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With dozens of gorgeous golden sand beaches, a coastline that will make your jaw drop and more beautiful white-washed villages than you can shake a stick at, it’s no wonder the Algarve is one of Europe’s most popular holiday destinations. Whether you prefer to kick back on a beach with a book, explore the area’s best hiking trails on foot, or get your kicks from riding waves, there are so many fun things to do in the Algarve no matter what your interests are. Here’s our list of the 10 best things to do in the Algarve, Portugal.
Frequently Asked Questions
Before we get going on our Algarve things to do guide, here are some of the most frequently asked questions about planning a trip to the Algarve.
Shoulder months are always pleasant in Europe. May, June, September or October offer great weather with less tourists than the packed, sweltering summer months. You’re also more likely to find budget flights and cheaper accommodation if you avoid the popular months of July and August.
Budget-friendly activities in the Algarve include hiking the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail, hiking in the Serra de Monchique mountains, getting lost in Lagos’ Old Town, soaking up the sun on one of the many beautiful beaches or visiting a white-washed village.
Family-friendly activities in the Algarve include a day trip to a fun water park, a pirate ship cave cruise, a half-day dolphin watching cruise, or if your kids are old enough, you could book a group surfing lesson or a go-karting session.
Best Things to Do in the Algarve, Portugal
1. Hike the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail
Starting at the incredibly beautiful Praia da Marinha beach, the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail is a scenic coastal trail that takes you past famous caves, popular beaches and pretty villages. Stretching 6 km (3.7 miles one way) from Praia da Marinha to Praia do Vale de Centeanes, this trek is one of the best things to do in the Algarve. When we hiked this trail, we noticed alot of people setting out in flip flops, but as this trail takes you over the top of cliffs and through alot of rocky ground, we’d recommend wearing good walking shoes or trainers, taking plenty of water and snacks and avoiding hiking during the midday heat, if possible.
If you don’t fancy walking the full 12 km round trip, you could hike the first part of the trail to Praia de Benagil and turn back at this point. This first part is the most scenic, with the best views between Praia da Marinha and Praia de Benagil.
Tip: Don’t underestimate this trail. This hike is arduous, passing over very uneven rocky ground with alot of elevation. Due to the uneven ground, this hike took alot longer than we’d originally planned and we hiked in the midday heat, which was not ideal. I’d recommend setting off early in the morning to avoid the crowds and hottest hours of the day.
2. Take a boat trip to see Benagil Cave
If you haven’t heard of Benagil Cave, you’ve probably at least seen pictures of it. Made famous by Instagram, this stunning cave and rock formation is now swamped with tourists every day. While it is a total tourist trap, I’d argue it’s still worth seeing – it’s famous for a reason, right? We booked a boat trip with Royal Nautic Cruises and they were brilliant. The guides spoke about four different languages, and easily conversed with everyone on board, despite there being multiple nationalities. They were really friendly and funny too, with plenty of jokes and humour. If you’re going to book a boat trip, I’d highly recommend Royal Nautic for great value for money and quality too. The boat was a reasonable size, but not too huge, with perhaps 10-12 people on board.
Of course, the boat trip visits Benagil Cave but the crew took us into probably a dozen different caves, some of which were actually more impressive than Benagil. The scenery all along the coastline from Portimao was spectactular. Benagil Cave was, of course, swamped with boats and kayaks and hundreds of people, but that doesn’t take away from the beauty of it.
3. Chill out in Tavira
When you think of the Algarve, you probably think of Lagos or Albufeira. You probably don’t think of a medieval town called Tavira. But I’d argue that Tavira should definitely be on your list of the best things to do in the Algarve. Tavira is a fishing town with a historical Medieval castle and Roman bridge. With plenty of olde worlde charm, Tavira is the perfect place to stay if you fancy a quieter option to the party towns of Albufeira and Lagos. Labyrinths of cobbled streets, boutique shops, family-run restaurants and plenty of traditional Portugese heritage make this the unsung hero of the Algarve.
4. Head to Cabanas de Tavira
While in Tavira, make sure to head to Cabanas de Tavira. Once a fishing village, this tiny town is now more of a gateway for the Ria Formosa National Park and the Ilha de Cabanas, which is an island just off the coast famous for its long, narrow sandy beach and chilled out vibe. The beach is about 7 km long and known as one of the best beaches in the area. The island can only be reached by boat, making this one of the less crowded beaches in the Algarve.
5. Get lost in Lagos’ Old Town
If wondering around a labyrinth of cobbled streets, stopping for the occassional glass of wine and taking hundreds of photos of crumbling, yet beautiful, buildings is your thing, you’re in luck. Lagos’ Old Town offers another gorgeous vista around every corner, with some interesting street art and murals thrown in. We spent a couple of hours wondering around Lagos with no destination in mind. I love finding tiny little streets and walking in whichever direction takes your fancy. From Lagos’ Old Town, we also wondered down to the Marina and the Forte da Ponta da Bandeira, a fortress complex from the 17th century. Nearby, you’ll also find the beautiful white-washed church of Igreja de Santo António as well as the beautiful square it sits in.
Tip: Skip Albufeira’s Old Town and head straight for Lagos. I wish someone had told me this before I spent an afternoon wondering around the tourist-packed streets of Albufeira, dodging waiters offering full English breakfasts and burgers! If you want charm and culture, skip Albufeira and head to Lagos.
6. Beach hop some of the best beaches in the Algarve
The Algarve boasts some of the best beaches in the world. Not only do they enjoy golden sands, but you’ll also find spectactular cliff backdrops, hidden coves and turquoise sea. Some of the best beaches in the Algarve include:
- Praia da Marinha
- Praia do Vale Centeanes
- Praia de Dona Ana
- Praia do Camilo
- Praia do Sao Rafael
- Praia da Falesia
- Praia da Rocha
- Praia do Carvalho
Whether you choose to beach hop, or spend an entire day enjoying these beautiful natural spots, each beach offers something unique.
7. Surf in Sagres
Sagres sits at the western tip of the Algarve and is a prime surfing spot. With a distinctly chilled out vibe, Sagres is more windswept and rugged in nature than other locations in the Algarve. Due to the shape of the coast here, you’re sure to find a sheltered beach for sunbathing out of the wind or a beach with perfect waves for a spot of surfing.
8. Day trip to the Algarve’s white-washed villages
From Ferragudo to Carvoeiro, there are plenty of tiny, white-washed villages with steeps of traditional charm to explore. Many villages on the coast have beautiful beaches and cliff views, with charming cobbled streets and picturesque houses aplenty. Some of the best village to visit in the Algarve:
9. Hike in the Serra de Monchique mountains
When you’ve had your fill of pristine beaches, don your hiking shoes and head to the rolling hills of the Serra de Monchique mountain range. The Serra de Monchique range offers an abundance of hiking trails, even one that takes you all the way to the top of the highest peak. The hike to the summit of Fóia, at an altitude of 902m, is around 7km long. While in the area, don’t miss a visit to Monchique itself, a calm but attractive town with stunning views.
10. Book one of the Algarve’s best activities
From golfing to watersports, paragliding to kayaking, vineyard tours to surf lessons, there’s something for everyone in the Algarve, with a new golf course and stunning beach around every corner. Some of the best activities to book:
How to Visit the Algarve
Flights to the Algarve
The nearest airport is Faro. Budget airlines such as Ryanair and easyJet offer budget routes to Faro from many European and UK airports.
Accommodation in the Algarve
Whether you opt for a self-catering apartment, a hotel, or a guesthouse, the Algarve has a wide variety of accommodation types for you to choose from. If you’re looking for a party vibe, head to Albufeira, if you want beaches, consider staying in Lagos, or if you’re after a more laid back vibe with plenty of culture, I’d recommend staying in Tavira.
Getting around the Algarve
To travel around the Algarve easily and maximise your time, I’d recommend hiring a car. We used SurPrice Car Rental and got a great deal, and great service.
Heading to the Algarve and making a list of the best things to do? What’s on your list?