Algarve is the southern, sunny, beach paradise region of Portugal. This natural delight assembles some of the most beautiful and inviting beaches of the world, their water as blue and transparent as can be. About 200 km long, the shore presents all kinds of fun for sea lovers: extensive sands, inlets, cliffs, caves, rocks, and more!
The whole area is ideal for swimming, diving, fishing, surfing (in every style), sailing, and above all relaxing. A fully reinvigorating holiday can be spent there. In harmony with nature at its best, most beaches there have earned the European eco-friendly “blue flag” label.
There are so many reasons to visit Algarve that it can be hard to pinpoint just a few – but we’ve done our best to list the best alternative and some mainstream activities to enjoy when you visit this one of a kind region.
Seeing these sights will not only show you the beautiful scenes that Algarve has to offer, but will also show you how the locals live on a daily basis, letting you feel the warm hearts of the kind people of Portugal.
1) Gypsy Market and a nice walk along the promenade
INFO: Gypsy Market – Quarteira, MAP
Every Wednesday from 8AM to 3PM, Quarteira hosts a vibrant gypsy market displaying endless handcrafted items, exclusive objects, and bargaining opportunities. Negotiate nonstop, improve your deals, and bid for clothing, shoes, pottery, and ceramics—their signature products.
Make your way through the noisy atmosphere of street markets as visitors from different neighborhoods crowd together. Take this opportunity to walk by the promenade with its superlative sea views as the breeze softly touches your skin. Step in the water and feel its mild, pleasant temperature.
2) Stand on a cliff and enjoy the view
INFO: Algar Seco – Rua das Flores, Carvoeiro, MAP
Carvoeiro is a small village worthy of paying a visit. With its small, calm beach, Carvoeiro offers a different side of Algarve. However, the main attraction is—no question—the Algar Seco rock formations, a collection of caverns that project themselves towards the sea.
As the tide recedes, natural pools come to life in between the rocks. The holes in the stones create real windows to the ocean. Take the stairs to reach the top and appreciate a view usually reserved for the birds.
3) Watch the sun set at the end of the world
Cape St. Vincent is the most southwesterly piece of land in Europe and offers admirable cliffs, spectacular views, and vast open headlands ready for exploration.
Known as the “end of the world” by the ancients, it makes for a great visit any time. Visit the place at sunset and you’ll be treated to a special, mystical experience. Even on a dull day where the actual sunset is minimal, don’t be surprised if the afterglow is spectacular.
The lighthouse complements the romantic surroundings, as well.
The Cape is quite isolated, so if you’re in the mood for some good local wine with incredible views, make sure to bring a bottle with you.
4) Hike the cork forest trail
INFO: Cork Route, São Brás de Alportel, MAP
Normally associated with wines and not Algarve, cork is actually a presence in the rather unknown city of São Brás de Alportel. However, it is indeed the home of the Cork Route, a trail that winds through a cork tree (Querqus suber) forest. This path will lead you through the ancient history of engagement between men and cork. It is said to be the driving force behind seven major themes of the region: heritage, nature, life, ruralism, tradition, innovation, and knowledge.
5) Enjoy the traditional taste of Algarve
Partially an art gallery and partially an elaborate modern tavern, Adega Vilalisa is a mythical menu-less restaurant run by artist Jose Vila, who is also the chef. He is in charge of cooking, decorating the space with his works, and setting the atmosphere. Specializing in typical Algarvian dishes, Vila is most celebrated for the roasted octopus and knuckle of pork. Two long, wooden tables provide the only seats, so booking in advance is crucial. This space is not only trendy, but more importantly a magnificent taste of Algarve’s cuisine.
6) Watch the fishermen bring their catch up onto the beach
Restaurant Bóia Bar is one of those places that really lets you see where the food comes from. This is because the fishermen bring the daily catch straight up to the kitchen. Benefitting as well from a splendid beach view, it opens at 10AM for breakfast and serves nonstop until 10PM. The menu may comprise sardines, breams, soles, and sea bass depending on the season. No matter what the time of year, one thing is certain: there is plenty of fresh fish in the dish.
7) A beach day on a the desert island
If you ever wondered who you would take to a desert island, now is the time to figure it out! Choose your company well in order to spend an unforgettable time. The sand is littered with shells and everything looks untouched. The only footprint of civilization is the restaurant on the island. It’s a wholly natural, spectacular paradise. A ferry makes the journey to the island six times a day. The earliest departure from Faro is at 10AM and the latest is at 6:15PM. The first return is at 10:45AM and the last at 7PM. The regular roundtrip ticket costs €10. Children (5-11) are charged half price. Three times a day there’s the option of a speedboat (€15).
If you are heading to Algarve get your 55Secrets Algarve Travel guide here.
We selected 55 places we consider that are some of the essential areas to visit while in the south of Portugal. Aside from sightseeing, the best places to visit for meals and nightlife are also included.
We hope you enjoy your trip to Algarve and that this book will help you see this unique destination from the eyes and perspective of a local.