10 Best Places You Should Visit In The Algarve

The Algarve, Portugal’s sunny southern region, has attracted visitors for years with its stunning beaches, beautiful bays, and relaxed lifestyle. However, during my five years living in the area, and many visits before, I have discovered that the best places to visit in the Algarve extend beyond the coast.

In addition to beach lounging and castle town exploration, there are numerous things to do in the Algarve that don’t involve the coastline. From hiking along clifftop trails to indulging in a mountain spa, southern Portugal has a diverse range of activities and places to explore.

Although it’s impossible to cover every hotspot in a blog post, I’ve compiled a list of the top destinations to visit in the Algarve, covering the region’s best experiences for both new and seasoned visitors. If you’re looking for more offbeat options, take a look at some of my favorite hidden Algarve spots.

To help you plan your trip, here are some frequently asked questions about visiting the Algarve. Despite its reputation as a beach destination, there are plenty of free and rainy-day activities to enjoy while in the region. You can lounge on the beach, hike the breathtaking Seven Hanging Valleys Trail, visit museums and art galleries, and take part in cooking courses and spa experiences.


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Nestled in the heart of the Algarve region, Silves is renowned for its picturesque castle and charming town. With cobblestone streets, white-washed buildings with ochre roofs, and postcard-perfect vistas, it’s no wonder that this town is often featured in cliché postcards.

The area surrounding Silves offers plenty of tranquil and enjoyable experiences, such as sailing along the river from Portimão or indulging in a vineyard tasting for some locally-produced wine (which is often cheaper when booked directly).

While Silves is a favourite among those who venture into the Algarve’s interior, many visitors miss out on the hidden gems of the region’s inland towns. That’s why it’s my top pick for Algarve hidden gems. Check out my guide to discover other exciting things to do in the area, including seeking out waterfalls, staying in beautifully restored whitewashed villages and palaces, and exploring the remnants of Roman villas.

9. Albufeira

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If you’re looking for an energetic Old Town, vibrant nightlife, and spectacular beaches, Albufeira might be your ideal destination. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the place. Despite being one of the most popular tourist spots in the Algarve, Albufeira feels overdeveloped and too commercialized for my taste. It’s tough to believe that it was once a sleepy fishing village.

Nevertheless, it’s not hard to see why Albufeira attracts so many visitors, and it remains the tourism capital of the region. Day trips, boat tours, and beach excursions feature highly on the list of Algarve activities, and Albufeira is conveniently positioned for accessing all of them.

Although there is a modern and lively ambiance in Albufeira, there are still some traditional highlights to discover, such as the charming Old Town. Here, family-run taverns serve fantastic food, and a small archaeological museum offers a glimpse into the area’s history.

On the other hand, if you’re seeking an epic night out, Albufeira’s infamous “Strip” promises late-night revelry and a party-heavy atmosphere.

Luckily, the town hasn’t entirely sacrificed its natural beauty to tourism, and some of the most striking beaches in the Algarve are located nearby. Examples are Praia da Falésia, an extensive and picturesque beach flanked by copper-colored cliffs, and Praia dos Arrifes, a stunning inlet surrounded by captivating bays. However, some of the area’s most secluded beaches can only be reached by sea. SUP tours offer a fantastic way of exploring these tucked-away bays and coves if you’re seeking a more peaceful spot of sand.

8. Costa Vicentina

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Whether you’re looking to embark on a long-distance hiking trail or explore windswept beaches, the Algarve has plenty to offer. While the central coast near Benagil and Albufeira, as well as scenic points around Lagos, are popular destinations, the Algarve’s West Coast, known as the Costa Vicentina, is an underrated gem that should not be missed.

This untamed and rugged area is where you’ll find me when I want to escape the crowds and take a refreshing beach walk. Despite its beauty, it remains relatively unknown as a beach destination in Europe.

The Rota Vicentina consists of two multi-day hiking trails, one coastal and one inland, that span across the boundaries of the Algarve and the Alentejo region. Additionally, there are plenty of shorter day hikes that you can take to explore the area. If hiking isn’t your thing, the stunning and secluded bays and beaches make for an ideal road trip.

There’s plenty of idyllic accommodation options available for those looking to stay in the area. While surf lodges are readily available, there are also ocean-view hostels and plenty of rural accommodations, such as a reclaimed whitewashed village that was once abandoned but has recently been rescued by a co-op of individual investors.

7. Monchique

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For those seeking lush green hills, cascading waterfalls, and tranquil thermal springs, the Algarve region has all this and more. Located between the stunning coastline and Alentejo, the Algarve’s hills gradually rise to form majestic mountain ranges, with Serra de Monchique serving as the most remarkable and verdant playground away from the crowded coastal resorts.

Nature enthusiasts will relish the selection of hiking trails and picturesque views available around the Serra region. The summit of Fóia, the highest peak in the area, piercing just over 900 metres above sea level and easily accessible by car, offers breathtaking vistas across the Algarve and Atlantic Ocean on clear days.

For a more immersive day trip in the mountains, there are exciting half-day and full-day hiking trails to enjoy. The Barbelote Waterfall loop route is the most captivating of these, commencing and concluding near Fóia.

Caldas de Monchique is a haven and one of the Algarve’s most preferred destinations to unwind. The thermal waters with high alkaline levels have served as a relaxation getaway since Roman times, and Villa Termal Spa Resort offers stay and spa packages. The nearby hot springs provide the perfect setting for walking and picnicking, ensuring a memorable visit.

6. Sagres and Cabo de São Vicente

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Experience the ultimate surfer’s paradise and witness the breathtaking sunset at the “end of Europe” in Portugal. Sagres, situated on the south coast, has been a long-time haven for surfers. While this location offers some of the best places to catch the ultimate swell in the Algarve, there are also many other adventure activities available here. Coasteering experiences, where you jump from nearby cliff edges, are just some of the exciting activities that await you.

If you’re not a seasoned surfer, don’t fret; there are plenty of excellent surf schools in and around Sagres to learn the ropes. The region also offers many other fantastic attractions such as a visit to the 15th-century Sagres Fortress and heading towards the rugged headland where the Cabo de São Vicente lighthouse stands proud, overseeing the rough waves of the Atlantic Ocean.

Although Cabo de São Vicente often gets mistaken as the most westerly point of mainland Europe, this title actually belongs to Cabo da Roca, which is closer to Lisbon. Nevertheless, witnessing the sunset over the cliffs of Sagres is still dreamy and not to be missed.

As you explore closer to the town, the Sagres Fortress offers an intriguing sight for those who venture beyond the imposing walls. There are also ruins of old buildings such as a small church, and curious sights include a large ground-level compass and a wave-echoing maze. Additionally, a newly opened visitor center in late 2022 offers more details on Henry the Navigator and the Age of Discovery, Portugal’s seafaring and colonizing years, and the surrounding area.

5. Faro

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The Algarve’s capital city, Faro, is often overlooked by travelers for its historical and cultural attractions, as it is primarily seen as an airport gateway. However, it is one of the best places to visit in the Algarve, especially for a Europe winter city break.

Faro has a beautiful Old Town, known as Cidade Velha, and boasts several top-notch tourist activities. You can wander through the Old Town’s cobbled lanes, stop by the Municipal Museum (located in a former convent) to learn about the city’s past, and climb the cathedral tower to catch an amazing view. Moreover, the city’s medieval walls still stand, and you can take a leisurely stroll on the lagoon-facing waterfront.

If you travel a short distance from Faro, you will discover even more historically significant attractions, such as the excellently restored Palace of Estoi. The Palace is also a place where you can stay. Additionally, you can explore some of the Roman villa ruins.

Other sightseeing options in Faro include visiting the city’s island beach (which is easily accessible by a 20-minute bus ride), savoring some of the finest food and drink at local eateries such as Los Locos and Epicur Wine Bar, and heading out to sea on a dolphin-watching boat tour.

4. Lagos

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If you’re looking for an all-in-one Algarve experience, Lagos is the place to go. Here, you can find nearly all of the best things to do in the area in one location, making it a must-visit destination.

The highlight of Lagos is Ponta da Piedade, a stunning headland with rock formations that rise from the ocean. You can take a clifftop trail and road from the town to reach the best viewpoint of this natural attraction. Along the way, you’ll pass impressive beaches like Praia dos Estudantes and Praia do Camilo.

In the summer of 2023, a new boardwalk called Passadiços da Ponta da Piedade will open, providing an even more accessible route along the cliffs. It features wooden walkways from the beaches up to the lighthouse, which will offer spectacular views. You can also take a boat trip to Ponta da Piedade that includes dolphin spotting, but a kayaking trip will give you a closer look at the cliffs.

In Lagos old town, you can find plenty of options for eating, drinking, and partying. There are also several historical and cultural sites to explore, including classic churches and the Museum of Lagos, which showcases various collections. While the Mercado de Escravos – site of Europe’s first slave market – offers a glimpse into Portugal’s colonial past, it fails to provide sufficient context for its harrowing history.

3. Tavira

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For a more relaxed and charming Algarve experience, consider visiting Tavira, where you can explore museums and spot flamingos in the salt pans. Unlike some of the region’s more touristy destinations, Tavira has retained its traditional charm.

Located slightly inland along the Gilão River, Tavira boasts a beautiful setting that spills out into the Ria Formosa, passing salt pans and seasonal flamingos along the way. Take a cheap ferry boat down the river to reach the town’s island beach.

The main draw of Tavira, however, is the opportunity to see heritage buildings and explore museums. With 37 churches, Tavira is known as a town of churches, offering plenty of architectural beauty to admire. The converted Convento de Tavira, now a luxury hotel, is a particular highlight.

Other notable things to do in Tavira include visiting the ancient Ponte Velha bridge, which is often mistaken for Roman, learning about the region’s Moorish history at the Núcleo Museológico Islâmico, and taking in panoramic views from the castle ruins atop the town.

2. Ria Formosa’s Island

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If you’re looking to island hop, laze on idyllic beaches, and devour seafood, head to the Ria Formosa along the central Algarve coast. Spanning 60 kilometers, this protected natural park is a labyrinth of lagoons, salinas, marshes, barrier islands, and dunes and is considered one of the best places to visit in the Algarve.

As a member of the ‘7 Natural Wonders of Portugal,’ the Ria Formosa is also a wildlife haven, with Mediterranean Chameleons, seasonal flamingos, and seahorses calling it home. Dolphins can be spotted further out.

The Ria Formosa offers a wealth of activities for visitors to explore, including island hopping and lounging on the soft sands, kayaking in the tranquil interior lagoon waters, and biking or hiking through the salt pans’ trails.

While various boat tours are available to tour the Ria Formosa, public ferries offer affordable options to access some island beaches. To reach Cultura and Farol, embark from Olhao; for Deserta, depart from Faro, and for Ilha de Tavira, board in Tavira. Barril beach can be accessed by a bridge rather than by boat, while the best viewpoint of the Ria Formosa is located at the tiny village of Cacelha.

For a more unique experience, visitors can even stay in bungalow-style accommodation, onboard a houseboat, or at Ilha de Tavira’s municipal camping site.

1.The Seven Hanging Valleys Trail and Benagil Cave

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The cliff-top trail connects Praia da Marinha to Praia de Vale Centeanes on a six-kilometre linear route of mainly dirt terrain with some descents and climbs. Personally, I’d suggest making the trail even longer and continuing to Carvoeiro, where you can admire the Algar Seco rock formations. Or, to extend the other end, venture as far as Nossa Senhora da Rocha, where a church-capped cliff juts into the ocean between two beach bays.

Along the route, you’ll find be able to embark on one of the most famous things to do in the Algarve, a Benagil Cave tour. While there is no denying this grotto beach – complete with a sky-light – is breathtaking, the constant stream of boats in summer (and even the off-season) has taken its toll, which makes this very touristed location harder to enjoy these days. That said, you’ll likely still want to visit one way or another, so these are my tips.

Firstly, you can book boat tours to the cave from various spots along the coast – which can be ideal if you’re staying further away. However, boats aren’t legally allowed to park or stop on the beach inside the cave. So, if you wish to go onto the sand for some chill time or photos, you’ll want to book a kayak tour or SUP visit along the coast. Better still, hire kayaks from the beach nearby ( you can pick these up when you arrive, or ideally, book them in advance) so you can control your schedule.

The best way to experience the cave with very few visitors is to come at sunrise before the kayak rentals and tour boats start for the day. For this, however, you’ll want to have collected your kayak rental the day before, bring your own, or have booked an early morning pick-up with one of the rental places at Benagil Beach.

Of course, given the distance, you could swim – but I (and the authorities) never recommend this, partly due to the currents but also the sometimes constant stream of boats which have, in the past, tragically collided and killed swimmers along the coast here (basically, be informed and confident with whatever you decide). If you’d prefer to explore the coast but see some less touristy spots, consider this alternative Algarve sea cave tour near Alvo

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