The privileged location in the south of Portugal and the many hours of sunshine make the Algarve one of the favorite destinations for anyone visiting the country.
With seaside resorts right by the sea and wild beaches, this region never ceases to amaze the most demanding travellers. If you want to visit Algarve and discover the most beautiful places in the region, read this article!
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.
Information: leave from Lagos in a vintage Volkswagen van on a trip to the western Algarve heritage (affiliate link). On this 4-hour guided tour you will have the opportunity to discover some less-known, but no less interesting points of interest such as the menhirs of Padrão and Milrei, the Sagres Promontory, the Cape of São Vicente and the dinosaur footprints at the beach Praia da Salema. Undoubtedly, a unique activity you won’t want to miss!
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.
As an alternative to boat trips, you can book a kayak tour in Ponta da Piedade (affiliate link). During this 2h30 activity, take the opportunity to explore the crystal clear waters of the Atlantic along with the beautiful rock formations found at this point of interest. Don’t miss this tour!
Information: to learn more about this city and this natural monument, read the article What to do in Lagos, a paradise to discover in western Algarve!
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.
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: to learn more about this town, discover how was my visit to Alvor.
Portimão has a history of several centuries and is currently one of the most important cities in Algarve. It is also one of the places that attracts the most visitors due to its beautiful beaches, but the city has other points of interest you shouldn’t miss!
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 beach Praia da Rocha.
Information: to learn more about this city, read the article Discover the things to do in Portimão, one of the wonders in Algarve.
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: to learn more about this town, discover 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 southern 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.
Information: if you want to visit Algar de Benagil and other caves, don’t hesitate to book a boat trip. Climb aboard a boat at the marina of Albufeira or the marina of Olhão (affiliate links), and discover places inaccessible by land and admire the beautiful dolphins that roam these Atlantic waters!
Know that, in addition to an experienced captain who knows the waters of this area like no one else, occasionally you will also have on board a marine biologist which will give you a unique perspective on the maritime wealth of this region and, in particular, on the dolphins that usually swim in this area.
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
Information: if you want to discover Ria Formosa by bicycle, know that this 3-hour activity is ideal for having a different day in Algarve. Whether with family, friends or even alone, discover by bike an easy trail and some wonders of this natural park close to the city of Faro.
During this activity, make all the stops you want to admire the landscape, the fauna and flora, take photographs or simply to rehydrate yourself.
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.
Information: to learn more about this city, read the article What to do in Faro – top 16 things to do in Faro.
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. Theme Parks and Water Parks
Another important reason why Algarve is the most touristy region in Portugal is the number of water parks and theme parks scattered throughout.
In this regard, I must point out Zoomarine, a theme water park that welcomes 500 000 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.
The most recent attraction in Algarve is Sand City. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to admire some of the most beautiful sand sculptures in the world! This theme park has its origins in the Sand Sculpture International Festival that, throughout the years, presented sculptures inspired by the most diverse themes like the Discoveries, Hollywood and Music.
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.
Information: as you may have noticed, I didn’t include any beach in this article. But don’t worry! Check my Top 10 of the best Algarve beaches.
Itinerary to visit the most beautiful places in Algarve
If you are visiting Algarve, then know that the best way to get to know this region is if you hire a car (affiliate link). This will allow you to have more freedom and discover the wonders of Algarve that you wouldn’t get to by public transportation.
Even for places accessible by public transportation, I still advise you to go by car if you are staying only a few days in Algarve and want to discover most of the places I talk about in this article. Thus, you will not waste time waiting for the bus or train and will have more flexibility in your travels.
The other possibility, for those who do not have much time and do not want to hire a car, is booking guided tours each day to discover the best Algarve has to offer.
To visit all the places in this article by car, I recommend that you choose an accommodation located between Faro and Portimão, so that the journey from one place to another is short and so that you can make the most of each day.
The other possibility is to choose 3 accommodations (1 in the west, 1 in the centre and 1 in the east of Algarve) and change every 2 days.
Depending on the length of your stay in the Algarve, I suggest the itinerary for each day below.
On the first day, I recommend you to visit the beautiful Southwest Alentejo and Costa Vicentina Natural Park and discover the beautiful beaches as well as at least one of the walking routes that make up the Rota Vicentina. Then, head to the southwestern most point of Portugal where you can visit Cabo de São Vicente and Fortaleza de Sagres. You should then spend the rest of the day in the beautiful city of Lagos.
The next day, continue exploring western Algarve and head to the village of Alvor. Afterwards, you can explore the city of Portimão where you can admire the beautiful beaches.
To end the day, visit two of the most beautiful locations in Algarve, Ferragudo and Carvoeiro. You can also take the magnificent walking trail of the Seven Hanging Valleys (Sete Vales Suspensos), with an approximate duration of 5 hours.
If you choose to go for a hike, you will have to limit your visit to Alvor and Portimão to have time to finish your walk before sunset.
On the third day, I suggest that you discover the Algarve countryside, as it is not just the coastline of Algarve that deserves to be explored. Start by visiting the village of Alte, then proceed to the highest point in the region, located in Serra de Monchique and end the day with a visit to the city of Silves where you can admire the beautiful castle as well as the cathedral.
The next day, I recommend you go to the beautiful church Igreja de São Lourenço, in Almancil. Then head to the town of Estói where you can visit its beautiful palace. If you haven’t explored Faro yet, then take the day to do so.
On the fifth day, take the opportunity to explore the Ria Formosa Natural Park. Take a boat trip and discover the islands, admire the fauna and flora and take the opportunity to go for a swim. In the afternoon, head to Tavira and discover this beautiful city.
Save the next day to explore eastern Algarve. Start in the picturesque village of Cacela Velha, then discover the beautiful border towns of Castro Marim and Alcoutim.
Of course, these itineraries are only suggestions. Take the opportunity to enjoy a few hours of sun and go for a swim in the beautiful Algarve beaches and, if you have time and like it, spend a day in one of the beautiful water parks that you can find in Algarve. Do you want to read my 6-day itinerary of the Algarve region? Then, don’t hesitate and click here.
Where to sleep in Algarve
Hotel Faro **** Faro (affiliate link)
Located in the centre of Faro, 5 minutes walking distance from the train station and the bus station, this modern hotel offers a beautiful view over the old city, the marina and the Ria Formosa Natural Park. Free Wi-Fi access is available in the hotel.
During summer time, Hotel Faro offers a free shuttle service to Faro beach, where you’ll find the hotel Beach Club.
Dom José Beach Hotel *** Quarteira (affiliate link)
Dom José Beach Hotel offers panoramic sea views and is located just next to Quarteira beach. It has modern rooms with flat screen televisions and an outside pool.
Hotel Made Inn ** Portimão (affiliate link)
Made Inn Portimão has modern rooms with free Wi-Fi, only at a 10-minute walking distance from Portimão train station and surrounded by shops and restaurants. The hotel has a terrace that offers panoramic views over the city.
Information: if you want to discover all my suggestions for accommodation in Algarve, click here.
Where to eat
Faaron Steakhouse (Faro)
Real Portuguese Cuisine (Lagos)
Restaurante Ruccula (Alvor)
Restaurante Brisa do Rio (Tavira)
Marisqueira Rui (Silves)
Restaurante O Luar da Fóia (Monchique)
Stews & More (Albufeira)
Bragança Mar (Quarteira)
Traditions and Festivities
Popular Saints in Quarteira
In Portugal, it is not only in Lisbon and Porto that popular saints are celebrated. One of the most beautiful and elaborate processions of popular saints in Portugal takes place in Quarteira, in June.
Near the sea, thousands of people parade in their beautiful costumes and delight visitors with choreography and music made for this occasion. Hundreds of extras, choreographers, makeup artists, dressmakers and others have contributed to the success of this event over the years. The processions begin at 9 pm on June 12, 23 and 28, on the eve of the days of Santo António, São João and São Pedro.
Silves Medieval Fair
If you visit Algarve in August, do not miss the opportunity to go to the Silves Medieval Fair where you can discover how the Arabs and Christians lived in the Middle Ages.
For a week, the village is populated by characters from other times, such as acrobats, jugglers, dancers and snake charmers. Do not miss the opportunity to take this course of living history, embellished with parades of nobles, tournaments of knights and archers and artisans and merchants selling their products.
Castro Marim Medieval Days
At the end of August, Castro Marim returns to the Middle Ages for four days. In a historical reconstruction, the village brings together kings and queens, knights in shining armour, fools, nobles and ladies. The entire court parades before visitors who head to that village every year to experience this fantastic event. Also know that, during this event, you can attend medieval tournaments, street theatre and banquets with music from that time.
Paderne Medieval is a historical and ethnographic reconstruction related to the 14th century. The stalls with gastronomic specialities, craft products and the medieval shows are all part of the program. It is one of the most anticipated events by the residents of the region, by Portuguese and foreign visitors and is guaranteed to attract thousands of people to a unique and very special place, between 12:00 pm and 9:00 pm during the days of the event that takes place at the end of the year.
When to visit Algarve
As you may have noticed, Algarve is a very beautiful region, with many points of interest, great weather, good gastronomy and, of course, some of the best beaches. Because of all this, this has been a favourite destination in Portugal for several years.
Find out below what are the best times of the year to visit Algarve, taking into account, of course, your preferences.
Depending on the weather
The south of Portugal is a very dry region in the summer, especially in July and August. Paradoxically, the country’s most southern land, the Algarve region, benefits from a Mediterranean climate throughout the year, but of course the months of July and August reach the highest temperatures with a maximum average of 29 ºC. The coldest months are December, January and February, but minimum temperatures are not usually below 10 ºC.
Due to this characteristic climate, know that Algarve is the Portuguese region with more sunny days and less likely to rain along with the Alentejo.
Depending on the festivities
As I have already mentioned, the Algarve has several festivities that attract thousands of visitors throughout the year. In this sense, know that the months in which you will have the opportunity to experience something different are those of June (popular saints in Quarteira), August (medieval festivals in Silves and Castro Marim) and December (medieval festival in Paderne). Take the opportunity to admire how the different locations are decorated at these times and feel the unique atmosphere that characterises these moments.
Best time to visit Algarve
If you are not a fan of large crowds, then avoid the high season, in particular the months of July and August as they are the most touristic months and those that attract the most people to the region. But don’t worry, you can also get a nice weather in May, June, September and October.
Although these months are the best to visit the Algarve, know that this is a region that can be visited throughout the year as it has a very pleasant climate and a unique gastronomy and culture that can be admired and enjoyed at any time.
As you have seen, this region has several points of interest from east to west, on the coastline and countryside. Explore the ancient cities with traces of the Muslim presence, admire the natural parks, discover the southernmost point of the European continent and, of course, enjoy the wonderful beaches and waters that make Algarve a destination known both nationally and internationally.
Are you going to visit Algarve? Then don’t hesitate to book your hotel room, your car or the best activities by clicking the links below. This way you are helping me in the development of my blog and I’ll be able to offer you free tips and travel guides so that you can better prepare your visit to Portugal. Thank you!