With its Mediterranean climate, golden beaches and stunning weathered coastlines, the Algarve has been a popular holiday destination since as far back as the ’60s. If you look beyond the luxury resorts and high-rise villas that make the south coast so popular for Algarve holidays, however, and venture somewhat off the beaten track on the east and west coasts, you’ll uncover a much more natural, rugged side to this part of Portugal than you ever knew existed.
Here are nine great destinations for your next Algarve holiday:
Faro itself is incredibly picturesque as well, with quaint fishermen’s cottages, historical city walls, and beautiful churches dotted throughout the small city. The nearby Ria Formosa, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Portugal, is home to a diverse range of wildlife and is easily accessible from Faro Marina. There are also several fantastic beaches nearby – the Ilha Deserta – for example, and few get anywhere near as busy as the beaches on the Central Algarve.
– James, Portugalist
The little town of Lagos is home to some of the best beaches in the Algarve, including the award-winning Praia Dona Ana – once named the best beach in the world by Condé Nast Traveller. As such, it is probably one of the most popular destinations for an Algarve holiday.
There’s much more to Lagos than sun, sea and sand though. I’ve visited the town three times before now, and I never get tired of eating out in Lagos. There are lots of different restaurants serving a range of cuisines, so in the unlikely event that you tire of scoffing on authentic Portuguese food, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to finding somewhere else to eat.
When you’re not sunning yourself on the beach or stuffing your face, take a boat tour of Ponta da Piedade (the sandstone cliffs, grottoes, and rock pillars that make up the Lagos coastline), explore Portugal’s maritime past at Forte da Ponta da Bandeira (the Lagos Fortress), or discover the truth behind Lagos’ history of slavery at the Mercado de Escravos (Slave Market). With so many things to do in and around Lagos, there’ll never be a dull moment!
3) Vila do Bispo
If you love surfing, beautiful beaches and stunning cliffs, the area around Vila do Bispo is the place to be! We’ve travelled a total of four months in the Algarve (spread out over two winters) and we absolutely loved the southwest coast of the Algarve.
You can stay in an apartment or hostel, but you’ll get the best experience if you travel in an RV. The little beaches in that area are perfect for boondocking. You’ll find friendly surfers and cute little self-built vans everywhere, and the laid-back atmosphere is brilliant!
Check out Praia da Boca do Rio, Praia da Ingrina and Praia do Amado. However, our absolute favorite is Praia do Zavial. It has a large sandy white beach and stunning cliffs that you can climb on to get the best view ever. Even our three-year-old was impressed with its beauty!
– Nanouk, Digital Nomad with Kids
Olhao doesn’t have a beach, so it’s less overrun with tourists than a lot of other coastal towns in Southern Portugal. Olhao has the largest fishing port of the Algarve and a nice promenade where you can watch the fishing boats coming and going all day. Still very authentic and raw, it’s definitely a place worth a visit.
Discover the lovely Portuguese tiled houses in the Old Town, visit the lively fish market and enjoy the beautiful beaches of Ilha Armona and Ilha Culatra. The two barrier islands, part of the Ria Formosa nature park, are only a short ferry ride away and very much worth a visit. Especially in the winter months, the islands are practically deserted and we had the huge beach all to ourselves. Fantastic!
– Lisa, Flip Flop Globetrotters
Tavira is a small town to the east of the Algarve’s capital, Faro. Situated along the River Gilao, Tavira is a quiet and laid-back historic Moorish town.
The town is home to several historic buildings including castles and churches, which reflect the Portuguese style of architecture. The view from the castle over the town and the Atlantic Ocean is amazing. The cobbled streets along the river and the roadside cafes and restaurants make the old town centre a charming route for an evening stroll. There are lots of places around Tavira town which can be easily explored as a day trip, while the Spanish border is just about 25 km from here.
The fresh local seafood, surrounding small villages and nearby beaches make Tavira a beautiful place to settle during your Algarve holiday.
– Varsha, Varshastravel360.com
Visiting Loulé should be very high on everyone’s Algarve bucket list. This typical Portuguese market town lays landward between Faro and Albufeira and is especially known for its covered market. It’s the perfect place for grocery and souvenir shopping, or simply to stock up on piri-piri. The variety of local produce is huge and you surely will be offered a yummy sample here and there!
Make sure, also, not to miss Loulé’s old town. The small cobble-stoned area is crossed by narrow streets and colourful houses, perfect for strolling around and enjoying an off-beach day. As Loulé is located away from the usual tourist crowds, it’s possible that you may even find yourself alone in this part of town.
– Lena, Four on a World Trip
Aljezur is a must visit destination in the Algarve; not only because it has some of the most beautiful beaches in this region, but also, for the simple reason that it´s the only place in Portugal where you can find a real tree house! I´ve spent a great amount of time searching for tree houses in Portugal and I´m yet to find a tree house experience like this one in Aljezur.
The farm where this dreamy accommodation is located is only eight minutes from Aljezur, in a secluded valley. To reach it, you´ll have to face a steep descent, either by car or foot. This tree house is the perfect experience for all lovers of unique and eco-friendly accommodation.
Can you picture yourself crossing wooden bridges surrounded by beautiful flowers and falling asleep to nothing more than the precious sound of nature? If so, you’re getting a little closer to understanding what your stay at this farm will be like. Warning: you can only book this accommodation for your Algarve holiday between June and September!
– Lara and Valter, Heart of Everywhere
Carvoiero is one of the most beautiful beach destinations for an Algarve holiday, with white-washed houses sitting atop golden cliffs that surround the small sandy beach. It’s been transformed from a sleepy fishing village into a popular tourist destination with hotels and resorts to match, although many are found inland.
The beach itself is still as stunning as ever and worth a visit. Get in early in the summer if you want a spot, or visit in winter and you’ll still find people swimming in the turquoise waters! From here, you can take trips to the nearby caves or just relax with a cocktail and some food as you people-watch from one of the bars overlooking the ocean!
– Sonja, Migrating Miss
Sagres is a great destination to visit for an Algarve holiday. The small village of Sagres feels like the end of Europe with its dramatic cliff faces, beautiful village, and a fortress overlooking the ocean. Compared to places like Lagos, Sagres is very much secluded and an ideal place to enjoy a holiday in Portugal.
It’s got a laid back hippie vibe, and a few cafes and restaurants to enjoy while watching the surfers do their thing. One of the best beaches to visit near Sagres is Praia de Tonel. Praia de Tonel has some of the best surf in the Algarve, but it also gets quite busy in the summertime. My other favorite beach (and my personal favorite to watch sunset) is
Praia do Beliche, located just outside of Sagres town between Cape St. Vincent and Sagres Point. Around sunset, the car park gets quite crowded with onlookers, but there is plenty of room for everyone to enjoy the view!
– Natasha, The World Pursuit
Hopefully, this post has given you plenty of inspiration on where to go for your next Algarve holiday – now all that’s left to do is get booking, get packing and get going! Before parting with your hard-earned cash, compare a few different providers based on their Algarve deals to make sure you don’t pay a penny more than you have to!