The Algarve region of southern Portugal is a year-round destination for those seeking a life less ordinary. In summer, its many coastal towns and villages come alive with tourists, especially British, Germans and Dutch, who like to lie on the beaches all day and party in the clubs all night. Winter, however, sees the arrival of the scores of British retirees, escaping the winter freeze.
Faro, the Algarve’s capital, is the business hub and first port of call for foreigners flying in; but it’s the beachside towns like Lagos, Albufeira, Portimao, Silves and Praia da Rocha that remain the main drawcards. Albufeira, for instance, boasts the world’s best Peri Peri Chicken, plus striking white-walled buildings that overlook a beautiful Atlantic Ocean – where bikini tops are optional.
Algarve’s Top 10
10. Faro Often overlooked, this city has a unique charm. Discover the Algarve’s rich history in the Old Town.
5. Vila do Bispo Not for the faint-hearted, rock climbing here gives you rare views of one of the Algarve’s most beautiful locations.
9. Algarve Beaches Kick back on some of Algarve’s best-known beaches, like Praia da Marinha or Armação de Pêra.
4. Albufeira A fantastic location for beach-lovers and adrenaline junkies alike. Try quad biking over rugged terrain that’s difficult on foot and impossible by car.
8. Portimao Water sports wonderland! Jet skiing, kite surfing, body boarding, snorkelling… it’s all here.
3. Zoomarine Dolphins, sea lions, tropical birds, sharks and a Cinema4D experience. There’s something for all ages.
7. Bar Street The name says it all. Albufeira’s party zone boasts an array of clubs, bars and restaurants where you can party in till the early hours! Off-season, there’s less action, but plenty of cougars!
2. Ria Formosa National Park From its beaches to its labyrinth of small islands and lagoons, it’s a relaxing day out and a nice change of pace from all that partying.
6. Vilamoura Golfing heaven for pros and amateurs alike. This is the place for the ultimate swingers holiday!
1. Dream Wave World Take a cruise on a pirate boat, ride a jet ski, find hidden caves and secret beaches, or watch wild dolphins playing at sea.
- Hermitage of São João Baptista – This church in Lagos is the oldest in Algarve.
- Old Town – Explore the historic buildings in Albufeira’s Old Town.
- Museu Municipal de Faro – A museum in Faro that tells the history of the Algarve region and has some interesting archaeological artefacts.
- Cerro da Vila – Explore this Roman villa and bath at Vilamoura and learn about its history.
- Loule – This stunning castle in Loule with traditional period rooms tells a lot about the area’s history and how castle inhabitants lived.
Algarve Art & Culture
- Museu Etnografico do Trajo Algarvio – This museum shows the history of traditional costume and toys in the Algarve. You can join a guided tour at Rua Dr Jose Dias Sancho in Sao Bras de Alportel.
- Museu Arqueologico – The 16th-century paintings and Moorish ceramics are all on display here in Faro.
- Garth Henriques – Watch excellent theatrical productions all year at this theatre in Silves.
- May Day – Folk festivals exploring local culture and music take place across the Algarve on this day.
- São Lourenço Cultural Centre – View and buy modern local art from this gallery in Almancil.
- Market Day – On every day of the week, a different town has a local market selling fabulous crafts and produce.
- Algarve Shopping – This huge shopping mall in Guia is full of modern, mainstream stores and a great food court.
- Guia Shopping Centre – Lots of fashion stores in this complex in Albufeira.
- Albufeira Old Town – These narrow streets are full of quaint, unique shops.
- Candido dos Reis – Find clothing stores everywhere in this Lagos street.
Gay & Lesbian Algarve
- Praia Grande – Bask in the sun on this gay beach in Armação de Pera.
- Gay Pride – Takes place every June 28 across the region. It is a huge party!
- Casa Charneca – A popular gay-friendly place to stay in Faro.
- Best Bar – This gay bar in Albufeira puts on regular drag shows.
- El Panchito – This gay-friendly Mexican restaurant at the marina in Albufeira is popular and serves excellent food.
- Algarve Buggy Tour – Explore off the beaten track in an open-top buggy and stop for an outdoor picnic.
- Meia Prais – This beach is great for sunbathing.
- Natura Algarve – This nature and ecology centre that provides boat trips is great and educational for children.
- Cabo do Sao Vincente – Gaze out to sea from the coast of Sagres.
- Adega do Cantor – Stroll around and taste some local wine from Cliff Richard’s vineyard.
- Go on a quad biking trek at Quad Ventura in Albufeira.
- Go horseback riding at the Holistic Riding Centre Quinta Creative in Carrapeteira.
- Go swimming in the sea at Praia Gale.
- Watch a motorsport race at Algarve Racing in Portimao.
- Take surfing lessons at the Freeride Surfcamp & School at Sagre’s Hotel Memmo Baleeira.
Loule Carnival, in February, sees the locals let loose with floats and fancy dress parades through the streets.
Easter Sunday is celebrated in São Bras de Alportel with the Flower Torches Festival. Men hold decorated torches while running through the streets shouting “Hallelujah!” Amen to that!
Take a trip back in time with July’s Moorish Nights, when the village of Cacela Velha re-creates the ambience of the Arab presence in the Algarve between the 10th and 13th centuries.
Foodies, take note! The Festival do Marisco (Seafood Festival) is held each August at the Jardim do Pescador Olhanense.
In October, Faro pays homage to Santa Iria (Saint Irene) with 10 days of festivities. The fair, which takes place in Largo de São Francisco, includes stalls, displays and exhibitions.
When To Go
- Anytime! It’s always warmer in winter than most other parts of Europe.
- The summer average temperatures range from 19-28°C (66-82°F) in summer and 9-15°C (48-59°F) in winter.
- The wettest months are usually between December and March.
Public transport can be difficult if you don’t speak Portuguese. Trains are the most reliable public transport, and include Alfa Pendular high-speed, Intercity and regional trains.
Hire a car to explore beyond the beaches, as local buses aren’t very reliable, especially during the off-season.
Plan ahead, and be prepared to wait, because everything happens at a leisurely pace in the Algarve!
One of the most beautiful areas of Portugal, the Algarve, or district of Faro, is in the extreme south of the country. Home to some of the most scenic spans of Mediterranean coast, the Algarve also contains lush valleys and idyllic mountain landscapes. Beach resorts and attractive towns however, are why millions of people visit the region every year.
With Albufeira as one of the most popular coastal towns in Europe, the Algarve has no shortage of postcard-perfect beaches, virtually flooded with tourists in the hectic summer months. Old towns like Faro, Silves, Lagoa, Lagos and Loulé provide visitors with a plethora of historical landmarks and attractions. From incredibly well-preserved ancient quarters to resplendent cathedral and fortress architecture, the Algarve's vast network of brilliant small towns represents a good bet for those who want a break from the sand and sun. Of course, the allure of spa resorts, golf courses and swish hotels on the Mediterranean coast consistently deliver divine holiday escapes.
Attractions & Activities
Restaurants & Nightlife
The Mediterranean climate of the entire Algarve region of Portugal is the main draw for tourists. With sparse rainfall and warm weather throughout the year, there is no bad time to visit.
- Winter (December to February) 9-16°C
- Spring (March to May) 11-22°C
- Summer (June to September) 18-28°C
- Fall (October to November) 13-22°C
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