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Things to Do in The Algarve

There’s far more to the Algarve than the sun, sand, and sea it's famed for. Although its beaches, which are among the best in Europe, are a worthy draw, Portugal’s Algarve also promises a wealth of delights further inland. Distance yourself from tourist hotspots along the Atlantic coast and you’ll discover historical old towns, rolling vineyards, and top-class cuisine. Popular Algarve launch pads are Faro, Silves, Albufeira, and Portimão, all of which combine local highlights with plentiful day trip opportunities. Snorkel and kayak in the crystal clear lagoons of Lagos; observe dolphins and flamingos during a boat trip to Ria Formosa Natural Park; head inside the surreal Benagil Caves; or escape the modern world in the remote village of Sagres. The glamorous port of Vilamoura brims with million-dollar yachts, and in the Monchique Mountains, Portuguese cuisine and wine reign supreme—take a tour of the vineyards in a sidecar for an alternative sightseeing experience. Just over the border is Spain, making the Algarve a top choice for travelers planning to visit Andalucia. Sightseeing tours of Seville, Gibraltar, and Cordoba are all doable in a day, while full-day excursions to Lisbon, Sintra, and Cascais are a popular choice with travelers short on time.
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Barreta Island (Ilha Deserta)
20 Tours and Activities
A sandy, uninhabited island off Portugal’s Algarve coast, Barreta Island (Ilha Deserta) is a popular beach destination and wildlife refuge inside Ria Formosa National Park. With freshwater lagoons, salt flats, sand dunes, and more, the park has a diverse range of habitats—each with its own resident population of birds and other species, including chameleons.
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Lagos Zoo (Parque Zoologico de Lagos)
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Home to more than 140 different species from across the world, Lagos Zoo offers a family-friendly alternative to the crowded Algarve coast. Opened in 2000, the zoo has become a world-class conservation facility, and its close proximity to central Lagos makes it a top choice for a day away from the city.
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Ria Formosa Natural Park
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Located at the southernmost tip of Portugal’s Algarve, Ria Formosa Natural Park (Parque Natural da Ria Formosa) is a scenic swirl of freshwater lagoons, sandy islands, and lush salt marshlands. The park hugs the coast between Manta Rota and Vale do Lobo, and is best known for its varied topography and diverse bird life.
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Praia Gale
16 Tours and Activities

Just steps away from the resort town of Gale, and a handful of kilometers west of Albufeira, stretches one of the region’s favorite beaches, Praia Gale. It’s a favorite because of its eastern rocky and cave- and cove-filled coastline, and probably even more so for its western stretch of soft sands and calm waters especially loved by families. This expansive stretch of shoreline is ideal for relaxing walks, watersports, and grabbing a bite to eat at one of the waterside restaurants and bars. Families relish in enjoying the calm beach but also the many tide pools. Meanwhile, those looking to explore further can take advantage of watersports, or go on a healthy walk westward toward other regional beaches such as Praia dos Salgados, Praia Grande, and even Armacao de Pera.

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Sagres
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Twenty-one miles west of Lagos, the whitewashed village of Sagres is popular with families looking for a laidback holiday spot near the Algarve’s famous beaches. Backpackers, surfers, and divers also come to Sagres to holiday. Most of the action takes place around the town square, where there are plenty of lively restaurants and cafes. And on August 15 of every year, a big party is held to celebrate the local saint’s day with fireworks.
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Praia dos Salgados
5 Tours and Activities

Golf, nature and a seaside resort — these are all things you’ll find just steps away from the sandy stretch that is Praia dos Salgados. This beach is where you’ll want to come for a seemingly endless and calm shoreline that offers all the amenities, including showers, lifeguards and rentable sunbeds. It is just a short walk away from other visit­worthy spots, too, such as the Dos Salgados Lagoon, and the nature reserve around it, famously home to flamingos and loads of other birds and wildlife. While in the area, you can also hit the links at one of Algarve’s best golf courses, Salgados Golf Course. Or wander in either direction down the coast to discover still more beaches, such as Praia Gale to the east, and Praia Grande to the west, and even beyond to Armacao de Pera Beach and its sweet resort town­-meets-fishing village.

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Ferragudo
6 Tours and Activities
On the opposite bank of the Arade River to Portimão and linked to the city by bridge, the small seaside resort of Ferragudo is a world away from the crowded malls and yacht filled marina across the water. A traditional coastal village, where the hillsides are dotted with white-painted fishermen’s cottages and a maze of cobblestone lanes lead to the lively quay, it’s the Algarve’s best-kept secret that is unlikely to stay secret for much longer.
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Armacao de Pera Beach (Praia Armacao de Pera)
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5 Tours and Activities

When it comes to beaches, Armacao de Pera has something for everyone. The beach, which stretches out in front of the fishermen’s village-meets resort town of the same name, offers everything from rocky coves, to rows of umbrella-shaded sunbeds, and fresh-seafood-serving restaurants.

Indeed, if you’re looking for rocky, natural wonders, head to the shoreline’s western end, which is filled with coves and craggy formations. Going eastward, you can take a stroll along the promenade-lined beach, slithering into the resort-style village, or stepping down onto the wide, sandy, family friendly shore. Or wander still farther east, where you’ll happen upon the city’s fishermen’s village. There, you can spy the fishermen arriving with their daily catch, or enjoy said catch at one of the waterside restaurants before grabbing an ice cream and exploring the sweet streets of the neighboring old town.

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Silves Castle (Castelo de Silves)
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20 Tours and Activities
Silves’ regional prominence began in the 11th century when the Moors conquered the town. Giving it the name of Xelb, they constructed lavish palaces and created a cultural centre of learning for the whole Iberian Peninsular. Prior to its decline as a port due to silt build-up in its river, Silves was once the capital of the entire Algarve region. It traces its history back to 1,000 BC, and the Romans later found its location and resources much to their liking. During the 11th century, the Moors took and fortified the city, renaming it Xelb and building opulent palaces with the intent of creating a cultural center for the entire Iberian peninsula. Silves castle, a red sandstone fortress of Moorish design and décor is replete with beautiful gardens and statuary.
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More Things to Do in The Algarve

Vilamoura

Vilamoura

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12 Tours and Activities
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Mt Fóia

Mt Fóia

25 Tours and Activities
Looming 902 meters over the colorful spa town of Caldas de Monchique below, Mt Fóia is the Algarve’s highest peak and makes a scenic day trip from nearby Portimão. It’s the spellbinding views that make Fóia so popular, spanning the rugged Serra de Monchique mountain range, the Alvor River, Portimão, and on clear days, the ocean-lapped cliffs along the Atlantic coast.
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Tavira

Tavira

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9 Tours and Activities
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Monchique

Monchique

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10 Tours and Activities
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Praia da Rocha

Praia da Rocha

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7 Tours and Activities
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Alvor

Alvor

6 Tours and Activities

A traditional fishing village set between the Alvor River estuary and the sun-soaked Atlantic coast, Alvor offers a peaceful escape from neighboring Portimão. Despite being almost completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1755, strolling Alvor’s cobblestone streets still unveils a few historic gems, including the hilltop ruins of Alvor castle and the 16th-century Igreja Matriz church, and the pretty harbor is a popular starting point for boat tours along the coast.

Today the main draw is its sandy beach, Praia de Alvor, and coastal lagoon, while Rua Dr Frederico Romas Mendes is the main drag, crammed with bars, restaurants and souvenir stores, and the palm-fringed riverfront is dotted with terrace restaurants.

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Alcoutim

Alcoutim

8 Tours and Activities
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Silves

Silves

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5 Tours and Activities
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Almancil

Almancil

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A tranquil alternative to the bustling resorts further along the coast, the small market town of Almancil is worth a detour if only to marvel at its landmark church. The exquisite baroque Church of St Lourenço dates back to the 17th century and is renowned for its intricate azulejo tilework, which details elaborate scenes from the life of St Lourenço.

Additional highlights of a visit to Almancil include the nearby Vale do Lobo (Valley of the Wolf) resort, where the golf course was famously designed by British champion Henry Cotton, and the glamorous Quinta do Lago, one of the Algarve’s most upmarket resorts and a favorite with visiting celebrities and politicians.

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Camera Obscura

Camera Obscura

1 Tour and Activity
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Quarteira

Quarteira

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Olhão

Olhão

1 Tour and Activity
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