Veer off the beaten path, and immerse yourself in the Algarve’s lesser-known towns and villages for a vacation free of crowds. Secluded, golden-sand beaches, old fortress ruins and more sleepy fishing towns with charming seafood restaurants than you can count – it’s not hard to see why the Algarve is Portugal’s most popular tourist destination. While the entire region is picture-perfect and each town has its own story to tell, a few of them deserve particular attention. Here, we list some of the most noteworthy places in Portugal’s holiday hotspot.
From its location in the rugged Costa Vicentina Natural Park to its status as a surfing haven, Aljezur is a top spot for nature enthusiasts and surfers. It’s also a smart choice for those seeking delicious Portuguese cuisine, especially fresh fish. Make yourself at home in one of the town’s beachfront houses, villas or glamping spots. Charming, traditional, and laid-back, the Algarve’s northwestern corner offers a blend of Algarvean culture with a slight Alentejano hint.
One of the Algarve’s liveliest towns is Albufeira, a tourist destination that sits halfway along the coast – and a magnet for partygoers. In terms of eating out, there’s plenty on offer from barbecue chicken shacks to high-end restaurants and casual cafes. You can also find English-language bookstores, owing to the town’s thriving immigrant community, and a number of unique attractions like the Zoomarine Algarve. If you’re looking for your own apartment, you’ll be spoilt for choice with the range of options available.
Modern, resort-friendly and sophisticated, Vilamoura is an ultra-cool town with easy access to several pristine beaches. These are plenty of high-end hotels in town, but many visitors prefer to take advantage of the high standard of rentable private apartments instead. Wherever you stay, there are plenty of shops and attractions to keep you busy – the Vilamoura Marina being among the best of them, particularly when lit up in the evening. Vilamoura is also one of the top towns in the Algarve for playing golf.
Tall cliffs, deep caves and rocky coastlines sum up the beautiful town of Lagos – another big draw with plenty going on during the day and at night, from lively fish markets to busy restaurants and bouncing bars. When visiting, be sure to swing by the Saturday market for fresh fruit, vegetables and cultural souvenirs, before heading to the lively fish market to experience a snapshot of everyday Algarve life.
Outdoor markets, beautiful souvenir shops and traditional tascas (cafes) await you in the inland town of Loulé. While it may not be the most lively spot in terms of nightlife, it’s a great choice for discovering historical and cultural attractions like the old market and Loulé Castle, which dates back to the 2nd century. It’s become something of a day-trip destination for those needing a break from the busy coastal resort towns. Loulé also makes a great base for those on a mission to find one or two of Portugal’s famous ‘ghost towns’.
Today, the regional capital of the Algarve is Faro, but it was once Silves. This charming town is brimming with history and culture, with ruins strewn across the centre and some old buildings turned into museums. The red-brick Silves Castle and the Silves Cathedral are standout landmarks – the best way to see them is to arrive early and beat the crowds.
One of Olhão’s claims to fame is that it’s home to the largest fishing port in the Algarve. It’s also located close to Faro, the regional capital, and sits close to the Ria Formosa Natural Park. So, visiting both of these destinations is relatively easy. Check in to your own home from home, and, then, set off on a ramble through town. You’ll find lively fruit, vegetable and fish markets filled with vendors and customers – and a great selection of restaurants for lunch. If visiting in the summer, try to line up your trip with the Festival do Marisco (Seafood Festival) for the chance to taste local specialities.
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.