The Algarve is the southernmost region of Portugal and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. Blessed with a gorgeous coastline and some of the country's most beautiful beaches, the province enjoys hot, dry summers and short, mild winters. Find out what to see in the Algarve during your holidays.
The Algarve is a land of contrasts and there are many things to see and do. The most popular and developed area is the central region offering vibrant coastal resorts, world-class tourist services and some of Portugal's best golf courses.
Further east, a series of sand islands and lagoons form part of a beautiful protected natural park while further west, you will find a wilder and more remote Algarve and a restless Atlantic ocean.
If there is a category for which this part of Portugal deserves the gold medal is for the beaches of fine white sand, with hidden coves, crescent-shaped bays and rocky inlets. There are about 200km of coastline perfect for all kinds of water sports, such as sailing, surfing and windsurfing.
The most pristine beaches can be found on the Costa Vicentina, in contrast to the central area, tra Lagos e Faro, where there are cosmopolitan beaches, with many hotels and high quality services.
The luxuriant nature gives its best in three protected areas: the Costa Vicentina, which is the best preserved stretch of coast in Europe, the Ria Formosa, and the swamp of Castro Marim and Vila real de Santo Antonio, rich in fauna and flora.
In addition there are also hills that can be discovered by bicycle or on foot, following the paths of the Via Algarviana, which connect the eastern end of the region, up to the westernmost point. Let's find out what to see in the Algarve, what are the places not to be missed:
What to see in the Algarve
At the western end of the Algarve is the quiet town of Lagos, a true Portuguese gem, with its cobblestone streets steeped in history. The pretty churches, the old slave market and the XNUMXth-century Ponta da Bandeira fortress always capture the imagination of visitors, but it's the coast that draws most tourists.
A stunning series of cliffs and caves form the backdrop to some of the Algarve's most scenic beaches where spectacular ocher rock formations contrast with the sparkling azure waters. You will swim in clear and safe waters such as those of Praia do Pinhao and Ponta da Piedade and its cliffs.
The best way to appreciate this idyllic setting is to reach it by boat. In Lagos you can go on sightseeing cruises, dolphin safaris, shopping or try the rich culinary offer of the many cafes and restaurants.
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Tavira is a beautiful city crossed by the Gilão River, located in the eastern part of the Algarve. It is a destination celebrated for its historical heritage, a past shaped by the Romans and later by the Moors, always elegant and relaxed.
This city is a perfect place to stroll, as it has a beautiful old town made up of a maze of streets with nice sidewalks. The center hides gardens and beautiful squares, churches and palaces to visit. Tavira also has a small fishing port and a modern market. The two sides of the city are connected by a beautiful Romanesque bridge with seven arches.
Ferries depart from the pier to Ilha de Tavira, a favorite destination for sun worshipers and one of the few islands in the area where camping is allowed. Alternatively, you can take a sightseeing cruise along the Ria Formosa, a beautiful and unspoiled waterway and part of a protected natural park.
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Faro is the capital of the Algarve and its international airport serves as a gateway for many tourists arriving in southern Portugal. It is the largest city in the region, with around 50.000 inhabitants and is a modern industrial and manufacturing center.
However, it is the old city that tourists come to visit. Enclosed by sturdy defensive walls, the Cidade Velha of Faro stands on Roman and Moorish foundations. The city was badly damaged in the 1755 earthquake and what you see today mainly dates back to the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries.
A labyrinth of cobblestone streets and tree-lined squares surround the cathedral. Among the rows of tidy houses and artisan shops are churches, bars and restaurants. An excellent museum displays treasures found in the area.
The nearby esplanade is home to a small marina, beyond which extends an expanse of lagoons and wetlands that are a refuge for migratory birds and wildlife. This beautiful natural park, Parque Natural da Ria Formosa, is also made up of numerous islets and huge sandbanks with their fabulous beaches, such as Ilha de Faro to the southwest and Ilha da Barreta (Ilha Deserta) to the south.
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Situated on a hill overlooking a fertile valley adorned with orange groves, olive trees and vineyards, Silves is one of the most scenic towns in the Algarve. It was once the capital of the region during the Moorish occupation.
Many ancient monuments can still be visited today, such as the red stone castle built by the Moors in the XNUMXth century, the largest monument of Islamic rule in the region, and the XNUMXth century Cathedral of Silves.
The town itself is delightful, especially the riverside area, which is lined with a small market and some great restaurants.
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Alcoutim is a small village, strategically located near the Guadiana River, just on the opposite bank of Sanlúcar de Guadiana (Spain). The guide to get there is an attraction in itself. Rather than using the IC27, follow the road that hugs the Guadiana River, which serves as a natural border between Spain and Portugal.
Once a strategic river port, controlled in turn by Greeks, Romans and Arabs, Alcoutim looks like a small village created by the imagination of an artist. Explore the XNUMXth century castle (the entrance fee includes access to a small archaeological museum near the main gates) and the castle walls which offer breathtaking views of the area.
On the opposite bank of the river is the Spanish village of Sanlúcar de Guadiana. A regular shuttle ferry service connects the two villages, but there is a beautiful alternative way to cross the river, using the world's only cross-border zipline.
For an immersion in nature, plan an afternoon in the Ria Formosa Natural Park. This natural park, which extends over 18.000 hectares, is considered one of the most beautiful in the Algarve and is a veritable labyrinth of canals, marshes, dunes parallel to the coast and five sandy islands (Barreta, Culatra, Armona, Tavira and Cabanas ). It is a paradise for ornithologists who can observe many species of birds. For an excursion to Ria Formosa we embark at the port of Faro.
In the islands that make up this park you will find beautiful saltwater or freshwater beaches, which enjoy paradisiacal landscapes. Some of the best beaches are Playa do Barril and Playa do Farol.
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Monchique, north of Lagos, is located in a wooded area of the coast, in the middle of the magnificent peaks of the Serra de Monchique. The small town allows for a rural and agricultural approach to the Algarve and can preferably be explored on foot.
A network of nature trails meanders through the shady woods; one leads up to Fóia, at 900 meters, the highest point in the Algarve. On clear days, the spectacular panorama encompasses the entire western part of the region, including Lagos, Sagres and the Atlantic Ocean.
The pleasant hilltop town of Monchique is an excellent base from which to explore the area. Also take advantage of the warm, healing waters that nourish Caldas de Monchique, a charming spa tucked away in a wooded ravine at the foot of the Serra.
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Olhão is a very interesting fishing port because despite its resemblance to the Moorish style, its narrow streets and its cubic white houses, with terrace roofs and square fireplaces, the city dates back only to the XNUMXth century and its architecture is a due to trade relations with North Africa.
The main attraction is its incredible harbor front market, the largest and busiest on the coast. Olhão is an ideal base from which to explore the unspoiled Parque Natural da Ria Formosa. Visitors can follow a wonderful network of nature trails and discover a wealth of wildlife in its various habitats.
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Albufeira is the tourist capital of the Algarve, located just over thirty kilometers from Faro airport. This city remains the favorite destination to see in the Algarve. Its central location on the southern coast of Portugal makes it one of the most accessible resorts in the region and a favorite with tourists from all over Europe and beyond.
The resort is known not only for the lively strip of nightclubs and bars in the new part of the city but also for the historic center full of squares, colorful stalls and open-air restaurants, while the newly designed Montechoro area offers a fantastic nightlife.
But the biggest attraction of the city is its beach. Some of the best stretches of sand in the Algarve are within walking distance of the resort, spectacular rocky coves lapped by warm, shallow waters.
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How to reach us
The Algarve is only a 3-hour flight from the main European capitals and flights landing at the region's international airport, Faro airport (in the center of Algarve), have daily flights throughout the year.
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How to get around the Algarve
The Algarve is a very touristic region, especially in summer, and there are several means of transport that connect the various locations. Although renting a car is ideal, you can travel around the region by other means of transport ...
By Bus - there is a good bus network serving the Algarve coast. The west coast and the hinterland have more limited services.
By Train - A railway line runs along the southern Algarve coast from Faro to Lagos to Vila Real de Santo Antonio in the east, near the Spanish border. The train is a good way to travel along the coast.
By bike - if you like cycling, the distances are not very long, and it is a good way to visit the area.
By car - the car rent it is in great demand and therefore very attractive in terms of price. The car allows you to be free in your travels.
Algarve enjoys a mild climate all year round, with over 3.000 hours of sunshine per year and low average annual rainfall. Algarve has a warm climate in the summer months, between May and October, when temperatures range from 25 ° to 30 ° C.
If you don't like the heat, you can choose one of the places further west, where the breeze is a little stronger. Temperatures in the winter months do not tend to drop below 15 ° or 16 ° C, making it the perfect climate for golf.
And it is precisely the climate that attracts visitors not only in summer but also in winter, when in addition to the sun, tourists can engage in a large number of outdoor activities that the region offers.
What to do in the Algarve
The fantastic weather that the Algarve offers, brings tourists and local people to enjoy the outdoors all year round. The climate is ideal not only for walking, sightseeing and cycling but also for sports such as surfing, golf, tennis, horseback riding, kayaking or extreme sports such as kitesurfing, rock climbing and wakeboarding.
Families can enjoy water parks, theme parks and zoos, and do activities such as boat trips along the coast, mini golf, karting and many other things. For those looking for a bigger adrenaline rush, there is no shortage of parasailing, scuba diving, hang gliding or abseiling.