What to see and do in the Algarve
In the Algarve, the southernmost part of Portugal, with its beautiful beaches, wonderful countryside and world-famous golf courses, one enjoys an average of 300 days a year of sunshine. It is one of the highest rated holiday destinations in Europe. Enjoy the diversity of nature, taste the delicious Portuguese cuisine and fine wines.
There is so much to do and to discover in the Algarve, that one holiday is certainly not enough to see it all. Below you will find a selection of ideas for trips, activities and sights in the Algarve.
The Algarve is the winner of the World Travel Award for "best beach vacation in Europe" !
It only takes a couple of hours to fly to Faro, the airport of the Algarve, from any place in Europe. Budget flights with Ryanair, Transavia or Easyjet may take you here on a small budget. The Algarve has a good infrastructure. It is never more than 1 hour by car to reach the airport. If you want to see Lisbon, it takes around 2 hours if you take the A2 toll road.
The Algarve can be divided into 3 regions: The Litoral - this is the coastal area, The Barrocal - the plains between the coast and the mountains, and the Serra - the mountain ranges of Monchique and Caldeirão in the north of the Algarve.
Tips for Trips in the Algarve
Nature tourism West Algarve - Get into contact with nature, as well as with culture. Make a carriage ride, go trekking, book a thematic tours, do some yoga or enjoy a wine tasting. Check out all possibilities on the website of Quimera Experience. For reservations: 969467275.
Outdoor activities near Monchique - Choose between several exciting outdoor activities, such as guided walks, downhill mountainbiking, canoeing, climbing and abseiling, paintball or a combination of these. All activities take place around Monchique. There are also special activities for children. Have look at Alternativtour for all information and prices.
Adventurous Water Activities - Pick your favourite or choose a mix of Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP) and Coasteering. Two exciting new and trendy outdoor sport activities that will make an unforgettable memory.
You can do SUP at the rocky coastline between Sagres and Lagos OR on a gentle river near Aljezur on the westcoast. Coasteering can be done in the Sagres-Lagos area.
Detailed information and prices can be found at Coastline Algarve.
Fishing Trips by boat - Have a look at the different possibilities for fishing in the Atlantic Ocean near Albufeira. Choose between reef fishing, shark fishing, big game fishing or deap sea fishing trips. More info and reservations at Wish and Fish.
Tour of the salt pans - Make a reservation for a guided tour of the salt pans and see how the precious "flor de sal" is being harvested in the Algarve.
More information on this in the blog article "Flor de Sal - White Gold of the Algarve". For reservations call 00351 289793601 or mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Olive Oil Tasting - Find out how Extra Virgin olive oil is produced. Book a guided tour of the plantation and the mill with a tasting in Moncarapacho. Opening days: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday from 9.00 to 12.00 a.m. Approximated duration of tour: 75 minutes. For reservations: Tel: +351 289 79 04 40, email: email@example.com
Read all about Olive Oil in the blog article: "Portuguese Olive Oil - Amongst The Best Of The World".
Capela dos ossos in Alcantarilha - This fascinating chapel was built in the 16th century with more than 1500 human skulls and bones. It might seem creepy at first, but visitors report that it gave them a peaceful feeling to be there. The chapel can be found next to the Parish church in the historical centre of the village.
Sitio das Fontes, Estômbar - This place is a well guarded secret and to make it extra interesting: it is free! Go for a swim in the wonderful clear and cool natural water of Sitio das Fontes. This place is situated on the left bank of the Arade river on a terrain of 180.000 m2. You will find here special flora and fauna as well. There is a playground for the kids, signposted footpaths with fitness exercises on the way. You will not find any bars or restaurants here, but one can use the communal BBQ facilities and there are plenty of picknick tables.
From Estômbar you follow the signs to the primary school. Follow this road over a bridge. Then you see a brown sign with the text "Sitio das Fontes". Coming from Silves you take the road direction Lagoa/Carvoeiro and take the exit Silves Estação. At the first roundabout you follow direction Estômbar. After 3 km you see the brown signs that show the way to "Sitio das Fontes".
Zoo Marina - discover the mysteries of the oceans in the best family park of the Algarve. There are shows with dolphins, seals and sea lions, with tropical birds and birds of prey. There is also a beautiful aquarium with sharks and other fish, a 4D cinema, entertainment and swimming pools. Zoo Marina can be found at the N125 - Km 65 - in Guia. On the website you can buy tickets online with a reduction: www.zoomarina.pt/en/
Parque Aventura - Albufeira. This park is recommended on a hot summer day, because you can be active under the shady trees. The park offers several paths between the trees as well as a paintball area of 2500 m2 with natural obstacles. This activity park offers challenging games and paths on several hights. More info on the website parqueaventura.net
Sagres and the "end of the world" - In the old days people thought that the world ended at this most southwestern point of the European mainland.
Enjoy the wind, beautiful views, the rough wild waves hitting the rocks and visit the lighthouse of Cabo São Vicente.
Swimming in a reservoir - Go for a swim in one of the beautiful and empty reservoirs (barragems) in the Algarve. Often you will have the whole lake to yourself, because hardly anybody knows and the Portuguese don´t like to swim! There is no beach, so you will have to improvise a little. The water has drinking quality.
Alte - A beautiful authentic village in the district of Loulé. Just outside the village itself you find Fonte Grande. This is a great place to stay for a few hours on a hot summer day. The natural water is nice and cool, the big trees provide shade, there are BBQs to be used by everybody, as well as picnick tables. Alle you need to bring are charcoal and food. There is also a bar to buy cool drinks and icecream.
Markets - Visit one of the traditional markets in the Algarve and taste the atmosphere. For the locals the monthly market day is a special day out where they meet friends and have some grilled chicken or meat. Here you find a listing of all the market days: http://algarve.angloinfo.com/information/lifestyle/local-markets/
Medieval Festival - Each year in August the Medieval Festival is orgianized in Silves. This is a special event that you should not miss! The whole centre of the historic town is turned into the atmosphere of long ago. The stalls, the merchandise, the shows, food and drinks... everything is in style and one can even rent a costume to melt in.
Armona island - This beautiful piece of nature in the Ria Formosa National Park can be reached only by ferry or river taxi from Olhão. Enjoy the unspoilt beaches and nature, the birds and a lovely lunch.
Monchique - The highest point in the Algarve is the Foia - 902 m. The drive up there goes through the village of Monchique, which is very pretty. From the top you have panoramic views over the Algarve, all the way to the sea. This trip is best on a hot summer day, because on the mountain it is usually a lot cooler.
Silves - This charming and sleepy town can be seen from a distance, because of the ancient Castelo dos Mouros on top of the hill. From here you can enjoy spectacular views over the Algarve. Furthermore there is a beautiful Cathedral from the 13th century and the Museo Municipal de Arquelógia is worth a visit too. It is also possible to go by boat from Portimão to Silves over the Arade river.
The Algarve is loved for its astounding variety of beautiful beaches. Do not expect a tropical beach with white fine sand. The beaches here have golden sands that range from crunchy to fine as dust. Most of the beaches have the Blue Flag eco label. For safety reasons you will find the following flags on the guarded beaches:
Green flag - swimming permitted
yellow flag - swimming forbidden
red flag - swimming AND entering water forbidden
blue/white checkered flag - beach is temporarily unattended
Between the Spanish border and Faro you will find golden strips of sand backed by sand dunes. The water at the eastern end of the Algarve is normally a few degrees warmer as it is edging closer to the Mediterranean.
The further you head west you are more likely to find interesting sandstone rock outcroppings and cliffs with caves that back the beaches. From Lagos to Sagres the scenery becomes more dramatic as you go through national park territory and there is a mix of sheltered coves and long sandy bays all along the coast.
Then there are the beaches on the West coast. Here it is generally more windy and cooler. The beaches are rougher, the waves higher and it is a lot less touristic here. The West coast is very popular with surfers!
Every beach is individual in its character. There are hundreds to discover, so go out there and find your own favourite one.
According to ancient Greek sources, the original inhabitants of the Algarve were people of the Cunetes and Celts. Around 1300 before Christ the Cunetes got company of the Phoenicians, a people of the Mediterranean. They presumably founded trading posts along the coast at Tavira, Faro, Portimão, Silves and Lagos. The biggest influence they may have left is the shape of the traditional Portuguese fishing boats, that almost look Greek.
Throughout history, the Romans, Teutons and the Moors had the power in this region. The latter were here for at least 500 years as off the year 711. Their influence is still very noticeable, for example the chimneys on the Algarvese houses, the dark faces of many people and the places that often start with "Al". It were the Moors that gave the Algarve its name: "Al-Ghrab" which means "the West". For the Moors this region was in the extreme west of the areas they conquered.
It is also because of their influences that the Algarve is so different from the rest of Portugal. From the 11th century the Christians tried to conquer the country back on the Muslims, but it took until 1248 before Silves was finally recaptured. Aljezur was in 1250, the last fortress where the Muslims were expelled.
In the 15th century, Portugal was under the spell of seafaring and discovery. They sailed from Sagres in the Algarve, the south-westernmost part of Europe, under the guiding hand of Infante Dom Henriques (Prince Henry the Navigator). His famous ships were built in Lagos and Portugal was soon one of the major players in the exploration of Africa and Asia.