Visit Algarve Portugal (historic & cultural attractions, amazing landscapes and delicious cuisine)
The Sunny Algarve area of Portugal is everyone’s favorite sun and fun destination in the south. The beaches around the Algarve and the coastlines are some of the most stunning places to experience in the world, but they are not the only good things to do in the area.
From visiting some of the stunning beach areas, hiking magnificent coastal trails, boating and find some amazing ocean caves to tasting some of the regional foods of the area, The Algarve is active, fun with amazing cuisine to enjoy at the end of the day.
In this guide, I’ll share 22 of my favorite places to explore and things to do around the Algarve area so book mark this post when you plan on visiting and you’ll have the best things to do when you are in the area.
A little background to visiting the Algarve region
The Algarve area of Portugal is located on the southern coast of the country and is broken down into 16 different municipalities.
The area is sun kissed with over 3000 hours of sunny days and temperatures can reach an average of 28 degrees or 83 Fahrenheit in the summer time. Winter time averages range from 18 C to 65 Fahrenheit. With so much gorgeous weather, the Algarve is the perfect destination for sun and fun and visitors from around the world come here year-round to enjoy outdoor activities and exploring the area.
Starting with the Ancient Romans that made its presence known in the 1st century on the outskirts of Faro at Estoi. The area followed a succession of rulers including the Moors with its early Moorish defense and architecture that dates from the 8th to 13th centuries and then the short Colonial Spanish rule to present day towns and historic areas to visit, the Algarve maintains all its historic monuments while bringing out all the wonderful experiences to discovering the best of the region’s attractions, foods and landscape when you explore the area.
If you love a nice mixture of old historic sites mixed in with gorgeous nature and beaches and adventure experiences, then the Algarve region of Portugal is definitely worth putting on your agenda when you visit Portugal.
Visiting the Algarve FAQ
What is the best month to visit the Algarve?
The best months to visit the Algarve would be from March to June when the temperatures are nice and mild or later in September and October when the temperature averages 18 to 20 Celcius. This is also the shoulder season and less busy time of year to visit.
How many days to visit the Algarve area?
If you are looking strictly for vacation and relaxation then about 7 days should be adequate. But, if you are looking to add the Algarve as part of a whole Portugal itinerary then 4-7 days would be more adequate depending on how many sites you visit.
Is the Algarve area worth visiting?
If you are looking for a more relaxed vacation or getaway, the Algarve is a popular destination for that and mixed in with some fantastic adventure outings and historic cities and towns worth exploring
How do you get around the Algarve?
For more flexibility to fit your timeframe, having a rental car is the best option to seeing all the different towns and attractions. If you are just staying at one location, then taking local buses and Uber / taxi is the easiest option.
Is it easy to get around the Algarve?
The Algarve is one of the easiest places to explore with fast toll roads to get you to all the main towns and cities. If you want to enjoy a slower pace, then take the surface roads to really absorb the drive and scenic landscape in each area.
What airport to you fly into the Algarve?
The main airport to fly into the Algarve is at Faro where you can also pick up a rental car or local shuttles or buses to get you directly to your destination around the area.
You’ll find that most of the traditional homes here in the Algarve are white washed homes and decorated with yellow or blue trim borders and thick walls to protect from the summer heat. Churches are done the same way but treated with blue azulejo tile details for the interior and exterior areas of the churches.
There are some of the older cities that do draw a Moorish influence from many of the historic buildings and attractions in the area.
The newer sections of each town can be a mixed of more modern to typical tourist style venues, attractions and hang out spots that are more for tourist needs than enjoying the architecture of an area.
Best 22 things to do in the Algarve, Portugal
Exploring the area around Sagres
Cape St. Vincent
The southernmost point of Europe along Sagres is dramatic with cliffs and lonely outposts, forts and lighthouses that dot the area. At Cape St. Vincent, the setting is quite dramatic with 75-foot cliffs that drop to the ocean floor. A lighthouse is perched above on the remains of an ancient convent since 1846 and is now a draw for tourist to ramble along the stunning cliff areas and visit the lighthouse and convent remains.
Praia do Beliche
This dramatic cliff lined area is craggy and wild cliffs and oceans at its best here in the Algarve around Sagres. The praia is also a popular surfing spot to watch local surfers have a try at some of the big waves that come into the area making it a fun contrast of watching surfers in the water and the rugged beautiful coastline with dramatic cliffs and look out to the fortress setting of the Sagres fortress at the southern tip.
Town and harbor area of Sagres
This sleepy small town of Sagres comes alive with surfing season and the tourist trade that comes to visit the historic landmarks of the area including the Sagres fortress. A cool spot to explore the small town and afterwards visit the colorful harbor area and find some delicious seafood restaurants feature some of the local delicacies of the area makes the visit complete here.
Forteleza Sagres Fort
Located on the southern tip of Portugal at Sagres the fortress lies at a strategic point to protect the town from various invadors to the region. With gorgeous views of the coastline, cliffs and town the fortress is unusual with a strong wall and fort that separates the peninsula to the main part of the region with the rest of the area protected by sheer cliffs that are 60 foot tall. Built in the 15th century, much of the fort was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake where caves crashed above the cliffs and destroyed the fort but was later rebult.
Henry the Navigator had the fortress built and strategized his early excursions and other seafaring adventures to conquer the Cape of Africa and acess the western side of the continent along with other grand voyages that marked the Golden Age of Portuguese trading and conquests to new lands.
Exploring the area around Lagos and Portimao
Praia da Rocha
Located In the Portimao municipality, the dramatic cliffs of Paia da Rocha are just that and more along its craggy scenery to the coastline and then opens up to wide and long beaches that visitors flock to and enjoy endless sun and surf in the area.
Above the cliffs lies the historic 17th century fort of Santa Catarina which remains intact and designed well by Neopolitan military and its architect Alexandre Masai. The remains of the fortress are fun to explore and even catch some magical views and sunset around the coastline and beach areas of Praia da Rocha.
After a fun beach day here, you can unwind at any of the fun bars, restaurants and hang out spots in modern Portimao or take a cliffside walk on the promenades above for more spectacular views of the area.
Although Portimao is a relatively newer city in the Algarve, it still retains some cool attractions to visit in the area especially along the waterfront, the coastline promenades and exploring the heart of the city. Many boat tour companies are based here for cruises to the caves and coastlines along the Algarve area and you can also explore the historic 17th century fort of Santa Catarina by the Praia da Rocha beach area.
The rugged cliff areas around the praia are fun to explore from above on walking trails or below on the beach areas and discovering some unique caves and hidden cove areas.
Sunset is a great time to be here on the coastline and find a casual bar or restaurant to sink in all those amazing views until the sun sets into the horizon.
Check out these top review accommodations here for more information of the best places to stay in Portimao area.
Cruising the Caves of the Algarve
There are many tour operators along the Algarve area to book a cruise around the coastlines and scenic beaches in the area. The vast majority are located on the waterfront and harbor area of Portimao city and you can easily walk around the main parking lot area to check out the many vendors that offer a variety of boat tours and types of boats to ships that cruise around the area.
No matter what you choose, the experience is fantastic to see the area from a water view point and enjoy the rugged cliffs, hidden caves and magnificent scenery that you will experience on any of these cruise boats.
Historic city of Lagos
Lagos city is fun, historic and filling with all the amazing seafood and local restaurants you will find while walking some of the many narrow streets into the center of town. Lagos old town is fun and easy to walk around after you enter past the old city walls which have held up past the 15th century.
The city of Lagos was the regional capital from the 16th to 18 century and you can learn more about it’s distinct past from visiting the city museum to view the many coins and artifacts that date event to the 4th century.
You can visit historic sites like the cathedral, the old slave market, the baroque church of Santo Antonio and the many squares you’ll accidentally happen upon while walking the many narrow streets filled with souvenir shops and restaurants or bars and hang out spots of the town.
Check out these top review accommodations here for more information of the best places to stay in Lagos.
Lagoa and Carvoeiro areas
Just a short drive from the small commercial center of Lagoa sits, Carvoeiro, a picturesque little town with a scenic beach area. This Portuguese resort town is charming with restaurants that climb up the narrow roads for stellar views of the beach and coastline areas.
Popular things to do here includes hiking the gorgeous trails along the coastline areas, taking a cruise to the popular cave areas in the immediate range of caves like the iconic Bengazi Cave or more resort fun like doing the popular water parks close by.
Of course, sunset and night time is ideal here spotting the perfect dinner spot here or just a nice hang out spot to watch the sunset along the coastline line. It’s all relaxed and casual fun and late at night the local gelato places are open and busy dishing out all the local favorite flavors for ice cream fantastic here.
Check out these top review accommodations here for more information of the best places to stay in Carvoeiro, Algarve.
Hiking the scenic cliff areas of Percurso dos Sete Vales Suspensos
This area just on the outskirts of Carvoeira is where you will find Percurso dos Sete Vales Suspensos or the famous seven hanging valleys hiking route which is named for the seven valleys that you have to pass through this scenic trail.
These amazing boardwalks and scenic trails that follow the rocky coastlines and with stunning views of the coastline is not to be missed if you do the entire route or just a part of it. This popular ocean front destination is around 11.5 Km roundtrip and a favorite hiking area for locals and visitors to enjoy the hiking experience.
The hike begins from the Carvoeira beach area and climbs up the cliffs towards the Praia de Marinha to the east. It passes through many scenic landmarks like the Alfanzina lighthouse, the Bengali Cave, the double sea arch at Praia de Marinha and beach area above Carvoeira.
It truly is a one-of-a-kind experience to hike this magnificent hiking trail and worth doing the entire roundtrip loop.
Praia de Carvoeira Beach
There are many scenic beaches to explore around Carvoeira area but the most scenic dramatic beach area to hang out in is at Carvoeira beach.
This is the main beach of Carvoiera and is popular, family friendly and busy during the summer time.
A little further out from the city center, Carvoeira beach feels more relaxed and away from the busy crowds that flock to town center for more hang outs and dining venues in town.
Visiting Loule and Albuferia area
The historic Loule marketplace and town center
The town of 70,000 people is the largest municipality with over 70,000 residents and the marketplace here is a must visit along with exploring the more modern city center. The Marketplace sits in a historic building that has a Moorish influence and design. Inside, you’ll find the freshest produce, regional arts and crafts, eateries and specialty artisanal producers from the area.
Surrounding the market are tree lined streets, boutique stores and busy narrow streets that still harken to the medieval period into the cidade Velha or historic center, a gothic church an ancient castle. It is working class city and not on the tourist map but still fascinating to explore and see the daily lives and activities of locals in the area.
Visit to Albufeira
The area around Albufeira is a very popular tourist destinations with resorts, condos and places to stay around this busy and fun city. Noted for being one of the most busy and popular places to stay and party, Albufeira maintains a historic past but also caters to visitors that want to relax, enjoy the beach and hang out in the many bars, squares and restaurants in town.
It does have a resort town vibe towards the main part of the city center but the historic parts above are a little quieter and more reserved for those that want to still see a different part of the city center.
This once remote fishing village is now more festive and livelier with an expansive beach and cabana style set up, new bars and restaurants all around town and shopping galore in all the main thoroughfares around the new town section of Albufeira.
Check out these top review accommodations here for more information of the best places to stay in Albufeira.
Walking above the cliff areas of Albuferia
Praia dos Pescadores beach – Albufeira
This magnificent and well-maintained beach fronting Albufeira is a beach lovers delight with well organized umbrella and chairs lined up in the sections and then open areas outside for more informal gatherings.
There’s also a nice restaurant / bars right on the beach for more eats and drinks close by.
Past the beach area of Praia do Pescadores are a series of other beach parks to include: Praia dos Alemaes, Praia dos Brasao to Leixao dos Alhos.
Exploring Faro area of the Algarve
The Faro is one of the largest cities to explore and has both a modern and historic center to explore around this fascinating city. The Capital of the Algarve region of Municipalities, Faro has a Moorish influence as shown with the ramparts and main gate of the Arco Da Vila that leads to the historic district. Close by attractions to visit inside includes the Faro Cathedral, Municipal Museum in an old convent and visit the plazas and historic buildings around the Cidade Velha and exiting out the walls to view the marsh areas, islands and then the harbor of Faro.
Walking along the newer district showcases the gorgeous harbor, large squares and shopping galleries, bars, restaurants and other hang out spots around the city.
Check out these top review accommodations here for more information of the best places to stay in Faro.
Palacio de Estoi and Roman Ruins
A regal palace built in the 1840s close to the Roman Ruins done in elaborate Rococo style with terraced gardens, a pavilion with blue azulejo tiles. The Palacio is restored currently as a Pousada or heritage inn. Visitors can come visit and check out the beautiful gardens and the nearby Milreu Roman Ruins.
Faro Nature preserve – Rio Formosa
The area outside the city is a nature preserve which protects the coastline areas and lagoon approximately 60 kilometers. You’ll find a rich array of wild life and birds including spoonbills, storks, ospreys, stilts, flamingos and so many others here.
You can take a local cruise through the nature preserve and also to the outside islands for a day of sun and fun outside of Faro city.
Visit Tavira Area
Located on the western side of the Algarve and close to the border, Tavira is a delightful city that oozes old world charm and a distinctive Lisbon vibe but in a much smaller scale. Located on the banks of the Gilão River, the city has a large castelo de Tavira of Moorish influence dominating the central part of the historic district and the outer areas of town has the Ria Formosa Natural Park with inlets, lagoons and beach areas that are fun to explore in the area. Tavira Island attracts many wildife and area birds like flamingos, spoonbills and many other local birds that flock to the area.
Outside of the main castelo in the historic district and surrounding areas, you can visit the Santa María do Castelo Church, the igreja da Misericordia and the Ponte Antiqua o Rio Gilao which is a pedestrian bridge from the Moorish time frame and has fantastic water views and mansions that you can see from the bridge area. There’s also the elegant Praca da Republica which is the main square and lined with many cafes, fountains and monuments including the Moorish horseshoe arch, once part of the castle defenses and now a historic site you can visit in the area.
Check out these top review accommodations here for more information of the best places to stay in Tavira.
Explore the Praia da Ilha de Tavira
Taking an easy ferry to the Praia da Ilha de Tavira brings to this barrier island that seems to go on forever and even has a camp site for those that want to stay in the beach area. You have your pick of sun loungers with parasols along the main beach settings along with a variety of restaurants and snack bars for indoor/outdoor dining on the beach areas to enjoy some local seafood specialty foods. It’s just a short walk from the dock and through the restaurants until you hit the golden sandy beaches and the gorgeous turquoise waters.
During the summer time there are a hosts of water activities you can do from banana boats, kayaks and SUP boards, doughnut boat rides and an inflatable water park around the beach areas.
Trying the Local food of the Algarve
When you are visiting the Algarve region, you should definitely try some of the local regional foods. Mostly based on seafood inspired dishes, the classic dish has a Moorish influence with seafood Cataplana done in a copper covered pan similar to Moorish styled cooking with tandoori
What are the most well known dishes that the Algarve region is known for, mostly delicious sea food dishes below
Cataplana de Mariscos – a seafood stew with local fish, clams, squid and local seafood with white wine, tomatoes and herbs in a stew
Conquilhas à Algarvia – an aromatic and flavorful dish with clams and Portuguese sausage in a soup boullabaise style dish.
Frango da Guia – a spicy chicken dish with chili peppers, garlic, paprika and other secret herbs
Sardines Portimao – a staple here in the summer time grilled
Shrimp – also a local favorite dish simply boiled and served with lemon, garlic and piri piri sauce
Javali – a local specialty dish of wild boar stew with potatoes
Tarte de alfarroba i- a cacao inspired dish made with local carob fruit, almonds and figs into a soft and delicious dessert
Details to visiting the Algarve area
Flying into the Algarve area, the largest airport is at Faro which is the largest city in the Algarve district.
You can also catch a train from Lisbon to the Algarve to Faro, check the daily schedules here for services.
The beaches of the Algarve are spectacular but also enjoy the historic districts of Faro, Albufeira and Lagos for the historic and cultural attractions in these amazing cities.
Travel inland when you are done with the coastal exploration and check out the markets at Loule, the historic hill town of Silves and the Palace of Estoi or even some fantastic wine tasting in the region.
Explore the off the beaten gems of the Algarve to see the authentic and unique parts, this includes areas like Tavira, Sagres and Carvoeiro which are beautiful, historic and a fantastic place on their own to visit.
Further reading on the Algarve and Portugal
Conclusion to visiting the Visit Algarve Portugal
Of all the museums to visit in Lisbon, the Visit Algarve Portugal should be on your list of worthwhile places to visit here.
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