Visit PortugalVisit Algarve: The ultimate vacation guide

Jack Johnson2 years ago

Do you want to visit the Algarve? Read on to find out why this gem of Portugal is so beloved — we’ll even share some of our favorite secret spots!

Why visit the Algarve?

The Algarve is considered by many to be the “Florida of Europe” — sunny, located in the southern part of Portugal, and relatively inexpensive as compared to other beach destinations. Plus, it’s safe and very relaxing.

Getting there is easy

Every year, thousands of tourists visit Algarve, coming from the UK, US, Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, and many other countries. The majority of visitors fly directly into the Algarve Airport (Faro Airport). However, given the excellent web of motorways in Portugal, you can reach the Algarve in about two hours from Lisbon by car — so the Lisbon airport is always a good option.

Want to take a spin around the Algarve? Here’s how to rent a car in Portugal.

Sun and sand in the South

As the “Florida of Europe,” the Algarve’s weather is even better than in the rest of the country — which is pretty fantastic to begin with. But with 300 days of sunshine per year, it’s no wonder the Algarve is a prime destination for people moving to Portugal!

The Algarve coastline

Algarve Coastline
Algarve coastline

The Algarve is a vacationer’s paradise

If you’re planning a visit to Portugal, put the Algarve on your list. Not sure where to start? One fantastic route is to begin in the easternmost region of the Algarve, near Spain, and drive west. From there, honestly, you could stop at any beach along the way, and we guarantee it’ll be one of the most beautiful you’ve ever seen. Portugal’s good like that.

Vacation planners will also want to check out our top 7 holiday villages in the Algarve — to see some of our favorite places down south.

The water is calm, inviting, and, usually warm

In addition to sun and sand, there is the ocean — almost always calm and inviting. But the best part? The temperature! The Algarve’s seaside is sheltered from some of the colder Atlantic waters, making for warmer temps overall.

Calm Water Albufeira
Calm waters in Albufeira

The Algarve is safe, relaxing, and has a bit of everything

Safety always plays a significant role when we’re away from home, and the Algarve is one of the safest areas in the world.

Plus, everything happens at a slower pace in the Algarve. From strolling among shops to settling in for a late dinner, nobody is looking at the clock. This mellow mindset lets visitors to the Algarve really let down their hair and leave the usual stresses of day-to-day life behind.

Want a more active vacation? There are tons of activities in the Algarve, whether you’re traveling solo or with your family:

  • Waterparks
  • Cave exploring
  • Sunbathing at the beach
  • Water sports

There’s a lot more going on, of course. Take a look at GetYourGuide to see tours and activities in the Algarve. Planning a visit? Perfect. You can also book experiences in advance.

The Algarve is easy on your wallet

Compared to other beach vacations, a trip to the Algarve can get you more for your money, making it an excellent option for anyone craving sun and sand while still living on a budget.

Overall, Portugal can feel less expensive than your hometown (depending on where you live, of course). Find out more about the cost of living in Portugal.

But you can go for luxury, too

If you want to pull out all the stops, we’ve got good news: The Algarve hosts several luxurious resorts that include privileged beach access, private swimming pools, spas, golf courses, and more.

According to Booking.com users, these are some of the top luxury destinations in the Algarve:

With options like these, why not splurge a little?

Best beaches in the Algarve

Rejoice, beach lovers! The Algarve is home to more than 150 beaches.

Some of the most beautiful include:

  • Praia da Falésia in Albufeira
  • Praia de Tavira, in Tavira
  • Praia da Marinha in Lagoa
  • Praia de Odeceixe in Odeceixe
  • Meia Praia in Lagos
  • Praia de Benagil near Lagoa
  • Praia de Cacela Velha near Tavira
  • Praia da Arrifana in Aljezur
  • Praia da Rocha in Portimão
  • Praia da Luz in Luz

Here’s the scoop on some of our favorites:

Praia da Rocha

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Praia da Rocha is close to the city of Portimão. With its 1.5 km (1 mi) of shoreline, it is one of the most popular beaches in the Algarve (even, perhaps, in Portugal). Its name, Rocha, means rock — and comes from the giant rocks jutting up through the sand along the waterline.

Is Portimão calling to you? Here’s an article about spending holidays in Portimão, Portugal.

Praia de Faro

A little to the east, about five minutes from Faro (the central city of the Algarve), you’ll find the Praia de Faro.

Technically, it is a narrow, 5 km (3.1 mi) island, connected to the city by a bridge through the natural park of Ria Formosa.

Here, you’ll find a main road that parallels the beach. On one side of the road, you have the ocean; on the other, you’ll find an array of restaurants, bars, and vacation rentals.

Find out more about visiting Faro here.

Ilha de Tavira

Beach Tavira Island
Tavira Island Beach

Tavira’s beach is accessed mainly by boat. This means getting there takes a tiny bit of planning, but it’s so worth it. We highly recommend any of the four beaches on the island of Tavira as a destination, so you can experience the magic for yourself.

As with other beaches in the Algarve, Tavira has calm, warm water and the beach is clean and tranquil.

Benagil Beach

Benagil Beach is something special.

It’s not an accident that many call it the best beach in the Algarve — but even with this high praise, you might have never heard of it. Trust us. It’s a bit hard to reach even with a car, but once you get there — wow.

Benagil Beach Viewpoint
Benagil Beach viewpoint

You’ll take enough pictures to fill your Instagram account for a year.

To access the beach, you need to go through a “tunnel” inside a huge rock — perhaps not for those who tend toward claustrophobia. However, once inside the beach area, you’re surrounded by a curtain of rocks, so it’s unlikely you’ll feel any wind at all. There’s also a cliff where you might see the most adventurous visitors jumping into the water.

Amazing, right?

There are many other beautiful beaches in the Algarve, of course. It all depends on which lovely town you decide to stay in for your Algarve vacation. Explore your options below.

Where to stay in the Algarve

Choosing the best place to stay in the Algarve is not an easy task. To help narrow it down, we’ve identified some of the most popular Algarve cities for tourists visiting Portugal:

Albufeira is usually very popular with Brits during summer (many even choose Albufeira as a place to buy property in Portugal). Even so, you’ll still be able to have an authentic Portuguese experience — you just might have to go off the beaten path a bit to find it.

Holidays in Vilamoura

Vilamoura is a resort area known for its golf courses, its famous beach Praia da Falésia, casino, bars, clubs, a wide variety of restaurants, and more.

Visting Quarteira

Near Vilamoura is a small village called Quarteira, which also has its own beach, restaurants, and nightlife. The advantage to planning a vacation in Quarteira is that you can usually find accommodations for slightly less money.

Some visitors opt to rent a hotel in Quarteira and visit Vilamoura during the day.

Things to do in Vilamoura

Boat in Vilamoura Marina
Boat in Vilamoura Marina

It’s a lively village with something for everyone.

At the end of the day in the Algarve paradise, many people enjoy an evening walk around the Vilamoura Marina, stopping for a drink or an ice cream, or just strolling around to check out all the fancy boats.

It’s a great way to spend an evening in Portugal. But what about during the day?

Beaches in Vilamoura

Falesia Beach in Vilamoura
Falesia Beach in Vilamoura

The Praia da Falésia is the most popular beach, as already mentioned — but there are several other impressive choices, including:

  • Praia da Marina (you can reach this one on foot)
  • Praia da Quarteira
  • Praia dos Tomates
  • Old Well Beach

For most of these, of course, you’ll need some means of transportation — ideally a car. Learn about renting a car in Portugal.

Costs of holidays in Vilamoura

Vilamoura is not cheap when compared to other places in the Algarve. Maybe not as expensive as spending holidays in Italy, but certainly not the same as spending 14 days in Monte Gordo (which is still in the Algarve). It is, however, an excellent place for a group of friends or families.

Sound like your kind of place? Take a look at the top 3 hotels in Vilamoura.

Holidays in Albufeira

What to say about Albufeira?

For many years it’s has been the number one choice of British who wish to retire in Portugal or visit Portugal.

Albufeira Strip and nightlife


It’s known for it’s famous Albufeira strip and it’s lively nightlife. It’s the place to go if you’re someone who enjoys loud music, bars in every corner, cheap drinks, and dancing until morning.

But it’s also a place for families

There’s also a place for families in Albufeira. Albufeira is quite a big city (in the scale of the Algarve, I mean), and there are many other areas to take a drink, have an ice-cream, enjoy great food in great restaurants and much more.

It’s more affordable than Vilamoura, especially if you compare it in terms of accommodation, as you can see here on booking.

Prices vary as there, but you can get a double room in a hotel for 2pax for 165€, in August.

Beaches in Albufeira

And let’s not forget that there are many beaches around Albufeira, especially if you have the chance to rent a car.

  • Praia da Oura
  • Praia de Albufeira
  • Praia do Peneco
  • Praia da Baleeira

We’ve also written an article about the Top 7 Holiday Villages in the Algarve that might be useful to read.

Holidays in Quinta do Lago

Quinta do Lago stands out from all other places in the Algarve.

Everything in Quinta do Lago is luxurious.

  • The gardens are beautiful
  • Hotels are luxurious
  • Golf courses are huge
  • The roads wide
  • Service is excellent
  • Access to the beach is easy

Quinta do Lago is very famous for hosting celebrities and its’ golf courses.

Accommodation in Quinta do Lago

They call it the resort of the rich.

It’s tough to find accommodation for less than 350€ night for a couple in the high season in Portugal.

 

Hotel with Pool in Quinta do Lago
Hotel with Pool in Quinta do Lago

Holidays in Lagos

Lagos is a small size city but very beautiful and with a distinguished history as it was one of the main ports for Portuguese Maritime Discoveries (source).

Beaches in Lagos

There are several beaches near Lagos:

  • Praia D.Ana
  • Meia-Praia
  • Praia do Camilo
  • Praia dos Pinheiros
  • Praia Porto de Mós

Other things to do in Lagos

Lagos is a very vibrant city, especially during summer, with plenty of bars and clubs.

So there’s no lack of fun, that’s for sure.

It’s also delightful to walk in the historic city center or the marina.

If by chance you get to visit or stay in Lagos, I’d advise doing a day trip to Sagres in Portugal.

Accommodation in Lagos

Prices are similar to staying in Albufeira. You can expect to spend between 150 to 250€ for 2pax if you want to stay in a 4-star hotel.

If you are flexible and prefer to cook your meals and rent an apartment, you might save some money, and maybe find some options starting at 100€.

There’s also luxurious accommodation in Lagos, but in this case, prices can rise to 400€ per night.

See more options for Lagos on booking.

Holidays in Carvoeiro

Carvoeiro is yet another southern Portuguese beach resort. Formerly a fishing village, today Carvoeiro attracts thousands of families who’re looking to retire in Portugal.

With less than 2,721 habitats, this village transforms itself during summer.

Things to do in Carvoeiro

Relax.

Relax

And did I mentioned, relax?

Yes, this is the perfect place in the Algarve to go if you’re looking for a peaceful place to enjoy your holidays.

There are some other things you can do, such as:

See more ideas for your holidays in the Algarve.

Accommodation in the Algarve

Vila to Rent in Algarve
Vila to Rent in Algarve

Ok, we have talked about a few things so far, the cities, the beaches and why it’s worth visiting the Algarve.

It’s time to talk about:

  • How much you can expect to spend
  • The best accommodation in the Algarve

Prices for accommodation in the Algarve

In average rates vary according to the season. See here more information about the weather in The Algarve.

During Spring and Autumn

Prices for a 2pax bedroom in a village, such as a Praia da Rocha, can cost on average, 50€

Exceptions: are national holidays

During winter:

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Prices can go as low as 35 for 2pax bedroom, again in Praia da Rocha.

Exceptions: Christmas in Portugal and New Years’ Eve

During Summer

Prices go up from June to August where they reach their peak. The same room that costed 35€ can now cost 150€.

In September, prices start to go slowly down.

Is accommodation expensive in the Algarve?

Overall I’d say no.

Of course, there are different prices for different types of accommodation.

Choosing a villa in Quinta do Lago is going to cost you much more than a simple room in an apartment Praia da Rocha.

It might also be useful to see what we have written about renting an apartment in the Algarve.

Best accommodation in the Algarve

Four Seasons Country Club, Quinta do Lago

Four Seasons Country Club Quinta do Lago
Four Seasons Country Club Quinta do Lago

If you are interested in the best of the best, no matter the price, then you should check out the Four Seasons Country Club in the Quinta do Lago. It is considered to be one of the best hotels in Europe.

Its proximity to the beaches, services, golf and tennis courts, and their friendly staff make it the tourists’ favorite.

Vila Joya, Albufeira

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Vila Joya, located near the city of Albufeira, is known not only for its excellent services but also for its restaurant. Many tourists consider the hotel to have one of the best restaurants in the world.

Its location enables you to enjoy the beaches nearby and see the beautiful sunset from your room.

Salema Beach Village, Salema

Salema Beach Village
Salema Beach Village

Another excellent option is Salema Beach Village in Salema, between Lagos and Sagres. Salema is a perfect place to stay if you are traveling with your family or a group of friends.

They offer several services, but one of the most appreciated is the shuttle service to the beach and back.

One thing that characterizes Salema Beach Village, according to those who stayed and enjoyed their services, is the concern with their client’s well-being and experience.

If you would like to know more about visiting the Algarve, subscribe to this exclusive mailing list, that only tourists interested in Portugal have access.

Advice choosing accommodation in Algarve

There are many other options, and you can see them all here on the main front page of booking, and search according to hotels (or different kinds of accommodations best reviewed) or according to the aspects that are important to you.

Our main advice is: do it in advance.

People start planning their family holidays in the Algarve in January, which means the best opportunities will be gone.

What’s the real cost of spending holidays in the Algarve?

So to sum up costs, I’d say that for the average family of four, two parents, two children, the costs would be as follows:

  • accommodation: 250 euros per night
  • Food: 150 euros per day  (assuming you have one meal out)
  • Rent a car: 40 euros per day + 50€ for the tank (for one week)
  • Fun and activities: 350€ per week
  • Calling a Taxi or Uber: 30 euros per week
  • Flights 250€ come and go (if bought in advance)

Total: 4940€

So you’d need at least 4940€ to spend a decent time in the Algarve, for 4pax.

From there, the price can decrease if you cook at home, if you don’t do activities, or increase if you want a better accommodation and more comfort.

Reading our article about the cost of living in Portugal might help plan your expenses.

Ok, we finally get to the “tasty” part of the Algarve, food!

Best Food in the Algarve

The Portuguese food is full of fresh fish and seafood, and that’s even more prominent in the Algarve, where the ingredients are so readily available each day.

It is difficult for us to pick some dishes you should ask for when visiting the Algarve. The offer is impressive, and the most straightforward answer would be: “Try them all!”.

 

Eating fish in the Algarve

Seafood Dish From Algarve
Seafood Dish From Algarve

However, if we would have to choose, then you should ask for ‘clams in Cataplana‘ or ‘Algarvian-style conquilhas‘ for starters.

The soup could be any fish soup. The monkfish rice (“Arroz de tamboril“) is an excellent choice as a main course.

Let’s face it, and you can’t go wrong with seafood.

Eating chicken

You can also try to find Frango da Guia (similar to Nandos). Although Frango da Guia is originally from the small village “Guia” near Albufeira, it quickly spread throughout Algarve, and you can find it in several restaurants.

Other options

There’s plenty to taste in the Algarve, and that includes:

  • Traditional Portuguese cuisine
  • Chinese restaurants
  • Japanese restaurants
  • Italian restaurants
  • Churrascarias (bbq spots)

Algarve Desserts

Alfarroba Carob Pie
Alfarroba Carob Pie

And, if you still have some room for dessert, try the egg threads (“fios de ovos”), carob pie, or almond and chocolate cake. Oh well there’s plenty of options as you can see here in this Portuguese desserts website (not in English)

If you are wondering if there are any places you should stop by and eat some excellent food, we have some ideas for you.

Best Restaurants in the Algarve

Vivendo Restaurant, Meia Praia, Lagos

Vivendo Restaurant is one of the best surprises people encounter when visiting the Algarve. Although it is considered to be a little hidden and could be a little heavy on the wallet, their quality and attention to detail will undoubtedly add something special to your experiences in the Algarve. Make sure to try it out.

Restaurant The Cockerel, Albufeira

If you are interested in something reasonable and local, give Restaurante The Cockerel in Albufeira a try. Their excellent food, desserts, and service will impress you, we guarantee it.

If you enjoy eating fish or seafood, you can’t miss this. If, on the other hand, you wish to eat some good meat, try out their barbecue dish.

Fábrica Velha Pastelaria e Padaria, Carvoeiro

Fábrica Velha is one of the best beach hotels in the Algarve, but it is considered one of the most beautiful places to eat in the Algarve.

If you would like to eat some traditional national pastry, give this café a try. The staff’s friendliness and the vibe of the place are guaranteed to impress you and to give this place a stable position on your “go to list” whenever you return to the Algarve.

How to get to the Algarve

There are essentially four ways to get to the Algarve:

Reaching Algarve by airplane

  1. Flying to Faro: this is the ideal scenario.
  2. Flying to Lisbon or Porto Airport and then taking a secondary flight/train.

Reaching Algarve by train or bus

If you’re already in Portugal or you live in Portugal, using a public train (cp.pt) might be an option.

Tickets from Lisbon start at 25€ and it takes 2.5 hours to get you to Albufeira. From there you can either take a transfer or a regional train which costs 3-5 euros, to your final destination.

If you opt for the bus, it takes a bit longer, about 3.5 hours, but it’s a bit cheaper. You can buy the ticket in advance in Rede-Expressos, for example.

Reaching the Algarve by car

This is by far the most comfortable option, because the roads to the Algarve are very good, but also quite expensive. A normal sedan will take on average €35 of gasoline and €28 of tolls. Just to get to the Algarve. If you have a bigger car, the costs will also be higher.

See more about transportation in Portugal here.

Visit Algarve is a good option

To visit Algarve is to have a great time.

No matter the beach you choose, the place you stay, the restaurant you go to or the activities you choose to do, one thing is guaranteed,

Have you been to the Algarve? What’s your favorite place in the Algarve? What other recommendations would you share?

 


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Jack Johnson

A man only has maybe two or three chances to decide to change his life completely. In one of those moments, I discovered Portugal and fell in love. Since then, I divide my time between Portugal and New Zealand searching for the perfect wave and scribbling for a living.

Jeronimos Monastery Lisbon

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