The Ultimate Guide to the Algarve in Portugal
Portugal is the hidden gem of Europe and the Algarve is the hidden gem of Portugal ❤️ It’s beyond amazing and magical. It’s an absolute dream we sometimes wish we’d had discovered earlier.
The breathtaking coastline with stunning cliffs, amazing deep blue ocean, dreamy beaches and the extraordinary landscape with arches and caves – the Algarve is truly unlike anywhere else and an absolute must if you’re planning a trip to Portugal.
Whether you’re a city person, beach lover, or trail adventurer, the charming beach towns of the Algarve will absolutely steal your heart. They’ve definitely stolen ours 😍
Fun anecdote – when we were in Portugal in November last year, Katja insisted on staying in Lisbon during the whole period (2 weeks) because she loves Lisbon that much. Réda needed to reeeeeally insist and organise everything in order for Katja to even accept the idea of driving to the south 🙈 Turns out our first trip to Algarve has stolen both of our hearts and Katja couldn’t be more grateful for Réda’s persisting encouragement to discover the region. We’re in the Algarve region for the second time now and we are 100% sure we’ll be back in no time 🙌
HOW TO GET THERE
Until now, we’ve always rented a car in Lisbon and drove about 2,5 hours south. The infrastructure is amazing, the landscape really beautiful, and you get to cross one of the two great bridges leading from Lisbon to the south – Vasco de Gama Bridge and The Ponte 25 de Abril. The tolls are very reasonable (highway + bridge) and in the Algarve region you can easily avoid tolls by using the great regional roads.
You can check a short video of our beautiful road trip to Algarve out here.
You can take a train from the Entrecampos Station in Lisbon to the Faro Station in Algarve. The journey takes nearly three hours, and you can buy tickets online or in person.
If you want to fly directly to the Algarve, the best way is is to fly to Faro airport, centrally located in the region. You can also fly to Lisbon airport and then commute to the Algarve using the above means.
Our suggestion indeed is the car rental. It makes it super easy to explore the region and hop around between different towns and beaches. There is a possibility of public transportation in the Algarve region, but it would require much more organisation and the need to stick to schedule.
WHERE TO STAY
There are so many beautiful villages and towns in the region. Your choice of accommodation location will of course depend on the experience you’d like to have.
STRATEGIC LOCATION FOR EXPLORING
Our recommendation is to stay at one location and move around by doing day trips. The region is fairly small so having a “strategic base” at the right spot makes it very easy for you to move around.
We highly recommend an accommodation somewhere between Faro and Lagos, two bigger cities in the region. Note that Albufeira is one of the more touristy towns in between Faro and Lagos, so you may want to look for a smaller and less touristy town (even though Albufeira is a great town to visit).
ISOLATED REMOTE TOWN
When we traveled to the Algarve the first time, we stayed in a small town called Galé. It is a very quiet and peaceful town close to Albufeira, making it great to relax and have quite some intimacy. However, apart from the access to the beautiful beach you will have to drive to Albufeira for anything else (groceries, bakery, fish market etc). This is not an inconvenience but it’s good to be aware of it and adapt your choice to your preference.
RESIDENTIAL SMALL CITY
This time we choose to stay in Armaçao de Pêra, a town about 3km away from Galé. Set in a wide bay Armação de Pêra is amazing for a very easy access to the beach, but also to many cafés, restaurants, supermarkets and more than a few ice-cream shops. There is also an amazing daily fish and fruits & veggies market, where you get to interact with locals all while getting the best seasonal products in the region.
WHAT TO DO
– Explore the beaches. You simply have to discover the variety of stunning sandy beaches (see below for the selection of our fav ones). Note that there is not much shade on the beaches and it is highly recommended not to seek shade just below the cliffs for the security reasons. We recommend you check with your accommodation if the reservation includes the sunshade. Otherwise you can either buy one in the nearby stores (raging from 6 to 15 eur) or rent the shaded spot on the beach (only available on more urban beaches though and can be rather pricy).
– Discover the charming towns. From Albufeira and Lagos to Sagres and Faro, the beautiful Algarve towns are worth exploring. We were particularly impressed by Sagres, the westernmost point of Portugal, which used to be thought of as the end of the world. We visited the Fortaleza de Sagres, which totally amazed us. Walking around the place from which the discoverers once set sail into the unknown waters is a feeling hard to describe. Apart from the spectacular panorama, the place offers a lot of insights in the historical and natural parts of the area. The entrance fee is only 3 eur per person and we spent 2 hours there.
– Hike on the cliffs of the Algarve coast. Regardless of how sporty you are, the great trail along the coastline of the Algarve is a big must for anyone in the region. You decide how long you want to walk around and whether you’ll just hike to the beach or rather go for a longer hike. The coastal trail meanders past picturesque beaches and offers amazing perspectives.
– Go on the boat tour of stunning caves and dolphin watching. We are usually not fans of organised trips but this one is so worth it! Thanks to the special rock formation, there is more to Algarve than stunning cliffs and beaches. By boat you can discover amazing caves that are otherwise not accessible by foot. Also, the boat tour offers a totally different perspective on the coastal area, making you appreciate it even more. Last but not least, seeing dolphins in their natural habitat is a totally magical experience. We loved it so much when we did this boat tour back in November during our first trip to the Algarve. Click here to see the video of our experience. Btw – we took the boat from Albufeira but there are plenty of options from various cities, offering more or less similar experience.
TOP 3 BEST BEACHES
Every beach in the area is unique and has something great to offer. Some are very easily accessible, some are a bit more remote, some are more urban, yet some others are very natural. It is therefore hard to highlight just a few, but here is the selection of our fav ones we’d definitely recommend.
– PRAIA NOVA
Praia Nova is a relatively big beach, stretching for about 300 metres in length. The beach is backed by tall rock formations. On top of the cliff on the left hand side of the beach is a beautiful chapel of Nossa Senhora da Rocha, a great spot for some beautiful views. Praia Nova is usually not very crowded. The beach is quite large, which means there is a lot of space. Since the beach is relatively unknown, few people visit it. Compared with Praia de Nossa Senhora da Rocha (the beach next to Praia Nova), Praia Nova is much bigger, less crowded and more quiet.
– PRAIA DA MARINHA
Praia da Marinha is one of our ultimate fav beaches and one of the most picturesque ones. Its iconic rock formations have graced the covers of a hundred holiday brochures – and rightfully so. The beach itself is sandy, but fairly small. Despite being located in the middle of the Algarve coast, Praia da Marinha lacks the facilities and most importantly, the easy access of other Algarve beaches. To get to the beach involves a bit off a drive off the main road followed by a steep descent down to the beach via a set of steps. The special rock formation makes it very unique to swim there or to explore it with a kayak.
– PRAIA DE ALBANDERA
What makes the Albandeira beach stand out amongst many of its neighbours is its small size, a fairly easy access and the iconic Arco de Albandeira, very unique rock formations, seen from the cliff overlooking Praia de Albandera. This huge arched rock formation is a beautiful spot to admire during sunset, just at the end of the day at the beach. The high tide on Praia de Albandera may force visitors to move towards the upper part of the beach, making it seem more crowded than it actually is, but it’s particularly enjoyable early in the morning and late in the afternoon where there are only a handful of visitors.
Part of Praia Nova with the Nossa Senhora da Rocha on the top of the cliff
The amazing rock formations of the Praia da Marinha
The iconic Arco de Albandeira next to the stunning Praia de Albandeira
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