Algarve is a popular destination in Portugal for turquoise water, beach fun and for seafood. In the summer, this coastal region becomes a travelers’ paradise with unlimited fun activities. We went to Algarve in February during our offseason visit to Portugal. Seawater wasn’t warm enough for swimming. There was no beach fun or water sports. But never mind, we enjoyed our time in Lisbon and in Algarve, exploring various places. Here is a list of my favorite pick on top 5 things to do in the Algarve region. Whether you are visiting during offseason or peak season, you should add the following list of top 5 places in Algarve to your itinerary.
Situated adjacent to Faro, in Portugal, Albufeira is most convenient town for traveling families to stay during their holidays. You can reach Albufeira by train but a car is the most convenient way. It takes only about 40 min to reach Albufeira from Faro by car.
There are lots of hotels and resorts for all budget types. Those along the coast, are costlier than those more towards inland. Our hotel was located along Av. dos Descobrimentos – like the main road near the tourist center of Albufeira and only about 5 min from the beach. There are lots of resorts and hotels along this street and many options for restaurants, supermarkets, travel agencies, etc. To reach out to nearby destinations as a day trip is also quite convenient from here.
Note: While booking your stay in Algarve region, try to book only through authorized sites like booking.com to avoid any scams.
Albufeira has lots of restaurants with a wide variety of food options. You can find authentic Portuguese and Spanish restaurants alongside other- serving Chinese, Indian or English. Being a coastal town, seafood is undoubtedly fresh and best served. There are though other towns popular for seafood and we will see that in a while. The restaurants along the Albufeira beaches tend to be touristy, costlier and the food quality may not be so good but towards inside the town, there are good options.
The main tourist center of Albufeira offers a nice feel of Algarve region with its food, souvenirs, etc. Albufeira is a happening town with lots of fun activities and nightlife but at the same time, it is suitable for families with kids as well. Another such family-friendly town is Vilamoura and we will discuss it below. If you also arrive here during offseason like us or if you want to try something other than the beach activities, then there are options in and near Albufeira like Zoo Marina, golf course or cliff walking. The long stretches of wander routes along the Algarve cliffs are my next favorite things to do.
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Wander walks along cliffs
Among various outdoor activities available in Algarve region, this is my most favorite one. There are long stretches of wander routes along the coasts which lead to various breathtaking views of the cliffs. The region between Praia Marinha and Carvoeiro offers stunning views of turquoise sea water and contrasting pale colored cliffs. The entire walk is spectacular and is marked by winding dirt paths. To be honest, this walk demands some considerable level of exercise. I would recommend this activity for families with grown-up kids.
One can spend from half day to full day exploring these spectacular views. Before you start your day, pack some food and lots of water with you. Sturdy shoes, comfortable clothes, sunscreens, and hats are the must carry things. Read here more details about this walking trail.
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The Moorish castle in Sintra is much popular but this ancient Moorish town remains like a hidden gem in Algarve’s tourist recommendations.
Tavira is a small calm town situated towards the east of Faro. One can visit Tavira as a day trip from Albufeira or even from Spain. Yes, Tavira is just about half an hour from the Spanish border and about 2 hours from Seville. Situated along the River Gilao, Tavira has typical narrow cobbled streets, historic castle and churches, charming squares and friendly people.
During one day visit to Tavira, you can visit Tavira castle, walk around the old city center and have some beach fun on pristine sandy beaches. There are not many options which tourists might want to experience like golf or zoo etc but it is a perfect place to enjoy the local charm and to relax for a while.
The best way to explore Tavira is on foot or by bike. The nearby small towns are also worth visit for their typical pleasant atmosphere and for authentic cuisine.
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Olhao is another town which is my favorite, about 20 min from Tavira by car. I went here specifically for one particular restaurant. You may know that Santa Luzia is popular for its octopus and Olhao serves best fishes.
While wandering around the town, we came across some huge murals on building walls depicting the features of this fishermen village (see the above picture). Observe these murals and understand the essence of this village. The narrow meandering lanes around the village unfolds some typical local experiences. Kids also enjoy walking along.
If you want to enjoy authentic fresh fish in Olhao, then don’t search around but go straight to Vai e Volta. Away from beach and touristic crowd, this small restaurant serves only fresh fishes — catch of the day. They don’t have menu card. They do have fixed menu every day which includes UNLIMITED grilled fish as a main dish. The side dishes are served by the house for free and it includes boiled potatoes, typical Algarve style salad and the house specialty — bread pudding (not sweet). Everything is ultimate satisfaction for your taste buds. The owner is friendly and everyone in the restaurant will make you feel comfortable.
Chef grills fish right in front of you and the staff keeps bringing piping hot fishes right from the grill until we say stop. The salad and bread pudding are equally yummy.
I can just keep on praising this restaurant. 🙂 It is really worth it and visit at least once during your Algarve visit. You will thank me for this recommendation.
Note- They are open only for lunch.
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Previous two places – Tavira and Olhao – are on east side of Albufeira. Let’s go towards the far west of the Algarve region for some of the best views of coastal cliffs and vast Atlantic ocean.
There is a Sagres fortress built on the far end of the cliffs. The fort has not so special to see but I recommend this place for stunning views. Once inside, walk along the edges admiring the nature. You can enjoy the uninterrupted views over the cliffs.
One can easily spend about 2-4 hours in this fortress. Do not forget to bring some food, water, and sun protection.
Note — Some tourists find this place as a barren land without anything to explore while some find it nature paradise for photography and incredible views. It totally depends on one’s perspective.
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As I said above that Albufeira is the best option for families, Vilamoura is another such option for a little higher budget. There are some mid-range to high-end resorts and hotel chains who have their private beaches. The Vilamoura beach is sandy with crystal clear turquoise water. Like in any other towns in Algarve, Vilamoura also has a variety of restaurants, nightlife, and outdoor activities like golf etc.
This is a perfect place for all types of travelers if they are looking for luxurious, relaxed holidays. The harbor area is the best place to hang around during the evening. There are lots of shops and restaurants lined up along the street.
Vilamoura is situated only about half an hour from Faro by car. Faro is the capital city of Algarve region. It has an international airport which is well connected by numerous budget airlines in Europe. Faro does offer many things to do during your visit.
Which of these places would you like to visit the most?
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