Travel Report Algarve
Why doing a 24-hour flight, changing at different airports to various airlines? Australia’s coast is just here in Europe! 12 apostles is one of Down Under’s iconic landmarks that everyone wants to see. What most people don’t know is that Portugal features exactly the same style of cliff landscape. Long stretches of golden beaches are backed up with gasping yellow/red rocky cliffs and translucent green waters. Four our travel report Algarve we discovered that it is a paradise for beach lovers but not only. If you venture yourself through the mountains and wild lands you will be well surprised. There is hidden gems tucked in between the bushes such as natural waterfalls and lakes.
Fresh fish and scenic coast lines
For years the Moorish land was a conquer dream until it finally fell in the hands of the Portuguese. By that time the king gained a brand new title calling himself the king of Portugal and the Algarves. Nowadays, almonds, oranges, figs, freshly caught fish and seafood are the kings of the local menu. Called once Europe’s best kept secret it has increasinly become a bucket list place for worldwide explorers.
The region with an area of 5000 sq. km and a population of half a million, is split in two halves: Sotavento and Barlavento. The Barlavento is the western part of Algarve between Albufeira and Sagres. It has one of the most scenic coats lines with its sandy and orange/yellowish cliffs similar to their counterparts in Australia. The Sotavento is the eastern part of Algarve between Loulé and Vila Real de St. António. It is characterized for its coast line with vast sandy dunes.
ToDo’s and Must-Sees per municipality
Whether you are a hiker, a biker, a surfer or just a beach bum, Algarve offers a broad range of activities that will keep you busy for a week or even more. During our stay we had a really nice mixture of relaxing beach vacation, hiking through the local nature and discovering idyllic villages. Furthermore, Algarve offers a broad range of activities such as aquatic parks or dolphin watching tours on the open ocean. Click on the tabs below to discover the different municipalities. Moreover, don’t forget to to see our hidden gems in the Turtletips at the end of the page. You can also find the best locations on our sight map for Portugal.
- About: For centuries Sagres believed to be the most western part of the world. Nowadays we know better; however, it still is the most western part of Europe main land. The parish belonging to Vila do Bispo is a place of tranquility and, at the same time, of excitement – wondering what may be behind this vast ocean. Therefore, Sagres was a significant point of departure during the Age of Discoveries.
- Best Beaches: Praia do Zavial, Praia do Martinhal, Praia do Amado
- TopChoice: Praia do Canal (Aljezur) is for sure one of the best beaches in Portugal. It’s mainly a hotspot for surfers with a hardcore path to get down the cliffs. The breathtaking and gasping landscape will leave anyone stunned. It is cCharacterized by dark colored rocks and a long stretch of golden sand.
- Best Activities: Sunset on the Fortress, surf for advanced, outdoors activities, freestyle hiking
- Known for: Surf, fish, best sunset, landscape, Sagres Birdwatching Festival
- About: Lagos is one of the most loved towns in Algarve, specially for foreigners who move to this picturesque and idyllic place. Lagos was Algarve’s capital until the 1755 earthquake destroyed the whole town and the administration had to be moved to Faro. However, thanks to rebuilding the town kept its beautiful architecture.
- Best Beaches: Praia Dona Ana, Praia do Porto de Mós
- TopChoice: Praia do Camilo is a small beach and always packed during high season. Maybe it is its size that makes this such an appealing beach. Nevertheless, it also features crystalline, greenish waters and a stunning sunset.
- Best Activities: Surfing, paddle, cave & grotto Tours, sightseeing in the old town
- Known for: Surf, fresh fish, age of discoveries, sailing
- GetYourGuide – Lagos
- Lagos Zoo (a small scale zoo)
- Full day River Paddle
- Kaya Cave Tour
- Boat Cave Tour
- About: Portimão is only the second biggest city of Algarve but for sure the most lively one. Having grown facing the ocean and besides the river, it has been in a constant metamorphose and transformation of industry throughout the centuries. Portimão was the first place in Algarve welcoming international tourists in the region’s first hotel. It still works nowadays.
- Best Beaches: Prainha, Praia do Alemão
- TopChoice: Praia dos Três Irmãos is a long stretch of sandy beach where one has the choice to stay around crowds or stay in a quieter side with less people and noise. It features everything from plenty of water activities to great views.
- Best Activities: Visiting the parish of Alvor, boat trips along the river, cultural and tapas safari trips, cave & grotto trips, water activities (e.g. pedal boats, kayak, water sky, rings)
- Known for: Festival da Sardinha, nightlife, beach clubs, sardines, fresh fish, buzzy atmosphere, shopping
- GetYourGuide – Portimão
- Skydive Algarve
- Cultural & Tapas Safari Trip
- Cave & Grotto Boat trips
- Canning Factory Museum (an old fish canning factory that was turned into an exciting museum)
- Algarve International Circuit (venue for car race lovers)
- Alto Golf Course
- About: Lagoa is the municipality to Carvoeiro, Estômbar, Parchal, Ferragudo and Porches. The area is well known for its wine production and cellars but it’s on its beaches that the council proudly sits its crown. On the coastline of Lagoa we found the most scenic, natural, breathtaking and best beaches of Algarve. Some of them are not even accessible by car or foot but boat only. If your dream of paradise beach is a completely empty one where you can even walk around like Adam and Eva, then Lagoa is the place!
- Best Beaches: Praia de Albandeira (Caramujeira), Praia da Marinha (Caramujeira), Praia do Pintadinho (Ferragudo)
- TopChoice: Praia do Carvalho (Caramujeira) is a small beach where you have to climb down inside a cave. Praia das Fontainhas (Porches) is an almost secret beach, requires parking far and climbing down through rocks. It is well worthy and one of our super favorites.
- Best Activities: Ferragudo village visit, Carvoeiro village visit, Grutas de Benagil, Carvoeiro village visit, aquatic parks, natural pools, wine tasting, coast walks
- Known for: FATACIL festival, vineyards and wine production, beaches
- Slide & Splash aquatic park (one of the best in Europe)
- Fontes de Estômbar (natural pools)
- Golf sites: Gramcho Golf course & Vale de Pinta Golf Course
- Quinta dos Vales (winery and wine tasting)
- FATACIL (handicraft, industry, food and cultural fair in August)
- Parish of Nossa Senhora da Rocha (Porches) (beautiful chapel sitting on top of a cliff)
- Algar Seco/ A Boneca (Carvoeiro): A walk along the rock formation will take you to a place called “A Boneca” meaning “The Dool”. Here you can walk along the cliffs and watch probably the best and most romantic spot for sunset in Algarve.
- Safari, Food and Benagil Caves (nice combo package)
- Benagil Caves (we chose this local company and it was really nice)
- About: Monchique is the highest mountain in Algarve and a pleasant place to run away from the summer crowds or to get some fresh air. The small town and mountain are characterized by its locals, the fauna and the flora. On the way up to the mountain Caldas de Monchique is a “must stop”. This mini hamlet is a perfect place to relax.
- Best Activities: Safari, foia (highest point), Caldas de Monchique, sightseeing and relaxing, eating local products, Cascactas do Barbelote
- Known for: Feira do Presunto, Medronho (Fire Water), cork handicraft, honey, health resorts and spas
- Villa Termal das Caldas de Monchique (thermal spa/resort)
- Jeep Safari (s safari through the mountains and small rivers taking you to local people to try liqueurs, traditional bread or tapas)
- Cascatas do Barbelote (Barbelote Waterfalls): Considered one of the most stunning and unspoiled waterfalls in Algarve. It’s located on the way to the peak of the mountain (Fóia).
- About: Going to Silves is like a travel in time. The city is so well preserved and kept that it will give you the feeling that you have been transported to another era. Once the city stills keeps its (almost) original Arab architecture, we imagined to be in Morocco or part of a movie in one of those iconic Arabian night scenes. The village features steep cobble streets and a beautiful Moorish castle overlooking the city. The Silves municipality consists of Armação de Pêra, Pêra, Alcantarilha and Sao Bartolomeu de Messines.
- Best Beaches: Praia grande (Pêra)
- Best Activities: Street sightseeing, Silves Castle and Cathedral, Roman Bridge, Capela dos Ossos – Bones Chapel (Alcantarilha), nature exploration on buggies
- Known for: Festival do Bacalhau (Alcantarilha), Feira Mediaval (Silves), Arraial do Petisco (Pêra), International Sand Sculpture Festival
- River boat trip (trip down the river from Silves to Portimão to admire the landscape and vineyard setting along the journey)
- Silves Golf Course
- KrazyWorld (exotic zoo and fun park)
- International Sand Sculpture Festival (Pêra)
- AquaLand (aquatic park in Alcantarilha)
- Silves Nature Explore on Buggies (explore farm lands around Silves area on buggies)
- About: Like many other historic towns of the region, Albufeira is a characterized by the fisherman culture. However, it has had a massive transformation over the years and gaining the title of a party hot spot. Especially British and young people come here to celebrate their hen or stag do. The town is split in two: The old town, maintaining the old architecture style and The Strip, a promenade of bars and clubs.
- Best Beaches: Praia da Falésia, Praia da Galé
- TopChoice: Praia de São Rafael is a nice small/medium sized beach and less commercial than other beaches in Albufeira.
- Best Activities: Dolphin safari, Zoomarine, scuba diving, pirate cruise
- Known for: nightlife, party crowds, golf
- GetYourGuide – Albufeira
- Salgados Golf course and Pine Cliffs Golf course (massive high-end golf courses)
- Pirate ship sailing along the Algarve coast (unique experience to hop aboard of an old ship)
- Zoomarine (zoo featuring aquatic life and marina matters as well as a fun park)
- About: Faro is the region’s capital and for many international visitors the main point of arrival or departure. It is usually not the main touristic spot compared to other places in Algarve. However, the city will keep you occupied with its museums, old cobble streets and unique islands characterized by long beaches.
- Best Beaches and Islands: Praia de Faro
- TopChoice: Ilha da Barreta (Praia Deserta) is without any doubts the best beach in Faro. Called the desert beach one can already assume that you may be almost alone there. If the plan is to rest away from the crowds admiring a vast, unspoiled view of the big ocean, this is your place.
- Best Activities: Street sightseeing, monuments, Palace of Estoi, fishing
- Known for: International airport, region capital, monuments, islands
- GetYourGuide – Faro
- Palace of Estoi (beautiful palace 8km away from Faro once owned by a private person)
- Ria Formosa 4 Islands Catamaran (island hopping in a catamaran)
- Fishing (“In Rome be a Roman” and “In Algarve, be a fisherman”: have a lifetime experience while fishing with locals.)
- About: The municipality of Loulé is actually formed by two major cities, Loulé and Quarteira. With 9 parishes attached, this is the biggest municipality of Algarve. It is also the most expensive area of the region as specially the neighborhood of Vilamoura features luxurious mansions of VIPs, exclusive clubs and a Hollywood alike life style. This is the place to be for everybody who can afford and is a fan of posh lifestyle.
- Best Beaches: Praia do Garrão (Vilamoura), Praia Vale do Lobo (Quarteira)
- TopChoice: Even though Praia do Almargem (Quarteira) is easily accessible, it is surprisingly less crowded then its sister beaches.
- Best Activities: Karting (Almancil), Mercado Municipal de Loulé, Vilamoura Marina, roman ruins, aquatic park
- Known for: Carnival parade, poshness and exclusivity.
- Vila Sol Golf Course (Vilamoura)
- AquaShow (very good and well-rated aquatic park)
- Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo (exclusive venues)
- Piscinas naturais de Alte and Queda do Vigário – Alte (natural pools and waterfall)
- Roman Ruins of Cerro da Villa (complex of ruins left by the Romans)
- Vilamoura Marina (beautiful Marina known as the Portuguese Monaco due to its popularity among celebrities)
- Karting (Almancil)
- About: Tavira is one of the oldest and most beautiful towns in Algarve. It has kept its traditional and well-maintained architecture dating back to the Roman and Moorish empire. Apart from being a charming and small old town with charming narrow streets, it is also less touristic as the Western Algarve. Olhão is Algarve’s best known fisherman town as well as the main getaway to the islands of Farol, Culatra and Armona.
- Best Beaches: Praia do Barril (Tavira) is on our top list of best beaches in Algarve.
- Islands: Ilha de Tavira, Ilha do Farol (Olhão), Ilha da Culatra (Olhão)
- TopChoice: Ilha da Armona (Olhão) is beautiful and uncrowded but still features great facilities. It is only a 20-minute walk from Culatra or Farol respectively.
- Best Activities: Cascata Pego do Inferno (near Tavira), local customs, village tours, Fish and Food Market of Olhão
- Known for: Festival do Marisco – Seafood Festival (Olhão), traditional architecture, chimneys, islands, waterfalls
- GetYourGuide – Tavira
- Pego do Inferno Waterfalls -(one of the best and most beautiful waterfalls in Algarve)
- Olive Oil Tour: Algarve is one of the world’s main producer of olive. What better way is there to know more about it but trying yourself!
- Tavira Off Road (tour bringing you not only around the town but also to Pego do Inferno waterfalls as well as to the salt production sites)
- Fish and Food Market of Olhão (one of the bests in the region with an incredible variety of fish and local products)
- About: V. R. S. António is a relatively new town. Built just only after the earthquake in 1755, it follows the same construction patterns that can be observed in Lisbon. This old town was founded and built by the Romans which gave the land the name of “Castrum Marinum” (meaning Castle on the Sea). Later this same castle and land were taken by the the Templars to set their headquarters.Here Portuguese tourists still outnumber foreigners, giving V.R.S. António it a very authentic atmosphere. This is the last municipality before entering Spanish territory. Popular municipalities like Monte Gordo and Castro Marim can be found around V.R.S. António.
- Best Beaches: Praia da Manta Rota (V. R. S. António), Praia do Cabeço (V. R. S. António), Praia Verde (Castro Marim)
- TopChoice: Praia da Fábrica – Cacela Velha (V. R. S. António) is one of the most beautiful beaches on the east side of the Algarve. It is part of the ecosystem of Ria Formosa. Tourists find calm waters, gasping landscapes, beautiful sunsets and a great variety of fauna and flora.
- Best Activities: Castelo de Castro Marim, kayaking or sailing on the Guadiana
- Known for: Birdwatching, nature exploration, Cacela Velha Village, Ria Formosa National Park
- Cacela Velha (old fisherman village in the idyllic Ria Formosa landscape -hidden gem for nature and natural landscape lovers)
- Castelo de Castro Marim (medieval castle that has marked the history of the region throughout the centuries)
- Ria Formosa National Park (incredible national park set along the eastern coast of Algarve rich of fauna and flora)
Travel Tips and Info
Where is it? Sorthern Litoral of Portugal
Aeroporto de Faro; by train there are several station check on Comboios de Portugal; by bus Eva Bus and Rede Expresso; by car – private or car sharing on Blablabla car.How to get there? By plane
How to go around? Algarve is a region therefore when people stay there they tend to stick to on city or village and go around. However, if you plan to go around the region and visit as much as possible, you will definitely need a car.
What is it famous for? Gastronomy; Beaches; People; Resting; Water activities; Oranges and Almonds.
What is good to know? Algarve is vibrant busy place during European summer season, being super crowded during the months of July and August. However May, June and September are the top months to enjoy the good gems of this place.
A funny Fact?
- Algarve was once a complete separate region, almost country. The king of Portugal would have as a title, The King of Portugal and the Algarves.