The Algarve is a popular tourist destination in Europe for good reason. You’ll find fantastic beaches, diverse natural landscapes, and vibrant nightlife.
Where is the Algarve?
The Algarve is a beautiful coastline in southwest Portugal rich in rich culture and beauty. Along more than 150 kilometers of clean coastline, there are more than 25 diverse towns ranging from relaxed hideaways to bustling tourist towns. You can find calm and peaceful beaches for families, historic places, or lively nightlife in some towns.
But with so many towns dotting the southern coast of Portugal, it can be difficult to know where to go first. We’ve compiled a list of what we think are the Top 10 Unique Places To Visit In The Algarve so you can plan your next trip!
Olhao is a quiet refuge located along the Ria Formosa Nature Park and minutes from Faro where the international airport is located. It makes for a great place to come after landing to enjoy the day trips to nearby Islands.
We recently visited and stayed at the Real Marina Hotel & Spa, a 5-star hotel with a perfect view over the Ria Formosa Natural Park and found it to be perfect for a romantic getaway.
From the pool deck, you can enjoy the view while relaxing in a beach lounger and enjoying amazing service from the nearby bar. We ate lunch here for two days while enjoying a swim and relaxing.
When we wanted to venture out, we were able to reserve a ride to the nearby Farol Island by a 30-minute boat ride. The water was crystal clear, inviting, and refreshing! One of the top beaches we have visited.
This village has many cute cafes and restaurants and you will certainly feel the feeling of local, authentic feel than other large cities or coastal.
After a few days in Olhao, head to one of the most popular destinations in the Algarve, Lagos. Located about an hour from Faro Airport the Lagos area has plenty of history and culture to see.
You can visit the historical fort and explore the winding streets of the old town.
To enjoy some time in the sand, there are plenty of beaches due west of the town. They are hidden between the steep cliffs and can be accessed by stairs. You can also go on a boat tour or kayak through the coves.
For a romantic evening, watch the sunset at Ponta da Piedade.
Portimao feels like a very traditional Portuguese town with a more lively beach area. There are rocky cliffs and a lovely beach where you can swim in the Atlantic ocean. The town is known for its traditional Portuguese restaurants but also has some modern eateries, cafes, and cool bars to check out too!
The largest beach, Praia da Rocha has beautiful beaches which make it perfect for swimming and sunbathing and clear blue waters next to large cliffs towering out of the ocean.
We spent 2 days here and loved the size of the beach and the nearby activities, restaurants, and bars.
Alvor is a calm and family-friendly Algarve town nestled between Lagos and Portimao. There’s little to no nightlife here and mainly Alvor attracts older people and families looking for a quet vacation.
The nearby Ria de Alvor Nature Preserve protects marshlands and wildlife whilst Praia do Alvor boasts one of the largest beaches in the Algarves. The area is by far the best area to stay in for families but make a trip for a day to nearby Portimo or Praia da Rocha for more fun opportunities especially at the late nights.
The best thing about Alvor is the beach is a little less busy than in other areas. The Praia dos Três Irmãos is a beach surrounded by cliffs and the Praia de Alvor is a large expansive beach with a boardwalk
Faro is the largest city of the Algarve and is a great place to experience the culture of Portugal. The town makes a perfect day trip or a place to stay while exploring the nearby areas of Olhao, Tavira, Loule, and Vilamoura.
Faro is known for its shopping streets, colorful tiles, and Portuguese cuisine. While there is no beach near the city center, there is a very long beach nearby and you can take a ferry to a nearby island.
You can walk into the old walled city through the original arched gateway, visit the cathedral and climb the tower for a view of the area, and go to the bone chapel.
Vilamoura is a resort town located outside Faro where you can find many luxury hotels, resorts, golf courses, bars and clubs for the nightlife scene. The Marina is one of the top ones in Europe so be sure to check it out! This is a more expensive part of the Algarve.
A lively coastal town, Albufeira is known for its nightlife and the traditional Portuguese seafood and the beautiful Falesia Beach. When we visited the main tourist street it was clear that this was the place to be if you are looking for a party. But just because a few of the main streets in the old town might get rowdy, doesn’t mean the entire town is.
For a romantic trip, stay at Grande Real Santa Eulalia Resort & Hotel Spa. The 5-star hotel provides direct access to Santa Eulália beach, has three restaurants and bars, and many amenities to help you enjoy your stay.
You can relax in the of the heated pools or spend some time at the spa which includes an indoor thalassotherapy pool, sauna, jacuzzi, and Turkish bath.
Silves is a historic town with a castle on top of the hill. The Moorish people ruled this part of Portugal for hundreds of years so you can find traditional architecture in many buildings and streets named after historical figures like Salah-ad-Din, known as “Saladin” in English.
The castle in Silves is a unique attraction and the surrounding area puts the cherry on top. There are historic streets to explore, an old aqueduct system still in use today, and beautiful sights looking out over Silves below.
Sagres is a small town about 15km away from the city of Lagos and sits on top of a peninsula that sticks out into the Atlantic Ocean.
The Portuguese Age of Discoveries started here in Sagres where you can find many monuments dedicated to those who ventured off into seas such.
Sagres is the place to be in the Algarve if you are looking to Surf. You can get surf lessons or just rent a surfboard on the beach for around 15€ and go on your own.
Tavira is a bit more laid back than Albufeira and has beautiful beaches, historical buildings like the Convent of Santa Clara (which you can tour), traditional Portuguese restaurants with seafood on display outside for people to choose their dinner. The area also offers vineyards where you can learn about winemaking in Portugal through wine.
There are several beaches in the area but the most popular is Barril Beach, which you need to take a ferry to reach. The town is known for its laid-back lifestyle and traditional houses.
How long to stay in the Algarve?
We recommend spending at least a week in the Algarve. There’s something for everyone and it makes for an amazing vacation spot. Pick two spots from the list above and then choose a few others for day trips.
We have been to the Algarve twice, once staying in Faro and Lagos and visiting other nearby towns. The other time we went to Olhao and Portimao. Both options worked out perfectly for us.