Things to see & do in
the Algarve, Portugal

Don’t be fooled by common perceptions of the Algarve. It’s not all concrete resorts full of high rise apartment blocks, golf courses and beaches so tightly packed you can barely swing an umbrella. That Algarve does exist of course, but head inland, or to the wilder western tip, and it’s another world entirely of remote beaches, tranquil farmsteads that promise sublime family retreats, and a network of routes that walkers and cyclists come home raving about. There’s a lot more to the Algarve than meets the eye.

Active Algarve

For those who want a little more exercise on their holidays than just getting from the breakfast table to their towel-reserved sun lounger, the Algarve is a rural idyll. There are small group walking and cycling tours available where you’ll be accompanied by a professional guide, or tailor made options which see you undertake a series of self guided routes, supported by comprehensive maps and notes and with the freedom to tweak the itinerary according to your own fitness level or interests.

You will usually travel point-to-point, staying in small, locally owned hotels where a warm welcome awaits you on arrival each afternoon. If you prefer then your luggage can be transferred between accommodations, and of course although routes are well-marked there will be 24-hour support available if you need it.

Cycling in the Algarve

For leisurely pedallers, there are cycling holidays that cover 30km each day with just a few moderate climbs, leaving you plenty of time to pause for a swim in the sea here and there, or duck into a taverna (we think Algarve cuisine is terribly underrated). You can also build in a day by the pool if you prefer. Those who enjoy a bit more of a challenge can opt for longer routes of around 50-55km each day, perhaps even hiring road bikes to tackle steeper elevations.

You may follow a largely coastal route east to west, turn inland, or explore the serenely beautiful Baixo Guadina region that borders Spain. In terms of terrain you’ll spend most of your time on quiet back roads fragrant with orange and cork trees, passing through peaceful little villages and historic towns such as Silves, Tavira and Lagos.

Walking in the Algarve

There are just as many walking routes available to you in the Algarve as there are cycling, and they too immerse you in the region’s gorgeous countryside, a world apart from more touristic locales. You can take a coastal approach with dramatic Atlantic scenery always within view, past hidden beaches, over golden sand dunes, pausing to wander medieval castles.
You can dip into the neighbouring Alentejo region to contrast its pastoral landscapes with the Algarve. Or if you prefer, there are options to combine walking with bird watching – the eastern Algarve is a premier location for it – and some delicious food and wine tasting with a knowledgeable guide showing you around.

Family holidays in the Algarve

The Algarve of course is the quintessential European family holiday destination – the beaches, the water parks, the reliably sunny weather and just the sheer ease of getting there and getting around. But why stick to the coast when you can stay on a rural, inland estate just outside of Lagos, where it’s a little cooler but you’re still only a short drive from the beach?

You can lounge by an outdoor pool in a landscape of utter peace a million miles away from more traditional Algarve holiday resorts, or wander along nearby walking trails lined with fig, olive and almond trees. And children that can barely muster the inclination to fill a bowl of cornflakes at home will somehow adore having the opportunity to help collect eggs from the ducks and chickens, or pick vegetables in the fields.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Portugal or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

When to visit the Algarve

If you’re walking or cycling, then avoid August, as the heat will make things incredibly heavy going. In fact many parts of the Algarve are a bit too sticky and crowded in July and August, although it tends to be more manageable inland or in the breezier south west. We recommend April to June as the best time to visit the Algarve for active holidays. You can expect pleasantly warm weather all the way into October, and the sea, heated up over the summer, will just be starting to cool down.
We walked from Porto Covo to Arrifana over 6 days and we had an absolute ball. Throughout the entire week, it was some of the best scenery we have ever seen and the trails were so easy to follow.
- Nicholle O’Leary
“This was a fantastic trip, allowing us to get out of the more travelled parts of the Algarve, into ... many picturesque small towns and hamlets. The terrain was extremely varied, ranging from mountain passes to surfing beaches. ..We are both in our 60's and moderately fit, and we had no trouble with the level of exertion... We did cycle lots of hills in the months before we came, to prepare, and this paid off. The bikes were great – better than we have at home. There is a small amount of cycling on busy roads, but most of the trip takes you on a maze of quiet back-country routes. The trip is very well organized, but allows participants lots of leeway to make it their own. There were options for longer days, which we never took, as the minimum proved to be enough for us. More serious cyclists would definitely have the option to cover more ground, but we did not feel that we needed to do the longer routes to get our money's worth... We were in the saddle five or six hours a day, but some people would be much faster.” – Anne Millerd in a review of her self-guided cycling holiday in the Algarve

“We walked from Porto Covo to Arrifana over 6 days and we had an absolute ball. Throughout the entire week, it was some of the best scenery we have ever seen and the trails were so easy to follow. Our luggage was transferred from location to location and the accommodation was great – especially the unique little bed and breakfasts in Milfonte, Longueira and Odeceixe!” – Nicholle O’Leary in a review of his Alentejo & Algarve self-guided walking holiday
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Ian_woodhead1] [Topbox: Bert Kaufmann] [walking (Silves Cathedral): Bextrel] [Best time to visit: Joaomartinho63] [Review: Eurico Craveiro]