Guide To The Algarve
by Nakita Mason | Updated 27 January 2020 | Posted in Top Lists, Portugal, Inspirations, General
1: Accommodation & Key Locations
When it comes to an all-round good pick for a holiday in the Algarve, Albufeira comes high up on the list of great choices. It’s a mix of old and new Portugal, with the traditional and the modern blending perfectly to create an intoxicating place to spend a summer holiday. From cobbled narrow streets that wind around the town to the revamped marina, there truly is something for everyone.
Whether you want to slump on the beach with a novel, go cave exploring, snorkel and dive, or bound along on a jeep tour, you’ll find plenty of opportunity in this sunny and charming part of Portugal. And for the culturally inclined or those who like to go delving into the past, there’s also plenty to sink your teeth into, including the Portugal Paderne, Sant'Ana Church and the iconic San Vicente de Albufeira Statue.
Trust us, a holiday to Albufeira is one that will cater to all tastes.
The capital of the Algarve and in many ways the heart of it too, Faro has a patchwork history whose routes began from Roman origins. It’s one of the greenest areas of the Algarve due to it’s climate and also one of the best places to go if you want to get closer to Algarve’s colourful history, with many museums at hand including the Museu Municipal de Faro and the Nucleo Museologico da Villa Romana de Milreu.
There are also points of religious interest like the majestic Faro Cathedral, nature tours, water activities and of course some lovely beach areas.
There’s a hustle and bustle and a little bit if everything in Faro, we highly recommend.
Well-known as one of the most beautiful locations in the Algarve, Vilamoura is a destination that has grown ever-more popular among travellers in recent years, something which is reflected in the development the resort has undergone recently.
Held aloft as an idyllic coastal town and with a beautiful marina, this is one of the places that make for a good all-rounder for anyone considering a villa holiday to the Algarve. Not only is it laid back and beautiful, but it’s also vibrant enough to keep the more restless busy too.
With a smattering of nightclubs, plenty of eateries, great golf courses, the Museum of Cerro da Vila and a wonderful waterpark as well as the opportunity for multiple water sports, it really is a one-size-fits-all resort while still maintaining a sense of iconic Algarve charm.
If you want to try a villa holiday to the Algarve and don’t know where to start, this is the one for you.
Ah, Lagos, a bustling and beautiful part of the Algarve that never ceases in its popularity. It’s well known as having a vibrant nightlife scene (see below) but there’s a lot more to little Lagos than just partying.
With stunning coastal areas curving around its edge and dramatic rock faces overlooking golden sand, there’s no refuting that Lagos is just as gorgeous as many of the other areas of the Algarve.
But it’s not just a pretty face, Lagos is also home to some wonderful points of interest like the São Sebastião Church and Castelo dos Governadores castle, as well as being yet another perfect location for wonderful food, sprawling markets and a myriad of water-based activities. Rest assured, a holiday to Lagos is always one well spent.
A wonderful resort which somehow seems to be lesser-known, Carvoeiro is actually one of the best locations for a family holiday in the Algarve you’ll find, especially if you’re looking for a quieter and more traditional affair. With beautiful beaches including the stunning Praia da Marinha as well as the incredible Carvoeiro Boardwalk that offers some mesmerising views, there’s no denying it’s got some great natural attractions to draw in the crowds, but that’s certainly not the only string to its bow.
For those who need a little bit more than basking on the beach, Carvoeiro is also great for hiking, boating and plenty of opportunities for playing tennis and golf too. There’s also yet more opportunity for water activities like diving and surfing and as with anywhere in the Algarve, you’ll find fresh seafood at every corner.
This is ideal for a relaxing family holiday in the Algarve.
Praia Da Luz
A resort that has become synonymous with wonderful weather and glorious beaches (many of which are Blue Flag ones), Praia Da Luz is a smaller resort full of traditional Portugal charm and stunning coastal views. You’ll find classic Portuguese markets, quaint shops and restaurants, as well as a plethora of water sports.
There’s also the opportunity to take bike and walking tours of the local area and of course, there are some stunning villas to stay in too.
For a relaxing time and a true taste of the Algarve, you can’t go far wrong than a holiday in Praia Da Luz.
Despite developing quickly after a surge in popularity, Alvor has still retained its authenticity and charm. With a majestic shoreline and beautiful beaches, Alvor’s crowning glory is perhaps in its great sense of history, with Portugal’s past never seeming so close as when wandering around this town in particular.
From Alvor Castle, Monumentos Megaliticas de Alcalar and of course greja Matriz Divino Salvador, the rich backstory of Portugal is woven deeply into Alvor’s culture making this a great pick for those of you who want to get to grips with the ancient Algarve.
But whether that’s your thing or not, you’ll still find golf courses, water activities, tours and plenty of beautiful walks too, as well as some particularly good restaurants.
Oh and did we mention the beautiful beaches?
2: Getting There
The two main airports in the Algarve are Faro Airport and Portimão Airport.
Faro Airport is the main one people use and is roughly three miles from Faro itself, with bus services available which can take you from A to B. Click here to see details of transport available from Faro Airport.
All main airlines have frequent flights out to Faro including Easyjet, British Airways and Ryanair.
It’s hard to list every little thing but here’s just a handful of the best attractions you’ll find in the awesome Algarve.
Diving With Scuba Travel
There is no greater delight than diving in the Algarve, and with Scuba Travel that dream can be easily realised. Not only are there amazing sea wrecks to discover, but a plethora of wildlife and underwater flora too. If you love wildlife and don’t mind getting wet, then this is a must!
"Portugal has diving all around its coastline, from the Algarve in the south to Porto in the North. The best diving is generally considered to be in the Algarve. In Porto there are two wrecks of note, the U-boat U1277 and the Tiber. The sea off the Portuguese mainland coast is an important pathway for loggerhead and leatherback turtles."-SCUBA TRAVEL
Without a doubt, of all the beautiful things you’ll find in the Algarve, these natural cave formations are undeniably some of the most amazing things you’ll see, with Benagil and Zorreira being two of the favoured examples of these magnificent structures.
Church of São Lourenço
Located in Almancil, this is one of the most beautiful church interiors you’ll see and even if this isn’t typically your thing, it’s well worth a visit purely from an artistic standpoint. Inside you’ll be bombarded by the traditional blue and white tiles that are very much part of Portuguese culture and also learn about its fascinating history too.
The Children’s Life Science Centre
Found in Faro, this is a great one for children (and adults will no doubt get sucked in too!). With lots of hands-on natural wonders and plenty of opportunities to learn about plants and animals (among other things) this small but plentiful attraction is well worth a visit, with the guides often described as being delightfully helpful and engaging.
Located in Lagos, this is another great one for some family fun. Environmentally friendly and great for seeing some of Algarve’s forests from a new perspective (literally) this fun climbing course among the trees is great for kids and adults alike.
Artcatto Art Gallery
Great for art lovers, this Loule based gallery is brimming with modern art in a traditional Portuguese townhouse, including the notable works of Jack Vettriano, as well as many other famed international artists.
Being one of the best water parks in the Algarve, this family-friendly day out is located in Alcantarilha and is wonderful for the water-babies among you. There are plenty of rides and they cater for all ages so there’s something for everyone.
Albufeira: The Strip
Located in Montechoro, roughly 3km out of Albufeira’s town center, the Strip is one of the most well-known nightlife spots in Portugal. Renowned for Hen and Stag do parties, young tourists, and a plethora of different bars and clubs, The Strip is the ultimate place to go if you’re looking to party.
The Strip used to be just that, a long straight road of general debauchery, but has since sprawled out into the neighboring streets and has far too many great places to list here. As well as numerous bars and clubs, there’s also plenty of eateries too, so, if you’re a party animal and you’re looking for a holiday in Portugal, you can’t go wrong than booking holiday accommodation in Albufeira.
Lagos is a great place for nightlife. It’s nowhere near as wild as The Strip, but if a lively night out with friends or as a couple is what you’re after then you can’t go far wrong. It’s littered with bars and nightclubs that will cater to all tastes, whether that be dancing until dawn or just having a few sociable cocktails with your chums.
Praia da Rocha
Well known for fun and sun-soaking, Praia da Rocha is one of the most vibrant locations in the Algarve and much loved by tourists. Its nightlife is mixed and it’s perhaps most noted for its penchant for themed bars.
5: Food & Drink
Portugal as a whole is a wonderful place for food and wine, and better still, it’s somewhere that will be able to manage even the fussiest and hard to please eaters! Many dishes revolve heavily around fish and seafood generally, but if you aren't a fish fan you'll find you're still spoilt for choice when it comes to great food.
To give you a few pointers though, click below for some of the greatest restaurants to be found in the Algarve.
Here are the best beaches you’ll find in the Algarve.
Praia Da Amoreira
Easily one of the best beaches in the Algarve, Praia Da Amoreira in Aljezur is typically deemed as being somewhat quieter than other beaches in the area, but that this is by no means a reflection of its quality. It's particularly noted for its beautiful geology, with magnificent layers of rock surrounding the sand, while also being favoured among surfers for being an ideal environment for catching some waves.
Praia da Cordoama
Held aloft as a ‘non-touristy’ beach, Praia da Cordoama is a beautiful stretch in Bispo that offers incredible views and is much-loved among surfers. Generally termed a ‘wild’ beach for its rustic feel, you’ll feel like you’ve taken the road less travelled and struck gold when you arrive.
Praia dos Tres Irmaos
This one in Alvor is a real head-turner. With stunning azure water and plenty of little coves ripe for exploring, it’s a great place to go and breathe in some true Portugal views of the coast. It’s also a vast beach meaning that for all its popularity you don’t feel like you’re vying for space. You can easily rent beach chairs and parasols too which is usually around the 13 euro mark for the day and there’s also plenty of parking around too, making it great for families.
This incredible beach located in Olhos de Agua is a great one for getting some wonderful cliff views. The sea can get a little choppy here so while it’s great fun, a nervous or young swimmer might struggle if they wander too far from shore. There’re also water sports to do and some eateries around in case you get peckish too.
Found in lovely Gale, this beach is another one that many visitors name as a favourite. With lots of parking and sun lounger hire on site, as well as toilets and plenty of places to grab a bite it’s perfect for a family day out.
One of the best-looking beaches in the Algarve, Odeceixe Beach in Aljezur is ideal for many things, but especially if you’re after some great shoreline photography. The cliff walks that overlook the beach itself are dramatic and as it’s split into calm waters on one side and great surfing on the other, it’s ideal for all manner of people.
Praia da Marinha
This one often acts as the poster boy for beaches in the Algarve, located in Carvoeiro, it’s praised for its beauty and some would go so far as to call it the most stunning beach in the world.
It’s one of the more popular beaches certainly and ideal for spending the day sun-soaking or going for a paddle, with the rocky backdrop making it a great location for some sea-view photography.
7: Common Phrases You Might Need In The Algarve
Plenty of people in Portugal will speak English very well, but it's always nice to show willing when on your travels, so here's a few phrases to get you started!
Bom dia!= Good Morning, Hello!
Boa noite!= Good Night!
Até mais= See You Later
Com licença/ Perdão=Excuse Me/ Pardon
Como o senhor se chama?=How Are You?
Você fala inglês?=Do You Speak English?
(Não) Compreendo=I Don't Understand
Pode me ajudar?=Can You Help Me?
8: Is A Holiday To The Algarve Right For Me?
That depends. Are you hoping to attend as a family? A group of friends? A couple? The honest answer is that no matter what age you are or how your group is constructed, the Algarve will provide somewhere that’s just right for you. Be that a quiet coffee and an amble around some of the historical sights, or sipping cocktails and dancing until dawn, the Algarve is a rich and diverse part of Portugal that tends to draw a colourful array of traveller. It’s beautiful, culturally rich, a haven for foodies and hosts some of the most beautiful holiday villas in Portugal you could hope for too.
9: Best Times To Go
July and August are prime times to go unsurprisingly, though with high temperatures you’ll want to pack plenty of sun cream and hats, especially if you have little ones to look after. May and June, as well as September and October, are also key times to go, with the sea reaching pleasantly warm temperatures and plenty of sun coupled with a slight breeze.
Fancy booking a holiday villa in the Algarve?