You just can’t beat a classic. And Portugal’s Algarve region on the country’s sunny south coast, is just that. Holidaymakers caught on to its charms decades ago and it’s been pulling people back year after year since.
One of the biggest reasons is that it doesn’t matter what time of year you visit. Sure, summer’s obviously when the sun is shining the brightest. But no matter when you book a holiday to the Algarve, there’s a showstopping line-up of things to do and see.
Not sure where to start? Here’s our pick of the best experiences in the Algarve that you can enjoy all year round.
Make a beeline for the beaches
No matter the month, the Algarve’s beaches are beautiful. Hidden coves, sandy sweeps and pebbly patches dot the 200km-long coastline, so you can choose your favourite. Plus, 87 of them proudly boast a Blue Flag!
In the warmer months, there’s nothing better than lazing on the shore in the sunshine. With golden sand and aquamarine waters, Praia do Vau is a tranquil spot. If you want somewhere with food and drink on tap, set your sights on Praia da Rocha. Bars and cafés line its sandy length!
While temperatures may drop a bit in autumn, it’s still warm enough to wriggle into a wetsuit and try your hand at surfing! The mighty Atlantic waves have made the Algarve a surfing mecca. Newbies should head for the gentle waters of Praia de Faro, while Meia Praia in Lagos offers wide ranging waves between 3-8ft.
Walk for miles
Whether the height of summer or depths of winter, walking is a favourite pastime here in the Algarve, with so many spectacular beauty spots to discover.
Over in Lagos, Ponta da Piedade is a lovely spot for an afternoon stroll. With rugged ochre-hued cliffs, this dramatic headland really dazzles. Amble along the top for beautiful views out to the turquoise sea, before zigzagging down the steps to a stunning cove, where waves swirl and sea foam sprays against your face!
Nearer to Faro, Ria Formosa Natural Park is a quiet slice of the coastline, where natural beauty hogs the limelight. You can navigate the patchwork of island lagoons, marshes and beaches by boat, foot or bike. It’s a popular spot for birdwatching too – look out for the flamingos!
With 300 days of sunshine every year, it’s no wonder that golfers flock to the Algarve for a golf holiday! And there’s loads of choice when it comes to finding the fairway for you, with more than 40 golf courses to choose from.
Swanky Vale do Lobo pulls out all the stops with its luxury golf getaways. Here you can take your pick from two 18-hole championship courses. Both are world-renowned, boast iconic holes and come with cracking views! Vilamoura has its fair share of courses too. Dom Pedro Old Course is a favourite, set among pine trees, while Dom Pedro Victoria wows with its 90-hectare fairway.
Try a wine tasting
Wine lovers, rejoice! You’re in top terroir (that’s the wine-growing conditions to you non-wine buffs!) territory here in the Algarve. Whites, reds and rosés – this part of Portugal covers the full spectrum. Ask your waiter for perfect pairing recommendations while you dine or for the full experience, try a wine tasting!
Set among rolling countryside near to Silves, Morgado do Quintão is a family-run vineyard dating to the 1800s. Book in for a tasting, vineyard tour and lunch among the vines! Quinta dos Vales is another star wine producer of the region, surrounded by vast, beautiful gardens and showcasing one of the largest open-air art galleries in the Algarve. Take a guided tour of the barrel cellar and winery, before sampling four of its sensational tipples.
Lap up local dishes
Eat your way around the Algarve! The scrumptious southern coast of Portugal takes its food seriously, with national and local dishes to try.
Follow your nose through Faro and you’ll find backstreet bakeries serving just-out-of-the-oven pastel de natas, custard tarts finished with a sprinkle of cinnamon. Order one with a coffee and you’ve got the perfect afternoon delight.
Further west in Vilamoura, seafood is the star of the show at many of the restaurants fringing the glitzy marina. Grilled sardines, shrimp risotto and cataplana, a traditional Portuguese seafood stew, are just some of the lip-smacking treats to try.
Love piri-piri chicken? You’re in the right place – it’s thought to have originated here! Look out for frango assado, its Portuguese name, on the menus of local restaurants. Crunchy skin, succulent meat and a side of perfectly-salted fries create the ultimate piri-piri experience.
Hunt down hidden gems
When you’re not getting stuck into the Algarve’s natural beauty, give its man-made treasures a whirl. A short drive from Faro is the dinky inland town of Estói. Wander its higgledy-piggledy streets past brightly-painted doors and leafy squares in the direction of Pousada Palácio Estói. Designed in eye-popping pink, this 18th-century palace is now a luxury hotel. Stay for lunch on the glorious terrace or simply wander the incredible grounds.
Further west, Alvor has retained is fishing village charm. A mix of whitewashed and pastel-painted houses line the narrow streets – don’t forget your camera, it’s quite the sight! Eventually you’ll reach the waterfront, where fishing boats bob away. Grab a table at one of the restaurants and enjoy cocktails in the sun while you wait for a plate of freshly grilled fish to arrive. Bliss.
Lagos Old Town is another beauty. There’s a little more going on here, which only adds to its pull. One of the best things to do is just simply wander the maze of streets. Tile-clad houses and pretty churches will have you snapping away. There are loads of market stalls and boutiques too, which are great if you’re looking for a few souvenirs to squeeze into your suitcase. If you can, stick around until sundown – you’ve got a lot of choice of traditional bars and restaurants here, so don’t miss out.
Hero image copyright Algarve Tourism Bureau.
Posted: 9th Oct 2020.