Portugal has become one of the hottest travel destinations on this planet. Although it was once one of the poorest and most isolated countries in Europe, the end of dictatorship and the introduction of democracy in 1974, lead to significantly increased prosperity. Nowadays Portugal is one of the best value destinations in Western Europe.
This little country definitely has got it all: breathtakingly green mountains in the North, covered with vines, an almost desert landscape in the Alentejo region and finally the spectacular golden beaches in Algarve.
Algarve is Portugal's most popular tourist destination with breathtaking cliffs, sandy islands and delicious food. Its golden beaches with awe-inspiring rock formations and scalloped bays made it a coveted destination among ocean lovers, watersport fans and even foodies. Especially in winter the Algarve is a real gem.
As deciding what are the Top Things To Do in Algarve, Portugal might be quite an overwhelming task, I compiled a variety of travel bloggers favorite things to do in Algarve, Portugal.
You'll find a map with all the spots at the end of the post.
I can’t wait to read about yours in the comment form!
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1. Praia da Marinha Beach
If you see a photograph of the Algarve coast, chances are high that it’s showing the Praia de Marinha. The wild beach with it’s iconic limestone formations, the steep cliffs and the turquoise water… it’s one of the most beautiful beaches of Europe and a top destination in Portugal. You really don’t wanna miss it!
Praia de Marinha is quite outlying between Portimão and Albufeira, and it’s advised to get there by car. Even though this isn’t too handy, it almost guarantees that you will never find this beach as too crowded. From the car park long stairs are leading you down to the shore and you can take a nice long walk along the beach. With it’s crystal clear waters it makes an excellent snorkeling spot as well.
If you have more time than just stopping by, the cliff path between Carvoeiro and Praia de Marinha (12km roundtrip) is the insider tip for everyone who enjoys a good hike. It’s not the easiest walk though but great for those in need of a bit adventure and some spectacular views.
Best Place to Stay Near The Sight : Suites Alba Resort & Spa
Top Activity To Do: From Lagos: 2-Hour Kayak Cave Explorer Tour
2. Boat Trip from Lagoa to Praia da Marinha
Covered with soft golden sand, and surrounded by steep cliffs and stunning rock structures Praia da Marinha is a beautiful and quiet beach situated very close to Lagoa.
Often referred to as one of the top beaches in Portugal, it is certainly the best beach in Algarve. With that said, it is definitely something that you don’t want to miss when visiting.
Despite being a top recommendation of things to do in Algarve, Praia da Marinha is surprisingly quieter than most of the other beaches in Algarve. This makes the experience of visiting this gem even better as you snorkel through it’s calm and clear waters with just you and the amazing marine life that swim close to the enclosing cliffs.
The cliffs surrounding the beach also present an outstanding walking trail and opportunities for countless breath-taking views of crystal clear turquoise water and magnificent landscape views.
Once that’s done you can follow the coastline of Lagoa by boat. A boat trip here is a must, you won’t be disappointed. While cruising the still North Atlantic waters you’ll discover some impressive caves and grottoes that are great for a bit of adventurous exploration and diving.
Best Place to Stay Near the Sight: Villa Vale Formoso
Top Activity To Do: From Lagos: Algarve Golden Coast 4-Hour Cruise
3. St. Vincent's Lighthouse - Sagres
If you’re headed to Portugal, odds are you love beaches and the ocean. And if you love the ocean, you’ll enjoy visiting the most southwesterly point in Europe, which happens to have a majestic lighthouse on it. The St. Vincent lighthouse, in its current form, was built in the 1800s and serves as a guide to large and small ships heading toward Spanish and Portuguese ports in the area. Visiting the lighthouse is a treat that shouldn’t be missed. The history of lighthouses on that the point stretches back 500 years, nearly to the time Columbus sailed toward the New World.
Entrance to the lighthouse are free (donations gratefully accepted) and the views from the top of the lighthouse stretch out for miles up and down the coast. These views are the best thing. Second best is the deep history surrounding you. You can see how the lighthouse functions with its new technology and how different it was from the old ways of oil lamps.
After you’ve soaked in the views, you can peruse souvenirs and produce or grab some nearby ice cream. You can also stop by the fortress for a bite to eat or soak in the history. And when you’re finished with all of that, you can resume your vacation on a sunny beach. So pack a bag and get busy creating memories on a day trip to St. Vincent’s lighthouse.
Best Place to Stay Near the Sight: Sagres Time Apartamentos
Top Activity To Do: Algarve Full-Day Jeep Safari Tour with Lunch
One of our favourite parts of the Algarve was Faro a small city in the south.
It has a fascinating Moorish and Jewish history with lots of interesting buildings to explore. The old walled town also has many run down buildings too these give it a certain edge when you are wandering around.
We really enjoyed visiting the Santa Maria Church (Faro Cathedral) with it's unusual curved style carriage ceiling and views from the bell tower. While it is not high you can get a real perspective of how the town was set out with the town radiating around the church. It also houses one of two Ossuaries (Bone House) in Faro, the other a very ornate one at San Francisco Church.
Here you are welcomed with a sign in Latin saying Stop here and think of the fate that will befall you – 1816, as a reminder that we are all mortal. Faro is a great stopover while you are in the region, with plenty to keep you busy for a couple of days.
Best Place Place to Stay Near The Sight: Quinta do Lago Country Club
Top Activity To Do: From Faro: 2-Hour Sailing Trip
5. Pego do Inferno - Tavira
The Algarve is a unique place: while seaside resorts like Albufeira and Praia da Rocha are as touristy as they come, head inland a little and you can still find a few lesser-known gems. One of my favourites of these is the Pego do Inferno waterfall near Tavira in the Eastern Algarve.
This waterfall makes a nice change from the beach: it’s less crowded, there’s more shade, and there’s no sand to try and wash off at the end. Be sure to bring something to eat and drink, though: there’s absolutely nothing around for miles.
Getting to these waterfalls can be difficult, but that’s part of the challenge. You’ll need to follow the Google Map to the car park nearby, find the no-longer maintained entrance, and then take a short hike (possibly involving a walk up a stream) to get there.
During the summer months, you’ll probably bump into a few other people on the same expedition. This isn’t the hidden gem that it once was, but it’s still something that 99% of tourists never ever hear about.
Favourite Place to Stay Near the Sight: Pousada Convento de Tavira
Top Activity To Do: Bike Tour through the Beautiful Ria Formosa
6. Castelo de Castro Marim - Vila Real de Santo Antonio
There are many castles to visit along the Algarve, but if you happen to be in the East, near Tavira or Vila Real de Santo Antonio, then a visit to Castelo de Castro Marim is recommended. A medieval castle sitting formidably on a hill overlooking the town, it consists of a rectangle with four round corner towers and two entrances.
Castro Marim Castle once formed part of the defensive line controlled by the Knights Templars. While most of the castle is a ruin, there are spectacular views from the top of the castle across the Guadiana River, and the nearby salt pans, towards Ayamonte in Spain, and down to the coast past Vila Real itself.
You can also see across to the Fort São Sebastião which sits on the opposite hill. Within the castle walls you can get a feel for what life must have been like with the horse stables, market area and more to explore. There is a small museum within the castle, and also the beautiful Church of Santiago dating back to the 14th century, which strangely houses a display of equipment and items of torture, thought to have been used during the Spanish Inquisition.
The entrance fee is less than €2.00 and is worth it to spend an hour or two roaming this medieval castle. And should you happen to be visiting in late August, you might be lucky enough to catch the medieval festival held there every year.
Favourite Place to Stay Near the Sight: Monte Rei Country Club
Top Activity To Do: Full-Day Eastern Algarve & Ayamonte (Spain) Tour
7. Surfing in Lagos
Algarve is a surf mecca, known for having an amazing surf scene for beginners and more experienced surfers. You can visit several locations like Lagos, Sagres and Albufeira. In each of these beach towns there are dozens of surf schools available that can teach the fine art of wave surfing. For just 20 Euro per hour you can rent a surfboard and for with 5 euro extra you can also have a wetsuit.
If you have never surfed before it is important you at least take a beginners course on how to surf. Remember, you are working side by side with Mother Nature here and she can be dangerous at times when it comes to the weather conditions and strong currents.
Most surf teachers will show you have to successfully catch a wave, stand up and enjoy the fun ride that is called surfing.
Best Place to Stay: BelMar Beach & Spa Resort
Top Activity To Do: From Portimão: Half-Day Private Benagil by Land & Sea
8. Feasting on Portuguese Food
By A World to Travel
Being able to taste authentic Portuguese flavors and dishes like sapateira, cataplana de marisco or peixe is, without doubt, one of the best things you can indulge in while visiting the Algarve.
After you are done with all the sightseeing, surfing, shopping, sun tanning and parting, do not forget and include in your list towns like Tavira, Silves and Sagres, which are populated with small restaurants like Marisqueria Rui in Silves, where I tasted one of the best cataplanas ever.
Their fresh products, welcoming chefs, and affordable prices are worth checking out. Here's proof of how great Portuguese cuisine is. Enjoy!
Favourite Place to Stay: Vila Vita Parc Resort & Spa
Top Activity To Do: From Lagos: 2-Hour Wine Tasting Sunset Cruise
When most people think of the Algarve, they typically picture the beaches of Lagos.
However, the eastern area of the Algarve is just as beautiful and the small city of Tavira is not to be missed. We spent a few days walking the beaches, swimming in the ocean, and exploring the area. Tavira isn’t far from the larger city of Faro and can be reached via train.
You can stroll along Gileo River, and through the cobbled streets admiring the beautiful and unique Portuguese tile. Most of the buildings here are white washed which makes from some incredible Instagram opportunities.
Tavira is big enough that there is an abundance of restaurants to choose from with a large variety of food types. One evening after dinner we randomly stumbled upon a small night market with many local vendors selling everything from jewelry to pastries to preserves. If you go, don’t miss the Castelo (Castle) de Tavira, where you can walk the old castle walls for some of the best views overlooking the city.
Best Place to Stay: Vila Gale Albacora
Top Activity To Do: Algarve Dolphin Watching & Marine Life Eco Tour
10. Praia Do Camilo
Lately on my roadtrip through Portugal I stumbled upon the most gorgeous beach in the Algarve. Praia do Camilo is a little off the beaten path as it is located Southwest of Lagos and in contrary to most beaches in the Algarve Praia do Camilo is facing East.
Therefore this place is the ultimate sunrise beach. Mornings are obviously best at this little tourist spot. You can only reach the sand if you take the almost 200 steps down the huge staircase.
The beach itself is only about 80 meters long but there is a tunnel carved out in the rocks that will lead you to another hidden beach. Make sure you bring your waterproof camera, but not only for snorkeling. If you swim around the rocks you will get to the famous hidden beach that is almost completely covered by a cave.
Unfortunately it is not allowed to camp here or stay in your campervan on the parking lot, but there are loads of opportunities within just a couple minutes drive, so you are perfectly in time for the sunrise.
Favourite Place to Stay: Villas D.Dinis
Top Activity To Do: Algarvean Mountains Full Day Tour with Lunch
11. Tavira Island
Tavira Island is a sandpit more that 10km long sitting off the coastal town of Tavira, a town of white-washed houses, cobbled streets and pretty squares lined with planter boxes filled with flowers.
Tavira Island can be reached from the mainland by ferry or a small footbridge on the outskirts of the town. On the Island are long stretches of fine sandy beaches, calm turquoise waters and restaurants serving fresh traditional seafood dishes.
The area is untouched by package tourism with a small campground on the Island and low rise, local run, accommodation in the town.
The main beach on the Island is called Praia de Tavira, here you will find eateries serving fresh seafood, including Cataplana, a special Portuguese seafood stew of crabs, shellfish and fish in a garlic tomato broth. This beach also has a beach bar, parasols and sun lounges for hire.
If you are looking for fewer crowds then head to Praia de Terra Estreita and Praia do Barrie. At the latter you can visit the sculptural Anchor Graveyard, decaying anchors emerging from the white sands create a dramatic display.
Best Place to Stay: Vila Gale Albacora
Top Activity To Do: Carvoeiro: Discover Grottoes by Stand Up Paddle Board
12. Praia da Batata - Lagos
Affectionately known locally as the ‘potato beach’, Praia da Batata is located next to Bandeira Fort in Lagos, just a stone’s throw away from the heart of the town centre and around a ten minute walk from Lagos Marina.
Praia da Batata isn’t the biggest beach in Lagos and it gets pretty busy over the summer months, but its location makes it ideal for a quick trip to the beach, and there’s plenty of shade if you need to get away from the sun.
Water sports enthusiasts can take part in a number of activities through the tour operators perched on the beachfront, including kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving and paddle boarding.
If you prefer to take things easy when you travel, don’t miss out on the opportunity to take a boat tour of the beautiful caves and grottoes that make up the Lagos coastline.
If all that sea air makes you hungry, tuck into a sandwich or light meal in the beach café. The milkshakes are delicious!
Best Place to Stay: BelMar Beach & Spa Resort
Top Activity To Do: Algarve Dolphin Watching & Marine Life Eco Tour