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The Algarve has long held its spot as a favourite summertime destination for travellers from the UK. With its picturesque beaches, wind-swept cliffs and charming towns and villages, this region’s popularity is well deserved. Add the short travel time from the UK, and it feels like the Algarve could beat any other contender.
You can find the Algarve at the southernmost end of Portugal’s mainland. Given that the Algarve covers a surprisingly large area, you’ll want to make sure to give yourself enough time to take advantage of the wide variety of places and activities you can experience while in the region.
And thanks to the fact that the Algarve has sunny, mild weather all year round, this destination need not only be considered for a summer break.
We've teamed up with our partners at loveholidays to introduce you to the Algarve. Read on to get the full lowdown on planning a trip to the Algarve, as well as cheap deals to get you there!
Flight duration: 2 hours 50 (from London)
Temperature: 16-33 °C maximum throughout the year
Size: 1,929 sq mi
Considering that the region enjoys around 300 days of sunshine each year and relatively mild temperatures throughout, you could argue that the Algarve is a good option no matter which month you’re planning to visit.
That said, the Algarve is at its hottest – both in terms of temperature and for the activities and events on offer – during the summer months of June to August. August, in particular, is when you can expect the biggest crowds, and the highest accommodation and flight prices, as this is when families flock to the area to make the most of the school summer holidays.
Outside the summer boom, the Algarve still attracts a steady flow of travellers. Those who travel in winter, for example, can take advantage of both the cheap travel deals that are available in the off season and fewer crowds.
With a rather convenient flight time of under three hours, most UK holidaymakers opt to fly straight to Faro International Airport. Often referred to as the gateway to the Algarve, Faro is an ideal starting point for exploring the wider region. You can catch a flight to Faro from over 20 destinations in the UK, including London, Manchester, Belfast, Edinburgh and many more. The following airlines offer direct flights to the Algarve: Ryanair, EasyJet, Jet2.com, Flybe and British Airways.
Portugal’s post-pandemic entry requirements are pretty straightforward, too. Fully vaccinated travellers can enter without needing to test, while unvaccinated or partly vaccinated travellers will need to show proof of a recent negative PCR or lateral flow test. Stay up to date with the latest entry requirements for Portugal.
Most travellers choose to explore the Algarve by car, as this allows them to access all destinations in the region, including more remote beaches and attractions. You can find car rental companies at Faro Airport, but we’d advise to book this well in advance during the busier summer months. Check out our list of recommended local car hire companies.
For those who don’t want to drive, it's possible to use both train and bus services in the Algarve. For trains, there’s a railway line across the region, but not all destinations have a stop. You can get multi-day passes and tickets through Comboios de Portugal. The main inter-destination bus lines are Eva and Frota Azul Algarve; tickets can be bought directly at bus stations.
Whether you decide to visit in spring, summer, autumn or winter, the Algarve has plenty to do throughout the year. We've collected some of our personal favourites to share with you.
Here are a few suggestions for your holiday in the Algarve:
Explore the ancient Castle of Silves
SUP to Benagil Caves
Have a round of golf at one of the Algarve’s 40+ golf courses
Visit Europe’s most southwestern point at Cabo de Sao Vicente
Hike or cycle along the trails of the Serra de Monchique mountain range
Admire the rock formations and caves at Ponta da Piedade
Hop on a boat tour of the Ria Formosa lagoon
Catch a ferry to Tavira Island
Feast on fresh seafood at a beachside restaurant
Whether you’re following your fellow sunseekers to the nearest beach, exploring beautiful natural scenery or soaking up the region’s history at one of its many cultural attractions, diversity isn’t something that the Algarve is lacking.
As luck would have it – and if you’re as indecisive as we are – you can often find the holy trifecta of beach, nature and culture in just about most places within the Algarve.
The south coast is well-developed for tourists, with numerous holiday parks and activities on offer in places like Faro, Albufeira, Lagos and Portimao. If you want to head somewhere a little more relaxed and off the beaten track, we’d recommend heading west to Sagres and Cabo de Sao Vicente.
Here are some of our favourite spots to escape to in the Algarve.
Acting as both the administrative capital and the tourism gateway to the region, Faro is usually the first place travellers see when they start their Algarve holiday. But this fascinating city provides many reasons to linger, from its cobblestoned streets of the Cidade Velha (Old Town) to its proximity to one of the region’s biggest natural attractions.
The Ria Formosa is a lagoon system that stretches for 60 km along the coast; dotted with sandy islands and marshes teeming with birdlife, it’s considered to be one of the country’s seven natural wonders. You can visit by catching a ferry from Faro or by hopping on a boat tour, either from Faro or from Olhão.
Located on the south coast, Lagos also draws crowds during the peak summer months, but still manages to feel laid back. This city is known for the whitewashed historical buildings of its Old Town, nightlife, beautiful beaches and spectacular clifftop views, such as the unmissable Ponta da Piedade. Lagos also happens to be a good spot for enjoying the Algarve’s food scene, where you can find many trendy beachside restaurants serving up fresh seafood, such as grilled sardines, a local delicacy.
If you’re bringing the kids along, Lagos is one of our top picks for an Algarve family holiday. There’s plenty to keep everyone busy, including surfing lessons, horse riding, dolphin watching tours and a visit to the excellent Lagos Zoo.
🏴☠️ Pirate tip: While many choose to visit Ponta da Piedade on foot, our favourite way to see this spot is from the water. You can catch boat tours here or, even better, join a kayaking tour, which allows you to get up close to this headland’s unique rock formations.
Situated midway along the southern coast, Albufeira is the region’s most popular resort and it’s here that you’re most likely to pick up an excellent deal on accommodation and package holidays. Don’t let the neon mayhem of The Strip’s nightlife clubs and restaurants fool you; Albufeira still holds a lot of charm.
Enjoy a coffee and flaky pasteis de nata – the legendary Portuguese custard tart – at a café in the atmospheric streets of the Old Town, or head out of the city to quieter beaches like Praia da Gale. For families, hop on a dolphin watching tour or spend the day at one of the city’s water parks, such as Zoomarine.
Albufeira’s biggest draw has to be its beaches though, as there are over 20 beaches along its 30 km coastline that claim Blue Flag status. Just keep in mind that the beaches closest to the city will be packed with sun loungers and fellow beachgoers.
🏴☠️ Pirate tip: The Algarve is home to many beach bars and clubs, and Albufeira is no exception to this rule. Extend your beach visit with a cocktail or two at bars like NoSoloÁgua Beach Club and Restaurante Bar Praia da Galé.
Sagres lies at the westernmost tip of the Algarve and is often described as feeling like the end of the world. With its exposed, sea-battered cliffs and much smaller crowds compared to the rest of the Algarve, this description feels completely accurate. That said, Sagres has long been a favourite with surfers and the whole village has a relaxed, simple feel to it.
Most people come here to get outdoors, whether that’s through surfing, scuba diving, hanging out at the beach or hiking. The village’s fortress is a popular attraction as is nearby Cabo de Sao Vicente, Europe’s most southwestern point where you can visit a lighthouse and take in the views; remember to stay for the spectacular sunsets that grace this part of Portugal.
🏴☠️ Pirate tip: Make as the surfers do and test your skills on Sagres’ waves. If you’re a beginner, book a surfing lesson; otherwise, you can rent a surfboard for the day from about €15-20.
If you’re looking to splash out and experience some luxury, Vilamoura is the spot for you. The star of the show here is its marina, the country’s largest with 1,300 moorings. Around the marina, you can find cafes, upmarket restaurants, nightclubs, stylish cocktail bars, casinos and much more.
If you fancy a round of golf, there are six nearby golf courses to choose from; watersports and boat trips are also the order of the day in this part of the Algarve.
Compared to the bustling centres of Albufeira and Lagos, Carvoeira is a much more peaceful hub along the southern coast and is renowned for its natural scenery. Picture wind-carved cliffs, caves and golden sand beaches protected in secluded coves – that’s what you can expect to see as you explore Carvoeiro.
Start by taking a stroll along Carvoeiro’s boardwalk, which winds its way along the clifftops, and then head to Algar Seco, a coastal site filled with caves, rock formations and water spouts. What looks otherworldly above continues under the water, making this part of the Algarve a popular place for scuba diving. It may sound like a wild, secluded place, but don’t worry – Carvoeiro has its fair share of cafes, restaurants and family-friendly activities to keep you busy after taking in the area’s natural attractions.
Since most people visit the Algarve purely for its beaches, this list could easily go on and on. That’s because there’s no shortage of Blue Flag beaches in the Algarve. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a Blue Flag beach is one that’s met high standards of water quality, cleanliness and facilities.
Here are some of our favourite beaches in the Algarve.
Often cited as one of the prettiest beaches in all of Europe, you’ll have to navigate a lot of stairs in order to enjoy the golden sands of Praia da Marinha. Close to Carvoeiro, this beach is famous for its limestone cliffs and rock formations, but it’s not particularly large and can get busy in the summer months, so it’s best to arrive early to grab your spot.
You'll find Praia de Faro on Faro Island, which can be accessed by a narrow bridge. Though surprisingly close to Faro Airport, it’s a memorable beach, where you have the sea on one side of the beach and the lagoon of the Ria Formosa on the other. Since it’s a city beach, it can get quite busy during summer.
Located between Vilamoura and Albufeira, sandy Praia de Falésia stretches for some 6 km, which means that there’s plenty of space for everyone here. Set against a backdrop of red cliffs, this accessible beach also has a number of restaurants and bars nearby.
This compact sandy beach is hemmed in by red cliffs and colourful buildings, giving Praia do Carvoeiro a particularly traditional vibe. Thanks to its proximity to the rest of Carvoeiro, shops, restaurants and cafes are only a few steps away.
Many of the beaches around Albufeira are packed throughout the summer months, yet Praia da Galé feels like a bit of a secret. Divided into an eastern and western part, each side offers a different experience: in the east, you can visit caves and rock pools, while you can enjoy beach bars and watersports on the west side.
A haunt of celebrities, this long, narrow beach can be found near Vilamoura. While the white sand of Praia de Vale do Lobo is impressive, many people come here to enjoy the well-known restaurants of Julia’s, Sandbanks and Maria’s.