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Algarve travel guide

The Algarve is the most popular and cosmopolitan region of Portugal, with a wealth of natural and man-made attractions, from superb beaches and dramatic scenery to some of the best golf courses and marinas in Europe. The sophisticated, contemporary Algarve perfectly complements the older, more traditional feel of this historic region, and alongside modern luxury tourism, the Algarve still retains much of its distinctive charm, in towns and villages, along the length of its coastline, and inland towards the mountains. 

Where is it: The most southerly province of Portugal. Bordered to the west and south by the Atlantic Ocean, to the north by the Alentejo, and to the east by the Spanish province of Andalucia.

Why go there: 300 days of sunshine a year, 200 km of spectacular coastline, some of the best beaches in Europe, over 30 top golf courses, an established modern tourist infrastructure, a diverse landscape, great food and wine, and a genuinely warm welcome. Whether you enjoy peace, quiet and splendid isolation, or love the buzz of noise, people and activity, everybody can enjoy the Algarve at their own pace.

Where to go: There are many faces to the Algarve, and always something new to discover. Among the key areas are:

  • Tavira – including Castro Marim, Vila Real, Praia Verde and Cabanas
  • Faro – including Olhao, Ria Formosa and Estoi
  • The Golden Triangle – including Vilamoura, Quinta do Lago, Vale do Lobo, Almancil and Loulé
  • Albufeira – including Galé, Guia, Salgados, Paderne, Armacao de Pera and Porches
  • Carvoeiro – including Lagoa, Silves and Ferragudo
  • Portimao – including Praia da Rocha and Alvor
  • Lagos – including Luz, Burgau and Salema
  • The West Coast – including Sagres, Vila do Bospo, Aljezur and Odeceixe
  • The Monchique Mountains

And from east to west there’s a stretch of coastline to suit everyone, from sheltered dunes to rocky coves, from tiny bays to vast stretches of open sands, and from shallow lagoons to the crashing surf of the wild Atlantic.

What to see: From museums to multi-screen cinemas, carnivals to castles, swimming with dolphins to swashbuckling pirate ships, the Algarve has so much to offer visitors, including bustling atmospheric towns, picturesque villages, a rich history and culture, award-winning tourist attractions, and a thriving arts and entertainment scene.

Visit spas and bars, restaurants and nightclubs, wine cellars and vineyards, casinos and marinas, traditional shops and modern retail complexes, churches and cathedrals, Moorish castles, baroque palaces, art galleries, cultural centres, and a lot more.  

For more information see our PLAY section.

What to do: Think of a sport, pastime or activity and you’ll be able to enjoy it to the full in the Algarve, whatever the location, whatever the season. There’s always something to do, from golf, tennis, sailing, scuba diving, watersports, horse riding, rock climbing, karting, quad biking, hot air ballooning, aquatic shows and jeep safaris - for sports fans, thrill-seekers and adrenaline junkies - to mountains, coastal pathways, nature reserves and national parks offering protected habitats and unspoiled, peaceful environments for ramblers, walkers, bird watchers and botanists.

The Algarve also plays host to a variety of top international sporting events, and is frequented by the stars of the sporting world. Some of the great names of golf meanwhile, from Arnold Palmer and Nick Faldo to Christy O’Connor Jnr and Jack Nicklaus, have all designed courses in the Algarve. 

For more information see our PLAY section.

Where to stay: The Algarve has a wide range of accommodation, from private houses, country cottages, villas and apartments to historic pousadas, chic boutique hotels, luxury hotels, all-suite developments and leading international resorts. In addition to leading international names such as Conrad, Hilton and the Luxury Collection, choose from a range of hotels operated by Portuguese companies such as Pestana, Dom Pedro, Tivoli and Vila Galé.

For more information see our SLEEP section.

Where to eat: There are dining options in the Algarve to suit every taste, serving a variety of Portuguese and international cuisine, ranging from small, friendly local restaurants and cafes to trendy beach bars, stylish ocean-view restaurants, sumptuous golf clubhouses and Michelin-starred establishments.

Algarvean cuisine is characterised by superb fresh fish and seafood from the Atlantic as well as meat and game dishes from the countryside, and combines traditional home cooking with the influences of the region’s Moorish heritage and those of the former Portuguese colonies in the New World. Famous local specialities include cataplana (a seafood dish named after the clam-shaped cookware used to prepare it), feijoada (bean stew), caldeirada (fish stew) and the numerous variations of bacalhau (salted cod fish), as well as delicious cakes and pastries.

For more information see our EAT and DRINK sections.

Where to shop: The Algarve is famous for its tiles and pottery, whilst leather goods and shoes are also exceptionally good value. As well as an array of shops in towns and villages, you can also buy local arts, crafts, gifts and souvenirs at many museums, galleries and artisan centres, or hunt for bargains at the region’s numerous regular markets. Designer shops and large supermarkets are located in the major towns in the region, and modern retail complexes can be found in various locations, including Algarve Shopping in Guia near Albufeira, The Forum in Faro, Quinta Shopping in Quinta do Lago and Vila Sol in Vilamoura.

For more information see our SHOP section.

When to go: The Algarve has a predominantly Mediterranean climate, influenced by the Atlantic Ocean. Spring arrives early, long hot summers are tempered by cooling sea breezes, autumn lingers late into the year, and even in winter, sunny days are the norm rather than the exception.

High season: July and August.

Low season: November to March.

Average daily temperatures: January 9ºC (min), 16ºC (max); July 20ºC (min), 28ºC (max)

Average daily hours of sunshine: January 5.5, July 12.5

Average monthly rainfall: January 70mm, July 1mm

How to get there: There are direct flights to Faro International Airport from destinations around the world with a variety of international scheduled and charter airlines. The Algarve is within easy reach of most major European cities: as an example, the approximate flying time from London to Faro is 2 hrs 45 mins. It is also easy to drive to the Algarve from Lisbon (approx 2 hrs) and Seville (approx 2 hrs).

Getting around: Finding your way around the Algarve is easy, as the region runs on a fairly straightforward east-west axis, from the Spanish border to Cape St Vincent, the most south-westerly point of mainland Europe. The A22 motorway and the N-125 highway both run through the heart of the region, connecting to the A2 Lisbon motorway near Albufeira. Transfer times to most parts of the Algarve from Faro are less than an hour.

Car hire is recommended, although the Algarve does have a reliable public transport system of buses and trains linking the major towns.

Portugal Essentials:

Monetary unit: 1 euro = 100 cents

Internet domain: .pt

International dialling code: +351

Time Zone: Portugal (mainland and Madeira) is in the Western European Time Zone and operates Western European Standard Time, otherwise known as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).  

Like most states in Europe, Summer (Daylight-Saving) Time is observed in Portugal, where the time is shifted ahead of GMT by 1 hour. After the summer months, the time is shifted back by 1 hour to GMT.

Algarve travel guide

The Algarve is famous for its spectacular coastline, sandy beaches and dramatic landscapes - and that’s just a start. Be inspired...


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