Algarve enjoy an unspoiled nature that is not to be missed during your holiday. These are mainly natural sites, additionally charming, typically Portuguese villages. It is not easy to choose only 10 essential places since there are many more magnificent beaches and preserved villages here. Explore the most beautiful places and the best 10 destinations of Algarve with our travel guide!
Portugal’s southwestern tip is also the edge of Europe, and for ancient Europeans, this was the end of the world. You still can get that feeling when standing on the Cape of St. Vincent (on the windswept promontory) in this quiet town, which was where Prince Henry the Navigator settled to plan the voyages that ended up mapping much of the globe. The navigator’s fortress still stands and is the most important historic monument in Algarve.
The town has somewhat of a hippie vibe, and the beaches are often deserted except for the surfers and a few naturists. The beaches attract surfers, and the town is also the starting point of Costa Vicentina, a wild coast that remains one of Europe’s unspoiled and undiscovered regions. It has a microclimate that makes it cooler and less sunny than the rest of Algarve, but the breathtaking scenery, magical sunsets, and refreshing “getting away from it all” feeling make up for it.
Its stunning natural beauty made of ocher cliffs and spectacular rock formations has turned Lagos into a must-see destination in Portugal. One of Europe’s most beautiful coastlines is found in and around this historic city. The pretty Old Town is lined with outdoor restaurants and is home to a couple of noteworthy tourist attractions (one of Algarve’s richest churches and a small museum dedicated to the Atlantic slave trade in what was Europe’s first slave market).
You can walk to a series of gorgeous beaches and discover others on boat or kayak tours. There are beaches for everyone, including surfers, children, naturists, and couples, straight or gay. Lagos is a perfect destination, not only for a one-day tour but also a great base to explore the western coast of the Algarve.
Portimão is a major port city lacking the charm of historic towns but has become a very popular tourist destination thanks to its beaches with towering rock formations. The biggest and most famous is Praia da Rocha, whose skyline is more than a traditional Portuguese town, but to the west, towards the former fishing village of Alvor, is a series of smaller beaches backed by cliffs. The closer to Alvor you go, the more scenic and quiet it gets. When you reach the pine-covered headland of João de Arens, you even find a couple of “secret” beaches of exceptional beauty at the bottom of a cliff.
Carvoeiro is quite a small town but is a place that appeals to everyone, from young couples to families with children, to mature travelers. It has its own very picturesque beach, but in the area are also some of Portugal’s (and Europe’s) best, including the magnificent Praia da Marinha. Carvoeiro makes an excellent base for days of beach hopping and is also the perfect gateway to the Algarve’s most iconic cave of Benagil.
Albufeira is the tourist capital of Algarve, with the biggest number of beaches and a variety of accommodations for all budgets. The Old Town manages to retain some of the charms of a former fishing village, with whitewashed buildings and pedestrianized streets, and nearby are water parks for the kids and as an alternative to sunbathing by the sea.
It’s the Algarve’s “party town” where many young Europeans spend their summer days in the sun and drinking at night, but it’s much more than that. It has all kinds of splendid beaches, from secluded coves to long sandy stretches for fun in the sun. For grown-ups, there are world-class golf courses and some wonderful resorts for pampering and relaxation.
Algarve’s former Moorish capital was devastated by an earthquake in 1755, but its decline as a major city had begun a couple of centuries earlier when Faro became the main city in the region. Silves turned into a rather sleepy town, which it continues to be today, but is visited for its castle. It’s the biggest and best-preserved castle and ancient monument in Algarve and is often visited on a day trip by tourists. The cobbled streets around it lead to a small Gothic cathedral and an archaeological museum and are the perfect break from the sun and the beaches.
Developed in the late 20th century to be one of Europe’s largest resort towns, Vilamoura became a glamorous destination for celebrities looking for the 5-star service. It grew around one of the biggest marinas in southern Europe, which is a lively place throughout the day and at night, thanks to the restaurants, bars, and hotels around it.
Although it remains an upscale resort, it’s now for all types of tourists who love the convenience of having everything within walking distance, just steps from the beach. Despite it’s also a fine destination for families, it’s mostly for adults, with trendy beach bars, Algarve’s largest casino, and some of Europe’s best golf courses. Because it’s a modern town, there aren’t any historic monuments to see, but there’s an archaeological site and museum of a Roman settlement, which includes well-preserved mosaics.
Loulé is not a major tourist destination like the other bigger towns in the Algarve since it isn’t on the coast, but it’s still a popular destination for a day trip for its famous market and 13th-century castle. Loulé is worth a day in your Algarve holiday if you want to explore more of the local culture and not just the beaches, although two of Europe’s most luxurious beach resorts (Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo) are also nearby.
On the way there, it’s worth stopping in the small town of Almancil (about 10 minutes to the south) for the Church of St. Lawrence, whose marvelous interior (completely covered with baroque tiles from floor to ceiling) is a masterpiece of Portuguese art and Algarve’s most impressive monument.
Faro is the capital of the Algarve and the largest city in the region which is home to the international airport as well. It is for those who like to combine culture with the beach, and its location roughly at the center of the region makes it a great base to explore all of the Algarve and all of the islands of the Ria Formosa Natural Park. These islands remain well-kept secrets, including one that’s literally deserted.
Unfortunately, many people head straight to the beach, overlooking what the city has to offer. a delightful walled town with curious monuments and a natural park with a series of islands with outstanding beaches. It is a delightful walled town with curious monuments and a natural park with a series of islands with outstanding beaches.
Tavira’s historic town is also the Algarve’s most romantic. It preserved the region’s traditional architecture and an attractive Old Town with whitewashed churches and the ruins of an ancient castle. It’s also a gateway to the islands of the Ria Formosa Natural Park, with some of the finest beaches in Portugal with the seemingly endless landscape of dunes where boats go through wetlands with a variety of fauna and flora. This is a perfect destination for those who prefer to relax in quieter towns and be surrounded by pristine nature.