As the number of tourists visiting Portugal each year rises steadily, the southern Algarve region is becoming an increasingly popular travel destination. With temperatures averaging around 74°F (24°C) in the summer and 54°F (12°C) in the winter, the Algarve is ideal to visit at any time of the year.
This region of southwestern Europe, a little under 3 hours away from Lisbon, is most well-known for its pristine coastline, beautiful beaches (or praias), and golf courses, but there are plenty of other places to visit and activities to enjoy as well. From charming and historic towns such as Sagres, Portimao, and the capital city Faro to world-renowned restaurants and abundant water sports, the Algarve truly has something for everyone.
Whether you're traveling solo, on a romantic getaway, or vacationing with the whole family, here are some of the best things to do during a trip to the Algarve.
Portugal is home to some of the world's most beautiful beaches, including the stunning Praia da Marinha featuring impressive rock formations characteristic of the Algarve coast. Even if you're not one for spending hours relaxing on the beach, you can walk along the top of the cliffs and take in the spectacular views.
Another noteworthy beach is the Praia da Rocha in the town of Portimao. Praia de Rocha is bigger and more accessible than some of the other beaches in the Algarve and is perfect for enjoying a day of swimming and sunbathing. It is home to several luxury resorts and has a lively atmosphere with nearby bars, restaurants, and various water activities like scuba diving and snorkeling.
Praia de Rocha is one of the most popular beaches for visitors in the summer, so if you prefer to beat the crowds, it is best to visit during the off-season or to choose one of the Algarve's smaller beaches, such as Praia da Marinha, mentioned above, Praia da Arrifana, Praia da Amoreira, and Praia da Luz.
Just a 10-minute drive from the Praia da Marinha is the Benagil Sea Cave. It is a remarkable natural landmark and one of Portugal's most iconic sea caves, forming a unique dome structure with a skylight that illuminates its interior. This is an unmissable sight during a trip to the Algarve! It is especially easy to visit in conjunction with other caves along the coast on one of the many boat trips offered throughout the region. Following your time at the cave, consider exploring the nearby towns of Carvoeiro and Portimao for more gorgeous vistas and Portuguese charm.
The town of Sagres on the western coast of the Algarve presents a more rugged side of this stunning region. It is extremely popular for surfing in the Atlantic Ocean and is home to Cabo de São Vicente, the southwesternmost part of Europe and once thought of as the edge of the world.
Renting a car is ideal in this part of the region as it can be difficult to get around in Sagres on foot or by public transportation. You can also join an organized tour for an adventure and activity-filled trip around the western Algarve.
A hot air balloon ride is a memorable experience that provides a unique perspective on your surroundings. What better place to take a leisurely flight than the above the beautiful Algarve? Hot air balloon rides are perfect for a romantic evening or for those that enjoy aerial activities but are looking for something more relaxed than paragliding or skydiving. For more fun activity ideas and advice on getting exactly what you want out of your trip, click here.
If you find yourself in Tavira, a small town about 30 minutes away from Faro, take the short boat ride over to Tavira Island. The island, which is part of the Ria Formosa Natural Park, is located just south of the town off the eastern coastline and offers amazing beaches and restaurants. The ferry runs from Tavira year-round, so it is possible to visit regardless of when you are traveling. For a longer stay in Tavira, you can also explore the many historic churches throughout the town, as well as the Castle of Tavira, or take a day trip to the nearby town of Santa Luzia.
The Algarve has been making a name for itself as a foodie destination, with great options ranging from traditional Portuguese food to innovative haute cuisine with international influences. Don't forget to try the national custard tart, pasteis de nata, during your trip! And if you enjoy fine dining and exquisite food, be sure to make a reservation at one of the region's 8 Michelin-starred restaurants.
No matter your tastes or the town in which you are staying, there is sure to be a well-suited option. Among the choices are São Gabriel in Almancil, Restaurant Henrique Leis in Loulé, and Willies Restaurant in Vilamoura. For a guided experience and the opportunity to try multiple Michelin-starred restaurants, check out our Michelin Foodie Experience!
Ponta da Piedade, located in Lagos, is another extraordinary limestone formation that includes cliffs, grottos, and arches. You can appreciate its beauty from both the land and the sea, either by taking in the view from the top of the cliffs or descending to sea level and taking a boat ride. The golden rock formations are stunning no matter where you are, but a boat will allow you to explore the coast and all the different sea caves and arches, which is highly recommended!
The Algarve also has numerous water parks, which are great if you are traveling with kids or looking for an adrenaline rush. The best water parks in the region include Aqualand in Alcantarilha, Slide & Splash in Lagoa, and Aquashow Park in Vilamoura. If you prefer more of a theme park experience, you will not want to miss Zoomarine. This park features live shows with marine animals and a dolphin program during which you will have the opportunity to learn about dolphins up close and personal while interacting with them in the water. For more family fun, head to the Family Golf Park in the town of Vilamoura, less than 10 minutes away from the Aquashow Park.
For a change of scenery, head away from the beach and the coastline towards the town of Monchique in Central Algarve. This area is known for its lush greenery and its focus on relaxation. As such, it is a popular destination for spa and wellness retreats. The Serra de Monchique, the region's eponymous mountain range, is perfect for a relaxing getaway and beautiful nature walks.
Albufeira, about 40 minutes from the Faro Airport, is one of the largest cities in the Algarve and is home to some of its best nightlife. The most concentrated area of bars and clubs is the Montechoro Strip, which includes various Irish pubs and clubs such as Kiss, the oldest nightclub in Albufeira, and the upscale Le Club. However, there are numerous other bars and live performance venues throughout the city center, so you never have to go far to find a party, and the Algarve climate is ideal for enjoying a drink outside at one of the many terraces and patios.
If you prefer a tent or RV to a hotel, you came to the right place. Camping is extremely popular in the Algarve, and very easy to do as there are several campsites all along the coast as well as in the mountains to park vehicles for the night. The stunning natural sights and pleasant year-round weather of the Algarve make it ideal for an adventurous camping trip.
The Algarve is full of natural wonders and fun activities that are sure to make your trip unforgettable, no matter how you decide to spend it. Iberian Escapes has put together various vacation packages to make planning your trip even easier and more inspiring. Contact us anytime for personalized assistance and recommendations!