Welcome to the captivating Algarve in Portugal, a sun-soaked coastal paradise with pristine golden beaches, breath-taking cliffs, and vibrant towns. The Algarve enchants visitors from around the globe. Whether you’re seeking a relaxing beach getaway, to buy a holiday home, or to live there permanently, the Algarve offers delightful experiences for everyone.
This region of the country, located in the southernmost part of Portugal, is one of the most beautiful and vibrant areas in Europe. So, let’s jump right in and discover why the Algarve is the perfect place to buy a holiday home or live and why it is one of Portugal’s best destinations.
Discovering the Algarve in Portugal
From fine beaches to bustling Faro and historical Lagos, each place is unique and offers different experiences. While the four main resort towns of Faro, Lagos, Praia da Rocha, and Vilamoura are popular tourist hotspots, smaller towns like Tavira and Albufeira provide more authentic culture and charm. So whether you want lively holiday resorts or peaceful retreats, the Algarve will delight you.
Where is the Algarve?
The Algarve region is in south Portugal. It stretches along the country’s coastline, facing the Atlantic Ocean. The Algarve sits approximately 70 kilometres (43 miles) from Spain‘s border with Portugal. Specifically, the border between Spain and Portugal in this area is marked by the Guadiana River, which separates the two countries. Ayamonte is the nearest town across the Spanish border. This proximity makes travel around the Algarve and nearby Spanish regions relatively easy.
Getting to the Algarve Via Faro Airport
Faro Airport, known as Algarve Airport, is the Algarve region’s international airport. Sitting 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) west of Faro town, Faro Airport is Portugal’s third-busiest airport. Domestic and international flights connect the area with numerous places. The airport facilities include amenities like shops, restaurants, currency exchange services, car rental agencies, and transportation options.
Faro Airport is also well-connected to surrounding towns in the Algarve by road and public transportation. Otherwise, buses and taxis are available for transfers to Faro city centre, Albufeira, Vilamoura, and Lagos.
Cobbled Streets of Faro
Faro, the Algarve’s capital, is an excellent starting point. Faro’s old town delightfully features narrow streets, traditional houses, and impressive monuments. Visit Ria Formosa Natural Park and the coastal lagoon. For more authentic experiences in the Algarve, explore nearby towns like Burgau or Carvoeiro village, nestled between majestic cliffs.
Lagos and Sagres in the Western Algarve
The Western Algarve captivates with cliffs, sandy beaches, and blue waters. One prominent cape is Cape St. Vincent (Cabo de São Vicente), the south westernmost point near Sagres with rugged cliffs, a lighthouse, and sunset views.
Praia da Rocha is a beach gem with sandy shores and crystal-clear waters. Meandering further along the coast, you’ll discover Praia do Camilo, a hidden paradise accessed by descending wooden steps.
Away from the coastline, the Western Algarve reveals charming towns and villages with distinct characters. With its ancient city walls and cobblestone streets, Lagos portrays history and culture. Sagres features a fortress overlooking the vast ocean on Europe’s southwestern tip.
Praia Da Luz
Praia da Luz is 6 kilometres (4 miles) west of Lagos and offers family-friendly atmospheres. The beach, which stretches along a crescent-shaped bay with golden sand and clear turquoise waters, is well-equipped with sun loungers, umbrellas, and beachside facilities.
Praia da Luz features traditional architecture and modern amenities alongside a village centre. The town offers restaurants, cafes, bars, shops and boutiques. One notable landmark in Praia da Luz is the 16th-century church, whitewashed Nossa Senhora da Luz Church. Praia da Luz’s convenient location also gives easy access to nearby attractions in the Algarve like Lagos and Sagres.
Praia da Rocha
Praia da Rocha summer resort is perfect for families and young couples. The beach and the Marina de Portimao provide beautiful backdrops. Venture to nearby Portimo town, just 2 km north, to experience more traditional Portugal. Praia do Amado and Praia da Bordeira easily attract surfers and beach lovers.
During the high season, exclusive Vilamoura boasts a magnificent marina filled with elegant million-dollar yachts. Golfers will be delighted by the six championship-grade courses in Vilamoura, providing an exciting golfing experience. For traditional Portugal, visit nearby Quarteira town, with breathtaking views from the castle ramparts.
East Algarve towns
The eastern Algarve, a less crowded region steers clear of mass tourism. Think of unspoiled beaches, sparsely populated areas, villages, and tranquil atmospheres compared to the western part.
- Tavira: Sleepy Tavira’s rich history and well-preserved old quarters feature old architecture, including the Roman Bridge and traditional tiled houses. The town features numerous churches, a castle, and Ria Formosa Park.
- Olhão: Olhão traditional fishing town and major port, is famous for its waterfront promenade, bustling fish market, and historic centre with colourful houses. From Olhão, catch a ferry to visit Armona, Culatra, and Farol islands.
- Fuseta: Fuseta fishing village offers relaxed atmospheres and a beach to enjoy seafood and take boat trips to the nearby Ria Formosa islands.
- Castro Marim: Castro Marim town near the border features an impressive medieval castle with panoramic countryside and Guadiana River views. The town also has a nature reserve, salt flats, and a cultural centre celebrating the Algarve’s heritage.
- Vila Real de Santo António: At the easternmost tip, Vila Real de Santo António border town features wide boulevards, a lively marina, and an old quarter with traditional architecture. The town also holds the annual Algarve international sand sculpture festival.
Beaches on the Algarve coast
- Praia da Marinha: Sitting near Lagoa, Praia da Marinha is a wide beach in the Algarve.
- Praia da Falésia Beach: Stretching several kilometres near Albufeira and Vilamoura, Praia da Falésia features dramatic red cliffs, a sandy beach, and pine tree-covered dunes.
- Praia do Camilo Beach: Situated near Lagos, Praia do Camilo, accessed via a steep staircase, features secluded coves and clear waters.
- Praia de Benagil Beach: Located near Carvoeiro, Praia de Benagil is famous for the Benagil sea cave, accessed by boat or kayak.
- Praia da Rocha: Situated in Portimão, this beach offers several amenities, including a pleasant promenade, beachside bars, and restaurants.
- Praia de Odeceixe: Located on the border between the Algarve and Alentejo regions, Praia de Odeceixe is a beach flanked by cliffs and river flowing into the sea.
- Dona Ana Beach: Features dramatic cliffs, golden sand, and azure waters. The beach, nestled between cliffs, creates lovely settings while being secluded and intimate.
Enjoy Local Cuisine in the Algarve
Portuguese cuisine is a celebration of robust flavours and fresh ingredients. Iconic dishes such as piri piri chicken, bacalhau, and the famous pastel de nata showcase the country’s culinary prowess. Seafood takes centre stage for the main course and starters. Indulge in grilled sardines, succulent prawns, and delectable octopus dishes. There are also many good restaurants to pair your meal with local wine or the renowned Medronho, traditional firewater made from the strawberry tree.
Outdoor Activities in the Algarve
Salgados Lagoon: Lagoa dos Salgados Lagoon in the western Algarve, Portugal, between Albufeira and Armação de Pêra, is a valuable wetland belonging to the Salgados Nature Reserve. The area is abundant in birdlife, and birdwatchers can observe and photograph the diverse avian species that call the lagoon home. The lagoon sits next to Salgados Beach, which attracts sun-seekers and beachgoers. In addition to natural beauty, the Lagoon is attached to a leisure and tourism complex with a golf course, luxury hotels, and resorts.
Ponta da Piedade: Ponta da Piedade, a renowned natural Algarve landmark, sits near Lagos town. Ponta da Piedade features cliffs that stand tall above the Ocean. Erosion has sculpted the cliffs into arches, pillars, and caves. Explore the area by taking a boat tour or by descending the steps that wind their way down the cliffs. The crystal-clear waters invite visitors to indulge in swimming, snorkelling, or even kayaking, providing a unique perspective from the water.
Water Sports: The Algarve’s favourable weather conditions are perfect for water sports enthusiasts. Some popular sports include surfing, kitesurfing, windsurfing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. The west coast, with strong winds, high tide and exciting waves, is popular among surfers. Snorkelling and scuba diving also offer the chance to discover marine life and underwater landscapes.
Hiking and Nature Trails: Some popular trails in the Algarve include the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail, the Ludo Trail, and the Costa Vicentina Trail. The highest peak in the Monchique Mountains is Foia, which is 902 meters (2,959 feet) above sea level, while the Monchique Mountains’ panoramic views offer refreshing contrasts to coastal areas.
Algarve Golfing Destinations
San Lorenzo Golf: Sitting near Almancil, San Lorenzo Golf Course consistently ranks among the top in Europe, offers views of Ria Formosa Natural Park, and features manicured fairways and challenging greens.
Vale do Lobo Royal Golf: Sitting within Vale do Lobo resort near Almancil, the Royal Golf Course, designed by Sir Henry Cotton, provides unique golfing with signature cliff-top holes.
Quinta do Lago South: As a prestigious course in the Algarve, Quinta do Lago offers challenging and rewarding rounds of golf. The fairways wind through pine trees and around scenic lakes.
Vilamoura Old Course: The Vilamoura Old Course combines rolling parkland terrain with pine trees and provides an enjoyable and strategic golfing experience
Dom Pedro Victoria Golf: Designed by the legendary Arnold Palmer, Dom Pedro Victoria Golf championship course in Vilamoura features wide fairways, strategically placed bunkers, and large greens.
Monte Rei Golf & Country Club: Monte Rei Golf & Country Club in the eastern Algarve near Tavira offers exclusive golfing experiences. The Jack Nicklaus-designed course is set amidst scenic countryside and provides challenging golf in the Algarve.
The Historical Province of the Algarve
The Algarve’s historical region has medieval roots. During Moorish rule, the Algarve belonged to the Islamic state known as Al-Andalus. Still, it was later reconquered by the Christian kingdoms during the Portuguese Reconquista in the 13th century.
The Algarve remained a separate administrative region within the Kingdom of Portugal. Today, while the administrative divisions of Portugal have changed, the Algarve still retains cultural significance.
Its rich heritage includes Moorish and medieval architecture, traditional crafts, and unique gastronomy. The area encompasses the current administrative district of Faro, which includes cities like Faro, Lagos, Albufeira, Portimão, and Tavira, among others.
Roman Empire Sites in the Algarve
The Romans arrived in the Iberian Peninsula in the 2nd century BC and gradually expanded their influence. The Algarve, then called Lusitania, came under Roman control in the 2nd century AD after the conquest of indigenous Lusitanian tribes.
The Romans established urban centres like Balsa (present-day Tavira) and Ossonoba (modern-day Faro). These settlements served as administrative and economic hubs, with the Romans introducing their architectural and urban planning techniques.
The archaeological site of Cerro da Vila, located in Vilamoura, showcases a Roman villa complex that served as a maritime fishing station during Roman times. The site includes remains of a villa, fish salting tanks, baths, and other structures.
Silves, a city with a long history, features a Roman bridge that spans the Arade River. The bridge, Ponte Romana, was an important river crossing point during Roman times. Near Tavira, the Santa Luzia Roman Ruins present the remains of a fish salting and processing centre used during the Roman era. The site includes tanks, channels, and other structures associated with preserving fish.
The Arade River
The River, or Rio Arade in Portuguese, originates in the Serra do Caldeirão mountains and flows approximately 75 kilometres before reaching the Ocean. In ancient times, the river was an essential waterway for trade and transportation. The Romans, Phoenicians, and Moors recognized the strategic value and established settlements. The river flows through several towns and cities, including Silves, Portimão, and Ferragudo.
One notable feature is the Silves Castle, a medieval fortress in Silves. Today, the River remains an essential waterway for both commercial and recreational purposes. Also, it provides leisure activities such as boat tours, fishing, and kayaking.
Getting Around the Algarve
Whether you prefer the great value of public transport, the flexibility of car rentals, or the ease of taxis and ride-sharing services, getting around is simple and stress-free. The Algarve’s public transport system consists mainly of buses operated by the reliable bus company Eva. Operated by Comboios de Portugal, the national railway company trains provide comfortable and scenic journeys. Renting a car is quickly done through numerous car rental companies.
Weather and Best Time to Visit the Algarve
The Algarve’s climate features hot summers and mild winters, with temperatures ranging from a cosy 13°C to a delightful 27°C, depending on the season. The region enjoys 300 days of sunshine per year.
The Algarve boasts hot, dry summers and mild winters, making the region ideal for year-round living. However, the peak season of resorts falls between July and August, when the area experiences warm temperatures and busy crowds.
June and September are particularly popular with couples, offering quieter atmospheres while still enjoying the weather. From November to March, the off-peak season provides more relaxed atmospheres.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Algarve Portugal known for?
Stunning Beaches: The Algarve’s diverse coastline offers over 100 beaches. These beaches range from long stretches of golden sand to hidden coves. Ditch the swimming pool and enjoy sunbathing, swimming, and exploring the captivating rocks and sea caves.
Golfing Haven: The Algarve’s golfing reputation attracts enthusiasts with top-quality golf courses, landscapes, challenging fairways, and coastal views.
Traditional Villages and Towns: The region features numerous traditional villages and towns. Places like Lagos, Faro, Tavira, and Silves showcase a rich history and architectural heritage, with ancient city walls and well-preserved castles.
Seafood and Gastronomy: Freshly caught fish and shellfish, such as sardines, sea bass, and clams, are staple ingredients. Enjoy delicious seafood dishes at waterfront restaurants paired with regional wines.
Outdoor Activities: Beyond the beaches, the Algarve has various outdoor activities. Explore nature reserves, hike along coastal trails, go birdwatching, or venture inland.
Adventure: Surfing, paddleboarding, kayaking, and snorkelling are popular along the coast. The region also offers off-road quad biking, rock climbing, and boat tours to explore sea caves and dolphin spotting.
Is it worth going to the Algarve in Portugal?
Yes, and to prove it, we need only to look at official tourism stats. Recently, tourists have totalled around 7-8 million annually, making the Algarve one of Portugal’s most visited regions. Add people who have bought a property and moved out; the proof is there. We can also look at the awards that Portugal has won.
The World Travel Awards (WTA) is an annual event that recognizes and celebrates travel and tourism excellence. Portugal has received numerous awards and accolades, including…
- Europe’s Leading Destination,
- World’s Leading Destination,
- Europe’s Leading Beach Destination
- Europe’s Leading City Break Destination.
- The Azores, an archipelago of islands, has been honoured as Europe’s Leading Island Destination.
- Portugal’s golfing infrastructure also earned the country the title of Europe’s Leading Golf Destination.
What is the Nicest Part of the Algarve?
Lagos Town: Lagos coastal town with lovely beaches, dramatic cliffs, an old town, a marina, and proximity to iconic spots like Ponta da Piedade is popular.
Albufeira Town: Albufeira features delightful beaches and lively atmospheres. The area of the central Algarve offers modern resort areas and an old quarter filled with traditional architecture and cosy restaurants.
Tavira Town: Sitting in the eastern Algarve, Tavira town features a well-preserved centre with ancient buildings and a Roman bridge.
Sagres Town: Situated on the Algarve’s southwestern tip, Sagres offers more rugged and unspoiled experiences in Portugal with dramatic cliffs, pristine beaches, and tranquillity. Sagres also attracts surfers and nature enthusiasts.
Carvoeiro: Nestled in a scenic coastal setting of Portugal, Carvoeiro fishing village embraces people to visit and be delighted. The beach, whitewashed residences, and rugged cliffs make this Algarve destination a postcard-perfect spot in Portugal.
From the Algarve to Mainland Portugal
Leaving the Algarve’s sunny shores, the first stop is Faro town. Explore the cobbled streets, visit the impressive Faro Cathedral, and soak up the lively atmosphere of bustling squares. Continuing north, arrive in Alentejo and explore medieval villages, such as Évora, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Journey further north to reach Lisbon City, Portugal’s enchanting capital. Lisbon is a tapestry of contrasts where traditional charm meets contemporary flair.
Lose yourself in the narrow alleyways of Alfama, visit Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery, and take in panoramic views from São Jorge Castle. Indulge in culinary delights, sip on a bica (Portuguese espresso), and feel the pulse of Lisbon’s nightlife. Continuing on, home to one of Europe’s oldest universities, Coimbra exudes an intellectual and cultural aura. Stroll through the medieval city centre, marvel at the architecture of Coimbra University, and enjoy melodies of traditional fado music.
Further north, the lush landscapes of the Douro Valley captivate everyone. Cruise along the Douro River and visit wineries to sample the region’s renowned port wine. Your journey will finish in Porto. Explore the UNESCO-listed centre of Ribeira, visit the awe-inspiring Livraria Lello bookstore, and savour Porto’s gastronomy, accompanied by the region’s exquisite port wine.
Why Buy Property in the Algarve Portugal
Lifestyle: The region balances tranquil countryside living and access to modern amenities, including quality healthcare facilities, international schools, and recreational activities.
Property Value and Investment: Property prices are generally competitive compared to other European countries, appealing to residential buyers and property investors. The region experienced steady growth for real estate providing potential for long-term capital appreciation.
Infrastructure and Accessibility: The Algarve’s well-developed infrastructure includes modern transportation networks, international airports, and excellent road connections. The Algarve is easily accessible from various European cities.
Rental Income: For those interested in generating rental income, the Algarve’s popularity for tourism provides opportunities for renting out your property to holidaymakers, particularly during the high season.
Also About Portugal
Property in the Algarve: Are you on the lookout for the perfect place to call home? Do you yearn for a serene retreat, or an ideal investment opportunity? If so, our range of apartments and villas for sale in the Algarve, Portugal are worth looking at. Each listing contains everything to know or call us today and chat with an agent about investing in the Algarve.
Popular Cities in Portugal: When looking at towns and cities in Portugal, get ready for an avalanche of choices. Altogether there are just over 500 towns. Called a vila in Portuguese, some are municipality seats, while others belong to one. Additionally, 159 cities sit supreme as transport, shopping, nightlife, arts, and culture hubs.