May 31, 2023

Portugal’s sun-kissed southern area has lengthy lured guests with its golden-cliff-backed seashores, breathtaking bays and laid-back lifestyle. However, as I’ve found in the course of the previous 5 years residing right here – and on many visits earlier than – the most effective locations to go to within the Algarve, Portugal, aren’t solely confined to the coast.

From lounging on idyllic island seashores and exploring castle-crowned cities to mountaineering alongside epic clifftop trails and stress-free in a mountain spa, there are quite a few issues to do within the Algarve apart from visiting the seashores. 

In fact, it’s inconceivable to suit each spot and exercise right into a weblog publish – even once I’m writing entire guidebooks for the area, it’s a squeeze. So, on this listing of the most effective locations within the Algarve to go to, I’ve targeted on the area’s predominant locations, which cowl a lot of the Algarve’s prime experiences for first-time guests or these returning for a second go to.

Listed here are the most effective issues to do within the Algarve, damaged down by locations to go to – with a number of of my ‘native ideas’ that can assist you plan an epic journey to southern Portugal.

Greatest issues to do within the Algarve FAQs

Earlier than diving into my ideas of the ten greatest locations to go to within the Algarve and what to do there, listed below are a number of of probably the most steadily requested questions I get about planning a visit to the Algarve.

What are the most effective free issues to do within the Algarve?

With so many free issues to do within the Algarve, you don’t have to lay our a fortune. Lounge on the seashore, hike the breathtaking Seven Hanging Valleys Path, hunt for waterfalls within the Monchique mountains or head to the islands on an affordable public ferry ticket.

Are there issues to do within the Algarve when it rains?

Whereas the Algarve is famed for its seashores – and annual 300 days of sunshine – you’ll discover sufficient rainy-day activities in the Algarve to maintain you busy. Head to a museum reminiscent of Tavira’s Islamic Museum or Faro’s Metropolis Museum with Roman mosaics, enterprise to an artwork gallery like Woman in Pink, or simply ebook right into a spa or cataplana cooking course.

What are some romantic issues to do within the Algarve?

{Couples} are spoiled with romantic things to do in the Algarve. Contemplate a wine tasting and lunch in one of many area’s vineyards, a personal boat tour across the caves and cliffs, or a hot air balloon ride adopted by a champagne picnic.

What are the most effective issues to do within the Algarve for households?

There are many issues to do within the Algarve for households. Fashionable choices embody heading to a waterslide park – Slide & Splash and Aqualand are my favourites – visiting the SandCity attraction or taking a ship tour to identify dolphins within the wild.

What are some uncommon issues to do within the Algarve?

A few of the extra uncommon issues to do within the Algarve embody taking a tile workshop in Ferragudo, discovering the ‘Cemetery of Anchors’ close to Santa Luzia, visiting the medronho (fireplace water) brewers in Marmelete, and searching out waterfalls inland. You’ll discover some extra of my favorite Algarve hidden gems right here.

The place are the most effective locations to remain within the Algarve?

Selecting the most effective place within the Algarve to remain will very a lot depend upon the form of vacation you’re in search of. Albufeira is probably the most touristy space, with loads of resorts for households or get together holidays. For those who’re in search of luxury Algarve hotels, go searching Vilamoura and Quinta do Lago. Surfers ought to head to the West Coast or Sagres, whereas Lagos makes for a well-rounded base.

For a extra laid-back keep, choose an inland location or a smaller tourism vacation spot reminiscent of Carvoeiro, or go for considered one of these extra uncommon locations to remain within the Algarve.

The Seven Hanging Valleys Trail is one of the best things to do in the Algarve
The Seven Hanging Valleys Path is without doubt one of the greatest issues to do within the Algarve

The Seven Hanging Valleys Path and Benagil Cave

To hike the clifftop, kayak into sea caves and calm down on spectacular seashores

When I’ve buddies visiting, that is the one factor to do within the Algarve that I all the time suggest – hike the Seven Hanging Valleys Path or the Percurso dos Sete Vales Suspensos, because it’s identified in Portuguese.

A few of the greatest locations to go to within the Algarve might be discovered alongside this stretch of shoreline, such because the award-winning Praia da Marinha – considered one of Portugal’s most lovely seashores – the customarily crowded Benagil Cave, and lots of extra smaller sandy bays.

The cliff-top path connects Praia da Marinha to Praia de Vale Centeanes on a six-kilometre linear route of primarily grime terrain with some descents and climbs. Personally, I’d counsel making the path even longer and persevering with to Carvoeiro, the place you may admire the Algar Seco rock formations. Or, to increase the opposite finish, enterprise so far as Nossa Senhora da Rocha, the place a church-capped cliff juts into the ocean between two seashore bays.

Discover the best places to visit and things to do in the Algarve. From idyllic islands and castle-crowned towns, to epic beach hikes and mountain spa-town trails.
Pin it! Benagil Cave (prime) and the Ria Formosa’s Anchor Cemetery (backside)

Alongside the route, you’ll discover one of many Algave’s most well-known points of interest, the Benagil Cave. Whereas there isn’t a denying this grotto seashore with a sky-light gap is breathtaking, the fixed stream of boats in summer time (and even the low season) has taken its toll, which makes this very touristed location tougher to take pleasure in today. That stated, you’ll probably nonetheless wish to go to, so these are my ideas.

Firstly, you may ebook boat tours to the cave from varied spots alongside the coast – which might be supreme in the event you’re staying additional away. Nonetheless, boats aren’t legally allowed to go on the caves seashore. So, in the event you want to go into the cave and have entry to the seashore, you’ll wish to book a kayak tour alongside the coast or, even higher, rent kayaks from the seashore close by whenever you arrive.

One of the simplest ways to expertise the cave with only a few guests is to come back at dawn earlier than the kayak leases, and tour boats begin for the day. For this, nonetheless, you’ll wish to have collected your kayak rental the day earlier than or deliver your personal. For those who’d choose to discover the coast however see some much less touristy spots, take into account an alternative Algarve sea cave tour.

A view over the islands and lagoons of the Ria Formosa
A part of the Ria Formosa as seen when touchdown at Faro airport

Ria Formosa: to lounge on the islands

To island hop, lounge on the idyllic seashores, and devour seafood

Spanning some 60 kilometres throughout the central Algarve’s coast, the Ria Formosa, a labyrinth of lagoons, salinas (salt pans), marshes, barrier islands and dunes, is without doubt one of the greatest locations within the Algarve to go to.

A well-deserved member of the ‘7 Pure Wonders of Portugal’, this protected pure park can also be a haven for wildlife. Mediterranean Chameleons, chook recognizing – particularly the seasonal flamingos – and loads of seahorses name this a part of the Algarve dwelling, whereas dolphins are sometimes sighted a little bit additional out.

A few of the greatest issues to do within the Algarve might be discovered inside the Ria Formosa’s huge space. Hop between the idyllic and exquisite islands to lounge on the mushy sands, kayak within the tranquil inside lagoon waters, or set off by bike or on foot to the salt pans’ trails.

The crystal-clear waters of Ilha do Farol
The crystal-clear waters of Ilha do Farol

There are loads of completely different boat excursions out there to tour the Ria Formosa, though all of them fluctuate in high quality and environmental credentials.

Firms I often suggest are Ocean Vibes which affords a dolphin and wildlife spotting tour led by the super-passionate marine biologist Alfredo, and Solar Boat tours, that are notably good for chook watching, because the boats are near-silent in comparison with conventional motorised vessels.

Nonetheless, you don’t have to take a tour to benefit from the island’s seashores, as public ferries present a extra reasonably priced choice. For Cultura and Farol, embark in Olhao; for Deserta, depart from Faro; and for Ilha de Tavira, board in Tavira. You can even entry some island seashores like Barril by a bridge relatively than by boat, whereas the most effective viewpoint of the Ria Formosa is discovered from above on the tiny village of Cacelha. 

For one thing a little bit extra particular, you may even keep on a few of these islands at this bungalow-style accommodation, onboard this houseboat, or at Ilha de Tavira’s municipal tenting web site.

The Ponte Antiga de Tavira bridge crosses the River
The Ponte Antiga de Tavira bridge crosses the River


To expertise a extra laid-back and charming Algarve, go to museums, and spot flamingos in salt pans

Tavira has lengthy been considered one of my favorite locations to go to within the Algarve, and fortunately, it hasn’t modified as a lot as among the area’s extra touristy locations.

Set barely again from the coast, Tavira flanks the Gilão River. This physique of water spills out into the Ria Formosa, passing salt pans and seasonal flamingos en route. An affordable ferry boat will take you down the river and out to the city’s island seashore.

Tavira's whitewashed Old Town seen from the castle ruins
Tavira’s whitewashed Previous City seen from the fortress ruins

The primary purpose to go to Tavira although – past simply absorbing a barely extra ‘genuine’ Algarve is to see some heritage buildings and go to Tavira museums. Often called a city of church buildings – there are 37 of them – there isn’t a scarcity of heritage buildings to admire, such because the transformed Convento de Tavira, now a luxurious lodge.

Different issues to do within the Algarve’s city of Tavira embody visiting the Ponte Velha, an historical bridge typically mistaken for Roman, studying concerning the area’s Moorish historical past on the Núcleo Museológico Islâmico, and taking within the panoramas from the fortress ruins atop the city.

Ponta de Piedade is one of Portugal's best panoramas
Ponta de Piedade is considered one of Portugal’s greatest panoramas


To observe the cliff path to the awe-inspiring Ponta de Piedade after which get together all evening

If you wish to pattern (almost) all the greatest issues to do within the Algarve in a single place, you may’t go fallacious with a go to or keep in Lagos.

The city’s most famed pure attraction is Ponta de Piedade, a dramatic headland of rock formations rising from the ocean. To achieve the most effective viewpoint of this scene level, you may observe a unfastened clifftop and street path from the city. En route, you’ll go among the Algarve’s most spectacular seashores, reminiscent of Praia dos Estudantes and Praia do Camilo.

On arrival at miradouro (viewpoint), which in itself is without doubt one of the greatest locations to go to within the Algarve, a panorama spills out earlier than you. Take the staircase in the direction of the fishing boats and descend by way of the rocks to the water under.

Lagos' Old Town is pretty by day and a party by night
Lagos’ Previous City is fairly by day and a celebration by evening

Alternatively, you may take a boat trip into the Ponta de Piedade – some excursions additionally embody dolphin recognizing past. Nonetheless, I’d personally counsel taking the kayak trip around the headland as I discovered this way more spectacular as you may get nearer to the cliffs. There are many stands promoting excursions in Lagos, so that you don’t have to ebook prematurely, however it is likely to be advisable in the event you’re coming throughout the principle vacation seasons.

Within the city itself, you’ll discover loads of nice locations to eat, drink and get together contained in the Previous City. There’s additionally some historical past and heritage to find right here, together with the staple church buildings and an totally random assortment within the Museum of Lagos. Most harrowing is the historical past of the Mercado de Escravos, the location of Europe’s first slave market; simply don’t anticipate the house to share your complete story or horrors of Portugal’s colonial previous, it’s sadly missing in context.

Don't miss Faro's Baixa and Cidade Velha (Old Town)
Don’t miss Faro’s Baixa and Cidade Velha (Previous City)


For historical past, tradition and museums, plus a extra native metropolis life

Travellers typically skip the Algarve’s capital metropolis of Faro because it’s steadily seen as an airport gateway relatively than the most effective locations within the Algarve to go to in its personal proper, particularly for a winter metropolis break in Europe.

Whereas I used to be additionally responsible of this once I began holidaying right here a few years in the past, since residing within the Algarve, I’ve realised what a mistake that was. Town now solely has a fantastic Previous City (Cidade Velha), however yow will discover among the greatest issues to do within the Algarve in and across the regional capital.

View of the cloister inside a convent
Faro’s metropolis museum is inside a Sixteenth-century convent

You’ll want to discover the Previous City’s cobbled streets. Dip into the Municipal Museum inside a former convent to study extra about Moorish and Roman previous earlier than climbing the cathedral tower to admire the view. A lot of the mediaeval partitions stay, and you may circle this on the lagoon-facing waterfront.

A brief drive or bus journey from Faro, you’ll discover a lot extra historic points of interest too, together with the superbly renovated Palace of Estoi – you can actually stay there – and even some Roman villa ruins.

Different issues to do in Faro embody visiting town’s island seashore, a 20-minute bus journey away, having fun with some wonderful bars and eating places – private ideas embody Los Locos and Epicur wine bar – and heading out on dolphin-watching boat trips.

The clifftop lighthouse of Cabo de São Vicente
The clifftop lighthouse of Cabo de São Vicente

Sagres and Cabo de São Vicente

To surf and see the sundown on the ‘finish of Europe’

Portugal has lengthy been a haven for surfers, and Sagres is the place to be on the south coast. Not solely is that this the most effective locations within the Algarve to go to to trip the swell, however there are a lot extra journey actions, reminiscent of coasteering experiences jumping from nearby cliffs.

For those who’re not a surfer, then worry not, there may be an abundance of wonderful surf faculties to study at in and round Sagres. You’ll additionally discover a number of of the opposite greatest issues to do within the Algarve right here, reminiscent of visiting the Fifteenth-century Fortaleza de Sagres (Sagres Fortress) and venturing to the rugged headland the place Cabo de São Vicente lighthouse dutifully overlooks the tough Atlantic waves. 

Whereas that is typically mistaken for probably the most westerly level of mainland Europe, that title really goes to Cabo da Roca, nearer to Lisbon. Nonetheless, even when it doesn’t maintain the accolade, catching the sundown over the cliffs right here continues to be one of many prime issues to do within the Algarve.

Nearer to the city, the Fort makes for an attention-grabbing sight when you’ve gone past the imposing partitions. There are some previous constructing ruins right here, reminiscent of a small church and oddities, together with a big ground-level compass and a wave-echoing ‘maze’.
A brand new customer centre opened in late 2022 sharing extra particulars on Henry the Navigator and the Age of Discovery – Portugal’s seafaring and colonising years – and the encircling space.

View over rolling green hills out to ocean towns
Probably the greatest issues to do within the Algarve is take pleasure in a espresso on the area’s highest peak


For verdant-hill mountaineering, waterfalls and thermal-spring spas

Between the Algarve coast and the neighbouring area of Alentejo, hills rise slowly earlier than turning into mountain ranges. The Serra de Monchique is the very best and most notable and supplies a verdant playground – a far cry from the coastal resort cities.

For those who’re on the lookout for mountaineering trails and serene surroundings, then you definitely’ll discover among the most energetic issues to do within the Algarve in these elements. The area’s highest peak, Fóia, tops out at simply over 900 metres and might be reached by automobile. You’ll have spectacular panoramas throughout the Algarve and the Atlantic Ocean on a transparent day.

The thermal waters of Caldas de Monchique
The thermal waters of Caldas de Monchique

You’ll additionally discover some respectable half-day and full-day hikes right here, supreme if you need a day within the mountains. The path to the Barbelote Waterfall is my favorite of the loop routes and begins and ends close to Fóia.

Caldas de Monchique is without doubt one of the Algarve’s greatest locations to go to. Since Roman instances, folks have retreated right here to utilize the high-alkaline thermal waters for rest. Villa Termal Spa Resort has a keep or spa bundle, whereas the close by springs make for a great strolling and picnicking space.

A wooden platform leads down to an expansive sandy beach
The Costa Vicentina is filled with epic seashores

Costa Vicentina

To tackle a long-distance mountaineering path or respect windswept seashores

There’s no denying that the seashores are often the most effective locations to go to within the Algarve. But, whereas the central coast close to Benagil and Albufeira and scenic factors round Lagos get a lot of the eye, the Algarve’s West Coast – the Costa Vicentina – shouldn’t be neglected.

This wild and windswept land is the place you’ll discover me once I wish to clear my head or take pleasure in a seashore stroll with fewer footsteps within the sand. Someway it stays one thing of a ‘hidden Europe’ seashore vacation spot.

Dan with a dog surrounded by wild flowers
Climbing by way of Aljezur Fortress’s spring wild flowers

It’s additionally a wonderful place to come back for these typical issues to do within the Algarve; browsing, topping up your tan and mountaineering. The Rota Vicentina compromises two multi-day mountaineering trails – one coastal and one inland – which traverse the boundaries of the Algarve and the Alentejo area. There are additionally loads of shorter one-day routes you may take. For those who don’t fancy strapping in your boats, the beautiful and secluded bays and seashores make for a great street journey.

There’s additionally some idyllic lodging alongside this stretch. Whereas surf lodges function closely, you’ll additionally discover some ocean-view hostels and loads of rural lodging, reminiscent of this hidden-away reclaimed whitewashed village, which was as soon as left to break, however lately saved by a co-op of particular person traders.

More serene beaches are found on Albufeira's peripherals
Extra serene seashores are discovered on Albufeira’s peripherals


For a vigorous Previous City, late evening antics and extra superior seashores

To be sincere, I’m not a large fan of Albufeira itself. Whereas for a lot of, that is the most effective place to go to within the Algarve – therefore there being so many resorts in Albufeira – I discover it a little bit too touristy and overdeveloped today. It’s exhausting to think about it was as soon as a fishing village.

That stated, it’s straightforward to see why so many individuals do like it – and Albufeira stays the ‘tourism capital’ of the area – so it’s inconceivable to exclude it from this listing. Primarily as a result of most of the hottest issues to do within the Algarve, reminiscent of day excursions, boat journeys, and seashore days, might be simply accessed from right here.

Most notable is the Previous City, the place a barely conventional theme stays. Again from the seashore, pleasant family-run tabernas are nonetheless working, whereas a small archaeological museum supplies a peek into the previous. On the flip aspect, you have got the Strip – a revelry-heavy run of late-night get together joints – which has oddly made Albufeira a vacation spot for each households and stag events.

Nonetheless, Albufeira hasn’t wholly been misplaced to tourism, and among the Algarve’s greatest seashores are discovered close by, such because the huge and copper-cliff-backed Praia da Falésia and the picturesque bays round Praia dos Arrifes.

A few of the seashores alongside this rugged stretch of coast are solely attainable to entry through water. If you’d like a extra serene spot of sand, then there are some incredible locally-operated SUP tours you can book to discover these bays and coves.

SIlves is one of the most beautiful towns on the Algarve
Silves is without doubt one of the most lovely cities on the Algarve


For the Algarve’s most lovely city and a postcard-perfect fortress

Silves is the place my love for the Algarve began, and now, almost 30 years later, I nonetheless adore this barely inland city. The cliche-ready village, Silves delivers quaint cobbled streets, whitewashed buildings with ochre roofs, and a fortress crowning all of it.

A few of the greatest issues to do within the Algarve are concentrated across the space, reminiscent of sailing along the river from Portimão to succeed in the city and having fun with wine direct from the supply with a vineyard tasting (it’s often cheaper to ebook direct).

Whereas Silves is maybe my favorite place to go to within the Algarve’s inland, however many guests don’t make it to the inland cities. So, it’s the primary inclusion on my listing of Algarve hidden gems. Give it a learn to find extra of the most effective issues to do within the Algarve, reminiscent of searching out waterfalls, staying in renovated whitewashed villages and palaces, and exploring the stays of Roman villas.

You can even discover extra Portugal journey guides and tips about my devoted Portugal web site – Take pleasure in exploring this lovely land I’m fortunate sufficient to name dwelling!

Discover the best places to visit and things to do in the Algarve. From idyllic islands and castle-crowned towns, to epic beach hikes and mountain spa-town trails.
Pin it: Greatest locations to go to within the Algarve