If you’re visiting Portugal, the Algarve Coast must definitely be on your bucketlist! This coast boasts of some of the prettiest beaches in Europe and it lined with quaint towns along the way. If you’re looking to explore more of this region in Portugal, here are sixteen of the best Algarve towns to visit on your next trip to Portugal.
By Maggie of pinkcaddytravelogue.com
If you’re looking for a town in Portugal’s Algarve region that has yet to be overrun by tourists, Lagos is the place to go. The city has a rich cultural heritage, beautiful beaches, and natural scenery. This is one of the prettiest Algarve towns to add to your bucketlist.
Lagos is well-known for its walled historic part of town. Old Town Lagos is a charming labyrinth of old streets filled with chic boutique shops and cozy restaurants. Like many Portuguese towns, you’ll find lots of colorful buildings with azulejo decorations. There are also several lovely town squares made up of mosaics. Old Town is small and easily walkable in an hour or two.
Nearby, Lagos Fortress, or Forte de Ponta de Bandeira, is the best-preserved fort in the Algarve region. The 17th-century structure was built to protect the town from pirates but now serves as a museum.
Lagos’ most famous attraction is Ponta da Piedade. This beautiful coastal area is filled with grottoes and caves and unique rock formations. There are staircases that take lead to the bottom of the cliffs, just watch your step as the waves can come up onto the trail! Another way to see the cliffs is via a boat or kayak tour.
Because it is an Algarve town, Lagos has its share of beaches. The most scenic is Praia Dona Ana, where you’ll be surrounded by Lagos’ famous cliffs. The closest to town is Praia da Batata, right near the fortress.
The nearest airport to Lagos is Faro, which is 75km east. You can also drive or take the bus from Lisbon, which takes about 2.5 hours.
No matter how you get there, Lagos is worth including in any Portgual itinerary!
By Linn Haglund of Amused by Algarve
Albufeira is known as the party town of the Algarve, famed for its “Party Strip”, but it is also gaining a reputation for being the place to stay for active tourism. There is a whole lot to do and among the most popular sports, you can do there are parasailing, boat trips, paddleboarding, and kayaking Albufeira’s incredible coastline. Golden cliffs hide secluded beaches, natural arches, and sea caves that can only be seen from the water.
Besides all the water activities, you can easily travel to other places on the Algarve from Albufeira, and there are a lot of cool offroad tours you can get on to explore the inland. Albufeira is also famed for its stunning beaches and the fact that you can walk straight onto the beach from the old town attracts large numbers of tourists each year. The old town is incredibly charming with whitewashed houses climbing up the sun-kissed cliffs that surround the town. There is a wealth of restaurants and bars where you can grab anything from traditional Portuguese food to international cuisine.
It is easy to reach Albufeira from Faro Airport by bus or train, but for ease, you might prefer a private transfer which will take you to your hotel in only 40 minutes.
By Claire, Tales of a Backpacker
Benagil is a pretty fishing village in the Algarve, roughly mid-way between Portimão and Albufeira. The village itself is much like many others along the coast, with a nice beach and restaurants with great local food. However, what draws most people here is the Benagil Sea Cave close to the village, one of the best places to visit in the Algarve.
The Benagil Cave is one of the most beautiful caves in the world, formed into a dome shape by the waves, with a natural hole in the top of the dome, like a skylight. Visitors flock to the cave from all along the Algarve coast to marvel at this incredible place, which is only accessible from the water.
The best way to visit Benagil Cave is to take a tour, either by boat, kayak or Stand-Up Paddleboard, which you can do from Benagil beach. You can also rent a kayak at Benagil beach, but a guide will show you the best way to get into the cave and make sure you avoid the constant stream of boats jostling for space inside the cave.
If you join a kayak or a SUP tour you will have the opportunity to get out onto the beach inside the cave (weather and tide permitting), whereas boats are not permitted to stop inside the cave – although they do spend enough time inside to give everyone a chance to take photos and get a great look at the cave and wave patterns in the rock.
Boat tours to Benagil also run from towns along the coast including Lagos, Portimão and Albufeira, which give you the chance to see more of the stunning coastline, hidden beaches and rock formations, and even see dolphins along the way! No matter how you choose to see it, don’t miss the Benagil Sea Cave!
By Erin From Pina Travels
Carvoeiro is one of the small Algarve towns that was formerly a fishing village. The town’s white-washed buildings are built in a horseshoe shape around a sandy beach. Surrounding the beach are tall sandstone cliffs, rock formations, and caves, which makes Carvoerio beach one of the best Algarve beaches.
Aside from wandering the picturesque town and relaxing on the beach, there’s plenty to do in Carvoeiro. Walk the boardwalk of Carvoeiro, which guides you along the top of the cliffs that surround the village. Just outside the village is Algar Seco, a natural coastal monument. The wind and ocean has sculpted beautiful rock formations, rock holes, and natural pools that you can explore. For a short hike, walk from Carvoeiro to the nearby Alfanzina Lighthouse. The lighthouse is perched on rock cliffs overseeing the ocean.
The simplest way to reach this Algarve town is by rental car. From Faro Airport, the town is a 45 minute drive, and from Lisbon’s international airport it’s a 2.5 hour drive. The nearest train stations to Carvoeiro are Estômbar-Lagoa and Parchal railway stations. You can connect to these stations from Faro, and then take a short taxi to Carvoeiro. Once you’re in Carvoeiro, there are bus services that will connect you to other Algarve towns like Lagos, Portimao, and Ferragudo.
By Ausra of theroadreel.com
Odeceixe is a quaint traditional Portuguese seaside town situated at the northern border of the Algarve region. The town is perhaps best known as a final destination (or the starting point) on the scenic multi-day Fishermen trail winding along the wild west coast of Portugal.
Wander around the immaculately clean alleyways between the whitewashed terracotta-roofed houses of the village and find your way to an old postcard-perfect windmill. Since the town is located on the coast, Praia de Odeceixe beach is the other highlight of Odeceixe. From the village, you will have to walk (or drive) 3 kilometers until you reach the blue flag Praia de Odeceixe. It is situated at the mouth of River Seixe which loops around and forms a calm lagoon that is beloved by families, and also perfect for canoeing and paddleboarding. Meanwhile consistent waves breaking from the Atlantic Ocean makes Praia de Odeceixe a perfect beach for surfing. If you are a newbie to surfing, there are three surfing schools in Odeceixe to help you out. Moreover, before reaching the beach, you will pass Odeceixe Mar- a tiny hamlet perched atop the hill. Here you can stop for a drink or a snack at one of the bars with a view. If you choose to spend longer in Odeceixe, why not go on a hike following an Odeceixe loop trail that circles around the pastoral farms and the beautiful Costa Vicentina?
The best way to reach Odeceixe is by driving. It takes around 2.5 hours from the capital Lisbon, or 1.5 hours from Lagos. Public buses are also available departing from Lisbon, Lagos, and Faro.
By Alya of stingynomads.com
Salema is a quaint seaside village located on the west coast of the Algarve. This part of the coast is not so heavily developed. This is one of few traditional fishing villages where you can still see fishermen practicing their trade.
Salema still retains plenty of the original charm. Praia de Salema is a blue flag beach with golden sand in the middle of town. The water is usually relatively calm, great for swimming, it can be chilly! The cobblestone streets, lined with fishing cottages and holiday apartments, are beautiful and interesting to explore on foot. Watersports are popular at the beach and kayaks and stand-up paddle boards are available for rental in season, lessons and tours are also available. Dinosaur footprints, fossilized in the rocks, are a popular attraction at Praia de Salema! On the western end of the beach is a shelf among the rocks where several sets of dinosaur footprints have been well preserved. There are some fantastic hikes around the town. Salema is located on the Fishermen´s trail, a 230 km long multi-day hike along the rugged coastline of Alentejo and the Algarve. Walking from Salema to Praia de Luz is a popular day hike.
Salema outside the season is a sleepy beach village, but during the summer it’s a popular holiday place.
By Abbey of tripsonabbeyroad.com
One of the best Algarve towns to visit is Silves. This beautiful and historic town is best known for the very well-preserved medieval castle, the Castillo de Silves, that was built back in the 11th century. And although Silves is not directly on the coast, it is still very close to all the best beaches in the Algarve.
There are plenty of things to do in Silves, Portugal. The main one is, of course, visiting the beautiful castle. You will have to pay a very small entrance fee to walk around the castle, and it is well worth it. Plan to spend a few hours checking out the artifacts and displays inside the castle. They have kept the castle true to the original outline and have left it open for you to explore. A few of the rooms in the castle have been turned into showcases to display what has been found throughout the years on the ground of the castle.
There is also a small snack bar inside the castle where you can order pick-me-ups like coffee or soft drinks. Another thing to do when visiting Silves is to visit the epic Gothic Cathedral to check out. You can purchase the ticket combination to see both the Castillo de Silves and the Cathedral for a discounted rate.
The town of Silves is almost directly in the middle of the Algarve and is about 45 minutes away from the capital Faro. Portimao and Carvoeiro are also very close by and you could easily check out a few of the nearby coastal towns in the Algarve on a day trip.
By Imee of The Backpacking Executive
Monchique is one of the many charming Algarve towns located in the western region of Portugal. Situated in the foothills of the Serra de Monchique mountain range, The town is famous for its thermal baths, natural springs, and lush greenery, making it a popular destination for tourists seeking a tranquil and relaxing vacation.
One of the main attractions of Monchique is the Serra de Monchique mountain range. The mountains are known for their rugged terrain, lush forests, and breathtaking views. Visitors can take a scenic hike through the mountains and explore the area’s stunning natural beauty.
Enjoy the warm waters of Caldas de Monchique, it is believed to have therapeutic properties, and the site offers a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere.
Include the Monchique town’s historical center in your itinerary.The narrow cobbled streets, white-washed houses, and quaint shops and restaurants give it a distinctly Portuguese feel. The town’s main square, Largo dos Chorões, is lined with cafes and restaurants and is a popular spot for visitors to relax and enjoy a meal or a drink.
Learn the history and admire the architecture of the 16th-century church Igreja Matriz de Monchique features a beautiful baroque altar and intricate tilework. It is also located in the historic town center of Monchique.
Whether you’re looking to explore the mountains, soak in the thermal baths, or relax in a charming Portuguese town, Monchique has something for everyone,it is one of the best towns to visit in the Algarve, the home to some of the most famous Landmarks in Portugal.
It is easy to get to Monchique from both Faro and Lagos with the bus or train.
By Melissa of mybeautifulpassport.com
Portimao is one of the best towns to visit on the Algarve Coast, offering visitors a unique blend of culture, nature, and adventure. The largest town on Portugal’s southwestern coast, Portimao provides an ideal holiday destination for those seeking a touch of history combined with modern comforts. From beautiful beaches and bustling markets to outdoor activities and delicious cuisine, there is something for everyone in this small Algarve town.
Take a stroll along Praia da Rocha beachfront promenade where you’ll find plenty of restaurants offering freshly-caught seafood dishes. See the history of this fishing port by visiting the Museu de Portimao, a former sardine canning factory. Go on a boat tour to see the nearby Benagil Caves, enjoying scenic views of the coastline and possibly spotting wild dolphins along the way.
To get to Portimao, plan to fly into Faro Airport and drive approximately 30 minutes or take a train from Faro town. If flying into Lisbon, take a bus or train to get to Portimao. And from Spain, you can drive right across the border and take the motorway. If you don’t have a car rental, rent a scooter in the Algarve and use Portimao as a base to visit the other small towns along the coast.
By Vidyut of triplyzer
Faro, one of the underrated travel gems of Portugal, is considered a gateway to the Algarve region, thanks to its international airport. An important trading center as well as the capital of the Algarve, the city boasts a rich history tracing back to Roman times. This is definitely one of the Algarve towns you need to visit during your time in the region.
The highlight of any trip to Faro is Cidade Velha, the historic center. Decorated with intricate carvings, Arco da Vila, the historic gate welcomes you as you arrive. Continue on foot on the cobbled stoned street, exploring the little churches, colorful houses, and the numerous shops located here. The 13th-century Faro Cathedral with its unique mix of architecture is hard to miss, climb the bell tower for the sweeping views of the old town and the city’s coastline.
Municipal Museum presents well the city’s chronology from its Roman origins to modern-day Portuguese life. From Islamic ceramics to Roman mosaics, there are a lot of interesting cultural artifacts to see here.
And when it’s time for a break, take a seat at Largo da Sé, perfect for an al fresco cafe sit-down and people-watching.
The city’s marina is equally pleasant to walk, especially in the evening. For swimming and sunbathing head to Praia de Faro, the city’s main beach. The nearby Ria Formosa Natural Park, a protected wetland, is a delight for bird watchers with a variety of bird species.
You can easily get to Faro from Lisbon with a direct train that takes about 3 hours.
By Cath of Moving to Portugal
In the very west of the Algarve, not far from the Alentejo region of Portugal, you will find the small but interesting town of Aljezur. The area is popular with the surfing and home-schooling community, thanks to the rugged coastline that sits along the Atlantic and the relaxed feel of the town and surrounding area. Founded by the Berbers in the 10th century, its name still remembers its Moorish history as it comes from the Arabic word Aljuzur meaning islands.
Overlooking Ajezur are the remains of a Moorish fortress, sometimes called Aljezur Castle. While it is not very big, information notices dotted around the site explain what each part was and you can enjoy great views across the Aljezur valley below.
Narrow streets with cobblestones can be found in the upper part of the town, where popping into a café for a Bica (espresso coffee) and pastel de nata can be quite enjoyable while you people watch. In the upper northern part of the town is an impressive church, the Igreja Matriz de Aljezur. Aljezur has a municipal museum where you can learn more about the town.
A short drive outside of town is where you can access the beaches and see stunning cliffs. Arrifana is a great village, with a small sandy beach popular with surfers. There is a ruined fort at the top of the cliff looking out to the Atlantic, beside which you will find O’Paulo, a great restaurant from which to catch the stunning sunsets that set on this side of the Algarve.
Aljezur is located on the far west of the Algarve, at the end of the A22 motorway and off the N120. By car, it is about one hour and 15 minutes from Faro Airport. Aljezur, unfortunately, is not easily accessible from Faro by public transport. The only way to reach it is by taking a bus from Faro to Lagos and then catching the infrequent service from Lagos to Aljezur. This is one of the Algarve towns that is best reached with a car.
Praia da Luz
By Campbell of thealgarvefamily.com
Praia da Luz, also just called Luz, is a cosmopolitan summer holiday village located on the stunning western Algarve coastline of Portugal. Luz was an important fishing town many years ago, but today the town revolves around beach tourism. The main beach with the same name, Praia da Luz, is located in the middle of town. Luz beach is a lovely, sandy beach with beautiful views and impressive cliffs!
Most activities in town revolve around the beach which is nice for swimming, sunbathing, relaxing, and playing beach games. The ocean is relatively calm and flat most of the time in summer, which is great for swimming in safe conditions. The flat conditions are well suited for a variety of watersports that are available on the beach such as windsurfing (lessons available), pedalos, jet skis and even waterskiing and wakeboarding. Praia da Luz is not really known for its surfing, but it has nice waves from time to time with north swell and offshore wind. From the beach, a stunning palm-lined promenade runs next to the ocean. The trail is lined with awesome open-air cafés and restaurants on a walkway with typical Portuguese paving. In season the beach and surroundings are alive with a festive atmosphere and plenty of activities. The popular holiday town Lagos, with a beautiful marina and some amazing beaches, is only 7 km away.
This is one of the Algarve towns that is easy to reach by car or public transport. By public transport get to Lagos by train or bus and from the Lagos bus station take the Linha 4 bus to Luz which takes about 25 minutes.
By Cass of Travel Around Ireland
One of the best Algarve towns to visit it the quaint town of Tavira. This small city is quite a traditional Portuguese city compared to its western counterparts, which makes it great to visit if you want a quieter affair. There is no strip here and during summer, many of the tourists are Portuguese themselves. During winter, many businesses and shops remain open making it the perfect year-round destination in the Algarve.
One of the best things to do in Tavira is to just wander and explore the town. It has lots of narrow, cobbled streets where you will stumble upon many a colourful Portuguese door, or houses whose exteriors are decorated with azulejos (tiles). During the tourist season, there is a small tourist train that visits some of the points of interest while introducing visitors to the town. Whether you take the train or not, the small ruined castle on the hill is worth visiting, if only for its views across the city and beautiful garden. Close by are several of Tavira’s churches, including the Igreja da Misericórdia which is right next to Tavira’s fado hall. If you have time, get tickets for one of the shows featuring Sara Gonçalves. Her voice is incredible. Other things to do include going up Camera Obscura to take in views of the city, taking a ferry across to Ilha de Tavira where the beach is, or sampling some traditional Portuguese dishes in one of the many restaurants in the city. Try O’Castelo or slightly out of town, Xicken & Cia for the best piri-piri around.
Tavira is easily accessible from Faro either by car, bus or train. It is located off junction 16 on the A22 motorway if you are travelling by car. Or you can get a train to either Tavira or Porto Novo station. Find up-to-date train times here. There are also regular bus services from Faro.
By Victoria of guideyourtravel.com
Vilamoura is a beautiful coastal town situated in the Algarve region of Portugal. This popular holiday destination is known for its beautiful beaches, world-class golf courses, and luxurious marina. It’s the perfect stop on your Portugal road trip and ideal for swimming and relaxing.
The stunning marina is the centerpiece of Vilamoura and is the largest in Portugal, with over 1,000 berths for boats and yachts. The marina is surrounded by chic restaurants, cafes, bars, and designer boutiques, making it a popular spot for a leisurely stroll. There are also plenty of opportunities for water sports, such as jet skiing, parasailing, and boat trips, which depart from the marina. The Algarve town’s beautiful sandy beaches are another attraction of Vilamoura. Praia da Marina is the closest beach to the marina and is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports. Praia da Falésia, a short distance away, is a long and wide sandy beach backed by tall cliffs, providing a stunning backdrop for a day at the beach. Vilamoura is also a paradise for golfers, with several championship courses nearby. The Victoria Golf Course, designed by Arnold Palmer, is a highlight and has hosted the prestigious Portugal Masters tournament.
You can reach Vilamoura by car by following the Algarve coastline or make use of the system of local buses, which can drop you off in town. This is one of the best Algarve towns to visit if you’re looking for a beautiful beach holiday.
Ria Formosa Natural Park
By Nichola of globalmousetravels.com
Ria Formosa is such a peaceful escape and is one of the Algarve towns to visit for a relaxing holiday. Located on the Algarve coast, this beautiful park stretches from Faro eastward along 60 kilometres of lagoons and salt pans. Almost completely surrounded by sand dunes and an extensive barrier island system, it’s a coastal wonderland full of flora and fauna that will captivate you. In addition to being one of Portugal’s most valuable ecosystems.
There are so many great activities to enjoy in Ria Formosa Natural Park. This 18000 hectare park has plenty to do. You can go kayaking or sailing here where the water is perfect. There’s a lake at the start which has organised activities and bikes to hire nearby. This is also a wonderful place to visit the beach which is pristine. With wooden walkways through the marshes and lagoons it’s a lovely place to lose yourself in a long walk. You might also come across some amazing wildlife including flamingoes and chameleons. If you can be here as the sun sets it’s a truly wonderful experience.
This is an area that you can drive to but then need to park up and either walk or cycle in to. It’s protected so cars can’t actually get too far into the park. With plenty of family and romantic hotels in the Algarve based nearby it’s a great area of Portugal to stay in and visit.
Vila Real de Santo Antonio
By Cath of Wales with Kids
At the very eastern end of the Algarve, across the Guadiana River from Spain, is the small Algarve town of Vila Real de Santo Antonio, where you can even take a ferry across to Ayamonte in Spain for the day. This quaint Portuguese town is popular with Spanish visitors who get the ferry across to buy linens, something the town is famous for, and to enjoy lunch in one of the many restaurants’ outdoor terraces.
While in this Algarve town, don’t forget to check out the main square, the Praça Marquês de Pombal, and the surrounding streets of Vila Real de Santo Antonio. This is where much of the action happens. On the square, you will find a monument and to one side is the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Encarnação, a small but beautifully decorated church. Often there are small stalls lining the edge of the square selling local and homemade products such as cork products, bread and honey. There is a cultural centre along the main shopping street whose colourful exterior is worthy of a picture.
During Christmas time, this is home to one of the largest presépios (nativity scenes) in all of Portugal. If you are visiting during December, do not miss this! The walk along the river at Vila Real is very pleasant when the sun is not too hot, and just outside town, there is a lighthouse which does have limited guided tours (check ahead of time to find out when they are) and a large sandy beach. And of course, there are plenty of places to buy some souvenir tea towels or azulejo tiles, or the Portuguese Galinha (Rooster).
Vila Real is the last exit before you cross the Guadiana Bridge into Spain. It is located approximately 45 minutes east along the A22 from Faro Airport. There is also a direct train service from Faro to Vila Real de Santo Antonio.
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