For many travelers, the ultimate vacation includes exotic sights, impeccable weather, delicious cuisine, and plenty of activities, but it also gives you time to relax and “get away from it all”—this is the Algarve in a nutshell. Portugal’s southern region is a European paradise full of both history and modern amenities and can offer something to practically everyone (sorry snow lovers, this may not be the top destination for you). Here are a “few” reasons why everyone should visit the Algarve at least once.
Central and southern Portugal enjoy sunny days nearly year-round, and the air temperatures remain mild as well. It’s rare for air temperatures to dip below 10°C (50°F), even in the heart of winter, and hot summer days by the coast feel cooler due to the Atlantic Ocean breeze. Located in the far south, the Algarve is where visitors will find the country’s best weather and warmer days.
Benagil Cave and the Arcos de Marinha are just a couple of spots where the cliffsides give way to little, romantic alcoves. The best ways to visit them are by kayak or boat (but some still require swimming to the entrance since the boats can only get so close).
Western Algarve is where visitors will find some of the most dramatic and wild cliffsides, specifically in Sagres. Lagos is also known for its fringe of multi-hued rocky exposures that wrap around crystal blue beaches, such as Camilo Beach.
The energy in the Algarve is a positive one, and the locals are extremely friendly, especially near tourist-laden cities. It’s common to meet new people at the beach bars and organize to eat dinner together later that evening. Also, knowing the right people (even only one) is enough to get you invited to events and nightclubs where everyone feels included.
It’s common to catch the scent of salt and fresh fish in the air while walking along the Algarve’s coast due to its fishing industry. Fish markets are not hard to find, and in some locations, restaurants serve catches that were plucked from the ocean that same day. Traditional meals such as the Algarve’s famous cataplana or Portuguese amêijoas à bulhão pato (small clams in a butter, white wine, and garlic sauce) are sure to catch the attention of passersby with their aromatic and visual appeal.
Portuguese cuisine is fairly simple but delicious, and the country has caught worldwide attention with its fresh ingredients, Mediterranean touches, and comforting combinations. In the Algarve, be sure to try frango assado, otherwise known as chicken piri-piri, grilled fish (especially sardines), or one of the many recipes for bacalhau (salted cod).
There are dozens of lovely golf courses throughout this small region that will satisfy even the pickiest golfers, and many of them have the Atlantic Coast as part of their backdrops. From nine-hole to 18-hole courses, and covering a range of difficulty levels, finding the right “green” isn’t hard to do.
In the Algarve, many people live for the nights when cities come alive with food, drinks, and lots of dancing. Most nights, the sun may come up again before night owls even leave the clubs, and breakfast at a local café is a must before heading to bed. The best cities for nightlife in the Algarve are undoubtedly Albufeira, Vilamoura, and Portimão.
Like all of Portugal, the Algarve is sprinkled with beautiful castle ruins, museums, and stunning cathedrals. A couple of the most popular include the reddish Silves Castle and the Sé Cathedral in Faro. Silves, in general, is a charming town with many historical landmarks that visitors can explore over the course of a day.
In the Algarve, the beach is never very far away, and it’s always possible to find a place to lay your towel. Whether you mind being surrounded by crowds or not can determine where you decide to go. The northwest coast and southeast coast are where visitors will find some of the quieter sands, near Aljezur and Tavira, respectively, while south-central Algarve is the busiest region and best place to be in the thick of the action.
Portugal is one of the best surfing destinations in the world, and while the center of the country is home to the largest swells, the Algarve also has gnarly waves of its own. Visit Sagres, where surf shops and hostels have popped up over the years, or head to northern Algarve (near Alentejo) for more coastline and fewer tourists. Even newbies can have fun in the waves and book classes with one of the many surf schools.
Portugal is one of the most budget-friendly countries in Europe, and that fact extends to its southern tip. It’s possible to eat well for less than €10 at lunch or under €15 for dinner, and budget-friendly accommodations are common as well. Making breakfast and lunch your main meals and eating light for dinner is another way to cut back on your spending. Also, booking a hotel or Airbnb away from the tourist centers will reduce costs further.
Not only is the Algarve home to a large expat community (many coming from the UK), but the Portuguese have also acclimated to the droves of tourists who have made it their vacation destination for the past few decades.
Portugal is currently listed as one of the safest countries in the world. It is one of the (many) reasons why the Algarve is a top retirement destination as well as a sought-after tourist hot spot. While it’s not completely invisible to crimes and violence, which is especially common in tourist destinations, the Algarve is still a peaceful place to visit.
Part of the allure of traveling is experiencing a different and unique culture, and the Algarve has held strong onto its own. Hints of Portugal’s maritime past and influence during the Age of Discoveries is still visible in various forms, from the fortifications to museums and long-standing fishing markets. Medieval buildings and even some homes still reflect styles introduced by the Moors centuries ago. The Algarve is also an excellent location where tourists can taste culture in the form of traditional cuisine and liquor such as medronho.