The Algarve is located in the south of Portugal and is a beautiful area of the country. From long sandy beaches to rugged cliff lines the Algarve is all about the seaside. The red earth shines from those eroding cliffs and many of the beaches are filled with rocks which once use to be part of those cliffs. Cafes line those seaside towns meaning you don’t need to go far for that cafe con leitie and like most European towns the tables are placed outside to enable you to watch the world go by at the same time. If you do dare venture from the coastline then the highest point in the Algarve offers some of the most spectacular views around.
Things to do
Go to a water park
There are a few waterparks in this area but my pick (and the one we went to) would be Slide and Splash. It has been running for 30 years now and has only continued to grow during that time, this summer a new bigger and better ride will open to make an already great park fantastic one.
Visit the highest point in the Algarve and take in the views
The town of Monchique is high up in the hills of the Algarve, around a 45 minute drive from the coast and the gateway to the hill of Fóia which has stunning vistas along the drive to the viewpoint. From here, on a clear day, you can see across the land and all the way out to sea. There are picnic benches to sit at and enjoy a picnic if you want to make more of a day of it. You can also drive up to the summit of the hill but here there are many radio and telephone poles making it less attractive.
Boat trip to the caves
Much of the Algarve is known for its gorgeous cliff line and this is best viewed from the water so that you can explore the hidden beaches and caves. Many of the beaches offer boat trips to explore this area by water and from the trip we took I would highly recommend getting to sea at least once during your stay. One of the most famous of these caves is the one located just along from Praia de Benagil, if you are staying locally you won’t be able to miss the advertising for this place. Once you get there you’ll see why.
Clifftop walking and exploring
The best thing I found about the above boat trip was that we had previously walked along the cliff tops and seen many of these spots from above. The cliff path is rather unlevel as I’m sure you can imagine given that it hugs along the eroding cliff line but the views provided from here are certainly worth the trek. You’ll easily spot many of the hidden beaches from here while imagining just what lines beneath those deep sinkholes.
On those days where you fancy some time away from the seaside but don’t want too drive to far then the town of Silves is perfect. It feels very much like a historic town and although small the castle and cathedral provide plenty to do during your visit. The walls of the castle are perfectly in tact and the 360° views from up here are stunning. I was surprised by just how green this rural area is.
Shopping at Algarve Shopping
Because everyone needs a day inside at some point, whether that is due to rain or being a little bit sunburnt it doesn’t matter. This shopping mecca is the biggest in the Algarve and is certainly pleasing on the eye. However, many of the shops here are no different to those you’ll find in the UK and you won’t miss much if you don’t make it here.
Praia de Carvoeiro
This is the biggest beach in the area and boasts many cafes and bars around the sand but lacks in real character. The sand is very stony and hard underfoot and during the summer time it gets pretty busy but it is a good swimming spot and water sport beach. Also if you walk up the hill either side of this beach you are in for some stunning views of the bright sea.
Praia do Paraíso
This little beach is located just around the corner from Praia de Carvoeiro. If you walk up the hill the the right of that beach you will reach this one. A small and unique beach that has plenty of characteristics. Just plan your visit around the tide or there might not be much beach for you to enjoy and the beach is essential as the ocean is almost too rocky for swimming.
Praia do Vale de Centianes
This beach was our local during our time in the Algarve and we couldn’t have asked for a better beach. It was great at all hours of the day and didn’t get too busy during the middle of the day. They ran boat trips along the coast from here and there were plenty of spots for swimming in the (very cold) ocean! I loved the sunset views from the cliff tops around this beach
Praia da Marinha
I was desperate to visit this beach all holiday and when we finally did it was worth the wait. Not only is Praia de Marinha good for beach exploring but also the views from the cliff walk surrounding this beach are spectacular! There is so much of interest along this part of the coast line. Like most of the above beaches this one offers no shade from the sun and it seemed nowhere to rent an umbrella from either. Still a great beach for exploring.
Praia de Benagil
Although technically this beach is one that I didn’t go to, I got a very good look at it during our boat trip. This beach is similar to Praia de Marinha with lots of exploring to be done from the effects of cliff erosion but it has the added bonus of the iconic sea cave being just around the corner from this beach. We didn’t quite figure out how to get to the cave but others certainly had.
This isn’t actually a beach but a rocky area of cliff that has been eroded over time by the sea. The best way I can think to describe it is like ruins of a castle. There are steps carved into the rocks, archways leading into different areas and many levels to explore. Unless you are afraid of heights or cliff edges then this is a place to visit.
Where/What to eat
Seafood, seafood and more seafood
If you only eat one meal in the Algarve then I would recommend it be seafood. With the ocean so close by the fish is always fresh and they seem to know more ways that I could ever think of to prepare it!
If you do as I recommend below and stay in a villa then make sure it is one with a BBQ. This is standard for most villas though and hopefully it will be one of those built in ones that require minimal cleaning. Making a BBQ a quick and easy dinner for the whole family!
This gorgeous restaurant was located near where we stayed in Vale de Centianes and we ate here more than once it was so good! Their fish selection on the menu is amazing but on top of that they have a selection of specials. The staff here are super friendly and for what you get the price is very cheap. Be sure to save room for desert.
This fancy restaurant is actually in Quinta de Lago which is near to Faro airport. It has been open for nearly 30 years and we made a trip specially out here. It was a favourite of my parents during their trip here 26 years ago! Despite the struggle to find it – the roads have changed since their last visit! It really was worth the trek, the fish was amazing and despite only ordering a fish salad it as tasty and filling. You could really spoil yourself here with food and wine to match!
Where to stay
There is only one choice of place to stay in the Algarve and that is in a villa. There are plenty of rental companies all over this area but we chose to book using Airbnb as I’ve had so many good experiences with them. The prices range depending on how many bedrooms you want and if you want a pool but there is certainly something to suit all budgets!