Are you planning your trip to the Algarve and wondering what to see and do? Well, we got you covered. During our week-long trip in the Algarve, we tried to see as much of this beautiful region as possible! Top of the list are various beautiful beaches and interesting rock formations.
However, the Algarve is also home to some charming cities and seaside towns. In spite of the mostly rainy weather during our trip we were quite impressed by the sheer beauty of this region in Portugal.
In this sightseeing guide, we will share what to see and do as well as where to go while traveling the Algarve! And hopefully some of these sights will make their way into your Algarve itinerary as well!
If you wish to read more about our travel route, we wrote a separate post on our Algarve travel itinerary as well as a full breakdown of our travel expenses from this trip! This trip was actually our first time ever doing van life, so we share our thoughts after our first van life experience in a separate post as well.
Sights worth visiting in the Algarve region of Portugal!
Since the Algarve is known for its really beautiful coast stretches and stunning beaches, I suppose it is no wonder that we will start with exactly that! However, we would like to divide the beaches we recommend into two categories.
One category for the beaches on the west coast and one for the beaches on the southern coast. The reason for this is that both coast stretches have very different vibes!
The beaches alongside the west coast of Portugal are more wild, untouched and located in between really dramatic big cliffs. On the other hand, the beaches on the south coast are what you probably thought about when researching what beaches in the Algarve are worth a visit! You will soon understand what we mean. So let’s get into it!
Beaches worth visiting on the Western Atlantic Coast of the Algarve
Praia do Amado
Praia do Amado is a more popular beach among surfers on the Atlantic west coast. It can be reached from Carrapateira via a small road. Even if the road is rather narrow it was still manageable for a van. There is a parking lot just next to the beach and a small beach hut as well as a surf school.
Praia da Arrifana
Praia da Arrifana is a beautiful beach located at the bottom of really dramatic steep cliffs. There is a small town nestled on top of the cliffs, from where you can get a really great view over the beach and Atlantic ocean!
Praia da Bordeira
This beach was actually quite a highlight for us and definitely one of our favorites! The beach is located not far away from the town of Carrapateira. On the left side of the beach there is a parking lot that can be accessed from Carrapateira.
Since the parking lot is located on top of a hill, you get a really beautiful view over the whole beach. What makes this beach so special is the sheer amount of sand that is on it!
There are some wooden stairs and boardwalks that give you access to the beach itself. When we were there, the weather was not ideal, but the wind made for some beautiful huge waves. It was quite a treat to just sit there and watch them crash on the sand.
Praia da Amoreira
Praia da Amoreira is quite a special beach because it is located right where the ‘Ribeira de Aljezur’ flows into the Atlantic Ocean. Also it is surrounded by some spectacular sand dunes.
We actually stayed on a campsite not far away from the beach and thought it would be nice to walk there. However, there is also a road that leads up to the beach so you can simply drive up to the beach as well.
How to get to Praia da Amoreira from the Parque Campismo do Serrão?
From the camping ground (Parque Campismo do Serrão), you will have to do a small hike towards the “Praia da Amoreira” beach. The hike leads you trough some lush green hills and past what seemed to be an abandoned town. You can see the exact route we took on the map down below!
Miradouro da Cordoama
Alongside the west coast of the Algarve, there are many beautiful beaches one next to the other, often separated only by cliffs. As mentioned before, the beaches of the west coast all have a more wild and untouched feel to them. Waves are bigger and people are few.
We liked these beaches quite a lot. However it is impossible to visit them all if you have limited time. No matter what you do though, do not skip Miradouro da Cordoama! You can reach this viewpoint from Villa do Bispo.
Since the viewpoint is quite high up on the cliff, you have a marvelous view over Praia da Cordoama and depending on the weather you can see quite far up and down the coast as well.
Beaches worth visiting on the Southern Coast of the Algarve
Praia do Zavial
This was actually the first beach we visited on our Algarve trip. It was during our lunch break on our first day while driving from Faro to Sagres. To get here we took a small road leading through some green meadows down towards the beach. There is a restaurant at the end of the road with some good views of the beach!
Praia da Salema
Salema was a small fishing village until the 1980’s. Today its main income comes from tourism, but there are still some fishermen left, whose boats can be found on the beach. Parking in Salema was not as easy as it was in other locations but there is a small parking lot a little further inside the village.
Praia de Porto Mos
We visited Praia de Porto Mos on our way to Lagos, since it is located not far away from the city. There is a big parking lot just in front of the beach. This beach is not huge but it made for a great morning stroll.
Praia do Alemão
Praia de Alemão was definitely one of our favorite beaches in the Algarve. We parked just above the beach on a lot next to a street called Urbanização Vau da Rocha. There where several vans and campers also parked there when we arrived.
From here we followed a small path down to the beach. The beach is located in between the typical rock formations the Algarve is known for. When the tide is low, you can walk past the rocks from one beach to another and continue walking towards Portimão for a while.
We walked until we reached Praia do Amado, before turning back around. This beach is also perfect for enjoying some sun and spending time relaxing on the beach. In terms of people, Praia do Alemão was relatively calm when we visited, the closer we got to Praia do Amado the busier it was.
Praia de Carvoeiro
Praia de Carvoeiro is a small beach located next to the town of of Carvoeiro. This beach is also the starting point of some tours, amongst others towards the cave of Benagil.
When we visited it was close to lunchtime and all the tours we were interested in for visiting Benagil were already sold out, so if you wish to catch one, be here early in the morning.
Located right on the beachfront are some restaurants and cafés where you can enjoy a drink and some food with a view onto the beach.
Praia Grande de Péra
This beach stood out among the others because it is just a more than two kilometers long sand beach with normal sand dunes behind it, in contrast to the typical rock formations or cliffs that can be found on the other beaches.
On the east side of the beach you can however find some of the rock formations again. This beach is perfect if you wish to take a long uninterrupted walk on the beach!
Praia da Falesia
Praia da Falesia is one of the more well known beaches in the Algarve. When visiting this beach we also understood why quite fast. The beach and most importantly its cliffs are absolutely stunning and an absolute must-see.
The cliffs are composed of sand and clay and the continuous erosion of the cliffs creates these beautiful formations. In the process the beautiful red and yellow-white colors of the cliff’s materials come to light.
The beach is six kilometers long and makes for a beautiful walk. In between the cliffs there are sometimes walkways which give you access to landscapes we would have never thought are in Europe if we had only seen a photo of them!
Towns and Cities you should visit in the Algarve
Here are some recommendations on cities you should visit while in the Algarve! We visited a few more, but these would be our recommendations of cities that are actually worth visiting. There are a few locations we did not manage to visit, but more on that in the last section on things we missed!
Lagos is a port, located at the mouth of the river Bensafrim and is one of the most visited cities in Portugal. Historically speaking it is more than 2000 years old and used to be an important port during the Portuguese “Age of Discovery”.
On a more dark note it also used to be at one point in time the center of European slave trade. Lagos used to be a high-profile city, until a big part of it was destroyed in the earthquake and following tsunami of 1755.
Lagos was the city we enjoyed visiting the most. The streets are really beautiful to walk through due to the fair/white and the iconic tiled house fronts, which line the streets. The city is rather touristy with many restaurants and souvenir shops, however we still enjoyed strolling through the streets of Lagos. At the shore there is a small fort and the city is very close to some really stunning small beaches and rock formations.
We always managed to find parking in front of the harbor alongside the N125 or a little up the street on a small parking lot overlooking the beaches next to the fort.
Sagres is a small portuguese town in the western part of the Algarve, not far away from Cabo de São Vicente. The town itself is super small and doesn’t have much to see or do.
The highlights here are Praia da Mareta, a beautiful beach located on the east side of Sagres. It is really popular among surfers. There were several groups of surfers on their boards in the water when we visited. There are cliffs surrounding the beach which makes for some beautiful viewpoints.
Another highlight of Sagres is its fortress which was used as a base for sea expeditions in the 15th century. We did not enter the fortress but if you wish to do so the entrance fee is 3€.
The city of Albufeira has a more than 2000-years old history. Due to its location on top of the rocks, Albufeira was nearly impossible to conquer.
The Moors lived here for a long time and actually also gave the city its name (from the Arabian word “al-buhayra” meaning “lagoon” – apparently because of a lagoon which formed in the lowlands). Similar to Lagos, Albufeira was also destroyed during the earthquake and following tsunami in 1755.
The city of Albufeira from today caters mostly towards tourists. There are numerous bars, restaurants and clubs, especially in the parts of the city which are located at a lower elevation.
The city’s Old Town is located on top of the cliffs. There is an old town hall, hospital and bell tower which can still be found. A beautiful feature of Albufeira are the white facades a lot of the buildings have.
Faro was the start and endpoint of our trip, since we flew in and out of the city’s airport. This city was definitely the biggest city we visited on our Algarve trip. Faro shares a similar history to the other cities in the Algarve region as in: it has a port and was therefore widely used as a base for oil, fish and wine production.
In 713 the Moors conquered the city and used it as a base for their dynasty in the Algarve. In 1217 during the time where the Portuguese reconquered the Algarve, crusaders plundered Faro. The city grew more and more over the decades and after the big earthquake it became the seat of government for the Kingdom of the Algarve – due to the fact that it was less destroyed than other cities.
Faro actually had quite good parking options. You will have to walk into the city center but there is free parking. When visiting make sure to explore the harbor, the Old Town and the shopping streets in the city center!
A highlight for us was the Chapela dos Ossos inside the Carmo church (entrance fee 2€). The chapel is built out of skulls and bones of monks and does have an eerie feeling to it, I am not going to lie.
Algarve sights that are worth visiting
Apart from beaches and towns, the Algarve does have other sights that are well worth visiting as well. So in this section, we will delve a little more into those and see what else there is to see and do in this beautiful region of Portugal.
Ponte Romana de Lagos and Ponta da Piedade
Located at the foot of Lagos, there are several small beaches enclosed by beautiful cliffs. The most well known sight here is a small stone bridge that suspends over the water between two rocks. You can reach Ponta Romana de Lagos by following a path through tunnels. The latter are carved inside the cliffs and lead you from one beach to another. Make sure though to visit when the tide is low as most of them are completely under water at high tide.
Ponta de Piedade is located further south next to a lighthouse with the same name. It is an area that is well known for its stunning rock formations. There are several viewpoints here and many people visit them by doing kayak tours.
Spot storks at random places
Before our trip to the Algarve, we did not realize how many storks there would be. They nest at the most random places! Be it in Aljezur on the tree trunk of a tree that was cut off, or in Faro on top of historic buildings. It was kind of fun though to look around and spot the nesting locations of these beautiful birds, so definitely keep an eye out for them!
Farol do Cabo de São Vicente
Cabo de São Vicente is the south-westernmost point of the European continent. The lighthouse that is located here is considered to be the brightest lighthouse of Europe.
Several civilizations considered this stretch of land to be a sacred ground. For instance the Greek and Romans thought it was the end of the world and considered it as magical. During the course of history there were also some naval battles around the Cape St. Vincent.
You can reach the lighthouse by following the N268 from Sagres. There is a free parking lot right in front of the lighthouse. When we visited there were even some food trucks. You can access the lighthouse itself for free as well!
Watch some impressive waves
The fortress of Sagres is located on top of a cliff. So when visiting the fortress, make sure to take some time to just sit down somewhere near the cliff and watch the waves crash beneath your feet. For us there is something therapeutic about watching waves. We saw some of the most impressive waves from this spot. When we were in Sagres it was quite windy though so I don’t know how the waves are normally. Another spot where we saw some great waves was when visiting Praia da Bordeira.
Algar Seco is located only a short walk from the town of Carvoeiro. We actually visited Algar Seco first and then made our way into the city, since parking was easier that way with the van. I would recommend this spot for anyone who wishes to explore some rock formations up close. There are several small paths leading through the rocks and there are some amazing photo spots. On top of the rocks there is a long wooden walkway alongside the shore!
What are our absolute Must-see’s in the Algarve?
We thought it would be fun to include a little rapid-fire questionnaire of our our absolute Must-see’s in the Algarve, so here it goes:
- Favorite city: Lagos
- Best beach on the west coast: Praia da Bordeira
- Best beach on the south coast: This is harder, but it is between Praia do Alemão and Praia da Falesia.
- Favorite sight: Algar Seco, and we really loved watching the huge waves crashing on the coast near the fortress of Sagres!
Things we missed
Like already mentioned, we did not get to do everything we wanted to, but we still wanted to share some of the things that we would have liked to see. Maybe they will find a way into some of your itineraries:
- The cave of Benagil: We tried to visit the cave, but in between parking with a van in Benagil itself (impossible) and finding a tour that we liked it sadly just did not work out in the end time wise.
- Silves: Located a little more inland, this city is known for its beautiful castle and rich history.
- Reservoirs: More inland there are several dams which create beautiful reservoirs.
- Loulé: A city mostly known for its market hall.
- Kayak tour near Ponta de Piedade: we were there at the wrong time of year for this!
- Beaches: In the Algarve there are always more beaches one could have visited!