Algarve is one of the favourite destinations for foreign visitors and Portuguese people due to its beautiful beaches. But if you visit Algarve you’ll soon realise that this region has much more to show than some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Join me in my visit to this region and discover some of the most beautiful places here.
Visit Algarve and discover these amazing places:
1. Rota Vicentina
Formed by 450 km of walking trails, Rota Vicentina stretches throughout one of the most beautiful Portuguese natural parks, the Southwest Alentejo and Costa Vicentina Natural Park.
In the Algarve region you can explore part of the Historical Way (Caminho Histórico), the Fishermen’s Trail (Trilho dos Pescadores) or try one of the circular routes (Praia de Odeceixe, Da Bordeira até ao Mar, Endiabrada e os Lagos Escondidos and Cerros da Carrapateira).
Whichever the walking trail you choose, you’ll have the guarantee to discover some of the most beautiful natural landscapes, with beautiful beaches and authentic locations.
Suggestions: the best months to go on these walking trails are the ones between September and June. Avoid the hotter months, leave your accommodation early in the morning and always take a bottle of water so that you don’t get dehydrated.
Sagres is the southwesternmost town in Portugal and has two points of interest you can’t miss: Cape St. Vincent and Sagres Fortress.
A paradise for nature lovers, Cape St. Vincent is, not surprisingly, a nature reserve since 1988 given the number of species that make this place their home: sea otters, herons, Bonelli’s eagles, etc.
This part of the coast has its history. Since the Middle Ages that this edge of Europe was considered as “the end of the world”.
Sagres Fortress is located on the bluffs of Ponta de Sagres and was built in the middle of the 15th century to protect this part of the Portuguese territory.
Inside the fortress you won’t find much more than the small Nossa Senhora da Graça Church and a wind rose but know that this place offers some of the most amazing views over the Atlantic Ocean.
Lagos is one of the cities in Algarve visitors love the most and, contrary to the others, this city has maintained its authenticity.
When you visit Lagos, take some time to lose yourself in the alleys of its historic centre and enjoy the atmosphere of this city. Afterwards, visit the authentic Mercado Municipal (city market).
After visiting the historic centre, discover the Fort of Ponta da Bandeira, built in the 17th century. Here you can admire the small but beautiful Chapel of Santa Bárbara, covered with glazed tiles, and the magnificent view over the sea.
Located near the port city of Lagos, Ponta da Piedade is an exceptional natural place. Ponta da Piedade offers a stunning view over Cape St. Vincent, with beautiful cliffs, arches and caves. Before you visit this natural beauty you should talk to the local fishermen.
Suggestion: The place is accessible by land and by sea, however, to really feel the atmosphere, choose the fishing boats. Security is paramount so be careful, especially if you take your kids.
Information: you can also read how was my visit to Lagos.
Alvor is one of the oldest and most beautiful towns in Algarve and is another place you won’t want to miss in this region!
Associated with the fishing activity for centuries, Alvor didn’t stay behind in time and, nowadays, most of its economy is dependent of the tourism industry, with souvenir shops and boat tour companies, among others.
In this town, you can admire some places like the Misericórdia Church, the town market (mercado municipal) and Ria de Alvor river mouth, a place where you’ll find beautiful birds from different species.
One of the places that stand out in this town is the big Alvor Beach where you can relax and enjoy the warm weather or go for a 5 km hike in the biggest walkway in Algarve.
Information: you can also read how was my visit to Alvor.
Centuries-old Portimão is now one of the most important cities in Algarve and one of the places that attracts more visitors every year for its beaches and more.
While visiting this city, take the opportunity to get to know the beautiful Portimão Museum, inaugurated in 2008 and located at an old fish cannery built in the 19th century. Here you can learn more about Portimão’s culture and history and its close connection to the sea and fishing.
Apart from the museum, take some time and lose yourself in the beautiful streets of this city and admire other points of interest like Nossa Senhora da Conceição Church and Jesuits Church and College.
Before you leave Portimão, go to Santa Catarina Fortress, located in Arade river mouth. Here, you can enjoy the beautiful view over one of the most famous beaches in Portugal, the wonderful Rocha Beach.
Information: you can also read how was my visit to Portimão.
The beautiful small town of Ferragudo is facing the city of Portimão but belongs to the municipality of Lagoa.
This town has a unique charm and here you can stroll along the riverside area and enjoy the amazing beaches from where you can admire the small but beautiful São João de Arade Castle, built in the end of the 15th century.
Apart from the castle and the beautiful beaches, you can take the opportunity to lose yourself in the typical streets that will surely amaze you.
Information: you can also read how was my visit to Ferragudo.
7. Serra de Monchique
Serra de Monchique mountain range is one of the few treasures yet to be found in Algarve since it is located in the countryside, away from the beautiful beaches and coastline locations.
To discover the highest peak in Algarve, go to Fóia – there you can enjoy an amazing view over most of the Algarve region and its forests and towns surrounding Serra de Monchique.
About 8 km away, you’ll find the historic centre of the town of Monchique where you can stroll through the typical streets and, if you make a small detour, you’ll find the ruins of an old convent built in the 17th century, Nossa Senhora do Desterro Convent.
Don’t leave Serra de Monchique without visiting Caldas de Monchique, a thermal village that dates back to the Roman occupation.
Considered as one of the most beautiful towns in the Algarve region, Carvoeiro is a postcard for people that want to visit the south of Portugal.
Aside from the amazing beaches that you’ll find there like Carvoeiro Beach and Vale Centeanes Beach, you’ll have other points of interest you won’t want to miss.
After enjoying the beautiful landscape, I suggest you go for a walk through the wooden walkway that connects the site of the ruins of Nossa Senhora da Encarnação Fort to Algar Seco, a small 570-metre walk. This walkway, is definitely one of the most beautiful in Algarve and there you can admire the beautiful bluffs and natural “windows” carved by the sea and wind erosion, especially in the Algar Seco location.
Another place you can’t miss during your visit to Carvoeiro and surrounding area is the Algar de Benagil. This place is only accessible by sea but is definitely a place you’ll want to explore! Go on a boat tour to this oceanic cave and discover one of the most beautiful places in Portugal.
Considered as one of the oldest cities in Portugal, Silves is a destination to go to when you visit Algarve, especially because of its beautiful old monuments, the castle and the former cathedral of Silves.
One of the places you can’t miss if you visit Algarve is Silves Castle. Built between the 8th and the 10th century by the Moors, its unique architecture is a trace of the Muslim presence there. The castle, also known as the “red fortress” because of its colour, is on the top of the hill, facing the city of Silves.
We can also admire from the various and different viewpoints the whole city, from the Serra de Monchique to the orchards. Considered one of the most important monuments in the Iberian Peninsula, it was listed as a national monument in 1910.
The construction of the former cathedral began in the second half of the 13th century but ended only during the 18th century. Due to the duration of the construction, two architectural styles stand out in this monument – the Gothic and the Baroque.
Throughout the centuries, Silves began to lose its importance to coastal cities and, because of that, the headquarters of Algarve’s diocese was transferred to Faro during the 16th century.
Located literally in the centre of Algarve, Alte village is another of the treasures yet to be found by those visiting Algarve.
Lose yourself in the narrow streets of this location and admire the typical houses, painted in white, before getting to the beautiful Nossa Senhora da Assunção Church, built in the 13th century and renovated throughout the centuries. There, you can admire its Manueline-style portal and its interior with beautiful glazed-tile panels.
If you visit this village in the summer, know that 500 metres away from the church you can enjoy the refreshing waters of the waterfall Queda do Vigário or, in the other end of the village, the Fonte Grande, a river beach.
11. “7 Hanging Valleys” Walk
If, like me, you love beautiful landscapes, know that you can’t leave Algarve without doing the 7 Hanging Valleys Walk. This is a must do when you visit Algarve!
This 5.7 km walking route (11.4 km both ways) goes hand in hand with the cliffs from Marinha Beach to Vale Centeanes Beach. If you go on this walk know that you’ll be amazed with the fantastic landscapes and, if you want to, you can also stop at one of 3 beautiful beaches (Marinha, Vale Centeanes and Benagil).
To access the trail map, please click here.
12. São Lourenço de Almancil Church
Built in the 18th century in honour of São Lourenço, this church, located in Almancil, may look ordinary on the outside.
Completely white, in baroque style and with a square tower, it is only inside of the church that you can discover its secret: the depiction of the life of the saint in glazed tiles and statues dating from the time of the construction of the church.
13. Ria Formosa Natural Park
Nature reserve since 1978, and natural park since 1987, Ria Formosa has a considerable biodiversity and comprises 60 km of length and over 18.000 ha total. The wetland area is composed mainly of isles, swamps and canals – a spectacle like no other in the world.
Suggestion: Before you explore the isles of this park, visit Marim Environment Education Centre (Centro de Educação Ambiental de Marim) and go on a stroll through its 3 km trail to admire the local fauna and flora.
- Location: Google Maps
14. Estói Palace
Located 10 km away from Faro, Estói Palace is another wonder you can’t miss when you visit the Algarve region.
Despite its relatively short history, since it was built in the 19th century, this palace and surrounding area are some of the most beautiful locations you’ll find in this region.
Know that, when you visit this beautiful place, you’ll find the only palace in Rococo style with French-style gardens in Algarve, which makes it very special. Apart from the gardens, you can also admire the lakes, fountains, statues and amazing glazed-tile panels.
Even though it is nowadays a small luxury hotel, part of this property can be visited without having to spend the night there.
The city of Faro is the entry point for those who want to visit Algarve and travel by plane. However, this city is often forgotten by people who go directly to the various resorts in the region.
Located just 6 km east of the airport, the historic centre of Faro will amaze you with all its alleys frozen in time and its beautiful cathedral where you can enjoy the most magnificent view over Ria Formosa.
Suggestion: after your visit to the historic centre, don’t miss the opportunity to go on a boat tour to discover the wonders of Ria Formosa Natural Park. Aside from admiring the fauna and flora, you’ll also have the chance to visit 4 islands, some of them inhabited by fishermen.
Tavira is definitely the most picturesque city in Algarve. Its origins date back to the Roman occupation but it was during the Moors’ occupation that it gained more importance up until the 17th century, when Portugal leaft its North African territories.
When you visit Tavira, you’ll discover a city with 21 churches, an old Arab quarter, ruins of a castle where you can enjoy the most fantastic view over Tavira, a Roman bridge and alleys where you’ll love to lose yourself.
17. Cacela Velha
Located 11 km from Tavira, the picturesque village of Cacela Velha offers its visitors some of the most amazing views over the sea and the islands of Ria Formosa Natural Park.
Apart from the panoramic view of the Ria, you will also find in this village the beautiful church and the fort of Cacela Velha, built in the 17th century.
18. Castro Marim
Located close to the border with Spain and next to Guadiana river, Castro Marim was for several centuries a theatre of war for several battles due to its strategic position.
Apart from the extraction of salt, tourism also plays an important role in local economy. But there is much more to see other than beaches!
Know that you can admire the beautiful castle where a medieval fair takes place every year, in august – this is an event where you can enjoy medieval music, street theatre and much more!
But there are other points of interest that you can admire in this town such as the Fort of São Sebastião, a Portuguese monument built in the 17th century, Castro Marim and Vila Real de Santo António Marsh Natural Reserve, a location where you can explore salt pans, marshes and other places perfect for birds to nest.
Like Castro Marim, Alcoutim is also a border town, separated from Spain by Guadiana river.
One of the points of interest of this location is the medieval castle, built during the second half of the 13th century to control the river traffic and watch over the town and protect it from possible raids from the Spanish troops.
Apart from the castle, you can also stroll through the streets of this peaceful town and admire the beautiful houses, São Salvador Church and Nossa Senhora da Conceição Chapel. Before you leave this place, make sure you go enjoy the calm waters of Pego Fundo river beach.
20. Water Parks
Another important reason why Algarve is the most touristy region in Portugal is the number of water parks scattered throughout.
In this regard, I must point out Zoomarine, a theme water park that welcomes 500 thousand visitors every year. Here, people can enjoy several attractions such as dolphin, seal and birds of prey shows and, of course, several amusements for the younger.
If, however, you’re an adrenaline junkie then you should also discover other water parks like Slide & Splash and Aquashow Park. Both these parks are listed in the top 20 of the best water parks in Europe, according to TripAdvisor. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy the most basic slides and the ones that scare most of the people.
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