Where to go in the Algarve

The Algarve, Portugal’s southernmost region, is one of Europe’s most popular summer holiday destinations, boasting over 100 golden beaches, beautiful weather year-round, resorts strung across the southern coast, water parks and golf courses. While many of those flying into Faro will hire a car, the Algarve’s vast networks of coastal cycling and walking trails such as the Rota Vicentina mean you can see much of the region without needing to drive at all. You can also dip into the rural serenity of neighbouring Alentejo. Beyond the built-up areas the Algarve is full of charisma, with traditional towns, many bearing traces of their Moorish history, nature reserves, and small fishing communities where you’ll find octopuses drying out in the sun. Find out where to go in the Algarve with our map and highlights below.
Ecovia do Litoral

1. Ecovia do Litoral

The Ecovia do Litoral is the Algarve’s section of the EuroVelo, a vast European network of cycle routes, one of which runs from Sagres in the far southwest corner all the way to the tip of Scandinavia. The 214km-long route, which you can tackle in parts, mostly follows the coast through Moorish towns, fishing villages, river valleys and mountains.
Fisherman’s Trail

2. Fisherman’s Trail

Part of the Rota Vicentina, Portugal’s Fisherman’s Trail is one of the finest long-distance coastal trails in the world. It is nearly 227km in total, so normally done across two weeks or broken up into several short holidays – a lovely journey but not one to be taken lightly. You’re exposed to the elements up there on the cliffs, and several sections are across sand which can be quite tiring.

3. Odiáxere

This quiet village just outside Lagos has some lovely and inexpensive restaurants, as well as a daily fish and produce market. It’s ideal for families staying at a quinta villa in the surrounding countryside, who can wander down with their shopping bags quite easily. Odiáxere and other rural parts offer a flavour of the Algarve that’s almost untouched by tourism.
Ria Formosa Natural Park

4. Ria Formosa Natural Park

Composed of several islands interspersed with tidal flats and inlets, Ria Formosa Natural Park is an important nesting ground and resting point for migratory bird species such as oystercatchers and flamingos. Along with observation hides for birders, the park is lined with walking and cycling trails. Car-free islands with sandy beaches can be reached by ferry from Olhão on the mainland.
Rota Vicentina

5. Rota Vicentina

The Rota Vicentina is a network of walking trails that broadly follows the Algarve’s southwest coast. The famous Fisherman’s Trail is one of the routes, while some cross into the Alentejo region. Many trails need constant maintenance, and another network has sprung up of Algarve businesses that keep the trails in good order and encourage walkers to stay, eat and shop with local providers.

6. Sagres

The town of Sagres sits at Portugal’s remote far western tip, at the foot of the Rota Vicentina and at the far west of the Via Algarviana walking trail. The rugged coastal landscapes here have been shaped by the wild winds; this is considered one of the best places in the world for surfing. There are also plenty of sheltered beaches around Sagres – and some seriously good walking.
Serra de Monchique

7. Serra de Monchique

This tree-clad mountain chain separates the Algarve from neighbouring Alentejo. Walks here can lead you to views across the region, hidden churches, and peaceful market towns such as Monchique. Visit in March for the sizzle of the mountains’ famous sausage festival, complimented by a few glasses of the famous local firewater Aguardente de Medronho brandy.

8. Silves

Silves is a riverside city best-known for a huge medieval fair that takes place every August, which pays tribute to Silves’ Moorish heritage. A well-preserved castle stands at the city’s highest point offering superb views, and there’s an archaeological museum too. Lagos, and the beach, are just a short drive away but Silves also offers pleasant riverside walks and lots of friendly cafes.

9. Tavira

A riverside town close to the Ria Formosa Natural Park, Tavira is often referred to as the most scenic spot in the Algarve. The cobbled streets are a delight to wander, leading you to little churches and houses decorated with blue-and-white azulejos tiles. There are lots of seafood restaurants serving up the catch of the day (think sea bass and oysters), while Ilha de Tavira has powdery beaches.
Via Algarviana

10. Via Algarviana

The Via Algarviana is an ancient long-distance walking and cycling trail stretching for 300km through inland Algarve, from the windswept headland of Cabo de São Vicente (Europe’s most southwesterly point) to Alcoutim in the east, then over the border into Spain. There’s no need to tackle it all, of course – a stay in the countryside means you can easily access the well-marked trails for a day hike.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Algarve or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Our travellers also ask...

What is the most beautiful town in the Algarve?

Tavira, a riverside community close to the Ria Formosa Natural Park, is often considered the most beautiful town in the Algarve. With its cobbled streets, blue-and-white azulejos tiles and attractive churches, it’s a lovely place to wander in the Algarve sunshine. That said, there are plenty of other contenders too, from Silves with its handsome Moorish castle to the seaside village of Cacela Velha in Rio Formosa Natural Park. Even Lagos, while certainly very touristy, has its charms, with a walled old town and some gorgeous beaches that can often only be reached by staircases that zigzag down from the clifftops.

Which part of the Algarve has the best beaches?

For surfers, the best part of the Algarve tends to be the west coast, where the rollers are legendary. But with over 100 beaches to choose from, the Algarve has a stretch of sand to suit everyone, whether you want somewhere safe for young children to play or a secluded spot where you can picnic away from the crowds. Our guide to the best beaches in the Algarve explores a few of our favourites.

Where should I go in the Algarve with children?

The best place to stay in the Algarve with kids is a countryside quinta villa. These rural retreats are soundtracked by the creak of swinging hammocks, clucking chickens and the splash of the pool. There will often be a non-touristy village within walking distance where self-caterers can stock up in the produce market and shops, and of course in the Algarve you’re never far from a family-friendly beach or two.

Responsible Travel would like to thank VisitAlgarve for their sponsorship of this guide.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: amaianos] [Ecovia do Litoral: Joseolgon] [Fisherman’s Trail: Rick McCharles] [Odiáxere: Vitor Oliveira] [Ria Formosa Natural Park: Jose Prego] [Rota Vicentina: Claudio Franco] [Sagres: dronepicr] [Serra de Monchique: Rui Gloria] [Silves: Eoin Gardiner] [Tavira: Peter K Burian] [Via Algarviana: Jules Verne Times Two] [Our travellers also ask: Vitor Oliveira]