I spent one month in the Algarve region in Portugal. I was based in Armação de Pêra, one of the many small resorts located on the southern coastline, which allowed me to visit all the best sports and explore the best things to do in Algarve – tried and tested spots and activities.
Things to do in Algarve – Best Spots to Visit
Lagos, a vibrant and historic city on the western Algarve coastline, boasts breathtaking beaches, majestic cliffs, and an inviting old town. The city has an energetic vibe – making it a must-visit destination in the Algarve.
I especially loved the old town and the beautiful walkway along the port that leads to the ocean. Lagos is a preferred spot in Portugal by digital nomads and surfers. You’ll notice a lot of shops offering surf equipment for sale and rental. There are also many small local tour agencies offering kayaks and paddleboards for rental and boat tours around the cliffs.
Besides the lovely old city, you can enjoy a long cliff walkway. This wooden trail takes you from the city all the way to Ponta de Piedade. This is another top thing to do in Algarve, also mentioned on this list.
Silves is a charming and historic town situated in the Algarve region of Portugal. The town is renowned for its impressive heritage, stunning hilltop castle, and idyllic riverside setting. It truly is a must-visit stop for anyone traveling to Algarve.
Walking on the narrow cobbled streets of this historic town will transport you back in time, with its well-preserved ancient buildings, traditional cafes, and local artisan shops. Just by the main gate to the citadel, you will find a lovely souvenir shop.
Silves is home to the stunning Castelo de Silves, a Moorish fortress that dominates the skyline. Don’t forget also to visit the nearby Se Catedral de Silves Cathedral (Catedrale dos Silves) boasts stunning Gothic architecture and houses several significant tombs.
Take a break and explore Silves’ picturesque riverside! You can leisurely stroll along its edge, dine at one of its charming restaurants, or simply soak up the scenery.
Silves also hosts several cultural events (like many of the small towns in the Algarve region). The most notable one is the annual Silves Medieval Fair. The town’s history comes to life through costumes, performances, and traditional food.
Tavira is an idyllic town situated along the eastern Algarve coast. I found this small city simply charming, with its stunning architecture and serene river setting – making it one of the top things to do in Algarve, Portugal.
As you stroll Tavira’s picturesque streets, you’ll come across whitewashed buildings adorned with traditional azulejos (Portuguese tiles) and charming plazas filled with inviting cafes and restaurants. The town’s relaxed atmosphere and friendly locals make it a desirable destination for travelers.
One of Tavira’s most iconic landmarks is the Roman Bridge (Ponte Romana), a pedestrian-only stone bridge spanning the Gilao River. And don’t miss the Tavira Castle (Castelo de Tavira). You’ll be met with panoramic views of both Tavira and some great castle walls.
Around Tavira, you will notice an abundance of churches, such as the Church of Santa Maria do Castelo, which houses Dom Paio Peres Correia’s tomb from 13th century Portugal. In winter months, you may find some flamingo flocks around the city, especially in the salt flats near the city (Salinas do Forte do Rato). I saw them right by the Ponte dos Descobrimentos bridge, near Echo Tavira bar, in March 2023.
And since you’re on the lookout for the flamingoes in the Salinas (I was already happy after seeing the flamingos in Cyprus), you might as well drive all the way to the fortress (Forte de Santo António de Tavira) and then relax on the Praia dos Tesos. If you have more time, I recommend beaches like Praia do Barril and Ilha de Tavira, which can be reached by ferry.
What I love the most about Tavira is that it has strong Spanish influences and feels more authentic than other bigger cities in the Algarve region, although they have loads of tourists.
Things to do in Algarve – Beautiful Beaches
4. Praia da Marinha
Praia da Marinha is a breathtaking beach located on the southern Algarve coast. As the entire coast, this beach is renowned for its stunning rock formations, crystal-clear waters, and pristine golden sands.
Nestled between dramatic limestone cliffs, Praia da Marinha offers a picture-perfect setting for relaxation and exploration. The beach’s unspoiled beauty and tranquil atmosphere provide a serene escape from the bustling tourist spots, allowing you to appreciate the Algarve’s natural splendor fully.
One of the highlights of this beach is the famous M-shaped arch, which has become a symbol of the Algarve coast. These formations provide an ideal backdrop for memorable photos and invite exploration through swimming, snorkeling, or kayaking.
At low tide, you can discover hidden coves and small caves, while the crystal-clear waters create perfect conditions for snorkeling and observing the vibrant marine life.
This is also one end of the famous Seven Hanging Valleys trail, which is also included in this top of the best things to do in Algarve, Portugal.
5. Praia da Falésia
Praia da Falesia is an idyllic beach on the central Algarve coastline. What makes it stand out from the dozens of the other beaches around is its towering red cliffs, wide golden sands and crystal-clear waters – making it a must-visit for beachgoers in this region.
This is one of the longest beaches around. Praia da Falesia stretches over 6 kilometers and provides plenty of space for beach walks, swimming, and water sports. The beach is an idyllic combination of natural splendor and serenity that makes for an unforgettable Algarve beach experience.
6. Praia do Camilo
Praia do Camilo is a small yet enchanting beach on the Algarve coast near Lagos. What makes this beach so special are its dramatic rock formations, golden sands, and turquoise waters – making it a must-visit destination for those seeking the Algarve’s natural beauty.
Accessed via a picturesque wooden staircase with more than 200 steps, the walk down to Praia do Camilo is an adventure in itself, offering stunning views of the surrounding cliffs and coastline. Once you reach the beach, you’ll find a secluded cove surrounded by towering limestone cliffs that provide a sense of privacy and exclusivity.
The clear, calm waters at Praia do Camilo create perfect conditions for swimming, snorkeling, and exploring the vibrant marine life in the nearby rock pools. The beach’s fine golden sands are ideal for sunbathing and picnics, while the surrounding cliffs offer ample opportunities for photography and coastal walks.
Things to do in Algarve – Stunning Castles
7. Castelo de Alcoutim
Castelo de Alcoutim is a well-preserved medieval castle nestled in the picturesque town of Alcoutim on the Algarve’s eastern border. The entire area visitors a fascinating glimpse into the region’s rich history, along with stunning panoramic views of the Guadiana River and surrounding countryside.
Perched on a hilltop, the 13th-century Castelo de Alcoutim boasts impressive stone walls and fortified towers. As you explore the castle grounds, you’ll be immersed in its storied past, which includes periods of Moorish and Christian rule. The castle also houses a small archaeological museum, displaying artifacts unearthed from the surrounding area.
8. Fortaleza de Sagres
Fortaleza de Sagres is a striking fortress located on the southwestern tip of the Algarve. I was beyond impressed with this place because I was not expecting these awe-inspiring views of the rugged coastline of the Atlantic Ocean. Without a doubt, this is a must-see place in Algarve.
Built in the 15th century under the patronage of Prince Henry the Navigator, Fortaleza de Sagres played a significant role in Portugal’s Age of Discovery. Don’t miss the small museum located near the entrance, where they explain the importance of Portuguese navigators in the evolution of globalization.
Without these brave men, we would not have chocolate today. Within the fortress, you’ll find some walls ruins, an old chapel, and the enigmatic Rosa dos Ventos, a compass-like structure believed to have been used for navigation.
As I was walking around the fortress, which is mainly a huge circular walkway around the cliffs, I discovered many specific species of flora or fauna, as they are described by information places. So if you’re a nature enthusiast, make sure to bring your binoculars for birdwatching.
But my favorite views are of the beaches to the left and right of the fortress. The waves are huge, and these beaches are a preferred spot by experienced surfers.
The fortress’s dramatic cliffside location provides breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding coastline, the azure sea, and the iconic Cabo de São Vicente, Europe’s southwesternmost point.
Things to do in Algarve – Charming Old City Centres
Faro is the charming capital city of the Algarve region. I was pleasantly surprised by the old center of Faro, which offers a delightful blend of history and culture, making it an enticing destination for those looking to explore more off-the-beaten-path destinations in Portugal.
Wandering through Faro’s well-preserved Old Town, you’ll discover a labyrinth of cobblestone streets. Also, the city’s most impressive landmarks, the Faro Cathedral, offers stunning views from the tower. I was also impressed by the Arco da Vila, a historic city gate. This serves as an elegant entrance to the Old Town and cars can drive here.
If you decide to visit the Ria Formosa Natural Park, you can take a ferry or go on a day tour from here.
I recommended taking the ferry to the Desert Island. It’s a lovely landscape, and they also have an amazing restaurant there, which you shouldn’t miss. The seafood pasta was one of the best I have ever had!
Loulé, a bustling market town nestled in the heart of the Algarve, charms you with its vibrant atmosphere, rich history, and lively cultural scene, making it a delightful destination for those seeking to experience authentic Portuguese life in the region.
At the center of Loulé’s attractions is its bustling daily market, housed in a striking Moorish-style building. Here, you can browse a colorful array of fresh produce, local handicrafts, and regional delicacies while mingling with friendly locals.
Another attraction in the city is Loulé’s ancient castle, which dates back to the 13th century and offers panoramic views of the town from its ramparts. The nearby Gothic-style Church of St. Clement (Igreja de São Clemente) showcases beautiful azulejos (the popular blue tiles) and a magnificent gilded altar.
Throughout the year, Loulé hosts numerous cultural events and festivals, including the vibrant Loulé Carnival, which transforms the town into a lively celebration with colorful costumes, music, and parades. At the beginning of March, I attended the annual chocolate festival, which was indeed a very sweet event.
Albufeira, a popular destination on the Algarve coast, charms visitors with its quaint white streets, bustling restaurants, charming shops, and historic churches, making it a delightful place to explore and immerse in the region’s culture.
As you wander through the narrow, cobblestone streets of Albufeira’s old town, you’ll encounter a vibrant atmosphere, with lively cafes and local eateries offering delectable Portuguese cuisine. The town’s picturesque streets are dotted with unique boutiques, perfect for finding souvenirs and artisanal crafts.
Amidst the lively ambiance, Albufeira’s old churches, like Igreja Matriz and Igreja de Sant’Ana, stand as serene reminders of the town’s rich history, providing a fascinating glimpse into its past.
Ferragudo is a charming fishing village on the Algarve’s coast. The narrow, winding streets, traditional whitewashed houses, and laid-back atmosphere offer a truly authentic Portuguese experience. As you stroll through the village’s picturesque alleys, you’ll find friendly locals, inviting cafes, and charming shops showcasing local handicrafts and regional delicacies.
The village’s main square, Praça Rainha Dona Leonor, is a lively hub where locals and tourists alike gather to enjoy meals at bustling restaurants, while nearby, the Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição offers a serene and historic sanctuary overlooking the Arade River.
But my favorite is Ferragudo’s scenic waterfront. Do not forget to stop here to get the most stunning views of Farragudo and the neighboring city of Portimão. The village also has a couple of idyllic beaches, such as Praia Grande and Praia do Molhe, which invite relaxation and enjoyment of the Algarve’s sun-soaked coastline.
Things to do in Algarve – Breathtaking Cliff Walks
13. Seven Hanging Valleys Trail
The Seven Hanging Valleys Trail is a spectacular coastal walk located in the Algarve. It’s probably the most famous trail in the entire region because it goes by the famous Benagil cave (the one you see in all Algarve postcards, which is only accessed by water. But it’s not just a single point of interest, as the entire trail offers stunning natural landscapes through a series of dramatic cliffside paths, hidden coves, and breathtaking viewpoints.
Stretching approximately 6 km between Praia da Marinha and Praia de Vale Centeanes, the trail winds along the edge of the limestone cliffs, providing panoramic views of the sparkling Atlantic Ocean below. Along the way, you’ll encounter the trail’s namesake hanging valleys, formed by natural erosion and adorned with diverse flora.
The well-marked path invites exploration of secluded beaches, picturesque rock formations, and even a historic lighthouse at Alfanzina. The moderate difficulty of the trail makes it accessible to most visitors, and it can be completed in around 3-4 hours, depending on your pace. Note that this isn’t a challenging trail, but more of a relaxed walk on the cliffs.
14. Ponta da Piedade
Ponta da Piedade is a mesmerizing coastal landscape located near Lagos in the Algarve, and one of the top places to visit in Algarve.
As you drive to the parking lot, you might not think much of the place. But once you start walking on the dirt road around the lighthouse, you will be captivated by the striking rock formations, turquoise waters, and unparalleled views of the surrounding coastline. You’ll then understand why this spot got on this list of the best things to do in the Algarve.
I loved this place so much that I went there twice. And both times, it was during sunset, when you get to walk around the manmade walkway facing the sunset. There’s a network of scenic trails along the cliff tops that offers numerous viewpoints, where you can marvel at the panoramic vistas and admire the unique formations below.
This remarkable seascape is characterized by towering limestone cliffs, weathered into fascinating shapes and arches through centuries of erosion.
I would also recommend coming here during the day when you can take the stairs down to reach the water or go on a boat tour or kayak excursion to get a close view of the awe-inspiring cliffs and caves.
Things to do in Algarve – Exciting Water Sports
15. Benagil Cave kayaking
Kayaking in the Benagil Cave is the best way to admire this famous cave in Algarve. Often regarded as the crown jewel of the entire coastline, the cave can be seen from above, but it’s nothing compared to the view you get from the cave’s beach.
To get to the world-famous Benagil Cave, you must rent a kayak or book a boat tour from the nearby Benagil beach, which you can reach by car.
The guided kayak tours lead participants along the stunning coast, navigating through turquoise waters, fascinating rock formations, and secluded coves. The trip’s highlight is the breathtaking Benagil Cave, with its iconic skylight and golden sands, best experienced from the intimate perspective of a kayak.
These excursions are suitable for a wide range of ages and fitness levels.
16. Surfing in Algarve
Surfing in the Algarve offers an exhilarating experience for wave enthusiasts, as the region’s diverse coastlines provide consistent swells and idyllic settings for all skill levels.
The top three preferred beaches by surfers in the Algarve include Praia da Arrifana, Praia da Amoreira, and Praia do Zavial. These stunning beaches boast reliable waves, beautiful surroundings, and a laid-back atmosphere.
However, if you make it to any other beach, don’t worry; you can probably surf on any of the beaches in Algarve; it’s all about the swells and the weather.
17. Bodyboarding in Algarve
With amazing beaches and great weather most of the year, Algarve offers water sports opportunities to anyone, even to those of you who do not surf, like me.
During my month in Algarve, I discovered bodyboarding, which is like jumping on a slay, but in water. I bought myself a wetsuit and a 40 Euros beginner bodyboard for Dechatlon and started my experience. Luckily, the first time I was in the water, there weren’t any waves, so I got used to the board.
Even if you have zero experience with this, it’s a fun sport, and anyone can practice it. Now that I think about it, I’m sad that I had to leave my pink bodyboard in my Airbnb, but at least I have a wetsuit now.
Things to do in Algarve – Best Place for Sunset
18. Algar Seco, Carvoeiro
Algar Seco in Carvoeiro is a captivating coastal attraction. As you park your car near the wooden walkway, walk along the path, and you will discover the most dramatic limestone formations, natural pools, and striking ocean views.
Many gather around to watch the sunset, and you can walk all the way down to the rocks. I was extremely surprised to discover steps sculpted in limestone, and even a short tunnel, to make it more accessible for visitors.
It was indeed a magical sunset.
19. Cabo de São Vicente
Cabo de São Vicente is Europe’s southwesternmost point located on the Algarve’s rugged coastline. The spot offers visitors a dramatic and awe-inspiring experience with its towering cliffs. Given the powerful ocean waves, and unparalleled views of the Atlantic Ocean, making it a must-visit destination in the region.
Often referred to as the “End of the World,” Cabo de São Vicente captivates with its raw beauty and sense of isolation. I truly felt like this was the end of the world because all I could see was the immensity of the ocean.
The imposing red lighthouse stands as a sentinel against the backdrop of the vast sea, offering a fascinating glimpse into the area’s maritime history.
Things to do in Algarve – Day Trips
20. Ria Formosa Natural Park
Ria Formosa Natural Park is a unique coastal lagoon system on the Algarve’s eastern coast. I encourage you to explore it during a day trip from your place in Algarve. You’ll discover pristine beaches, tranquil islands, and abundant wildlife in this natural park.
Covering over 18,000 hectares, this protected park is home to a rich array of flora and fauna. Of course, this is a famous spot for birdwatching. The park’s intricate network of salt marshes, mudflats, and sandbanks creates a dynamic ecosystem that supports thriving biodiversity.
Accessible primarily by boat, Ria Formosa’s tranquil islands, such as Ilha Deserta and Ilha da Culatra, provide idyllic settings for sunbathing, swimming, and beachcombing. You can reach Ilha Deserta (Deserted Island by boat from Faro’s tourist port. A round-trip ticket is only 8 Euros, and the boat runs all day, giving you plenty of time to explore the island, relax on the beach or enjoy the catch of the day at the only restaurant on the island.)
The park’s calm waters are also ideal for kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and other water-based activities that allow you to explore the area’s natural beauty.
Monchique, a charming mountain town nestled in the Algarve’s lush, forested hills, offers a refreshing escape from the coast with its scenic viewpoints, rejuvenating thermal springs, and picturesque cobblestone streets. A visit to Monchique promises a serene experience amidst the region’s natural beauty and traditional charm.
22. Quinta do Lago
Quinta do Lago, an upscale resort community in the Algarve, exudes luxury and sophistication with its world-class golf courses, stunning beaches, and lavish villas. A visit to Quinta do Lago offers an indulgent experience amidst a serene, exclusive setting that caters to discerning travelers seeking the finer things in life.
Things to do in Algarve – Additional Experiences
23. Algarve wine tasting
If you love wine, then you cannot miss a wine-tasting experience in Algarve. Indulge in the region’s rich viticultural heritage, which showcases a diverse range of local wines, from crisp whites to bold reds.
Embark on a variety of guided tours of picturesque vineyards and family-run wineries, where you’ll learn about the winemaking process and savor the distinct flavors of the Algarve terroir. Some exceptional wineries to explore include Quinta dos Vales and Quinta da Tor, each offering a unique and memorable tasting experience that celebrates the region’s passion for wine.
24. Zoomarine Algarve
Visiting Zoomarine Algarve offers a fun and educational experience for the whole family. This popular theme park in the Algarve region combines thrilling attractions, entertaining shows, and fascinating marine life encounters.
Home to a variety of marine animals, including dolphins, seals, and sea turtles, the park emphasizes conservation and education, making it a perfect destination for wildlife enthusiasts of all ages.
25. Algarve hot air balloon ride
Want to experience the ultimate Algarve adventure? How about going on a hot air balloon to Algarve?
Enjoy a unique and exhilarating perspective of the region’s diverse landscapes, from sun-kissed coastlines to rolling countryside.
As you gently ascend into the sky, take in the breathtaking panoramic views and watch the world unfold beneath you, creating unforgettable memories.
This experience is ideal for special occasions, and it’s probably one of those fun things to try at least once in your life.
Algarve One-Week Itinerary Example
- Day 1: Arrival and exploration of Lagos
- Day 2: Cliff walk at Ponta da Piedade and beach time at Praia do Camilo (can go do Ponta da Piedade for sunset)
- Day 3: Sagres Fortress, Cabo de Sao Vicente, and Praia da Arrifana for surfing or other water sports
- Day 4: Seven Hanging Valleys trail and Benagil cave kayaking, In the afternoon, drive to Monchique and book wine tasting experience.
- Day 5: Albufeira, Loulé, and Faro city centre exploration
- Day 6: Silves and Tavira exploration, see salt flats (check for flamingos in winter) and go to Praia da Ilha de Tavira
- Day 7: Zoomarine Algarve and departure
What is your favorite thing to do in Algarve?
As you can see, Algarve is a treasure trove of diverse experiences. It offers a rich blend of stunning natural beauty, historical charm, and exciting activities.
From exploring vibrant cities like Lagos and Faro to discovering hidden gems such as Silves and Loulé, there is something for everyone in this captivating region. Delight in the Algarve’s idyllic beaches like Praia da Marinha, Praia da Falésia, and Praia do Camilo. Or embark on invigorating adventures like hiking the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail, kayaking to Benagil Cave, or surfing at Praia da Arrifana. Immerse yourself in the region’s cultural attractions, such as Ponta da Piedade, Cabo de São Vicente, and Ria Formosa Natural Park, or indulge in luxurious experiences like wine tasting and hot air balloon rides.
With its abundance of unforgettable experiences, the Algarve promises a truly memorable vacation for travelers seeking to explore the best that southern Portugal has to offer. Are you ready to plan your trip to Algarve?
Tell me what you think!