Best places to visit in the Algarve, Portugal

The Algarve is a destination that you can visit time and time again and never be bored! Stay in a different town, explore new beaches and discover a different side to this vast coastal region every time you return. We did exactly this! In our most recent trip, we spent a whole month touring the best places to visit in the Algarve and we’ve assembled a list below so you can do the same.

Each of the Algarve destinations on our list have something for everyone and are not to be missed. They span the full length of the coastline, from east to west, so plan carefully. You can visit some of them on the same day!

Read on for inspiration on the best places to visit in the Algarve, Portugal.

Lagos’ amazing beaches

You can’t visit the Algarve and not stop by one of its amazing beaches. The entire coastline has hundreds of beaches to choose from. Some of them are long, white and sandy; others have a steep cliff descent and golden sands. Lagos is the region to the far-west of the Algarve that’s said to have some of the best beaches in the whole of Portugal.

They typically have a towering cliff face that descends to small coves. The scenery is simply breath-taking! Relax on the sand, grab a drink at a beach bar or swim the shore in-and-out of the caves. Here are some of our favourite Lagos beaches to check out:

Praia do Camilo – 200 steps lead you down to a sheltered sandy beach. A tall cliff face, arches and caves all set the scene for a relaxing afternoon in the sun. This beach is renowned to be one of the best in Europe.

Best places to visit in the Algarve - Praia do Camilo Beach

Praia dos Estudantes – Located a short walk from Lagos Old Town, Praia dos Estudantes is surprisingly picturesque for a city beach. Towering golden cliffs surround the sand and there’s always lots going on. It’s the perfect place to relax after a morning of sightseeing in Lagos. Be sure to look out for the old Roman Bridge that divides this beach with Praia do Dona Ana.

Best beaches in the Algarve - Shows Praia dos Estudantes Roman Bridge

Praia do Canavial – A complete contrast to the above beaches, Praia do Canavial is a much longer beach that’s popular with the locals. It has sun loungers that you can rent, a beach bar and restaurant and vast white sands to walk along. It’s perfect for those that just want to relax and go for a swim. It’s also less crowded that other nearby Lagos beaches.

Praia do Canavial - Algarve best attractions

Ponta da Piedade

Ponta da Piedade is not only one of the best places to visit in the Algarve, it’s a contender for #1 position. This intricate complex of caves, small lagoons, archways and cliffs, make for some outstanding scenery. It’s a popular tourist spot for those that want epic photos, but it also provides an adventurous day out.

The best way to see Ponta da Piedade is by boat. Kayaks, speed boat tours and other small watercraft allow you to get up close and personal with the cave openings and manoeuvre amongst the rocks. We recommend booking a boat tour in Lagos town by the marina before heading out to Ponta da Piedade. Once you’ve finished the tour, return by car to see the turquoise waters from the cliff-walk above.

Best places to visit in the Algarve - Shot of Ponta da Piedade from above
View of the rock arches at Ponta da Piedade

Alvor

Alvor is a former fishing village that has been transformed into a touristic-centric beach town, with a distinctive Portuguese appearance. It has a long promenade with some cool metal sculptures, rows of palm trees and restaurants with a view. We stopped off for lunch at the Yacht club Café Bar and highly recommend it.

Alvor is also home to many different restaurants and bakeries. You have to check out confeitaria d’Alvor for a sweet treat. The pastel de natas were to die for! Just down the road from the bakery is a beautiful church called Igreja Matriz da Alvor, which was built in the 1520s.

Once you’ve finished wandering around town, take a nice long walk across the Alvor boardwalk to the south. It leads across the river estuary and onward to the beach. It’s a beautiful little town with so much to offer and definitely worth paying a visit!

Fishing boats docked on Alvor Beach - Best places to visit in the Algarve
Metal statues on Alvor boardwalk

Benagil Caves

There’s a very good chance you’ve seen a photo of Benagil Cave. It’s featured in every Instagram photo, travel brochure and Algarve visitor’s guide, famous for its unique appearance. This huge cave has been carved out of the rugged cliffs and an opening has formed at its top, causing rays of sunlight to cascade beneath the rock.

There are two ways to explore Benagil caves. The first is by walking down a short cliffside trail and standing on top of cliff face, peering down into the cave. The second, and the most popular, is by accessing Benagil from the shore. You can either swim there from Benagil Beach, rent a paddle board or kayak, or join a boat tour.

Looking up inside Benagil Cave
Shot of the beach inside Benagil Cave

Praia da Marinha Beach

Just down the road from the Benagil Caves is Praia do Marinha; a beach that’s widely regarded as the best in Portugal and has topped many lists that feature the world’s best beaches. You’ll need a car to get here and we found the beach to be a lot less crowded than others – a big win! Just arrive early as there’s limited parking.

Walk down the wooden staircase to a secluded golden cove. Here you’ll find a small beach bar and long golden sands. Go for a swim in the refreshing sea, relax in the sun, or explore the cool natural scenery that has been carved out of the rock face.

Things to do in the Algarve - Praia da Marinha beach kayak
Praia da Marinha drone shot from above

Carvoeiro

If you’re still not done with adventure after a day exploring Bengail Caves and Praia da Marinha, drive further west to the quaint beach town of Carvoeiro. As a growing expat town, Carvoeiro has a lot to offer! Start your visit with a scenic coastal walk along Algor Seco boardwalk. The views of the sea are beautiful, and you get a nice breeze as you walk.

Inside town, you’ll encounter white-washed and colourful buildings, all looking out at Carvoeiro Beach. Go for a stroll amongst the shops, enjoy lunch in the endless selection of restaurants and experience what town life is all about. Carvoeiro is a mix of tourists alongside locals and the vibe is very welcoming. End your stay with a dip in the ocean, which sits directly at the foot of town.

Algor Seco boardwalk
Best places to visit in the Algarve - Carvoeiro town beach

Costa Vicente National Park – Aljezur and Odeceixe

We were shocked to hear that Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano, also known as Costa Vicente, is one of the least visited best places to visit in the Algarve. Although it can be a little drive to get there from a lot of Algarve towns, we encourage anyone reading to make the trip. The West-Algarve Costa Vicente coastline is much unlike the rest of the region. As a protected national park, you won’t find many built up towns and structures. It’s mainly made up of vast cliffsides, sand dunes and empty beaches.

One of the main differences with the beaches here are how wild the waves are compared to the calmer south coast. Aggressive waves pound the shorelines, creating some cool scenery, but also a surfer’s paradise. It’s a popular place for sports competitions and wellness retreats.

Whilst you can visit anywhere in the national park and experience its beauty, we recommend exploring the town of Aljezur, with its picturesque castle. Next, drive onward to the beach town of Odeceixe and stop by any beaches that catch your eye along the way.

Coastal scenery on the Costa Vicente national park
Algarve attractions - Shows a windmill in Odeceixe town

Monchique

Monchique is one of the best places to visit in the Algarve if you like off-the-beaten track towns that give you a feel of local life. It’s one of the only destinations on our list that’s located inland, deep within the mountains. Miradouro viewpoint is the place to start any visit to Monchique. It provides panoramic views over the elevated town and the mountains as a backdrop.

Within town, you have a quiet atmosphere and it’s best explored on foot. Wander the colourful streets browsing gift shops, cafes, historic churches, and even a working convent. It feels very different to elsewhere in the Algarve; so much so that English isn’t very widely spoken. Just outside of Monchique is a challenging hiking route and several walking trails, so bring along some sturdy trainers. The views are outstanding!

We recommend visiting Monchique in the morning whilst it’s cool and stopping by a trendy restaurant called Velochique for lunch.

Houses of Monchique from above
Susie standing on a bridge in Monchique

Tavira

Tavira is one of the most charming places to visit in the Algarve. It’s retained its traditional Portuguese façade, with white-washed stone buildings, colourful doors and window shutters, and has a quaint collection of bridges. It’s unlike any of the other places you’ll visit during your time on the south coast!

The top things to see and do on a day-trip to Tavira include a number of historic churches, a towering castle that overlooks town, and plenty of gift shops, corner cafes and bakeries. The highlight of any visit is simply wandering around the old-cobbled streets and taking in the quiet, friendly atmosphere. It’s also a great place to stay if you want an authentic holiday experience with small town-appeal.

Best places to visit in the Algarve -  Old Roman Bridge view
Tavira castle looking out at the town

Olhão

Just down the road from Tavira and very close to Faro is Olhão, a bustling fishing town that doesn’t feel very touristic at all. See how the locals live and take in the atmosphere of this surprisingly active town. There’s a lot going on for its size! Take a stroll along the promenade to the marina, sample fresh food at the market or get lost amongst the narrow streets. There are some amazing restaurants, cafes and bakeries to check out. We had some of our best meals here!

Plan to spend a few hours wandering around Olhao at your leisure. We recommend combining your visit with Tavira and exploring both towns in one full day.

Boats at Olhao marina
Shows Olhao market

Sagres

Venture to the edge of Europe and experience some of the best scenery that Portugal has to offer! Known as being the western-most point in Europe before crossing the Atlantic to the USA, it has a rugged coastline of amazing beaches, a grand fortress, and of course, Sagres Lighthouse.

Stop by Sagres town to take in the cool surfer-vibes, browse the gift shops and grab a bite to eat. Then head onward to Sagres Fortress. This magnificent sand-coloured 16th fortress is a great viewpoint, and one with historical significance. Walk the walls of the fort and peer out at sea.

Next, head further along the coastline to Praia do Beliche, which is extremely popular with surfers. The waves are wild and the scenery is beautiful. The final stop on your agenda should be the famous Sagres Lighthouse, which provides more stunning viewpoints and a glance at the crashing waves against the cliffside.

Fortress at Sagres - Algarve attractions
Surfer at Praia do Beliche Beach
Sagres Lighthouse - Best places to visit in the Algarve

Rio Formosa National Park and Faro Town

If you fly into the Algarve from Faro Airport, you’ll notice the vast river estuaries and marshlands by the edge of the sea. This is the government protected ‘Rio Formosa National Park’. It’s an array of islands that’s home to an abundance of wildlife. It also has some of the least populated beaches and rugged coastal scenery you’ll find. The best way to see the national park is by boat, which you can board from nearby towns Faro, Olhao and Tavira.

We personally recommend visiting Faro for the day and boarding a boat trip from town, onward to Rio Formosa. Faro has some of the oldest standing buildings in the Algarve and is reminiscent of traditional Portuguese architecture. It boasts a pretty marina, wonderful architecture and lots of dining options, making it a great place for a morning walk. Both destinations can be seen in a day and are completely different to each other.

Rio Formosa national park wildlands
Image courtesy of Ricardo Oliveira Wiki CC
Faro town square with outdoor restaurant seating

Lagos Town

We spent 4 months in Lagos and it became a second home. It’s one of the bigger towns in the Algarve, with a local population of 30,000. Therefore, you can visit year-round and still have plenty going on. Lagos Old Town is the heart of the action, made up of bustling squares, old churches and a colourful collection of houses, cafes and bars. The variety of shops is also very good, ranging from high-street fashion to local gift shops.

Alongside the old town, you have the remnants of a 1000+ year-old castle and a long promenade that leads to a medieval fortress. Walk to the other side of the promenade and you’ll stumble upon a large marina that’s full of luxury yachts and tourist boats, ready to take you to explore the rugged coastline.

Lagos is well worth seeing any day of the week and you’re spoilt for choice at the number of restaurants and bar options. It particularly comes alive on an evening! Check out our guide to Lagos here for more tips on the best places to stay, eat, drink and visit.

Old historic church in Lagos town
Best places to visit in the Algarve - Quaint fountain in Lagos town
Lagos medieval fortress

Portimão

Portimão is the second largest town in the Algarve and its centre is a compact collection of working locals, with fewer tourists compared to other destinations. Most visitors simply pass-through town on their way to its beach area, Praia da Rocha. Whilst the old centre of Portimão doesn’t have a huge deal to see and do, it’s well worth visiting in our opinion. Its marina is one of the best in the Algarve!

Take a stroll along the promenade admiring the boats, enjoy an ice cream on a park bench or wander the old streets. The churches, houses and small shops are just as pretty as anywhere else in the Algarve. Wall art, cool sculptures and flower arrangements all add to its charm.

Another great reason to visit Portimão is for its huge shopping mall. Aqua Portimão Shopping Centre has plenty of international fashion brands to outfit you with new holiday clothes.

Shows boats at Portimao marina
Best places to visit in the Algarve - Old building in town
Algarve attractions - Shows a mural in Portimao town

Praia da Rocha

We’ve mentioned quite a lot of amazing beaches in our list of the best places to visit in the Algarve, but they’re all unique! Praia da Rocha, a name you’ve probably heard of, is Portimão’s main beach area and a vibrant holiday destination year-after-year. It’s one of the most developed beaches in the Algarve, with a sprawling boardwalk of restaurants and bars. During the day they’re a great place to relax with a drink and lunch, and they come alive on an evening.

Relax on the long white sandy beach, which has plenty of sun loungers that you can rent. Alternatively, pump your adrenaline with some water sports or check out the local beach club – No Solo Agua. DJ events, great food and drinks and a swimming pool by the beach make this a hotspot for sun seekers.

No Solo Agua beach club in Portimao
Best places to visit in the Algarve - Praia da Rocha boardwalk

Albufeira Old Town

Albufeira needs no introduction! It’s the most popular Algarve destination for holiday seekers and has an abundance of hotels, restaurants, bars and activities. If you’re not already staying in Albufeira, it’s well worth visiting! Sure, it’s packed with tourists in the summer months, but its old town is still charming and there’s a lot to see and do.

Dive deep into Albufeira Old Town and wander the streets at your own pace. Enjoy a drink in a small café, soak in the vibrant atmosphere and veer off the tourist trail for a more local adventure. Often, the back-street restaurants and bars are cheaper and better than those in the main square. We recommend checking out the marina and Albufeira beach before heading into the centre of town. Stay until early evening to see a different side of town – the streets come alive!

Albufeira beach from afar
Algarve attractions - Streets of Albufeira

Vilamoura Marina

As a purpose-built tourist town, Vilamoura is an eclectic collection of luxury hotels, brunch restaurants and super-yachts. It has a higher-end resort vibe and many Brits flock to the town for a lavish holiday. Whilst it feels rather touristic, and lacks Portuguese tradition, it has a stunning marina, the largest in the Algarve in fact. It has a modern flair that many people love!

Visit for a day trip and you can enjoy browsing the shops, have a meal with a view, or sip a glass of prosecco at sunset. You may also wish to rent a boat or join a tour from the marina – there’s an abundance of options to choose from.

Furthermore, it’s a top spot for golfers. The outskirts of Vilamoura town are surrounded by award winning golf courses and spa retreats. Indulge in either and make it a full day-trip.

Best places to visit in the Algarve - Susie at Vilamoura marina
Shows yachts in Vilamoura marina

That concludes our list of the best places to visit in the Algarve. The above ideas are some of the nicest beaches, towns and cool areas to check out. If you’d like some inspiration of the best Algarve attractions, such as water parks and the popular Zoomarine, check out our guide here.

We’ve been to the Algarve many times and there’s no doubt that we’ll be back. It has a laid-back holiday atmosphere from March – September and the climate is perfect for exploring without feeling too hot. Looking for more Portugal travel tips and inspiration? View all of our Portugal travel posts here.

By Ricky

Author bio:

An adventurer at heart that loves anything outdoors. Beaches, mountains and amazing scenery is everything I love about travel! I also enjoy home comforts and need a nice place to relax and re-charge after every trip.

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