Best Places in the Algarve: Hidden Gems of the Algarve
The Algarve is a stunning region located in the southernmost part of Portugal. Boasting rugged coastlines, golden beaches, picturesque towns and villages, and breathtaking cliffs, it’s no wonder that it has become one of Europe’s most popular holiday destinations. With so many incredible places to visit in the Algarve, it can be challenging to decide where to go first. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the best places in the Algarve that you simply cannot miss on your next trip to this beautiful part of Portugal.
The Algarve area is redolent with the smell of salt the sea, and oranges of such sweetness you can’t stop eating them. There are many hidden gems waiting to be discovered beyond the typical tourist attractions. You’ll love these spots if you prefer a quiet day away from the crowds! Here are a few lesser-known but enchanting towns in the Algarve for you to discover.
Tips for visiting the best places in the Algarve
- Don’t forget your sunscreen! The Algarve can get pretty hot, so be sure to protect your skin.
- Take a dip in the ocean – the water is crystal clear and perfect for swimming.
- Rent a car to explore all the beautiful beaches along the coast.
- Sample some of the local seafood – it’s fresh, delicious, and abundant!
- Make time to see the stunning Benagil Cave, accessible only by boat or kayak.
- Try your hand at surfing or paddleboarding – there are plenty of rental shops along the coast.
- Don’t miss out on trying some traditional Portuguese dishes like grilled sardines or cataplana (a seafood stew).
- Take advantage of happy hour specials at bars and restaurants – you can often find great deals on drinks and snacks in the late afternoon or early evening!
Best Places in the Algarve to visit
Tavira has a rich history that dates back to Roman times. The town is home to several historical sites, including the Castle of Tavira, the Roman Bridge, and the Church of Santa Maria do Castelo. The Castle of Tavira is a 13th-century castle that has been well-preserved and offers visitors a glimpse into the town’s past.
And the next-door Church of Santa Maria do Castelo is a beautiful 13th-century church that is well worth a visit. The church and castle are built on a hill, and the views over Tavira and Ria Formosa are simply stunning! Although more and more people visit Tavira, it’s a picturesque town that’s well worth a visit during your time in the eastern Algarve.
In the centre, you’ll discover the Roman Bridge, also known as the “Ponte Antiga de Tavira,”. It’s a stunning piece of architecture that spans the Gilão River. From the river, you can also venture out to the nearby beaches. Ilha de Tavira is home to Praia do Barril and Praia da Terra Estreita, fantastic places to spend a day soaking up the sun.
Do you like seeing something unique? Check out the cemitério das âncoras, literally a cemetary with old ancors. You’ll find it on Praia do Barril. When it’s time for dinner, you can enjoy an incredible meal at CafeBar22. They serve tapas-like dishes that are perfect for sharing. Another restaurant that stands out is Restaurante O Tonel. It’s located in the heart of Tavira and is known for its fresh seafood and friendly service. Are you curious to learn more about Tavira? Find out the best things to do in Tavira and discover all the sights in this seaside town!
Aljezur is situated between the Monchique Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean in the western part of the Algarve. One of the main attractions of Aljezur is the impressive Castle, Castelo de Aljezur, which dates back to the Moorish occupation in the 10th century. You can enjoy breathtaking views of the town and the surrounding hills from the castle walls.
Another must-see spot is the Municipal Museum, which showcases the history and traditions of Aljezur, including its connection to the sea and the fishing industry. From Aljezur, you can also easily make trips to the nearby region of Alentejo. You can discover the stunning Vicentine Coast Natural Park on the border with the Algarve. The coastline is spectacular and fantastic for hikes!
If you prefer a day at the beach, you can visit the nearby Arrifana, Bordeira, Vale Figueiras and Monte Clérigo beaches. If you like surfing and nature, this place is perfect! But the praias are also great for walking along the shore. Bring a picnic and enjoy a stunning view over the west coast of the Algarve. Or enjoy a traditional Portuguese meal at the restaurant Pont’a Pé. They serve fresh octopus, dorado and gambas. But the beef, chicken and pork dishes are also fantastic! Accompany this with a glass of Portuguese wine, and you’re in heaven!
Spanning over 60 kilometres, Ria Formosa is a true paradise for nature lovers. And although well-known, the natural park is a quiet spot to enjoy nature. Ria Formosa is a beautiful natural park and a protected area with conservation efforts in place. The park has various flora and fauna, including migratory birds such as oystercatchers, dunlins and curlew sandpipers. Ria Formosa is easily accessed from Faro, and there are several ways to explore the area.
There are many hiking trails along the five barrier islands, but you can also rent a kayak or paddleboard to enjoy a day in nature. If you’re curious about the birds in this area, a boat tour with a guide is fabulous. This way, you’ll learn everything about the flora and fauna! You’ll visit and see traditional fishing villages, pristine beaches and many birds!
Do you prefer to stand on land? Horse riding and cycling are other possibilities. Whether you are a nature lover, wildlife enthusiast, or simply looking for a relaxing day out, Ria Formosa has something for everyone. With its stunning scenery, diverse wildlife, and conservation efforts, Ria Formosa is truly a natural wonder that should be on every traveller’s bucket list. And if you visit Lisbon? You can see the Sado Estuary on your way north as well. The landscape is very similar, but here you can discover bottlenose dolphins, also!
Ferragudo is a picturesque fishing village with cobblestone streets, colourful houses, and a stunning coastline. Ferragudo is a hidden gem that many visitors to the Algarve have yet to discover, and it’s actually very close to the popular town of Portimão. One of the most notable sights is the Fort of São João do Arade, built in the 17th century to protect the river entrance to Portimão.
You have great views of the coastline and the Arade River from the fort! It is a popular spot for sunbathing, swimming, and relaxing. In the summer, you can also rent a kayak or paddleboard to explore the coastline from a different perspective. Or keep exploring the small streets of Ferragudo and enjoy a relaxed atmosphere and squares filled with flowers.
Ferragudo may be a small village but it has a vibrant dining and nightlife scene. One of the best places to enjoy a meal is at one of the local seafood restaurants. Ferragudo is known for its fresh seafood, and you can find everything from grilled sardines to lobster on the menu.
Some popular seafood restaurants in Ferragudo include O Barril and Rei das Praias. From the latter, you have a great beach view! Other notable beaches to visit are Praia do Torrado and Praia do Pintadinho. In between, you can hike up towards the lighthouse Farol da Ponta do Altar, where you have a great view over Portimão.
Are you curious to see what Ferragudo looks like from the water? Then you’re in for a treat! One of the most popular activities is to take a boat tour of the coastline. A boat tour is a great way to explore the caves and grottos that can be found along the cliffs and enjoy the crystal-clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Many tours stop along the way for a swim and an opportunity for snorkelling.
On the other side of Portimão is another hidden gem: Alvor. Alvor’s charm lies in its laid-back atmosphere and traditional Portuguese character. The town’s narrow streets are lined with white-washed houses and vibrant flowers, and the harbour is full of colourful fishing boats that provide fresh seafood to the town’s restaurants.
The town’s main square, Largo da Ribeira, is a bustling hub of activity, with cafes, shops, and restaurants surrounding it. Visitors can sample local delicacies such as grilled sardines, octopus salad, and fish stew at the town’s many restaurants. Enjoy lunch at Casa do Rio and discover the beautiful view. Or enjoy the ambience of Sereia restaurant for a cosy dinner. Prefer to cook yourself? The fish market, located near the harbour, is a great place to check the catch of the day and purchase fresh fish to cook at home.
Alvor’s beaches are some of the best in the Algarve, with soft sand and crystal-clear waters. Praia do Alvor, the main beach, is a long stretch of sand that is perfect for sunbathing and swimming. The beach is surrounded by cliffs and rock formations, which provide a stunning backdrop for a day at the beach. An ideal destination for those looking to relax and unwind.
For those interested in history, Alvor has several exciting sites to visit. The Church of Divino Salvador, located in the town’s main square, dates back to the 16th century and is an excellent example of Portuguese Baroque architecture. Alvor Castle’s ruins, which were destroyed during the 1755 earthquake, are also worth a visit.
For a taste of local culture, head to the city of Loulé, known for its traditional crafts and architecture. The town’s daily market is a bustling hub of activity, with vendors selling everything from fresh produce to handmade ceramics.
Or discover the Castle of Silves, a 12th-century fortress that was once a Moorish stronghold. Visitors can climb the castle walls for panoramic views of the city and learn about the region’s history through the castle’s exhibitions and artefacts. So why not plan a trip to Portugal today and discover all the hidden gems this beautiful country offers?
The Algarve has many hidden gems that should be on every traveller’s list. The Algarve has something for everyone, from its historic sites to its stunning beaches and delicious cuisine. Whether you’re a history buff, a beach lover, or a foodie, you’ll find plenty to do in the charming towns. And don’t just stay in the coastal cities of the Algarve.
Writer Bio: Meet Marga, a travel writer and photographer who used to be a flight attendant and travelled extensively for many years. After settling in Portugal, she started the Discover Portugal blog, with insightful and engaging travel stories.
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