There is no denying that the Algarve is one of the most stunning places to visit in Portugal. Located on the country’s southern coast, the region is blessed with breathtaking cliffs, remarkable rock formations, beautiful golden beaches, and picturesque fishing towns.
Something this pretty always attracts the crowds and it certainly gets busy in the Algarve, particularly in the summertime. But crowds or not, we absolutely enjoyed exploring this incredible part of Portugal.
If you’re planning a road trip to the Algarve, here are the 10 best stops you can make along the way.
Faro is the administrative capital of the Algarve and it even has its own international airport. Many people fly there (for example, we flew straight there from Paris), but most prefer to head straight to the nearby beach resorts. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting that much from Faro and I wasn’t planning to spend very long there either. But, because we landed at seven in the morning, we were in desperate need of coffee; so we drove and parked outside of the old walled town to go and search for our caffeine fix. Being there so early, there was hardly a soul in sight, so we spent a couple of hours just wandering around by ourselves.
We loved this old walled town. It was really photogenic, with its run-down buildings, cobblestone streets and its quaint whitewashed buildings. The view from the Bell Tower of the Faro Cathedral was fantastic and we even saw some storks nesting next to the bells. Once you are done with the old town, take a stroll along the marina to check out the boats.
2- Praia de Marinha
With its iconic limestone formations, steep cliffs and turquoise water, Praia de Marinha is one of the most beautiful beaches on the Algarve Coast. For some spectacular views of the beach and the surrounding area, follow the walking trail along the top of the cliffs. Once you’ve snapped off your photos, head down the steep wooden staircase to the beach to cool off with a swim!
Tip: Be sure you arrive really early in the summer months, or you won’t find a parking space.
After doing a lot of research, we chose Carvoeiro as the place to stay during our time in the Algarve. We were not disappointed. With its high cliffs topped with whitewashed buildings sheltering a small golden sand beach, Carvoeiro is certainly one of the prettiest villages in the Algarve.
The best thing to do from the beach of Carvoeiro is to take a boat trip along the coast to explore the nearby caves and coves. This includes a visit to the famous Benagil Caves. This boat trip was the highlight of our time in the Algarve.
4- Benagil Cave
The Benagil Cave is maybe the most famous sight of the Algarve. If you spend any time on Instagram you’ll know all about it! The Benagil Cave is a circular sea cave and once inside it, you can see the sky out through an opening in the ceiling. This opening is called the eye. The Benagil Cave can only be reached by sea, and you can either kayak there or take a tour. Boat tours are available from many of the nearby villages. We chose one from Carvoeiro as mentioned previously.
5- Ponta da Piedade
The Ponta da Piedade is another stunner, with some really amazing natural features. The cliffs were carved into rock pillars, natural tunnels and hidden grottos by the sea. From the coastal paths, you have a good view of the golden cliffs and turquoise sea below, but the best way to experience them is to get up close on a boat tour around these unique rock formations and sea caves.
6- Algar Seco
The fascinating rock formations of Algar Seco have been carved out of the limestone bedrock and provide the perfect setting for photos. The most popular feature of the Algar Seco is the cave called “Boneca”. This cave leads to a small chamber with the most famous viewpoint of Carvoeiro, two eroded arches with views out over the deep blue sea. There are numerous walks to explore the area. The Boneca Bar is a great place to head afterwards to cool down with a cold drink.
7- Praia de Dona Ana
Although Praia da Dona Ana can get very crowded in summer, this picturesque beach is still a delight if you arrive there early. It has calm, crystal-clear waters and it is surrounded by steep and colourful strata cliffs.
Note: The only way to access the beach is by a long flight of stairs.
8- Praia da Falesia
Praia da Falesia stretches for six kilometres from Vilamoura all the way to Olhos de Água, near Albufeira. It’s one of the longest beaches along the Algarve, so you are guaranteed to find a quieter spot to sit, even in the peak of summer. There are many access points to choose from. This beach is particularly beautiful because of the surrounding orange cliffs that contrast with the bright blue sky and the lush green vegetation.
Sagres is at the most southern point of Portugal. It’s well-known for having some of the country’s most challenging surf. But it’s also home to some sheltered and pristine beaches that are great for swimming or sunbathing.
While in Sagres, a visit to the Cabo de São Vicente lighthouse is a must. This lighthouse was built in the 1800s and it guides the ships passing by on their way to the nearby ports. While in Cabo de São Vicente, spend some time watching the local fishermen at work. They stand so close to the edge of the cliffs hoping to catch a fish in the ocean far below. I was terrified for them!
After the lighthouse, stop off at the Fortaleza de Sagres. This old fortress used to protect the town from North African raiders. There isn’t much to see there anymore, apart from some magnificent panoramic views across the ocean and to the Cabo de São Vincent. The views alone make a visit to the fortress worthwhile.
If you tire of the beaches (if you ever do) or fancy something a bit different for the day, head inland to Silves. Silves is a pretty, fortified town. Long ago, during Moorish times, it was the capital of the Algarve. With its cobbled streets and its orange rooftops, its well preserved old town is a great place to wander around for an afternoon.
Silves is also home to one of the best-preserved castles in the Algarve. From its walls, you can enjoy beautiful panoramic views of the area.
How to travel around the Algarve?
The best way to explore all of the attractions dotted along the Algarve coastline is to hire a car and head off on a road trip. Some of the best places to visit are not easily accessible by public transport. So having a car will provide much more freedom to do as you please. Remember, in Portugal, they drive on the right side of the road!
Where to stay in the Algarve?
We loved staying in Carvoeiro. It was much more laid back and much less touristy than other places along the Algarve, without lacking the restaurants and bars to chill out at after a long day of driving.
We booked a sea view room at the O Castelo Guest House. From there we had stunning views over Carvoeiro, the beach and the ocean. The room was clean and comfortable and it was just a couple of minutes walk from the town centre. This was perfect for us. Prices start at 70 Euros. Click here to find the latest prices.
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