16 must-do things to do in the Algarve

Faro Budget voyage

Head for south-west Portugal to visit the Algarve region and its 16 must-sees!

The Algarve is located in Portugal, at the extreme south-west of the European continent. It’s a region with a particularly sunny climate, enchanting landscapes and a wealth of architectural treasures. Whether you’re here for a relaxing vacation or to discover the country, a visit to the Algarve is sure to be unforgettable.

Between the cliff-fringed beaches in the west, the long sandy stretches in the southeast and the three mountain ranges that cover almost half the territory, you have a wide choice of activities. Here are a few ideas of what you can do in the Algarve, to help you choose.

1. Enjoy dream beaches

Plage à Ponta de Piedade, visiter Algarve

Photo credit: Shutterstock – artem evdokimov

Visiting the Algarve means choosing between a multitude of beaches, each with its own character. On the 155 km of varied coastline, you can surf at Odeceixe in the north, snorkel on the beach(praia ) of Porto de Mos, near Lagos, or simply lie back on the fine sand and swim in the crystal-clear waters all along the coast.

The beaches of Barril, near Faro, Bordeira in the west or Ponta de Piedade with its small coves are among the most beautiful in Portugal. And with the sun shining at least 300 days a year, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to enjoy the pleasures of the beach.

2. Faro

The capital of the Algarve enjoys a more « Portuguese » atmosphere than most tourist-filled towns. Many visitors are just passing through this underestimated town, where a stopover proves highly enjoyable. Faro boasts a pretty marina, well-kept parks and squares and a historic old town full of pedestrian lanes and terraces. Its population of some 8,000 students ensures a lively nightlife, and its theatrical scene is very much alive.

The wonderfully well-preserved medieval quarters are home to curious museums, churches and a bone chapel. The lagoons of the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa and beaches such as Ilha de Faro to the south-west and Ilha da Barreta (aka Ilha Deserta) to the south, add to Faro’s appeal.

3. Sagres

Sagres, à visiter en Algarve

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Nickolay Khoroshkov

Anyone who loves Portuguese beer is probably familiar with Sagres. The famous cerveja brand and the small Algarve town share the same designation. Although far from being a frenetic tourist paradise, Ponta de Sagres is a magnificent promontory that has been used as a ceremonial site since the Neolithic age.

4. Hiking

La Rota Vicentina

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There’s plenty to do by the sea in the Algarve. But don’t neglect the hinterland. The mountains also play an important role, and lend themselves to numerous hikes. Numerous trails have been signposted, the shortest being 3 km and the longest 340! The Rota Vicentina(see route) runs from Cabo de São Vicente to Santiago do Cacém, but you can choose to do only part of it. The Via Algarviana goes from village to village, between sea and mountains, on the southern coast of the Algarve.

5. Lagos

At the western tip of the Algarve lies the tranquil town of Lagos, a true Portuguese gem, with its cobbled streets steeped in history. Stroll along the winding streets, past charming cafés and white houses, stroll around the old slave market and see the 17th-century fort of Ponta da Bandeira. The beaches won’t disappoint you either: discover hidden coves and swim in clear, safe waters like those of Praia do Pinhao and Ponta da Piedade and its cliffs.

6. Explore caves

La grotte de Benagil

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Rad Radu

The Algarve’s indented coastline is home not only to beaches, but also to superb rock formations, such as the ochre cliffs of Lagos. All along the coastline, you’ll also have superb opportunities to explore caves. The Benagil cave(see the route to the top of the cave) is often included in lists of the world’s most beautiful beaches and can therefore be too crowded, but there are many others, such as Zorreira, Algar Seco or the Cave of the Combs to the west.

You can explore these caves by strolling along the beaches or on a boat or kayak trip.

7. Albufeira

Albufeira, à visiter en Algarve

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Just over thirty kilometers from Faro airport, the seaside resort of Albufeira stands out from the crowd. Families and couples visit this Algarve paradise for its fantastic beaches, quality accommodation, lively nightlife, delicious seafood restaurants and exciting water sports. The atmospheric old town is full of tavernas and tempting boutiques, while the recently developed area of Montechoro offers fantastic nightlife.

But beware: despite the charm lost to mass tourism, Albufeira remains an ideal place to discover beaches such as Praia da Galé and Praia da Marinha a little further west, or the small villages inland.

8. Rent a boat

Visiter et louer un bateau en Algarve

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Dolores Giraldez Alonso

If you’re visiting the Algarve coastline, there’s one step you shouldn’t miss: renting a boat. Take advantage of this blue paradise by sailing on the turquoise waters that give the region one of the most beautiful coastlines on the Iberian Peninsula.

Now all you have to do is plan your program. Yes, chartering a boat in the Algarve can serve different purposes.

Along the coast

The first is to enjoy the local coastline. From Odeceixe to Monte Gordo, via Sagres, Faro, Albufeira and the Ria Formosa, there’s almost enough to keep you busy for an entire holiday!

Sea fishing

The waters of the Atlantic Ocean, which border the Algarve, are rich in fish, enriched by the proximity of the Mediterranean. Up to 200 species of fish can be found in this region, including large ones such as marlin and shark.

You can also fish for sardines, mackerel or tuna, to name but the most common. A trip out to sea is a great opportunity to learn all sorts of techniques and to catch the fish you need to prepare your meal.

9. Olhão

Olhão, à visiter en Algarve

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Fabio Marcelino

Speaking of fishing, head for Olhão, a port reminiscent of the Moorish style. Admire the narrow streets and white cube-shaped houses, as well as the terraced roofs and corner chimneys. The town only dates back to the 18th century, and its architecture is the result of trade relations with North Africa.

10. Watch the underwater world

Observer les fonds marins à Portimao

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Andre Goncalves

If lazing on the beach isn’t your cup of tea, you can discover the seabed. Snorkeling is available to almost everyone, but why not take advantage of your stay in the Algarve to try your hand at scuba diving? Albufeira has a number of diving clubs and is the ideal place to start.

If you’re looking for more confidential spots, or if you’re already a certified diver, you’ll find plenty of other spots all along the coast, such as Parc Ocean Revival Park, off Portimão, or Sagres, in the far southwest.

11. Practice a nautical activity

Le flyboard, une des activités à faire en Algarve

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If you prefer to be above the water, you can take advantage of your stay in the Algarve to enjoy a water sports activity. There’s plenty to choose from, including flyboarding, jet-skiing, kayaking, paddling, water-skiing, surfing and much more.

The Algarve’s exceptional climate lends itself particularly well to these activities, and you’ll find facilities and clubs in most coastal towns and villages. Portimão offers a wide range of activities, Lagos is ideal for kayaking and Sagres is renowned for its surfing courses.

12. Monchique

Monchique

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Monchique is nestled north of Lagos, in a wooded area on the coast. It even looks small amidst the peaks of the Serra de Monchique. But to see Monchique is above all to visit the Algarve and all its history. Indeed, the small town offers a very rural and agricultural approach to the Algarve. What’s more, it’s easy to visit on foot.

13. Going out in the evening

Sortir le soir à Albufeira

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Marcin Krzyzak

Albufeira is considered the city that never sleeps. If you’re in the mood to party, you’ll love the Strip’s nightclubs and music bars. If you’re a family, you’ll probably prefer the Marina de Vilamoura and its many restaurants.

Everywhere else in the Algarve, you can enjoy the warm atmosphere of summer nights. For a more leisurely activity, you can also take a boat trip to admire the sunset.

14. Discover characterful towns and villages

Village de Tavira, Algarve

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Francesco Bonino

You can’t visit the Algarve without discovering its architecture. Admittedly, its popularity has led to the construction of buildings of all kinds, not always aesthetically pleasing, but fortunately there are still some beautiful nuggets to be discovered. You can devote your first day to visiting the old quarters of the capital, Faro.

Forty kilometers to the east, Tavira and its ramparts are sure to charm you. Silvès, the ancient Moorish capital, has preserved beautiful vestiges of its Arab past, while the little hilltop village of Querença delights us with its white houses and jagged chimneys.

15. Taste the Algarve’s culinary specialities

Le Cataplana, plat typique de l'Algarve

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When visiting the Algarve, be sure to sample the local specialties. You’re sure to come across some charming little restaurants. Here, you can sample the local dish par excellence: cataplana. This fish or meat stew takes its name from the dish in which it is cooked. The clam cataplana is the most popular, and you may well want to take this very special casserole home as a souvenir.

For dessert, try a fig and carob tart, or a sweet potato cake.

16. Have fun in Sand City Park

Sand City

Photo credit: Shutterstock – amnat30

Looking for some family fun during your visit to the Algarve? If you’re there between June and November, you can attend the world’s largest sand sculpture festival. Every year, some 40,000 tons of Algarve sand are sculpted by artists.

Spend about an hour and a half exploring and then enjoy all the attractions at the park, located in Lagoa. Games, water mirrors and shows of all kinds will ensure you have a great time. In the evening, the sculptures are illuminated and the park takes on a fairytale atmosphere.

How to get to the Algarve

The Algarve can be visited by various means of transport:

  • By plane: Direct flights from Paris to Faro are fairly easy to find at any time of year. In summer, there are also direct flights from Bordeaux, Marseille or Nantes. You can also make a stopover in Lisbon and continue with a domestic flight. Prices vary greatly depending on the time of year, so don’t hesitate to use a flight comparator like Ulysse to find the best deals.
  • By train: if you’re visiting the Algarve during a trip to Portugal, you can reach several Algarve towns by bus from Lisbon.
  • Buses: many lines serve Faro. However, a connection in Spain is often necessary.
  • By car: it takes around 18 hours to drive from Paris to Faro.

Where to stay in the Algarve?

The Algarve has a rather abundant supply of vacation accommodation. Large serviced hotels in seaside resorts, small guesthouses in villages, Airbnb-type apartments and vacation clubs are all on offer.

The budget for a family with two children starts at around €400 for a week in July, rising to €1,000 at the same time. All that’s left is to decide in which town or village you’d like to stay. To find your Holy Grail, do a search on our hotel comparator.

Don’t forget that you can also visit theAlgarve in a motorhome, to discover its many aspects, day by day. You can drive your own motorhome from France, or rent one locally.

Map of hotels and accommodation – Algarve