Author Matt MayThe Algarve region stretches along the southern coastal strip of Portugal, and is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Europe due to the 200km of clean, mainly sandy beaches, many of which are designated as Blue Flag areas. The Algarve is renowned for being warm, relatively low-cost and English speaking which also helps attract millions of tourists to the region throughout the year.
The Algarve offers something for everyone, from those seeking a quiet, relaxing break to those who want a lively holiday, with a vibrant nightlife.
This page provides a guide to some of the most popular tourist attractions and places worth visiting during your time in the Algarve.
In the 21st century, theme parks are often one of the primary factors for choosing a holiday location. The Algarve has several theme parks, and due to the good weather they are often open for longer in the year than their northern counterparts.
Children will love Krazyworld at Algoz to the north of Guia. At Krazyworld there is a multitude of things for kids to do from a crocodile park, krazy mini golf, an educational zoo, bouncy castles, pony riding and large swimming pools.
Almancil Karting is allows racers to try out their luck on a 760m race track with plenty of other activities including trampolines, a mechanical bull, and electric boats.
Zoomarine near Guia is combination of a marine zoo, theme park and education and conservation centre. Zoomarine focuses on aquatic mammals including dolphins, sharks, turtles, seals, birds, tropical fish, and crocodiles. Outside of the many different animal exhibits, Zoomarine also features plenty of shops, rides, swimming pools, and restaurants along with daily seal, dolphin, and sea lion shows.
If you can tear yourself away from the beaches, water parks make a great day out for families with children. Although traditionally we tend to think of water parks as slides and pools, some of the water parks have diversified to include aquariums and aquatic centres, with an emphasis on education and conservation.
Although the Algarve has a warm climate throughout the year compared to northern Europe, the water parks only tend to be open for the holiday season (June to September), so if you are travelling outside these dates you may be disappointed.
It is advisable to book tickets to theme parks online to get the best available prices - typically you will save around 20-30% of the admission price.
Golf is probably the most popular sport in the Algarve region, with dozens of golf courses located throughout the Algarve. Most of the golf courses offer reasonable fees although a few of the more exclusive and challenging resorts will require that you make a reservation in advance.
In the Western Region of the Algarve region some of the best courses include Vale do Milho Golf, Alto Golf, Parque da Floresta, and the Gramacho Course to name just a few. Within its Central Region you may want to investigate playing at the Royal Course, Laguna Golf Course, San Lorenzo, Vila Sol Golf, and the Ocean Course. In the east one of the best courses is Vila Sol (Quarteira).
The markets of the Algarve are a great way to see local Algarvian produce. A typical Algarve market will sell local fruit, vegetables, fish and meat, but the larger markets such as the one in Loule sell a range of local ceramics, art and other handicraft.
There are fish markets in most of the larger towns, and these are open every day except for Sunday. The food markets are generally held once a week and are often held outside and sell an array of nuts, beans, fruit, vegetables, local pastries and home-made sweets and cakes. Faro has a daily food market (except Sundays).
Don't go to an Algarve fish market (or fish restaurant) on a Monday as the fishermen don't tend to work on Sunday nights, and the fish may not be fresh.
Markets are a great place to see the local ways of life and a great place to find souvenirs and presents to take home from your holiday. Some of the largest and most well-known markets are located in Albufeira, Silves, Loule, and Portimao.
As with much of southern Spain, the Algarve has a strong Moorish influence in its architecture, much of which remains in excellent condition due to the dry climate and due Portugal not being bombed during the second world war.
Silves located in the western Algarve is the former capital of the region, and is the home to some stunning Moorish architecture. The most striking building is Silves Castle which was built during the 4th century and offers visitors a dramatic view of the countryside and town from its walls.
Finally, a visit to Silves is not complete without a visit to the Cruz de Portugal where a cross monument was erected during the 15th century.
Also worth a visiting while in the Algarve is the city of Faro, which has a beautiful old town area with Faro Cathedral at the summit. There are plenty of examples of Moorish architecture in Faro old town, including a spectacular town square.
The Algarve has a variety of museums, many based on the region's rich fishing history. One such museum worth visiting is the Museu de Pesca do Atum (Tuna Fishing Museum) in Tavira which is situated in the Algarve's only tuna fishing community (entry is around €7 for adults and €3 for children).
Other museums such as the larger Museu da Cortica in Silves records the industrialization of the region. For arts, a visit to the Casa Museu Jose Cercas in Aljezur will allow you to see the best work from local artists as well as plenty of ceramics and religious pieces.
The Algarve has over 200km of coastline, so cruises or chartered boat trips can be one of the best ways to explore the coastal scenery of the region.
At Faro Marina there are kiosks selling boat trips around the Rio Formosa Nature Reserve. The ticket prices vary depending on the length of the trip. This is an ideal way to see the local bird life of the region, many of which visit the Algarve in the wintertime. Boat trips are available from Faro all year round.
In the west of the Algarve there are plenty of boat trips at the larger resorts of Alvor, Lagos and Portimao. From here you can see some of the most spectacular coastal scenery of the western Algarve including the caves and spectacular rock formations of Lagos and Alvor.
To see dolphins in their natural environment of the Atlantic Ocean, there are dolphin watching boat trips at Vilamoura Marina.
Most of the Algarve resorts were formerly fishing villages, therefore fishing is still one of the most popular pastimes and sources of employment of the area. There are plenty of chartered boat companies where you can hire a fishing boat, however you can always try a trip from one of the smaller fishing villages where some fishermen offer their boats for hire for the day.
One of the major working fishing towns of is Olhao which is a great place to see fishermen at work. There is also a fish market held daily where you can buy fresh sea produce at good prices. Olhao also has a quaint town centre where you can stroll around the shops, or enjoy a coffee in the sun. Olhao has largely escaped the lure of tourism as it has no beaches.
The Algarve is a treasure trove for caves enthusiasts with the majority found to the west around Lagos and Sagres. For divers, there are many underwater caves offering a chance to visit areas of the Algarve most people will never see.
The Sagres caves are favourites among divers with several different locations that allow diving to depths of 24m. Closer to Lagos are underwater volcanic caves offering divers the chance to explore hidden worlds beneath the surface.
The Rondao de Alvor caves are another great dive location with caves that allow for deeper dives and the opportunity to see some spider crabs. Even snorkelers can get into some of the shallower caves at Ponta da Piedade near Lagos.
Above ground there are also many coastal caves around the Algarve. The caves in Silves are an excellent place to start for some true inland caves.
Seafaris are boat charters that take you to inaccessible areas where you will be able to see dolphins, sea birds, fish and other sea life, often with food provided on board or in the form of a barbeque on a secluded beach.
It is worth reading reviews on trip Advisor as Seafaris can be expensive, so always do your research before you book.
For nature lovers, Faro Marina has boat trips around the Rio Formosa Nature Reserve, a great place for bird watching.
All of the major Algarve resorts cater for shoppers, and there are also purpose built shopping complexes such as the one at Guia just outside Albufeira on the EN125.
If you want to while away a few hours before catching a flight at Faro Airport, the Forum Algarve shopping centre is around 3km from Faro Airport has a wide range of shops and restaurants including Mcdonalds, KFC and Pizza Hut. For vegetarians there is a falafel restaurant which serves excellent food (a meal for 2 is under 15 Euros).
If you are looking for tourist souvenirs, the Strip in Albufeira offers some of the best tourist shops in the Algarve. The Strip has shops selling clothes, beach accessories, and plenty of choice of gifts to take home.
Horse riding is one of the most popular sporting activities in the Algarve region and is a wonderful way to explore the coast line and the inland countryside. Prices can be rather expensive (a 4-5 hour trek may cost upwards of 100€ per person), so check before you book for the family.
The Algarve has fairly relaxed gambling laws for visitors with casinos allowing entry at 18 and over for tourists (Portuguese residents have to wait until they are 21 to enter).
One of the most popular casinos in the Algarve is Casino Vilamoura located in Vilamoura Marina. The casino is part of a complex with slot machines, poker tables and bingo. The casino has free entry, low cost drinks (possibly to get you in the mood to spend your money). Casino Vilamoura is also home to a popular disco (Black Jack) and live entertainment.
Some of the rooms in Casino Vilamoura allow smoking which may put some people off.