Last Updated on November 27, 2020 by queenie mak
The Algarve has the most spectacular coastal scenery, steep colourful cliffs and beaches that go on forever. Covering the southern coast of Portugal, the region has over 300 days of sunny days in a year, which makes the Algarve a top place to visit in Portugal. The cities and towns in Algarve are quite busy during the warmer months. And I can totally understand why people love the Algarve. The charming towns have a serene and relaxing atmosphere to them, and the region is excellent for people of all ages, families, couples, and solo travellers.
Related Post – My Complete 2 week itinerary in Portugal
What you need to know before visiting the Algarve
Before you travel to the Algarve, take a look at my travel tips that you may find useful for visiting the south of Portugal:
- The Algarve is safe for solo female travellers. However, you may get a few marriage proposals from overly flirtatious men. Ha! Or many of them will wink at you and try to get your attention. These interactions are as “dangerous” as it gets! Ha!
- Driving is the easiest and fastest way to travel from Lisbon to the Algarve. But for solo travellers, it might be best to consider taking the train or bus which both have an extensive network in the south of Portugal. The cost for both train and bus is inexpensive. Check the schedule and find a transportation mode that suits you.
- There are many trains from Lisbon Estação do Oriente station to several cities in the Algarve, including Faro. Once you are in Faro, you can take the “Linha do Algarve,” which is the dedicated line going east to west of the Algarve.
- Alternatively, there are regional buses that can take you throughout Portugal. EVA Transportes goes through all the major towns and cities in the country, and it is no exception for the Algarve.
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What to do in the Algarve
If you are thinking of visiting the Algarve, then it means scenic beaches, famous cliffs and picturesque coastlines are high on your to-do list.
You might want to spend a week visiting all the scenic places in Algarve. Use two to three places as your home bases and explore other places by train or bus. Below are some of the places I visit, and I highly recommend all of them!
Faro is one of the biggest cities in the Algarve and a great home base for exploring the area. There are many trains daily from Lisbon Estação do Oriente station to Faro, and it connects to the “Linha do Algarve” line which makes exploring the region that much easier. And Faro has the only airport in the Algarve, making it that much easier to visit the southern region.
I opted to stay at a hostel during my time in Faro and used it as my home base to visit Tavira. Accommodation is a bit pricier in the Algarve than in other parts of the country. And rightfully so, the area is gorgeous! But I will not mention the hostel in the post since it is not a place I would recommend at all. When you look for accommodation, check Agoda and Airbnb to find something that suits you. Just remember though, it is a bit more expensive than Lisbon and other parts of the country. And if you are not part of Airbnb yet, please use this code to claim your $35 Airbnb discount.
Within the ancient city walls of the Old Town, narrow cobblestone streets will lead you to historical monuments and beautiful architecture like Cathedral of Faro, Igreja do Carmo and Arco da Vila. While the city centre is great for a lovely stroll, most people go to Faro to visit Parque Natural da Ria Formosa for its canals, marshland and biodiversity unique to the Algarve.
I particularly enjoy a leisure day visiting Praia de Faro. The local ferry costs 3 EUR (return trip), and there is a local ferry almost every hour at Estação Faro. The beach has over 5km of soft, golden sand and blue turquoise water. There are a few options for food. I tried a delicious house special grilled tuna belly at Restaurant Zé Maria. Most people go to Faro will at least spend a day on Faro Beach, or they visit Illa de Deserta, the most southern point of Portugal.
Tavira is a very charming little town in eastern Algarve. I took the bus from Faro and spent a day in Tavira exploring the ancient Morrish town. Some of the best things to do in Tavira include Igreja da Misericórdia and Castelo de Tavira (Tavira Castle).
Nearby island beach of Ilha de Tavira is worth visiting because of the 12 km of white sand beaches. And it is easy to get to. Simply take a boat from the centre of Tavira (Rua Jose Pires Padinha) and enjoy a blissful day on the beach.
There is no shortage of good food even though you are in a smaller town like Tavira. The one that caught my eye was Restaurant Bica. The restaurant has been around since 1965. The grilled octopus and cream cake were both excellent! The cream cake reminds me of the serradura dessert I had in Macau.
There is accommodation in Tavira, but I stayed in Faro and used Faro as my home base since Tavira is a small town that can be visited in one or two days.
Lagos is a thriving town in the western Algarve. If you are into water sports (kayaking, surfing, standup paddleboard) then you will want to visit Lagos. And you will have access to coastal sites and beautiful ocean views!
There are many choices when it comes to eating out in Lagos. I tried the Algarve fish stew at Restaurante Casa Baia and the grilled sea bream at Gilberto Cafe. A meal will cost you about 15 EUR or so. But my favourite place is a little bakery called Padaria Central. Every morning I would go there and have a coffee and a pastry. And the price is on point too!
Accommodation cost is a bit more in Lagos than other parts of Portugal. I stayed in Topcity Hostel & Suites in the city centre and set up my home base there for a few days. The hostel is only about a year old. It is super clean and functional. My dorm has a shared balcony facing the water. And the common area is spacious and a great place to meet other fellow travellers. But don’t be alarmed, a dorm bed would cost you about 30 EUR. This is the cost of living in one of the most beautiful towns in Algarve. Or you can always find accommodation on Airbnb. Please use this code to claim your $35 Airbnb discount.
When you are in Lagos, you have to visit all the famous beaches. Starting from the city centre, make your way south along the coast. Praia Dona Ana is a gorgeous beach surrounding by colourful cliffs. Probably one of the most photographed beaches, it is surrounded by impressive rock formation and cliffs. When you are at the top, follow the hiking path as it takes you around the beach and you can take in the panoramic view of the blue sea and golden sand.
Continue south and find Praia do Camilo. The beach can be accessed by walking down many flights of stairs. Once you are at the beach, explore the beach because there are unusual rock formations around the beach area and lots of terrific spots for photos.
Then get back to the main road and head south where you will find Ponta da Piedade. If you don’t see anything else in Lagos, you have to see Ponta da Piedade. Walk along the edges of the coast so you can fully take in the view. This is where you will find the famous rock arches in the water, natural tunnels and hidden caves. Walk down the flight of stairs and hop in a small boat and see the grotto up close.
Benagil Sea Cave
Many people visit the Algarve because they want to see the famous Benagil Sea Cave. If you ever saw a photo that represents the Algarve, chances are it’s either one of the famous beaches or the Benagil Cave. Visitors can see the cave either from a boat tour or paddleboarding. Many tour companies set up shops in Lagos and take visitors to the cave.
Day trip from Lagos
As a day trip, you can visit Sagres, which is a small town west of Lagos. The town is relatively small, but visitors go there to see Sagres Point and Cabo de São Vincente, the most western point of Portugal. A lighthouse stands tall over the 60 meters jagged cliff where it is a prime location for watching sunsets.
Many tours start in Lagos. Try one of these tours below:
I wasn’t planning any day trips from Lagos. When I was on the train from Faro to Lagos, I saw many people getting off at Portimão. So immediately I googled what the town to find out more and decided to come back.
Portimão is a small town that is great for all ages. Once you get off the train at Portimão, you have to walk for 10 minutes or so to reach the city centre. The small and compact city centre has historical buildings like Igreja e o Colégio and cute restaurants and shops.
As the largest city in western Algarve, Portimão thrives on tourism. Most tourists will stay near the coast where there are more hotel accommodations and a scenic promenade with lots of shops and restaurants. From the city centre, make your way south until you reach the beach. It a bit of a walk but if you walk along the Ribeirinha towards the south, you can see Fortaleza de Santa Catarina de Ribamar up close, and Castelo de São João do Arade across the Arade River.
Praia da Rocha is one of the liveliest beaches during summer. People come here to lounge, sunbathe and it is great for young people, families and older folks. Between the steep cliffs and the beach, you will find restaurants facing the beach. And if you follow the path along the jagged coastline, you will see Praia do Vau further west, a favourite beach with fantastic views.
Other places in Algarve
If I had more time in Algarve, I would definitely visit Albufeira. I heard many good things from other travellers that Albufeira is absolutely stunning.
And if driving is an option, I would visit Praia da Marinha, Arco da Albandeira, Praia de Benagil and other places that are not as accessible by train or bus. But with the amount of time I had in Algarve, I am very happy with what I saw during my short visit.
Did I miss anything in this guide? Hope you find it useful. And if you have any additional tips, leave it in the comment area below. And if you like this post, share it and pin it on your Pinterest board!