Beyond the Beaches: The Ultimate Guide for an Algarve Adventure
If you’re looking for some sun-kissed adventures in Portugal, the Algarve should top your list! With its breath-taking coastline, rich culture and idyllic weather, this incredible part of the country offers a wealth of experiences for literally every traveller.
After recently returning from a trip to the Algarve, I can totally see why it’s often considered the ‘jewel of Portugal.’ Trust me when I say that there’s never a dull moment here, the Algarve is truly a place that will steal your heart!
Read on to discover everything to add to your Algarve itinerary, including where to stay in the Algarve, the best things to do in the Algarve (not just the beaches), the best day trips and more!
🌞 The Best Algarve Activities 🌞
The Algarve has way more to offer than just beaches! Its historical sites, local cuisine, and beautiful nature parks make it a diverse and exciting place to visit. So, if you’re looking for some of the best things to do in the Algarve, be sure to add these spots to your itinerary:
Outdoor Adventures in the Algarve
1. Hiking the Via Algarviana
This incredible 300km long trail stretches across the Algarve from the eastern border to the west coast. Walking the Via Algarviana is a brilliant way to explore the region’s inland areas, offering breathtaking views and an insight into local rural life, all while getting your 10k steps in! This is also one of the best places to go cycling in the Algarve.
2. Surfing at Praia do Amado
Whether you’re a seasoned surfer or a beginner, Algarve’s Praia do Amado offers some of the best surfing opportunities in Portugal. With reliable swells and a range of surf schools, this is a must-do Algarve activity for any water sports enthusiasts.
3. Bird Watching at Ria Formosa Natural Park
One of Portugal’s most important nature reserves, the Ria Formosa Natural Park is a paradise for bird watchers. The park is a sanctuary for migratory birds and a breeding ground for aquatic birds, making it an absolute must-visit for nature lovers.
Doing a Catamaran Tour around the Ria Formosa Islands is also an awesome thing to do here, with the catamaran taking you on a route among the most magical islands in the region.
Cultural Delights: Unraveling Algarve’s Heritage
1. Exploring the Historic Town of Tavira
Tavira, with its old-world charm, ancient Roman bridge, and medieval castle, offers a delightful trip back in time. Don’t forget to visit the Tavira Island, known for its pristine beach and fresh seafood.
The best thing we did here was a Tavira Tuk Tuk Chocolate Tour, which takes you on a city tour and then you get to see how chocolate is made and of course you get to taste it! You can book the experience here (advance booking is required).
2. Visit the Faro Old Town
Known as Cidade Velha, Faro’s old town is rich in history and culture. Walk through the arched gateway into a world of cobblestone streets, leafy plazas, and age-old monuments, including a beautiful cathedral. This is also a great place to buy some of the traditional handicrafts that the Algarve is known for, including ceramics, pottery, and lacework. If you’re looking for a unique souvenir to take home head to Mercado de Faro, which is a vibrant market located in the heart of Faro Old Town.
3. Go to a Festival
The Algarve hosts lots of festivals throughout the year, celebrating everything from religious traditions to food, music, and arts. The Carnival of Loulé, the Medieval Fair in Silves, and the Festival do Marisco in Olhão are a few examples of vibrant events that showcase local culture here.
Best Beaches and Caves in the Algarve You Can’t Afford to Miss
The Algarve has over 100 beaches to choose from so deciding which spots to hit on your trip can feel overwhelming! To help you plan the perfect seaside escape, I’ve curated a list of the best beaches in Algarve, as well as the most iconic caves!
1. The Legendary Praia da Marinha
Considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Praia da Marinha is a must-visit Algarve destination. Its golden sands, clear waters, and iconic limestone cliffs make it an unforgettable destination. For the adventurous, there’s awesome boat tours available to explore the hidden sea caves and arches here.
2. The Vibrant Praia da Rocha
If you’re looking for a lively beach scene, Praia da Rocha in Portimão is your place. This expansive beach, surrounded by stunning cliffs, offers not only natural beauty but also a variety of beach bars, restaurants, and water sports. The nearby marina and casino add to its lively atmosphere!
3. Praia do Camilo: The Stairway to Heaven
Accessed via a wooden stairway of over 200 steps, Praia do Camilo is a small but stunning beach nestled between towering cliffs. The journey down rewards you with turquoise waters, golden sands, and a quiet, secluded vibe – making it a true paradise in Portugal.
4. Praia de Odeceixe: A Family Friendly Beach
Situated at the border between Algarve and Alentejo, Praia de Odeceixe is a river beach on one side and a sea beach on the other. The calm waters of the river side make it one of the best places in the Algarve for families with young children.
5. Praia do Barril: A Historic Touch
Located in the heart of Ria Formosa Natural Park, Praia do Barril is famous for its ‘anchor graveyard’, a tribute to the region’s tuna fishing history. A small train ride through the park adds to the unique charm of this beach!
Each beach in the Algarve holds its own unique charm and character. Whether you’re looking for the hustle and bustle of a beach town, secluded coves, family-friendly spots, or water sports activities in the Algarve, its beaches truly have something for everyone.
6. The Best Algarve Caves:
The Algarve coast is dotted with a network of caves and grottos, sculpted by nature over thousands of years.. This is one of the defining features of the Algarve so be sure to check these beauties out:
- Praia de Benagil
Located near the small fishing village of Benagil, Praia de Benagil is famous for its spectacular sea cave, Algar de Benagil, often referred to as the ‘cathedral of caves’. Accessible only by water, this magical cave has a circular opening in its roof, creating a unique natural skylight. Whether you swim, paddle, or take a boat tour, visiting this cave is one of the coolest Algarve activities you can do, so don’t miss out on the adventure!
- Ponta da Piedade: Nature’s Masterpiece
An awe-inspiring landscape of sea caves, grottos, and stunning rock formations, Ponta da Piedade offers boat tours for a close-up view of this natural spectacle. These natural marvels are among the Algarve’s most breathtaking sights so be sure to add this to your itinerary!
Beach and Water Safety: The Algarve’s beaches are generally safe, but always pay attention to local warnings and flags indicating sea conditions. The Atlantic Ocean can have strong currents, and not all beaches have lifeguards on duty.
Unforgettable Day Trips From The Algarve
Did you know that the Algarve actually serves as a convenient starting point for numerous day trips? From charming villages to historical cities, and natural parks to coastal wonders, let’s explore the best day trips from Algarve including some hidden gems!
1. Silves: A Historical Day Trip from Algarve
So first up on the list of amazing day trips from the Algarve is Silves. We actually stayed here for several days post Algarve (separate blog post pending!) Let me tell you, it’s a true underrated gem of Portugal!
Silves was once the Moorish capital of Portugal and offers an abundance of history and culture. It’s home to the best-preserved castle in the Algarve and a stunning Gothic Cathedral. Here you can wander through the cobbled streets, visit the local museums, and take a traditional boat trip along the Arade River. No more than an hour’s drive from Algarve, Silves is an awesome day trip destination, and an epic place to stay if you’re looking to see the Algarve but spend less on accommodation.
2. Lagos: An Exploration of Natural Beauty
Brimming with natural wonders, Lagos is famous for its stunning beaches like Praia Dona Ana and Ponta da Piedade, both offering breathtaking rock formations. A fun-filled day in Lagos could include a boat tour, dolphin watching, and exploring the town’s vibrant dining scene. Besides for its amazing beaches and awesome restaurants, Lagos offers a balanced lifestyle that’s hard to resist, which is why it’s actually renowned for being one of the best places to live in the Algarve region. So if you’re looking to make a more permanent move to Portugal be sure to check out Lagos!
3. Faro: A Dive into Urban Algarve
Faro, the capital of the Algarve region, offers a refreshing contrast from the typical beach town. With an historic old town, a lively cultural scene, and a beautiful marina, Faro offers a blend of urban life and laid-back charm. The Ria Formosa natural park, just a short trip from the city, is a must-visit for nature lovers.
4. Evora: A UNESCO World Heritage Site
If you’re up for a slightly longer journey, Evora is an exceptional day trip from Algarve. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Evora is rich with Roman, Gothic, and Baroque architecture. Be sure to visit the Roman Temple, the Chapel of Bones, and the Cathedral of Evora, each offering a unique insight into Portugal’s past.
5. The Vincentine Coast: An Unspoiled Coastal Journey
Stretching from Odeceixe to Burgau, the Vincentine Coast is one of Europe’s best-preserved coastal stretches. This area offers beautiful beaches, dramatic cliffs, and quaint fishing villages. The town of Vila Nova de Milfontes, with its lovely riverside setting and beaches, is a particularly delightful stop.
Day trips from Algarve open up a world of possibilities, providing a unique insight into the culture, history, and natural beauty of Portugal. So why not venture out and explore these wonderful destinations. The Algarve is not just about beaches and resorts; it’s also the perfect gateway to the diverse landscapes and experiences Portugal offers.
Remember, the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. So keep exploring!
6. Monchique: A Mountain Retreat
Nestled in the Serra de Monchique mountain range, Monchique offers a break from the coastal vibe of Algarve. The town is known for its charming streets, artisan shops, and local gastronomy. If you’re looking for a rejuvenating experience, visit Caldas de Monchique, a spa town famous for its healing waters.
Best Hotels in the Algarve
When it comes to resorts in the Algarve, which is best? Read on to find out!
Choosing a top hotel in the Algarve can be tricky since there’s so many incredible places to choose from. But fear not, I’ve made life easier for you by curating a list of the top contenders.
Best Hotel in Algarve for Couples
Belmar Spa & Beach Resort: Seeking a romantic escape with your significant other? Trust me, the Algarve won’t disappoint! This region so many amazing hotels that are perfect for couples looking for a mix of privacy, luxury, and romance.
We personally stayed at Belmar Spa & Beach Resort, as its renowned for being one of the best hotels in the Algarve for couples. With panoramic ocean views, a wellness spa, and a private balcony for every room, it’s an idyllic setting for a romantic getaway! Also, it overlooks the gorgeous beach of Porto de Mos, so I would also add this place to the list of best beach hotels in the Algarve!
Best Beach Hotel in the Algarve
Pestana Viking Hotel: If you’re a beach-lover looking for comfort and convenience in the Algarve, be sure to head here. This is arguably the best beach hotel in the Algarve as it literally has direct access to the gorgeous Senhora da Rocha beach!
Best Neighbourhood in the Algarve region
Lagos Atlantic Hotel: This 4 star hotel in Lagos makes a great place for exploring this stunning part of Portugal and is located in an area considered to be one of the best places to live in the Algarve region. It’s also got a pool and is only 500 meters from Porto de Mós Beach.
Best Luxury Resort in the Algarve
Vila Vita Parc Resort & Spa: Known for its boujee villas, private beach access, and exceptional spa services, this stunning resort is considered to be the ultimate best luxury resort in the Algarve! So if your budget can stretch, this is the place to be in the Algarve!
Best Bargain Hotel in the Algarve
Hotel Colina Dos Mouros: During our Portugal road trip (before we headed to the Algarve beach resort) we actually stayed at this charming place. It’s a real bargain, I’m so glad we managed to book super last minute! The hotel itself is located in an ancient Arab castle and has stunning views of the historic town.
Despite only being a 3 star hotel (an unfair rating I feel), it’s got gorgeous landscaped gardens and an outdoor swimming pool, including a terrace with sun loungers. If you wanted to save money but still visit all of the best beaches in the Algarve, this hotel makes a great base as it’s only about 40 minutes drive from some of the best beaches in the Algarve, like Praia da Marinha. You also get a free breakfast so it’s perfect for anyone on a budget.
This was the gorgeous pool and view from our room:
Ultimately, choosing the best hotels in Algarve comes down to your personal preferences. Regardless of where you choose to stay, its sun-soaked charm and the warmth of the Portuguese people are sure to provide an unforgettable experience!
If the above hotels don’t float your boat, you can always find the best deals on Hotellook below:
Best Restaurants in the Algarve
The Algarve is known for its delicious seafood, fresh produce, and its specific version of Piri Piri Chicken, which is a spicy dish with roots from both Portugal and Africa. Don’t miss out on trying local specialties such as cataplana (a delicious seafood stew), grilled sardines (a staple of the Algarvian diet), and fig cakes, which the region is renowned for.
Here are a few top-rated restaurants and most Instagrammable cafes in the Algarve to add to your itinerary:
- Vila Joya (Albufeira): This two-Michelin-starred restaurant offers an exquisite dining experience featuring a fusion of Portuguese and international flavours. The picturesque ocean views make it a perfect spot for special occasions and some awesome Instagram content!
- O Leão de Porches (Porches): For a traditional yet cozy dining experience, visit O Leão de Porches. This charming restaurant serves authentic Portuguese cuisine and is known for its signature dish, the “Cataplana.”
- Blanco Beach Club (Lagoa): Situated on Praia da Marinha, this beach club offers a stylish setting with elegant white decor and stunning sea views. You can enjoy a range of Mediterranean-inspired dishes along with refreshing cocktails.
- NoSoloÁgua (Portimão): Located on Praia da Rocha, this beachfront restaurant offers a vibrant atmosphere with live music and a diverse menu featuring fresh seafood, sushi, and creative cocktails. Top ti[: Head here for sunset, this super Instagrammable spot is popular with both locals and tourists.
- Algarve Surf & Coffee Co. (Sagres): This laid-back cafe is a favourite among surfers and coffee enthusiasts. Enjoy a cup of locally roasted coffee while taking in the chilled-out vibes of Sagres. This is also one of the best cafes to work from in the Algarve.
Things to Know Before you get to the Algarve
Official Language and Currency:
The currency in the Algarve, Portugal is the Euro €.
The official language is Portuguese, but did you know that addition to Portuguese, the Algarve has its own regional dialect, known as Algarviano, which is mostly spoken by the older generation in rural areas! English is also widely spoken in many parts of the Algarve, especially in tourist areas, due to the region’s popularity with British and other English-speaking tourists.
Best Ways to get to the Algarve:
Getting to the Algarve can be quite straightforward and convenient with various options available:
By Plane: The quickest and most convenient way to get to the Algarve for most international travellers is by flying. The region’s main airport is Faro Airport, which has direct connections to many European cities, particularly in the UK, Germany, Netherlands, and Ireland. Many low-cost airlines operate routes to Faro.
Kiwi is one of the best online flight booking platforms when searching for cheap airfares. Not only can you search an entire continent, but you can also select different destinations to find the lowest rates for the whole route.
Save money and check it out:
From the airport, it’s easy to hire a car, take a taxi, or use public transport to reach different parts of the Algarve.
Alternatively, if you don’t fancy negotiating prices in a foreign country, Kiwi Taxi is also an option (this is an online transfer booking service, with free cancellation).
By Train: If you’re already in Portugal or in a neighbouring country, you could consider taking a train to the Algarve. Portugal’s rail network is extensive, and trains from Lisbon to Faro, the capital of the Algarve, are regular and comfortable. The journey takes about 3-4 hours.
Trainline is Europe’s leading train and coach booking platform. Use it to get the best available prices, times, and train/bus tickets for your journey. Save up to 51% with early booking!
By Car: Driving to the Algarve gives you the freedom to explore the region at your own pace. From Lisbon, it’s a 2.5 to 3-hour drive on the A2 motorway. If you’re driving from Spain, the drive from Seville to Faro takes around 2 hours. Please note that there are tolls on Portuguese motorways.
When we hired a car in Portugal, we used Discover Cars, which is a fab car rental comparison website you can use to find, compare and rent a car globally ⬇
Top Portugal Travel Tip: If you do hire a car in Portugal, I highly recommend bringing a whole purse of coins out with you. Despite the country being quite modern in many respects, I was very surprised to learn on our Portugal road trip that you can usually only pay parking fees with coins (not even notes, and almost certainly not your card!)
By Bus: The Algarve is also served by an extensive bus network. Buses from Lisbon to the Algarve are regular and affordable, albeit slower than the train or driving.
Busbud is an online bus-booking platform that has compiled the world’s largest selection of bus tickets. Wherever you’re traveling, you can easily compare bus tickets from different companies and book the best option for your next trip.
By Boat: Some travellers might choose to arrive by sea, as the Algarve has several marinas welcoming private boats. There are also ferries from Spain to the Algarve, such as from Ayamonte to Vila Real de Santo António.
When planning your journey to the Algarve, it’s important to consider factors such as cost, travel time, and convenience. It’s also worth noting that having a car in the Algarve can be very helpful, as public transport within the region is not always frequent or comprehensive, particularly if you want to explore more rural areas.
Safety in the Algarve:
The Algarve, like much of Portugal, is generally considered a safe place for tourists and residents alike. Portugal consistently ranks as one of the safest countries in the world according to the Global Peace Index. However, as always, it’s essential to stay informed, respect local customs and rules, and use common sense to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit to the Algarve.
Note: The emergency phone number in Portugal (including the Algarve) is 112. This number can be dialed for police, fire, or medical emergencies.
Portugal Travel Insurance
While Portugal has excellent healthcare facilities, medical costs for non-residents can be high, especially if intensive care or emergency evacuation is required.
Travel Insurance is essential as it will save you thousands if something goes wrong on your adventure. Nomad Insurance with SafetyWing is amazing, as it covers emergency medical evacuation and bedside visits, starting at just $42 per 4 weeks.
You can use it as a subscription service, meaning you don’t have to pay for the whole year upfront. Instead, you’re charged every 28 days, until you cancel, giving you the ultimate level of flexibility. There’s also no limit on travel duration, so you don’t need a return date (and a return ticket) in order to activate your insurance.
Check SafetyWing Insurance out for yourself here:
Algarve’s array of activities combined with its natural and cultural attractions make it a perfect holiday destination in Europe. Whether you’re after adventure, relaxation, culture, or nature, the Algarve promises a fulfilling experience that will make you fall in love with Portugal. So pack your bags and come discover the magic of the Algarve for yourself!
You may also like to read:
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you, if you make a purchase through any links. You may even get a small discount. This income goes towards the sites running costs and enables me to provide readers with free content.