Top 10 Places to Visit in Algarve

The Algarve is the perfect place for holidays with friends and family, popular for Portuguese and foreigners alike. Known for its nightlife, charming beaches blessed by nature and the many hours of sun, and, usually, the good weather does not fail to dazzle and to relax the most demanding tourists. But not only the beaches make this region a destination of excellence. There is much more to see from typical picturesque villages, fishing villages, natural parks considered natural wonders and architecture full of history, and unique opportunities to take a bike ride to enjoy the scents in the air. Come and discover how wonderfully diverse the Algarve is through this Top 10!

1. Loulé

On the base of a slope, covered in almond trees, you will find, 16 km from Faro, Loulé. Known as the “Triângulo Dourado" (Golden Triangle), it is an area of luxurious resorts such as Vale do Lobo and Vilamoura. It has managed to maintain its old charm, with a beautiful historic center and cobbled streets full of artisans, naming the city as the capital of the Algarve's handicrafts. With a tradition of more than a century, it is home to the oldest Carnival in the country, filling the city with color and joy every year. Don’t forget to visit to the Igreja Matriz de São Clemente (main church), dating from the 12th century, the nearby Jardim dos Amuados (garden) and the impressive Mercado de Loulé (market), built with Arab inspiration and with its colorful stalls full of samples of the region's products such as fish and honey.

2. Cabo São Vicente (cape) and Sagres

Together they form the most southwesterly point of the European continent, a sacred place since Neolithic times. Sagres has one of the most fascinating landscapes in the region and has managed, over the years, to maintain an air of mystery and its natural beauty. Famous for being the starting point of the discoveries, it has become a center of maritime activity. A picturesque fishing village, where you can see the fishermen leaving late at dawn and returning after an exhausting day to relax in the various bars and cafes. It has become popular not only for the extensive sands, beautiful cliffs and tasty cuisine, but also for being a place of choice among surfers, and practitioners of other extreme sports. Many take advantage of this place as a starting or finishing point for unique trips. The cape, which has a cliff of approximately 69 m, is an ideal place to spot birds all year round, it is part of several migration routes and is guarded by a lighthouse considered one of the most powerful in Europe – overseeing one of the busiest trade routes in the world. In addition to the lighthouse, visit the Fortaleza de Sagres (fortress) and the Rosa dos Ventos (wind rose), both built by the Infante D. Henrique (Henry the Navigator), and the megalithic monuments, vestiges of a prehistoric past that confirm that Sagres and Cape de St. Vincent were ancient places of devotion.

3. Ria Formosa (lagoon system)

A natural paradise, it became a natural park in 1978, in order to preserve this lagoon system and its flora and fauna. With 60 km, the Ria Formosa stretches from Garrão beach in Faro to Manta Rota beach in Cacela, and is formed by a variety of channels, islands, swamps and sandbanks. Of great interest at the botanical level, especially for the vegetation of the dune and marshland areas, it is also a perfect place to see various species of birds, being a place of shelter in the winter of the Northern shoveler, and the Eurasian curlew, and a permanent habitat of flamingos and kingfishers. The clam is also grown here and there are abundant populations of sea bream and sea bass, which can be enjoyed in one of the various restaurants in Olhão, among other cities. In a break from the typical bathing holidays, take the opportunity to be dazzled by this small oasis of nature.

4. Silves

The former capital of the region, Silves remains a popular destination, where visitors are welcomed by a magnificent Moorish castle. Take the opportunity to stroll through this maze of cobblestone streets where you can visit the beautiful white cathedral and the archaeological museum with its vast collection of artefacts. Also enjoy a stroll along the Arade river, passing by several local shops and excellent restaurants and bars. Don't miss out, as you stroll, on the countless storks’ nests, a graceful, protected and abundant species in the area. A calm and peaceful environment perfect for a relaxed day, in this scenic location and discover a little about the history of the Algarve and Portugal.

5. Tavira

Considered by many as the most beautiful city in the Algarve, with its traditional white houses and charming narrow streets, it is the perfect place to relax. Founded by the Phoenicians, still maintaining one of the original walls, it was a place of battles and disputes between Romans, Moors and Christians for its geographical location. Today, it is a cosmopolitan city that attracts thousands of tourists every year for its white sand, calm sea of warm waters and its colorful houses and decorative churches providing a dream holiday. It is a popular stopping point for several bicycle routes that seek to show the best of the Mediterranean Algarve coast. Visit the Igreja da Misericórdia de Tavira (church), the most remarkable form of Renaissance expression in the Algarve, and the municipal museum of Tavira, which documents the relevance of the Islamic era in Tavira. Also, don’t miss out on the opportunity to discover the island of Tavira, in a pleasant boat trip, and its dazzling beach.

6. Monchique

Nicknamed the "garden of the Algarve", the surroundings of Monchique, a land of forested hills, aromatic orchards and natural springs, invite you to relax in the tranquility of the rural Algarve. An enchanting village of cobbled streets is the perfect place not only to enjoy the local cuisine at the various fairs, usually held in spring and summer, but also to get lost in discovering the mountains of the Monchique mountain range on unique tours. Walk through trails and trails between chestnut trees and pine trees, and walk to Fóia, the highest peak in the Algarve, at 902 meters where the panoramic views are irresistible. On the other hand, you can also relax in Caldas de Monchique, site of the only thermal springs in the region, documented since Roman times for its healing properties in respiratory, muscular and rheumatic diseases. In this place of peace, with the constant sound of the streams combined with the breathtaking nature of the surroundings, forget your problems and relax.

7. Estói

This small but beautiful city is a point not to be missed for its tourist attractions and the atmosphere of the city. The Palácio de Estói (palace) is one of the best Rococo-style palaces of the 19th century, painted in a pink tone and surrounded by stunning decorative gardens. Once a ruin, it is now a luxurious hotel. The Roman village of Milreu, on the other hand, has a historical character possessing the best-preserved Roman vestiges, with a vast temple and a thermal complex, where you can still see the images in the mosaics. And finally, the neoclassical Igreja Matriz de Estói (main church) has the peculiarities that all the wood of its altars was once used in ships, and that one of the sides of the altar is decorated with agricultural equipment. The city still retains that traditional atmosphere of the Algarve, before mass tourism, but among its typical houses and flowered streets it hides an architectural richness.

8. Walking trails

The Algarve is not just beaches, as you can see from the points above. It is also a region of historical, architectural and natural interest with landscapes and monuments that have made your journey unforgettable. So why don't you spend a morning or a day exploring a trail and get to know the secrets that the Algarve has for you? From the southernmost tip, with the Aromas trail, where you can explore the Morteiro valley and the fauna and flora of the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park, to the trail of the famous D. Quixote where you can explore the typical rural architecture within scenic corners. You can even travel the Guadiana Great Route (GR), both on foot or by bike or even venturing in MTB on the side roads, enchanting yourself with the green landscapes between salt pans and the various typical villages. An activity for the whole family or simply for a moment alone in contemplation, getting lost on these and other trails is a privilege of holidays in the Algarve.

9. Ponta da Piedade

The cliffs of Ponta da Piedade in Lagos are one of the most beautiful natural features of the Algarve. Formed by maritime pillars, fragile rocky arches and hidden caves, all created by wild storms, wind and rain, in limestone. But beyond this dramatic landscape we also find the beauty of the turquoise waters descending. Lose yourself in the beauty of these cliffs while savoring fresh fish or other fantastic typical dishes mixed with figs, carob, almonds or oranges in the various restaurants in the area, and take the opportunity to admire the panoramic promenade with the wonderful view over the coast.

10. Beaches

Often voted as one of the best bathing destinations in Europe, taking a few days at the beach is the perfect break to relax from the stressful city life. The Algarve's specialties are the immense variety of water fronts stretching for miles and miles and the dramatic rock formations and cliffs among others. Of course, there are the classic beaches like Praia da Rocha, Praia do Vale do Lobo and Praia da Falésia. But the fun is to get lost exploring from west to east, all the possibilities from long sandflats like Praia dos Três Irmãos, to small corners like Praia do Barranco das Belharucas, or venture into the waves of Praia de Odeceixe, among others like Martinhal, Praia do Barril, Praia Verde. Nothing beats being relaxed admiring the marginal, feeling the fresh air of the sea in the various restaurants and terraces along this beautiful coast, while taking the opportunity to taste the typical flavors of the Algarve as the tuna muxama (dried salted tuna).