of the lagoon, such as Ilha da Culatra.
Where to sleep in Olhão?
- Real Marina Hotel & Spa is located upstream from the Ria Formosa marina and park. This modern complex has a swimming pool, a spa, a wellness center and two restaurants that serve both local specialties and dishes from around the world. You can find large rooms for two with luxurious decoration, from around €65 per night.
- Pure Formosa Concept Hotel is a hotel with a swimming pool, a bar and a shared lounge. Several bars and restaurants are located nearby, and this hotel offers rooms for two which are accessible from 50 € per night.
Tavira is a must when you come to visit the Algarve, it is a truly splendid city. Its architecture of Moorish origin transports us to an oriental atmosphere typical of the region. Its steep streets with white facades are pleasant and you can discover beautiful buildings, such as its 37 churches. You should also take the time to go to Ilha de Tavira, an islet in front of the city offering miles of fine sandy beach. A day goes by quickly, plan two days if you can.
Where to sleep in Tavira?
- Low budget: Authentic Tavira Hotel
- Average budget: Maria Nova Lounge Hotel – Adults Only
- Very comfortable: São Paulo Boutique Hotel – SPBH
If you’re wondering what to do in the Algarve outside of the tourist spots, Loulé is a quiet little town. You will discover the real Portuguese life, far from mass tourism. The large covered market is picturesque, it allows you to immerse yourself in the local way of life. In its narrow streets, you will be surprised by the colorful sheets stretched on both sides. In Loulé we walk in the shade!
Where to sleep in Loulé?
Find our selection of hotels to sleep in Loulé.
The best tours to do in the Algarve
Praia da Marinha Beach
The Praia da Marinha is a must in the Algarve. The wild beach with its iconic limestone formations, steep cliffs and turquoise water… it is one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe and a top destination in Portugal. If you have more time than just a stopover, the cliff path between Carvoeiro and Praia de Marinha (12km return) is the perfect place for anyone who likes a good hike. It is also easily accessible by car.
Boat trip from Lagoa to Praia da Marinha
Covered in golden sand and surrounded by steep cliffs and stunning rock structures, Praia da Marinha is a beautiful and tranquil beach located very close to Lagoa. Despite being one of the top recommendations for things to do in the Algarve, Praia da Marinha is surprisingly quieter than most other beaches in the Algarve.
The cliffs surrounding the beach also present an exceptional hiking trail and opportunities for countless breathtaking views of crystal clear turquoise water and magnificent views of the landscape. Cruising through the calm waters of the North Atlantic, you will discover impressive caves and caves that are ideal for a bit of exploration and adventurous diving.
The Trail of the Seven Hanging Valleys
If you are looking for an activity in the Algarve, this is definitely the ride not to be missed! From the beginning we are amazed, the landscapes are worthy of an exotic country. Steep cliffs, blond sand, ocher-colored rock, everything is there to enhance the scenery all along the way.
Saint Vincent Lighthouse, Sagres
You will enjoy visiting the most southwestern point in Europe, which is home to a majestic lighthouse and is one of the top things to see in the Algarve. St. Vincent Lighthouse, in its present form, was built in the 1800s and serves as a guide for large and small ships heading to Spanish and Portuguese ports in the area.
The visit to the lighthouse is a treat not to be missed. The history of lighthouses on this point dates back 500 years, almost to when Christopher Columbus sailed to the New World. Admission to the lighthouse is free (donations are gratefully accepted) and the view from the top of the lighthouse stretches for miles up and down the coast.
A few kilometers from Cap Saint Vincent, it is possible to discover Sagres, its small streets, its quiet and secluded life. Here, time seems to have stopped, a unique atmosphere far from the tourist bustle. Some dilapidated facades and traditional cafes make us discover the real Portugal, the authentic Algarve. Sagrès comes alive mainly around its fishing port, the beach and its fortress.
The Fortress of Sagres is the only building you can visit in this part of the Algarve. Impossible to miss it, it also appears at the end of the road and quite simply imposes.
The visit of the Fortress of Sagrès allows you to discover this military construction installed just above the cliffs. In reality, it is a simple wall, the cliffs appear on the other 3 sides. After the small chapel of the fort, we discover a nice walk that crosses the heights of the cliffs. We take advantage of each point of view, it’s spectacular!
Castro Marim Castle, Vila Real de Santo Antonio
There are many castles to visit along the Algarve, but if you find yourself to the east, near Tavira or Vila Real de Santo Antonio, a visit to Castelo de Castro Marim is recommended. Castro Marim Castle was once part of the defensive line controlled by the Templars.
While most of the castle is a ruin, there are spectacular views from the top of the castle over the Guadiana River and nearby salt pans, towards Ayamonte in Spain, and down to the coast past Vila Real itself. You can also see Fort São Sebastião which is on the opposite hill. Inside the castle walls you can get a sense of what life must have been like with the stables, market and much more to explore.
There is a small museum in the castle, as well as the beautiful 14th century Church of Santiago.
The museum strangely houses an exhibition of torture equipment and objects, which were said to have been used during the Spanish Inquisition.
Entrance is under €2 and well worth spending an hour or two wandering around this medieval castle. And if you go there at the end of August, you may have the chance to attend the medieval festival that is held there every year.
Surfing in Lagos
The Algarve is a surf mecca, known for having an amazing surf scene for beginners and more experienced surfers. You can visit several places like Lagos, Sagres and Albufeira. In each of these beach towns, there are dozens of surf schools that can teach the art of wave surfing.
For only €20/h you can rent a surfboard, and for an additional €5 you can also get a wetsuit
Enjoy Portuguese dishes
Being able to taste authentic Portuguese flavors and dishes like sapateira, cataplana de marisco or peixe is, without a doubt, one of the best things you can indulge in while visiting the Algarve. Once you’re done with all the sightseeing, surfing, shopping, sunbathing and partying, don’t forget and include towns like Tavira, Silves and Sagres in your list.
These are populated by small restaurants like Marisqueria Rui in Silves, where I tasted one of the best cataplanas ever.
Their fresh produce, welcoming chefs and affordable prices are worth the detour.
Go shopping at the Loulé market
Here, there is a beautiful covered Middle Eastern-inspired market selling local handicrafts. Loulé is a popular market town and a day trip. However, it is one of the few towns in the Algarve whose main objective is not tourism. The best day to visit Loulé is Saturday as there are additional markets on that day. Unfortunately, on Sunday all markets are closed and on Monday most museums are closed.
Visit Benagil Cave
If you want to visit the Benagil cave, go early to be quiet. Avoid low tide so that there is water in the cave and it is more beautiful! The ideal is to go there between two tides. You can find the tide times by doing a Google search.
To be able to go back and land on the small beach in the cave, you have to go there by swimming or kayaking from Benagil beach. Boat trips do not allow disembarkation. I personally did it on a paddle during a 2h30 visit.
Watch the sunset at Cabo Sao Vicente
Arrive early and take a look around the old lighthouse, then find a place to sit and enjoy the sunset.
This is one of the best sunsets one has ever seen due to the panoramic ocean view.
Visiting the Algarve will leave you with unforgettable memories. There is of course the steep coastline, the sublime colors and the light that emerges from these natural sites. And if you are a fan of idleness, you will be delighted with the most beautiful beaches in the Algarve.
You will also find fantastic vineyards that you can visit for a day. The opportunity to test different kinds of wines!
Which vineyards should you visit in the Algarve?
Quinta dos Vales
Quinta dos Vales is located in the western part of the Algarve region. Featuring an award-winning wine cellar, a landscaped garden adorned with art sculptures, a panoramic terrace and offering accommodation complete with terraces and a large outdoor swimming pool, this wine estate brings together in one place the wonders of the Algarve and wonderful wines.
Fifteen different grape varieties are planted in the vineyard, resulting in a wide range of red, white and rosé wines that you can taste while doing a wine tasting at Quinta dos Vales. The estate also offers activities such as hiking, swimming and biking.
Quinta do Frances
Quinta do Francês belongs to a French doctor who fell in love with Portugal and saw in the hills of the Serra de Monchique the place with which he had always dreamed of starting to produce his own wines. Currently, visitors to the vineyard can see the cellars and taste 3 wines, accompanied by traditional snacks, for only €8 per person, it is excellent value for money.
Adega do Cantor
“A Singer’s Vineyard”, so named because it is owned by musician Cliff Richards, it brings together grapes from three farms – Moinho, Miradouro and Vale do Sobreiro – to produce two types of wine: Vida Nova and Onda Nova. Visit the cellar full of barrels for wine tasting and walk through the beautiful grape plantations to feel the relaxing vibe of the place.
Monte da Casteleja
After working in Rio Douro, where he was responsible for organizing the technical team that looked after the famous Port wine, after spending time at Montez Champallimaud Lda and Quinta do Tedo, Guillaume Leroux decided to plant 3 hectares of grapes in the Algarve to start his own wine production. You can do guided tours and wine tastings with the wine producer. These visits are the perfect opportunity to learn more about the Monte da Casteleja project.
The vineyard offers agro-tourism, that is to say that you can stay in this charming place, where tranquility and the absence of television offer very relaxing moments.
Quinta da Tor
Quinta da Tôr, located in the charming little village of Tôr, intends to divulge the products of the Algarve and in particular the regional wines of the Algarve. To do this, the vineyard has 7 grape varieties planted on 47 hectares, i.e. an annual production of 100,000 bottles. Take a guided tour to Quinta da Tôr, where you can learn about the wine production processes and taste the different wines of Quinta da Tôr such as Syrah, Touriga Nacional, Aragonez, Rosé, Cabernet Sauvignon, Algibre or Branco.
Quinta de Mata Mouros
In the 12th century, after the conquest of Silves, the convent of Nossa Senhora do Paraíso was built on the site of the vineyard, which lasted until the 19th century and whose main structure is still preserved. It is in this place of legends and myths, on the left bank of Rio Arade, that the “Convento do Paraíso” project was launched, with the aim of producing wine and taking advantage of the unique and fantastic conditions of the region.
The 12-hectare vineyard is closely monitored by experienced and dedicated winemaking teams, resulting in top quality wines such as: Euphoria Tinto, Euphoria Rosé, Euphoria Branco, Convento do Paraíso Tinto and Imprevisto Tinto. You will have the opportunity to taste these wines during a tasting at Quinta de Mata-Mouros.
Quinta do Morgado da Torre
It is at Quinta do Morgado da Torre, in Portimão, that the superb Alvor wines are produced. The winery, which has been in existence since 1999, is oriented to the south to protect itself from the north winds, while benefiting from the sea breeze, which helps to improve the quality of the grapes. The manually selected grapes give fruity wines with structure and good aromas, among which: Arinto, Verdelho, Sauvignon Blanc, Moscatel Galego and Syria, Syrah and Antão Vaz. Take a guided tour in the wine cellar, where you can also do a wine tasting.
FAQ & Useful Resources
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.