Algarve travel guide: what first-time visitors should see and do
Fabulous beaches and stunning scenery are on offer in southern Portugal
With its stunning scenery, rich history and tasty cuisine, the Algarve region of southern Portugal is a popular destination for tourists.
Framed by a 200km coastline, it is home to award-winning beaches, authentic gastronomy and a range of outdoor activities from surfing and cycling to walking and birdwatching.
Here are some of the “must do” Algarve experiences for first-timers, including beach days, boat trips and visits to off-the-beaten-track locations.
Ria Formosa Natural Park
Take a boat trip in Ria Formosa Natural Park, a unique coastal lagoon in central Algarve, elected as one of the seven natural wonders of Portugal.
Cape St. Vincent
Visit Cape St. Vincent, the southwest edge of mainland Europe, which is particularly spectacular at sunset. Heading north from here you can enjoy a scenic drive or walk up the Vicentine Coast, considered Portugal’s greatest coastal paradise and part of a protected Natural Park.
Hike along some of Algarve’s key walking routes such as the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail near Lagoa, with views over the famous Benagil Cave. Towards Lagos you can see Ponta da Piedade with its rock formations and caves carved by the elements over thousands of years, Portugal's equivalent to the 12 Apostles.
Cycle on the Ecovia trail to discover the natural marvels of the region. Highlights include the birdwatching haven of the Alvor Estuary, the majestic cliffs of Sagres point, and the pretty coastal fishing villages of Salema and Burgaa.
Walk through Portuguese history
The Algarve’s numerous, white-washed parishes bordered with greenery, like the picturesque inland village of Alte or the shore-lined Alvor, offer a glimpse into traditional rural and coastal living. The Castelo de Silves is a great national monument to learn about the Moorish influence on the region, whilst the Church of Lourenço in Almancil is a wonder to behold with its vibrant interior of blue and white azulejo tiles.
Take a ferry from Olhão to Armona Island or from Faro to the least developed and inhabited Deserta Island, for an authentic Algarve experience.
Enjoy an alfresco lunch of sardines or fresh seafood in Portimão, at one of the many riverside restaurants, or in Olhão, next to Ria Formosa promenade. Heading inland try the stews and dishes of rich game and meat with strong, aromatic flavours.
Algarve wines are made from traditional Portuguese white and red grapes, but one red grape in particular - the “Negra Mole” - is indigenous to Algarve and unique in the world. Close to the town of Lagoa, the Quinta dos Vales wine estate offers The Winemaker Experience which aims to turn wine‐lovers into genuine winemakers.
Enjoy a day relaxing on the beach. The Algarve is often lauded as having some of the best beaches in Europe. From sandy beaches to deserted islands, and award-winning beaches like Dona Ana, Camillo, Meia, Marinha and Falésia beach, there is plenty of choice to suit every taste. A trip to explore the impressive Benagil Cave is also a must.
For more information see visitalgarve.pt
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