A Guide to the Algarve, Portugal: 10 Stunning Things to See


4/9/202412 min read

In search of simply some sun, sea and a change of a scenery (!!) we were well and truly spoiled by the beauty that awaited us on the Southern Portuguese coast. But it would just be cruel not to share these sights with you! Allow me to take you through 7 stunning things to see in the Algarve, Portugal.

Where shall we begin?

It’s always good to set the scene with some background information on the wider area before we dive into the juicy bits. Let’s look at the “where” and “when” - then we’ll explore the “why”.

Best areas to stay

It’s always good to set the scene with some background information on the wider area before we dive into the juicy bits. Let’s look at the “where” and “when” - then we’ll explore the “why”.


Albufeira is very popular with tourists who like to experience nightlife on their trip, with its many bars and restaurants. This resort also offers a nice balance of “old town” and “beachy” vibes, whilst also being located conveniently for daily excursions and boat trips, for the more adventurous.

people near seashore during daytime
people near seashore during daytime


If you want to escape the hustle and bustle for a slower-paced trip, the old town of Lagos will be right up your street. Prepare to get lost in numerous streets lined with pretty architecture of different patterns and colours, including many historic churches.

When staying in Lagos, you also get the best of both worlds with town and nature. In fact, the nearby idyllic cliff-side beaches and boat / kayaking trips are up there with the most popular sights and activities in the area!

blue wooden door closed with 46 sign
blue wooden door closed with 46 sign


Vilamoura is known for being a more “glitzy” location and is home to the largest marina in Portugal. The area tends to attract holiday makers who seek an all inclusive and/or 5 star “luxury” experience, staying at popular hotels like The Tivoli that overlooks the marina. You might even say that Vilamoura is a little pricier due to its reputation…

You will most likely notice that the wider area of Vilamoura is “well groomed” compared to other areas of the Algarve - lush is perhaps the best word to describe it. Look out for perfectly green freshly cut grass (particularly on the many lavish golf courses) and multitude of beautiful plants and trees by the roadsides.

On the marina front itself, there are many decent quality restaurants to satisfy your food cravings, however the prices tend to be inflated due to the attractive setting. Like us, you may leave the restaurant feeling as though the food was pretty average / fine for the amount you paid. Explore the back streets leading off the front and you will find some quality establishments.

white and blue boats on sea near city buildings under blue sky during daytime
white and blue boats on sea near city buildings under blue sky during daytime

On the marina front itself, there are many decent quality restaurants to satisfy your food cravings, however, the prices tend to be inflated due to the attractive setting. Like us, you may leave the restaurant feeling as though the food was pretty average/fine for the amount you paid. Explore the back streets leading off the front and you will find some quality establishments.

The best thing about the Crowne Plaza HAD to be the breakfast buffet - I definitely hadn’t experienced variety on this level before. The full English options were a treat, with hash browns, mushrooms and 3 different egg varieties. I absolutely loved taking advantage of the papaya, kiwi, smooth peanut butter, honey, chia seeds, greek yoghurt… oh, and the pastel de nata! Everything was either served directly to you (including the bread) or packaged in portion-sized tubs with cling film on top. The staff were friendly and cleaning standards were high - no problems really!

Food-wise, as previously mentioned, there are many establishments on offer in Vilamoura but some are wildly overpriced. The Crowne Plaza Hotel restaurant was the biggest culprit for us! Due to travel fatigue, we dined there for lunch during the first 2 days and paid €18 for a fairly average burger + chips. This wasn’t terrible, however the following day we ordered a Caesar Salad for €12 and it was incredibly basic - chicken wasn’t even included for that price.

We did however have a number of “food wins” during our stay! Here are some recommendations (bear in mind that we adore “cheap eats” with the occasional “fancier” option):

  • My Thai, although a little expensive on the A La Carte, offers a very good lunch deal for €10 each. The Pad Thai is delicious.

  • Burger Plate is a bit of a walk towards the end of the marina, but totally worth the extra distance for committed burger lovers. This place totally blew us away with the quality and freshness - plus the sweet potato fries were divine. The “Nordic” burger is a must-try, although the menu offers a number of enticing options, including Vegan. In total we paid €25 and it was worth every single penny. Oh, and we may have visited twice…

  • A trip to Mughal Clay and/or Huweli Indian Tandoori is absolutely essential for curry lovers. The flavours are total perfection and so affordable too, costing us around €40 including starters and drinks. Highlights include the Paneer Tikka Masala at Mughal Clay and Huweli’s Mango Lassi was super dreamy. Both restaurants gave us fantastic service and clearly take pride in their culinary creations!

  • Salmora is another eatery we just had to visit one last time before leaving! Initially drawn in by the Salted Caramel Chocolate Mousse, we had a more-than-satisfying-food experience (both times) at this high-quality tapas joint across the courses. Make sure you try the tenderloin beef strips and (with a side of their amazing French-style frites), the Asian BBQ chicken, Sea Bass Taco and Mushroom Risotto! Beautiful stuff.

  • El Patron is an excellent choice for Mexican food fans. We visited on a busy Friday night and did have to wait a while for our food - but it was totally worth it. The beer battered fish tacos and the chicken burrito were very tasty.

    We also came across a few interesting places in the vicinity of Salmora, including Julius, which supposedly serves amazing fish-based dishes in particular.

a metal bowl filled with food next to a bowl of rice
a metal bowl filled with food next to a bowl of rice

Wherever you’re staying amongst the main tourist locations, there will likely be a bus service catering for passengers between the various towns and villages. Overall though, we would recommend hiring a car for a few days, particularly for the more coastal attractions. Most of the places we visited had free parking and the roads were fairly easy to navigate. One thing we did notice was the sheer number of roundabouts - so if you’re from the UK and a bit nervous about driving anti-clockwise, you will be trained well by these roads!

Getting around

We simply used a car hire comparison site and managed to get a decent Seat Ibiza for just €120 (3 days) from a place called Visacar in nearby Quarteira. This happened to be the cheapest at the time (we just wanted to get from A to B) so it’s worth shopping around a little.

As recommended in our Greece and Lanzarote blog posts, you can save money on your insurance by purchasing a third-party policy yourself instead of the more expensive option the car hire firms recommend. You could be saving tens of pounds a day by doing this!

The only catch is that should you be unfortunate enough to make a claim, you are required to pay the excess up front and have to claim it back. This is not necessarily an option for everyone, but definitely, one to consider if you are looking to make some savings.

OK, let’s talk tolls. We were flabbergasted by the number of toll charges along the major roads in The Algarve! Don’t worry though, as the costs are usually low and it is was only when we crossed the bridge to Sintra / Lisbon that cents turned into a few Euros instead.

When you hire a car, it is worth opting in for the toll tracker (this cost us €5 extra) which basically beeps every time you go through a toll point and adds up all the charges to pay at the end. This also means that you don’t have to use the tolls points with barriers (where you pay at the time) and can just drive through instead.

Best Time to Go?

The Algarve is one of the few places in mainland Europe that is blessed with a very temperate climate all year round. It is an attractive destination for sun-seekers and beach lovers, with plenty of both (estimated to have 3,000 sunshine hours a year).

Great times to visit are during mid to late Spring, when temperatures are comfortably in the early 20 degrees (celsius) and similar in September to October-time. We visited in May and it was around the mid-20s mark, but it felt much hotter.

One thing I noticed unexpectedly was the incredible strength of the sun in The Algarve! As someone with quite fair skin, I would recommend a higher factor with regular application otherwise you burn without realising.

1. Lagos - Rock Formations and Beaches

Ponta Da Piedade

No Algarve bucket list would be complete without a trip to the stunning rock formations of Ponta Da Piedade (translated in English as “Point of Mercy”). This attraction is not only one of the more popular viewpoints in the Algarve but arguably the most beautiful, with golden rocks shining in the sunshine.

Head past the red and white lighthouse (dating back to 1912) then take the steps on the right to head down to the small cove. Here you can view the cliffs from a lower-level viewpoint! On a hot day, take it easy climbing back up…

Praia Do Camilo

Another mega beauty spot you mustn’t miss! To reach Praia Do Camilo (Praia translates in English to “Beach”) you take 200 wooden steps down to a secluded little beach positioned beautifully with rock formations in the background. It’s no wonder that I have seen this fabulous location in travel adverts for the Algarve because it is picture-perfect.

Praia dos Estudantes

Situated a short walking distance from the old walled town of Lagos, the secluded beach of Praia dos Estudantes is easily accessible and less remote than the previous beauty spots.

This one is particularly interesting as it offers a little surprise for the curious traveller! Take the steps down to the beach and you will be greeted by a lovely little spot - this is the “Northern” section. Carry on walking across, and you will find a tunnel that actually takes you through to the “Southern” part. Look straight ahead and there is a Roman-style bridge! Don’t tell me I don’t spoil you.

2. Lagos Old Town

Lago is most certainly one of the places we would have enjoyed spending a little longer exploring. Walking the historic old town streets, we saw a multitude of enticing cafes and restaurants, offering a variety of cuisines and situated within lovely authentic Portuguese buildings. It is definitely worth stopping by for lunch or just to take a breather from all the exploring!

Having done some prior research on the town, we found the most popular location in Lagos to be the “Green building” which has a beautiful exterior covered in patterned tiles. Despite having seen this building all over Pinterest, we found it very difficult to find out the name and location! We eventually discovered that the architectural beauty is called the Praça Luís de Camões and consists of mainly apartments on the inside, with a basket shop on the ground floor.

However, there are many more interesting architectural styles dotted around the town, which are best encountered by leisurely strolling the streets. As well as simply admiring the pretty patterns and white-washed, be sure to also look out for the following churches: Santo Antonio, Santa Maria and Compromise Maritimo.

3. Sagres / Cabo de São Vicente

The journey to the popular surfing village of Sagres is not entirely essential for your Algarve itinerary (unless you love to surf!). Although it is very beautiful along the coast, with some lovely beaches and rugged nature, there wasn’t a lot to do in the area.

If you have fear of FOMO though (like me), I would recommend checking out the Cabo de São Vicente, known as the most south-western point of mainland Europe. This rocky spot has been compared to the Irish Cliffs of Moher with its raw beauty - here you can just gaze into the far distance and indulge in some nature therapy with soothing sounds of the ocean.

Did you know? In the Medieval period, Cabo de São Vicente was thought to be the “end of the world”!

4. Sintra & Sintra-Cascais Natural Park

If you’re feeling adventurous, take the 3-hour trip up to the mountains of Sintra to experience the wonderful and whimsical. Think - fairytale castles up in the hills, tranquil forests and laid-back old town. Prepare for a busy day if you’re hoping to see everything this town has to offer!

5. Lisbon

A trip to Portugal’s delightful capital is definitely worth it for those staying in the Algarve for longer durations. Whether you are visiting for the day or choosing to stay overnight for a more in-depth experience, make sure you check out my Lisbon post here for activity inspiration.

6. Ferragudo

If you fancy another change of pace, it sounds as though a trip to the pretty fishing village of Ferragudo is one to add to your Algarve itinerary. Despite being on the tourist radar, the village has retained much of its charm and originality. It is small, so you will likely only need 90 mins - 2 hours (leisurely) to explore the old village, which is the picturesque part.

As a rough itinerary, I would recommend following this route, as it’s not very clear where to go on arrival

  • Head first to the Harbour and see the old fishing huts

  • Spot the lifeboat station and climb the steps behind

  • Look out for cobbled streets at the top of the steps

  • Walk down the streets past whitewashed houses

  • See sign for the church and head in that direction

You will start to notice that the streets all look similar and are a bit “maze-like”. We found that the best, most colourful streets were located further up into the old village, so if in doubt just keep climbing! Once you reach the top, you can make your way over to the church, and in front there is a terrace offering lovely views over the closest beach, Praia da Angrinha. At the southern end of the beach lies the Fort Castelo de São João de Arade, a 16th Century Castle - originally used to defend the coast from pirates!

A good time to visit Ferragudo is during the morning, when we found it to be quite peaceful and quiet. There are a few restaurants around, so you can plan to have a wander around and then stop for a spot of lunch.

7. Benagil Cave

A trip to the Benagil Cave is a must for anyone visiting the Algarve, and the good news is that it’s suitable for all ages, as there are many different boat-trip options. If you’re looking for a more leisurely time without the frills, you can choose the boat trip only, which also includes dolphin spotting on the way. There are, however, other options for the more adventurous, including extra time to swim or taking a kayak into the cave.

We opted for the boat trip only, which lasted 4 hours in total and we couldn’t quite understand why there were other options that took half the time. This soon became clear - the trip to the cave takes nearly 2 hours on the slower boat! We found ourselves getting a little restless on the return journey. So, if you would prefer the shorter trip, we recommend you opt for the faster boat!

In terms of booking, as you walk further down the marina, there are a myriad of tour providers that all offer very similar options! But in reality, the only difference is that they vary in price slightly (€30-35) and may include extra time for swimming, lunch/snacks/drinks.

Whilst you benefit from an impressive view of the inside by taking the usual catamaran boat trip, the sight from a smaller kayak would undoubtedly be even more awe-inspiring. If you’re looking for the “money shot” with a wider perspective including the golden sand, this would be an even better experience. Although Benagil Beach is nearby, visitors are not advised to swim over to the cave as the sheer number of boats can present danger.

Did you know: Benagil Cave is considered to be amongst the most beautiful caves in the world - so much so that it was even featured as a screensaver on Windows 10!


I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post about the best things to see in The Algarve, Portugal as you explore this wonderful part of the world. It really is so absolutely stunning and varied with its concoction of historic, rustic architecture and dreamy coastal scenery. Let me know which of these 7 activities you will be prioritising on your trip!

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