The Algarve region on the southernmost tip of Portugal has so much to offer. From wonderful beaches and scenery, to vibrant culture and diverse history, it really does tick all of the boxes when you’re looking for a holiday destination. So that you know what to look out for, we’ve put together a list of the very best things to see and do whilst you’re in the Algarve; so let’s get started!
Ria Formosa is a wonderful coastal lagoon, where you’ll be able to enjoy unique beaches, spectacular landscapes and fascinating wildlife. The 18,000 hectare area is protected as a National Park, and is made up of a number of islands, marshlands, beaches and canals. Ria Formosa is particularly amazing from a birdwatching perspective, home to rare species such as the purple swamphen, bean goose and blue-winged teal. As well as these rare birds, the park’s inhabitants include seahorses, chameleons and the long-haired Portuguese water dog.
Cerro da Vila
Cerro da Vila in Vilamoura is the site of some fascinating Roman ruins from around the first century AD. The ruins are a great way to witness a once busy commercial area from the Algarve’s history of Roman occupation. You’ll be able to experience relics including a Roman public bath, mosaics, fish salting tanks, granaries and a harbour. Accompanying the site itself - which is protected as an archaeological site - the Cerro da Vila Museum is also a worthwhile visit to give you a sense of the area’s past.
Officially Part of the Ria Formosa national park, Tavira Island is an astonishing blue flag beach, which is accessible by boat from the town of Tavira, around a 50 minute drive from Albufeira. The picturesque island is around 11km long, and between one kilometre and one hundred and fifty metres in width. Tavira Island is one of the Algarve’s most prized beaches, and is a great place to spot some fascinating wildlife, as well as enjoy soft, fine sand and a number of restaurants.
Silves was the Moorish capital of the Algarve, and due to this is a town full of history. As well as this, you’ll find it to be quaint and charming, littered with citrus trees and perched alongside the Arade River. The most prominent historical relic in the town is Silves Castle, which sits on a hill overlooking the town majestically, and is considered the most important and well-preserved castle in the Algarve. You’ll be able to enjoy a spectacular view from this huge sandstone and mud castle, as well as the grandeur of Moorish architecture, eleven turrets and a massive main gate.
Praia da Marinha Beach
Another of Portugal’s most beautiful beaches, Praia da Marinha is a small cove nestled between a number of sharp and dramatic cliffs. As well as crystal clear waters and soft sand, the beach features a number of caves to explore and some fascinating rock formations. A boat trip from this beach is a wonderful experience, allowing you out into the wonderful blue ocean surrounding the beach, whilst snorkelling in the shallow waters around the cove is another great way to enjoy Praia da Marinha
Church of Sao Lourenco
The interior of this church is simply astonishing. Sao Lourenco is a baroque style building, which was constructed in the 17th century, and added to by a number of artisans in the years that followed. The church’s most notable features are azulejo blue panels which recreate scenes from the life of Sao Lourenco, which were produced by Policarpo de Oliveira Bernardes. These tiles cover the sides and the vaulted ceiling of the church, and are truly unique in their beauty.
Portuguese cuisine has been gaining in popularity over recent years, particularly with the fame of the spicy Piri Piri grilled chicken dish around the world. Being a largely coastal region, food of the Algarve often contains seafood and fish, with Bacalhau (salted cod) a staple and restaurant favourite, along with Caldeirada (or fish stew) and grilled sardines. For a truly authentic Algarve food experience, O Manjar Restaurant in Albufeira is a great choice, serving up all of the fish and seafood which you’d hope for in the Algarve, along with excellent signature steaks.
Holiday spots like Vilamoura Marina are excellent for shopping; you’ll be able to purchase all of the essentials, as well as local craftworks and luxury fashion items, all within easy reach of the beaches and restaurants. However, if you’re looking for the full Algarve shopping experience, you can’t go wrong with Algarve Shopping Mall. The large, mainly open air centre has over 100 shops - including more than 25 clothes stores - as well as plenty of restaurants and cafés, which are great for when you fancy a break from your shopping.
When you think of the Algarve, you tend to think of crystal clear water, white sand beaches and relaxation, but in reality there’s so much more to the wonderful region. Now, we’re not suggesting that you don’t spend time on beaches like Praia da Marinha and Tavira Island when visiting the Algarve; just that you keep these other amazing places in mind on your trip. This way, we’re sure that you’ll get the most you possibly can from this summer’s holiday to Portugal.