Where to stay in the Algarve

The Algarve is far and away one of the most popular places to visit in Portugal. With so many different things to see and do, it can be hard to know where to even begin.

No matter the type of holiday you are planning, there is the perfect destination for you.

For exciting nightlife, history and culture, breathtaking beaches and mountain hikes, here’s where to stay in the Algarve!

Tavira

Tavira is a charming, beautiful, historic town in the eastern Algarve and a great place to stay while on holiday.

If you are seeking an authentic experience in the region, you will find it in Tavira. But don’t let the laid back atmosphere fool you, there is plenty to do while in town.

Nestled along the Gilão River, the architecture here is quite amazing. The town is full of historic churches (more than 20, actually!) that date from the Gothic period to the Renaissance. Igreja da Misericordia, which dates to the 16th century, has a breathtaking gold altar and blue and white azulejo panels displaying the 14 acts of mercy.

It is also worth making a visit to the remains of the Moorish fortress known as the Castle of Tavira that was once used to protect the town from pirate invasions. This location provides stunning views and the inner garden is more than worth a visit.

The cobblestone streets and the Roman bridge that crosses the river give Tavira the perfect old world feel. Spend time in the plazas, visit the many restaurants serving some of the most unbelievably fresh tuna, stone bass, and swordfish. And do not forget to try some of the wine that is famous to the region.

Be sure to visit the various festivals and street fairs that take place in Tavira all year round.

For an interesting day trip, visit Santa Luzia on the edge of Ria Formosa Natural Park. Only 3km from Tarvia, it is easy to cycle or hike to Santa Luzia. If walking is not your thing, it is pretty inexpensive to hop on the bus. This small fishing town boasts a stellar fish market, is home to the best octopus in all of the Algarve and is only a short ferry ride from Praia da Terra Estreita, one of the most stunning beaches in Portugal.

Only 35km from the Faro airport, Tavira can make a perfect home base with its many resorts and hotels (like the converted 16th century Our Lady of Grace convent near the castle!) or it can be easily worked into your holiday as part of a tour.

Portimao

With 8km of coast, Portimao is one of the largest cities in the Algarve and central to several beaches, including the incredible Praia da Rocha.

Praia da Rocha was home to one of the first beach resorts in the area and today, is still where you’ll find most of the hotels including the luxurious Bela Vista Hotel. With views of the golden cliffs, it is hard to have a bad day at Praia da Rocha. Visit the small fortress above the beach for a view across the Arade river and out into the Atlantic ocean.

If you’d like to escape the crowds at Praia da Rocha and explore a little nature, take a trip to Praia da Alvor where you can see the neighboring town of Lagos and the mountains of Monchique. Follow the boardwalk across the Ria da Alvor Nature Reserve and you may catch a glimpse of flamingos and the other bird species that call the area home.

From the marina in Portimao, you can take a boat trip to explore the caves located in Lagoa. Or, head north from the city and check out the Alcalar Megalithic site. This necropolis dates back 5000 years, giving visitors a clear look into the past.

While Praia da Rocha can turn into party central at night with nightclubs, bars, and casinos, Portimao itself is rather low key.

If you are visiting in the summer, be sure to check out the Sardine Festival and celebrate this local delicacy. If you are coming through for a winter holiday, New Year’s Eve in Portimao must be seen to be believed. With food stalls along the river, live music along the Zona Ribeirinha de Portimao and an incredible fireworks display, you’ll love every second.

It is easy to travel from Portimao to other areas in the Algarve making it a good base for your holiday. Whether you stay at a hotel, a resort, camp, or come through on a tour, you are sure to have an experience.

Albufeira

If you’re looking for a lively, happening, energetic beach town, Albufeira is it.

Whether you are looking for nightlife, want to visit the golf courses famous to the Algarve region, or explore the beaches, Albufeira is a great place to base your stay. Only 10 minutes from Faro airport, this is an easy town to get to.

The Albufeira nightlife is centered around The Strip in the Montechoro area. From sports bars to pubs and nightclubs this area caters to a younger demographic looking to have a good time.
But Albufeira is more than just nightlife and partying. The whitewashed buildings of the Old Town present old world beauty and offer a quieter, more mature, less touristy holiday destination.

Albufeira has glorious views and sandy beaches. If you are in the area, you simply have to visit Praia da Falesia. This beach is known for its stunning red cliff that extends a whole 6km. Believed to be one of the best beaches in the world, the sand is soft and the waters impossibly clear. If you like long walks on the beach or want to lounge and take in the ocean view, Praia da Falesia is for you.

If traveling with children, there are several things for them to do in Albufeira with two nearby theme parks. Parque Aventura is an adventure park with zip-lining and rope bridges while Zoomarine is a waterpark with swimming pools, an aquarium, and dolphin stunt shows.

For a unique experience while in Albufeira, stay at the Vila Joya Boutique Resort. With outdoor pools, cliff-top ocean views, and a two-Michelin-starred restaurant, you can’t go wrong. Villa Joya makes Albufeira the perfect place for a romantic holiday or a honeymoon!

Albufeira has a little bit of something for everyone. If you aren’t going to stay in Albufeira, take it all in via a 2-day tour!

Faro

When figuring out where to stay in the Algarve, you can’t forget about the capital city of Faro.

The airport is located in Faro, so you can use it to easily connect to the surrounding cities and towns. One of the best things about Faro? It is largely unexplored by tourists!

Surrounded by 11th-century walls and intertwined with small stone paths and plazas, Faro is like a window into Portugal’s past. The many churches and museums are a history buff’s dream come true. For those looking for a beautifully unique experience, take a visit to the bone chapel behind the Igreja do Carmo. This chapel was built, as the name suggests, using human bones and it is something truly incredible to see.

As with much of the Algarve region, beaches and nature are just a short trip away. The Ria Formosa Natural Park is nearby, housing some of the best beaches in the area, each one found on its own island: Ilha da Barreta (aka Deserta), Ilha do Farol and Ilha de Faro. Ilha da Barreta and Ilha do Farol are only accessible by ferry but Ilha de Faro can be reached by car.

Praia de Faro is fairly quiet but if you go in the morning, you can catch a glimpse of the fishermen out in the lagoons and if you’re visiting in the summer season, you’ll find many restaurants offering the catch of the day.

Culture is at the heart of the Faro experience. If planning a trip for June, be sure to check out Festos dos Santos Populares or Popular Saints festival. This festival celebrates patron saints and the city comes to life with brightly colored decorations, music, and food. Every October, Faro plays host to one of the oldest fairs in the Algarve, Feira de Santa Iria. Honoring Saint Irene, this event includes fairground rides, food stalls, crafts, and live music.

If this list hasn’t given you enough reasons to visit Faro, or enough to try while you’re there, consider following a 3-day tour of Faro!!

Sagres

Located on the western tip of the Algarve, Sagres was once a key naval location. Today, it is a popular surf spot.

Sagres is a small town and as such, doesn’t have the same lively feel as some of the other places on this list but if you love getting out into nature, this is where you need to be.

With unspoiled beaches, windswept cliffs and dozens of coastal hiking trails, Sagres is ideal for an outdoor adventure. If you are taking a pass on a more traditional hotel stay, Sagres is also a hot spot for van camping.

Professional surfers flock to Sagres to take advantage of the best waves in all of Portugal. But, if you aren’t quite at the level of ‘professional,’ there are surf schools in town that will happily walk you through the basics.

While visiting Sagres, you should take in a little bit of the region’s history. This is where Prince Henry the Navigator set out to explore the world, launching the European Age of Discovery. The Fortaleza de Sagres, originally built in the 15th century, is a fortress you can explore. Inside its walls, you will find a church, founded in the 16th century, an old cistern tower, a wind compass, and spectacular views. From this location, you can see Cabo São Vicente, the most south-westerly point in all of Europe.

And speaking of Cabo São Vicente, it too is worth a visit. For centuries, this location has been considered sacred. Once thought to be the edge of the world, Cabo São Vicente has held mystery and magic from the monolithic era through the ancient Greeks and Romans. This cape was named for the 4th-century martyr Saint Vincent, whose body was buried in this location. Even though the remains were moved to Lisbon in 1173, this spot is still home to one of the most powerful lighthouses in all of Europe, with a light that can be seen from 45km away!

If you are going to stay in Sagres, it is best to rent a car. Public transportation is limited here and things are not typically within walking distance.

Time your trip for October and you can take in the Festival Mundial de Observação de Aves. During this annual birdwatching festival, you can take guided walks and learn more about the birds in the region. This is actually one of the world’s greatest opportunities to see migratory birds.

Lagos

Lagos is one of the most visited places in the western Algarve region. This city is a must see for anyone looking for beaches, sea views, cliffs, culture, and nightlife.

The historic city center, with its churches and cobblestone squares, is surrounded by the walls of Lagos Castle. The castle was originally built during the Roman period.

Pay a visit to Ponta da Bandeira. This fortification was built in the 17th century to protect the port from attack. Inside, you’ll find a beautifully tiled chapel dedicated to Santa Barbara, who was often invoked to protect from incoming storms. At this location, you will also find an exhibit dedicated to the history of the Portuguese Age of Discovery.

It is also worth paying a visit to the Slave Market Museum. At one point in time, Lagos was the center of the European slave trade. Today, this museum stands as a reminder of a dark and often forgotten, part of European history.

You cannot plan a holiday visit Lagos without making a trip to Ponta da Piedade, one of the most iconic places in the Algarve. The constant pounding of the waves has shaped these rock formations, creating grottos, caves, pillars, and arches. There are a few ways to take in the views at Ponta da Piedade. You can explore from the water via boat tour, or for the more adventurous, via kayak or stand up paddleboard. For those who would rather stay on land, there are many trails, paths, and boardwalks presenting one of the best ways to explore the Algarve coast.

For a beach holiday, Lagos will not disappoint. Praia Dona Ana is located along the Ponta da Piedade. With golden cliffs and turquoise water, it isn’t hard to see why this is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world!

Located just 6km from Lagos is Praia da Luz. This former fishing village contains a calm, relaxing beach that is perfect for a day trip. The town itself is packed with family owned and operated restaurants offering authentic Portuguese food. This is a perfect spot for people traveling with children or who are looking to take a break from the party scene in Lagos.

If you are in Lagos in August, check out Banho 29, a festival that takes place on the 29th of August, celebrating the start of summer. The day often involves picnics, swimming in the sea, and fireworks at midnight!

With many places to stay, Lagos is a perfect place to situate yourself for a holiday in the western Algarve. Portimao, Vila do Bispo, Sagres and Aljezur are all nearby and some of the regions famous golf courses are only a short drive away.


Loulé

For foodies, golfers, and those looking for luxury, Loulé is the perfect holiday destination.

This area of the Algarve stretches from the mountains to the ocean, encompassing a world of wonders in between!

The municipality of Loulé attracts golfers all year round. Golf courses can be found near the towns of Almancil, Quarteira, and Vilamoura in the southern part of the region. Some of the most popular golf courses are inside the gated resort of Quinta do Lago and at Vale do Lobo which is set along the cliff’s edge and looks out into the Atlantic ocean.

For those visiting Quinta do Lago in Almancil, you will find a restaurant for every taste and culinary interest. Whether you want fresh Mediterranean produce, fresh fish, or tapas by the swimming pool, you’ll find it here. The resort contains more than one Michelin Star restaurant. Foodies looking for a true food adventure could do worse!

Of course, there is still plenty to see, do, and EAT, in other areas of Loulé. In the city proper, you can take in the Moorish architecture while shopping the local market.

If you are visiting Loulé in August, be sure to check out Noite Branca (White Night), a festival celebrating the end of summer. People flood the streets, dressed from head to toe in white while local artisans and musicians perform and celebrate another summer.

There is plenty to do in Loulé for families on holiday. About 15 minutes outside of Loulé, in Quarteira, there is an aquapark. The Aquashow Park has everything you need for a day of fun: waterslides, swimming pools, animal shows, and a roller coaster.

If in search of a party, take a visit to Vilamoura. Vilamoura is home to one of the largest marinas in Europe. It is here you will find celebrity yachts and may even catch a glimpse of the rich and famous visiting the Casino Vilamoura or relaxing on one of the nearby beaches.

As is the case with Albufeira, if you are in Vilamoura, you must visit the red cliffs and sandy beaches of Praia da Falesia found just to the west of the marina. On the east side of the marina, you can visit Praia de Vilamoura. This beach stretches all the way to Quarteira. And if you manage to make it all the way to Quarteira, be sure to try the cataplana. This local specialty is a seafood rice stew that you won’t find anywhere else!


Carvoeiro

Carvoeiro is a lovely, tiny, former fishing village set among the golden cliffs on the coast. This is a popular holiday spot and there are plenty of hotels and resorts dotting the cliffs. As a home base for your vacation, it doesn’t get much better with must-see sites and towns all found within 15 minutes of Carvoeiro.

While Praia do Carvoeiro is only a tiny beach, it has a lot to offer. Sheltered by the town’s cliffs, this beach is a great place for relaxed swimming but you can also participate in a range of activities out on the water, including jet skiing, paddle boating, scuba diving, and boat tours to the sea caves.

The Algar de Benagil is only 10 minutes away and is more than worth the trip. This stunning cave has a round hole in the ceiling known as ‘the eye’ creating a glimpse of impossibly clear blue among the gold rock and shimmering ocean. You can take a boat tour to Algar de Benagil from Carvoeiro or travel to Praia de Benagil where you can kayak, stand up paddleboard, or swim the 200 meters to the cave.

15 minutes from Carvoeiro, in Caramujeira, is the truly stunning Praia da Marinha. This is probably one of the most impressive beaches in the Algarve and you should make time to take it all in. Before descending the staircase to the beach, check out the panoramic views. It is truly something to behold. The beach itself is soft and clean and at low tide, you can walk along it explore curious rock formations like the famous “M” rock or the Cathedral.

If you don’t want to actually stay in the hotels and resorts of Carvoeiro, you can stay just outside of town at the Vila Vita Parc luxury hotel in Porches. This hotel has plenty of restaurants and bars on site and enough amenities and special off-site packages to fill your entire holiday!


Monchique

If beaches and resort towns aren’t really your thing, you must stay in Monchique. This town is found in the Serra de Monchique mountain range of the northern Algarve.

The town’s buildings unfurl themselves down the side of the mountain, surrounded by the bright greenery of the pine and eucalyptus forests.

It is here that you will find Foia, the highest point in the Algarve. From here you can take in the panoramic views of one of the most breathtaking places on earth. On your way to the top, be sure to stop at the Picota viewpoint. From this spot, you can see all the way out to the southern coast!

For a little rest and relaxation, pay a visit to Caldas de Monchique, a spa town located just below Monchique itself. This location is known for its thermal springs that are said to hold healing properties. Slip into a thermal pool and feel your cares melt away.

In most of the Algarve, seafood is everything but in Monchique, pork is the star of most dishes. Be sure to try the sausages known as farinheira. But this region is probably most famous for making the best medronho in Portugal. Medronho is a strong spirit made from the fruit of the arbutus tree. Pay a visit to Parque da Mina, a small theme park set on an old farm. Here you can learn about the region’s history, feed the animals and visit a medronho distillery.

While Monchique is popular for hiking and bird-watching holidays, it also has some interesting historical buildings that are worth seeing. The Igreja de São Sebastião is a church dating back to the 16th century. There are also lots of crafts shops around where you can buy anything from wicker baskets to wooden spoons and sculptures. Be sure to visit the famous market that takes place on the second Monday of every month. There you will find a wealth of crafts and tasty local delicacies like smoked sausages!

If visiting in March, check out the Festival das Camelias. This is an annual festival that celebrates an “icon” of Monchique, the Camellia flower. It is a beautiful and unique experience that you will not soon forget. But if flowers aren’t your thing, visit the Feira dos Enchidos Tradicionais. This traditional fair, also in March, is dedicated to cured sausages. Delicious food in a beautiful setting, it doesn’t get much better.

No matter your interests or budget, there is no shortage of things to see in the Algarve. Now that you have a list of places to stay, it’s time to start the planning. At Algarve Lifestyle, we have created a range of holiday packages to make sure that your trip to the Algarve is a dream come true. Contact us today to get started!  

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