The Algarve, on the south coast of Portugal, is second only to the country’s capital, Lisbon, in terms of tourism revenue, but there are still plenty of peaceful spots where you can get a true taste of the region. From hilltop cork groves to “the end of the world”, here’s our guide to the Algarve’s must-visit attractions.
The Algarve is popular with golfers and sun-seekers who want a holiday on the course or on a long sandy beach. And the Algarve certainly has those things. But there are also plenty of attractions here that are worth putting down the golf clubs and getting off the sun lounger to discover. With incredible rock formations, historic towns and natural beauty surrounded by cooling ocean water, the Algarve will show you why it’s so loved.
Discover the best of Portugal on our nine-day adventure – starting in Porto, you’ll sip wine in the Douro Valley before kicking back on the beaches of the Troia Peninsula. The trip finishes in Lisbon, where you’ll learn about the history, art and architecture of the capital before sampling pastéis de nata in Belem.
Standing at the southwesternmost point in Europe, Cabo de São Vicente was once thought to be the end of the world, and it’s easy to see why. It’s rocky and very windy all the time here, and it does sometimes feel like this is the end of the world. The views are incredible, and standing on the rocks with the waves crashing beneath you is a blood-pumping feeling. One of Europe’s brightest lighthouses stands watch, and there’s a good cafe for when you want to escape the wind. The pretty town of Sagres is nearby and well worth a visit.
This nature park in the Algarve is an estuary made up of canals, marshlands, islands and sandy beaches. The main reason visitors come here is to spot wildlife – and there’s plenty of it. The purple swamphen is the poster bird for this park, and if you manage to see one, you’re rewarded with vibrant blue and purple plumage. The park is also a quiet place to walk and enjoy the diversity of nature.
It’s known as a mountain range, but at 590m (1,900ft), the Serra do Caldeirão is more hilly than mountainous. This does make it accessible to more people and easier to trek across, but it’s still quiet most of the time. There are some beautiful wildflowers growing freely, and if you like unusual trees, you can spot cork, holm oak and palm. There are streams and rivers to cross, so be prepared to get your feet wet.
With a craggy coastline of fascinating rock formations and a choice of soft, sandy beaches, Lagos attracts those who want to laze by the shore and wander along the marina looking at the sleek yachts. But Lagos also has its history on show in the form of medieval and Baroque churches, as well as a historic building on the site of a slave market that was established in the 1400s. Water sports are available on the long Meia Praia beach, and when the sun eventually goes down, Lagos wakes up and begins its busy nightlife.
Tavira is about as traditional an Algarve town as you can get. This is still a fishing town, and the Gilao River, which runs right through before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean, provides for the family-run restaurants you’ll find on the cobbled streets. The houses and bars along these winding streets are all tiled in the traditional Portuguese way, and semi-rural villas and apartments are dotted about, mostly away from the golden beaches.
Despite its size, many people don’t know about this soft sandy beach and only discover it by accident. It feels secluded, even though it’s not really, and the historical buildings on the rocky hill-head, plus the cragginess of the shoreline, make it feel like it’s a world away. There are plenty of bars and restaurants here, and the sea is cool in contrast to the warm sand. A little piece of paradise in Ferragudo.
Vilamoura was originally constructed in the 1980s as a golfing destination, and it remains a major draw for those looking for a holiday on the fairways. The area has also built on this foundation and is now the place the wealthy head to when they’re in the Algarve. Casinos, riding schools, a shooting club and, of course, incredible golf courses. It’s like a huge playground for those who can afford it. You can observe the super yachts in the marina, which are a window into another world.
Scenic doesn’t necessarily mean remote – there’s plenty more to do near these natural features and towns, from markets in Vilamoura to restaurants and churches in Lagos. After a day of exploring, put your feet up in one of the best hotels in the Algarve or sleep as close to the beach as possible.
Looking for travel inspiration outside of Portugal? Browse our collections of Epic Trips, Mini Trips and Sailing Trips to find your next exciting destination.
This is a rewrite of an article originally by Nina Santos.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.