The Most Stunning Seaside Towns in the Algarve

Enjoy the view of the harbour in Lagos on your next trip to the Algarve
Enjoy the view of the harbour in Lagos on your next trip to the Algarve | © devi / Alamy Stock Photo
Amy Blyth

The Algarve is most famous for its coastline, where visitors come to bask on some of Portugal’s best Blue Flag beaches, wander the tiled streets of white-washed ports and tuck into fresh seafood. Whether you’re looking for family-friendly coves, a lively bar scene or traditional Portuguese culture, these top seaside towns on the Atlantic coast deserve your attention.

Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips? Pick from authentic, immersive Epic Trips, compact and action-packed Mini Trips and sparkling, expansive Sailing Trips.

Lagos

Once a key trading port, Lagos is filled with Moorish-style architecture and surrounded by ancient city walls. Discover its maze-like streets, which give way to leafy squares where you can sip port al fresco while admiring the colourful tiled buildings. A long, palm-lined promenade leads to the marina, where you can take a boat trip along the coast, darting in and out of secret caves and beaches. The highlight is Ponta da Piedade, a series of multicoloured rock stacks sea-sculpted over centuries.

Enjoy a slice of authentic Algarve life in Tavira, a lesser-visited fishing port east of Faro. Here, a Roman bridge stretches over the river and the streets are a monument of Moorish and Renaissance architecture. Discover the Castelo ruins with their hidden garden and crumbling walls offering views over the town, before entering the cool sanctum of the chalk-white church next door. Afternoons in Tavira are made for relaxing on a riverfront terrace watching the boats glide by.

Cacela Velha

Cacela Velha, just 30km (19mi) from the Spanish border, is a hilltop village filled with white-washed cottages within the Ria Formosa Natural Park. Its main attraction is Praia da Fábrica, a long stretch of golden sand that shifts with the wind and tides, creating sparkling pools and lagoons. The village is protected by the remnants of a walled fort, which was ravaged by the 1969 earthquake. Visit in mid-July to experience the Noites da Moura Encantada festival – Nights of the Enchanted Moorish Women – to discover traditional arts and crafts, and more.

Aljezur

Aljezur sits away from the tourist crowds on the wild northwest coast of the Algarve. It’s shadowed by the atmospheric ruins of a hilltop Moorish castle that dates back to the 10th century, with white-washed houses spread below. Aljezur is a fantastic spot for foodies too, with plenty of restaurants and cafes serving fresh seafood and authentic regional dishes. Nearby, the protected Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina boasts black-cliff beaches with good surf.

Sagres

Face dramatic, windswept vistas in Sagres, home to a 17th-century fort that clings to the coast. From here, you can watch huge waves crash to shore and wander clifftop trails towards Cabo de São Vicente lighthouse, which marks the most southwesterly point in Europe. Sagres itself is one of the prettiest seaside towns in the Algarve, with a small marina and port famed for its lobster fishing – though it makes a perfect base for surfers who come to ride the Algarve’s gnarliest waves.

Faro

The airport is generally all that most tourists see of Faro, but there’s much more to discover in the Algarve’s historical capital. Pass through a stone arch into the Old Town, which is lined with shuttered Portuguese relics that lead to Cathedral Square; here you can climb the bell tower for views over the coast. Faro is also a base for boat trips to the Ria Formosa Natural Park, a network of salt-water lagoons and sandy islands home to flamingos and marine birds.

Quarteira

Quarteira is one of the Algarve’s original resort towns, loved for its long promenade bursting with cafes and restaurants that spill onto the street. Its wide, sandy beach is perfectly positioned between Vale do Lobo – an exclusive beach resort backed by golf courses – and Vilamoura’s glitzy marina to the west. Aside from relaxing on the beach, you can mingle with locals at Quarteira’s fish and produce markets or shop for souvenirs at the gypsy market on the outskirts of town.

Albufeira

There’s a good reason why Albufeira is the Algarve’s top tourist haunt. Once a peaceful fishing village, the town now offers a blend of Portuguese charm and vibrant nightlife. By day, you can wander the cobblestone streets of the Old Town with its whitewashed Moorish architecture and then, when the sun goes down, hit the bars and clubs in the New Town’s strip. Then there’s the long stretch of golden beach backed by jagged cliffs, where you can hop on a boat trip down the coast.

Armação de Pêra

This unassuming seaside town, just west of Albufeira, stands out for the remains of its 1667 fort, which sits on a promenade overlooking the beach. Walk west along the sand towards Galé, where a wooden boardwalk stretches across a bird-filled lagoon; or east along an almost-hidden coastal path for dramatic coastal views. Just inland, you’ll find Portugal’s best handmade pottery in nearby Porches.

Portimão

Get a taste of local life in Portimão, one of the Algarve’s largest seaside cities. There’s a residential feel with modern apartment blocks sprawling out from the tree-lined Old Town, which is home to Portuguese-tiled buildings and seafood eateries. Portimão’s main beach, nearby Praia da Rocha, is famed for its surf-friendly waters and long sands littered with dramatic rock formations. Historically a shipbuilding and sardine fishing hub, Portimão is now the best place to book a boat trip to the Benagil Caves.

Vilamoura

Swanky Vilamoura is a purpose-built resort town where the rich come to play. Picture million-dollar yachts bobbing in the marina, surrounded by high-end bars and restaurants, a casino and five-star hotels. The golfing set flock to Vilamoura for its six world-class courses but the town’s main attraction is the pristine, Blue Flag sands of Praia da Falesia. Regularly rated one of the best beaches in the world, Falesia stretches for 6km (3.7mi) and is lined with soaring, rust-coloured cliffs.

Luz

Families love Luz for its quiet sandy cove, which is lapped by kid-friendly shallow waters. To the east, you’ll spot Rocha Negra, a huge black rock formed over 150 million years ago by Monchique’s now dormant volcano. Hike up here for sweeping views over Luz and the Atlantic, where clifftop walking trails stretch on to Sagres. The town’s family-run Portuguese eateries serve up local seafood dishes here, or you can head up to the yellow-and-white fort, now a restaurant, that dates back to the 17th century.

landscape with balloons floating in the air

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.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

X
Edit article