This post is our guide for the best things to do in Algarve, with tips including historical places, sports, nature, food and shopping.
In the Algarve you can enjoy excellent weather, beautiful landscapes, rich historical heritage, diverse cultural offer and great food. This region is the ideal place for a pleasant family vacation or to live all year round. So you are about to find out what are the best things to do in Algarve.
The Algarve Region
Touristic Area OF the ALGARVE
Algarve is one of the main tourist regions of Portugal, much sought after by Portuguese and foreigners. It is a safe, hospitable destination with excellent sea and climate and good conditions for sports, such as golf.
The region of the Algarve has its own culture and identity resulting from several factors. One of them was maintaining the same territory since the foundation of Portugal, in the 12th century. Among others factors, it should be highlighted the 500 years of Islamic influence and the peripheral location to Lisbon, the capital of the Country.
Weather in the Algarve
The Algarve is internationally recognised for its excellent climate. The weather is generally mild throughout the year, with more than 300 days of sunshine. This allows you, as a result, to enjoy many pleasant outdoor activities.
This region has more than a one-hundred beaches along 125 miles (200 km) of coastline. Here you will find the most beautiful beaches in Europe, where you can walk around, rest and bathe in the sea, which are some of the best things to do in Algarve.
Learn more about the most stunning beaches in the Algarve.
Visit the historical heritage of the Algarve
Fortaleza de Sagres (SAGRES fortress)
From the rich historical heritage stands the Sagres Fortress, which is the most visited monument in the area and so one of the best things to do in Algarve. This Fortress is located near Cabo de São Vicente, which is located in the extreme southwest of mainland Portugal. This monument with an exceptional surrounding landscape, is linked to the Portuguese Discoveries of the 15th century and has on the floor a huge wind rose made out of stone.
Silves, Castro Marim and Alcoutim Castels
Heading to Silves, you can visit the largest castle in the Algarve, of Arab origin, the Silves Castle. Farther away, along the Guadiana River, you will find the beautiful Castro Marim Castle and Alcoutim Castle.
MILREU Roman ruins
Near Faro, in the village of Estói, you will find the elegant Milreu roman ruins.
Ermida de Guadalupe (GUADALUPE hermitage)
The Ermida de Guadalupe is 9.3 miles (15 km) from Sagres and is one of the most visited monuments in the Algarve.
Visit the typical villages and cities in Algarve
You can visit the typical villages and beautiful cities, such as Faro (main city), Albufeira, Tavira and Lagos.
Also with interest you can get to know Portimão, Loulé, Vilamoura, Silves, Lagoa, Olhão and Vila Real de Santo António, especially by taking a short tour on foot, in their historical centres.
In the historical centres you will find many places where the influence of the past, especially islamic is still well reflected. Thus, you can discover several architectural and culturally rich spaces such as the Museums of Faro and Silves, that exhibit mainly the archaeology and ethnography of the region.
Enjoy the diverse cultural offer and sports activities
During your stay, one of the best things to do is enjoying the wide range of Algarve’s cultural attractions. In summer, there are several fiestas and festivals in the villages, towns and cities of the Algarve, mainly with outdoor shows and activities. There you can enjoy music, dance, theatre and historical recreations (demonstrating the presence of various peoples, such as Arabs and Jews) and many others.
The Silves Medieval Fair and “Dias Medievais de Castro Marim” (Castro Marim Medieval Days), in August are a must-see!
We highlight the great music festivals of the Algarve, which attract many enthusiasts, such as the F Festival, late August and early September, in Faro. This festival takes place in the historical center and is dedicated to Portuguese music, such as Rock, Fado, indie, hip hop, jazz and electronics. The Festival F is also a festival of arts and culture, with street animation, crafts, cinema, theater, stand-up comedy, plastic arts, debates and round tables, workshops and street-food.
You also have the Festival MED, in June, with world music in Loulé, and the BPM Festival, in September, of electronic music, which takes place in Portimão and Faro.
Exhibitions, Fairs and Markets
There are also art exhibitions and others, such as Fiesa – International Festival of Sand Sculptures (in Pêra, Silves) and you will find countless fairs and markets, where the Algarvian producers will sell their products. Additionally, there are larger fairs, such as Fatacil (trade fair for crafts, tourism, agriculture, commerce and industry), which will take place in August, in Lagoa.
Find here more Algarve events.
Play sports in a great location
The Algarve region has great weather conditions and good quality sports facilities, where you can play or watch sports competitions. Namely, you have golf, water sports (surfing, sailing), tennis, football, athletics, horseback riding, motoring, motorcycling and biking.
One of the most important sport events in Algarve is the Portugal Masters (golf), which takes place in October in Vilamoura.
Learn more about holiday sports in the Algarve.
Have fun in the theme and aquatic parks in Algarve
Theme parks in the Algarve
One of the best things to do in Algarve is visiting theme parks. The following are some of the best: the Zoomarine (Albufeira), the Zoolagos – Lagos Zoo (Lagos), the Parque Aventura (Albufeira), the Krazy World – Algarve Zoo (Algoz-Albufeira) and Family Golf Park (Vilamoura-Loulé).
Water parks in the Algarve
Especially in summer, you can have fun in the water parks Slide & Splash (Lagoa), Aqualand (Alcantarinha-Silves) and Aquashow Park Hotel (Quarteira-Loulé).
Walking trails in Algarve
Explore the network of walking trails that weave through the Algarve. Part of them are included in the great route ‘Via Algarviana’, which take you through the interior of the Algarve, from Alcoutim to Cabo de São Vicente, among nature, villages and rural villages, in a total extension of about 186 mikes (300 km).
There are also small routes in the Rota Vicentina (Vicentina Route), in a total of 280 miles (450 km), through the Natural Park of Sudoeste Alentejano and Costa Vicentina, along the Southwest of Portugal, from Santiago do Cacém to Cabo de São Vicente (near Sagres) next to the Atlantic Ocean.
Finally, go on a boat trip, such as one along the Ria Formosa Natural Park (across the vast lagoon from Loulé to Vila Real de Santo António) or go up the Guadiana River (from Vila Real de Santo António to Mértola).
Enjoy what Nature has to offer in Algarve
Algarve’s landscape is unique, with great beauty and biodiversity. It is also diversified due to the fresh influence of the sea (Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean) as well as the warmer and drier influence from the interior of Portugal (Alentejo).
The Algarve territory can be “grouped” in 5 large areas:
Costa Vicentina (Vicentina Coast)
The Costa Vicentina, located on the west coast with beaches of cliffs and sea vegetation.
Litoral Sul (South Coast)
The Litoral Sul (South Coast), with beaches of cliffs to the west and with more flat beaches to the east, which confront with wetlands in the estuaries of Ria Formosa, Ria de Alvor, Rio Arade and Rio Guadiana. Along the streams, lakes and reed-beds, there are several species of birds, fish, mammals and amphibians endemic or migratory.
The Serra, in the more mountainous interior with the Serra de Monchique, Serra do Caldeirão and Serra de Espinhaço de Cão, where you will find trees such as arbutus, carob tree, cork oak (from where it is extracted the cork), pine and eucalyptus.
The Barrocal, located between the “Litoral-Sul” and the “Serra”, where there are mainly planted species, like the almond tree, fig tree, olive tree, orchards of oranges and vegetable and tomato gardens.
The Guadiana, located in the east, along the Guadiana River and the border with Spain, from Vila Real de Santo António by the sea to the Ribeira do Vascão, in the Alentejo. In the Guadiana riverbanks you can find mainly rockroses, carob trees and olive trees. Also there are many species of fishes, crustaceans and birds, such as storks and flamingos.
Flora and fauna of the Algarve
More and more people, all year around, seek the Algarve to see the flora and fauna in protected areas (parks and reserves), beaches and in the interior. For this purpose several outdoor activities are available, such as walking trails to observe and photograph nature and animals in their natural habitat, namely birdwatching and bugwatching (insects).
Parks, nature reserves and spaces of great environmental beauty
In Algarve there are several places of great natural beauty, such as the Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina Natural Park and the Ria Formosa Natural Reserve (here you can go on a boat trip). You also have the Sapal Nature Reserve of Castro Marim and Vila Real de Santo António, with a wide variety of marine species.
There are also other natural areas of great environmental beauty worth visiting, such as the Bioparque de Monchique, Parque Ambiental de Vilamoura, Mata Nacional do Barão de São João, Rocha da Pena, Fonte de Benémola, Fonte Férrea and Fontes de Estômbar.
You can also participate in the famous Bird Watching Festival of Sagres, in October.
Enjoy the health and welfare offer in Algarve
The Algarve has a diversified and quality offer in terms of health tourism, aesthetics and well-being, highly sought after, especially by foreigners, of all ages, with the aim of improving their health and quality of life.
In this region there are several clinics and hospitals (public and private), thalassotherapy centres and thermal spas (Caldas de Monchique use a unique thermal spring water), SPAs and fitness, health and wellness centres (included or not in hotels and resorts), as well as several care facilities, namely seniors health care.
Indulge yourself with the unique Algarve cuisine
The region has a rich and diversified gastronomy, which reflects its culture, the Portuguese gastronomy and the Mediterranean diet (Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO). The Algarve cuisine is characterised by the variety and quality of fish, seafood, meats, vegetables, fruits (mainly oranges), regional sweets (from carob, almond, fig and orange) and liqueurs (from arbutus) sold in local markets. The typical dishes, grilled in charcoal or in a cataplana (item of cookware of Arab influence), are served in numerous restaurants (some with Michelin stars). This is surely one of the best things to do in Algarve!
To complement the typical dishes, there are good Algarvean wines produced in the areas of Lagos, Lagoa, Portimão and Tavira. To visit the vineyards and the caves of the region, there is the Rota dos Vinhos do Algarve (Algarve Wine Route), with several itineraries.
Gastronomy And WINE Events
Frequent events are organized to promote the Algarvean, the Portuguese and the international gastronomy. Namely, the Seafood Festival (Festival do Marisco), in August, at Olhão and the Sardine Festival (Festival da Sardinha), also in August, at Portimão. Also the Algarve Chefs Week, in late May and early June, at Loulé, that challenge some of the best chefs of the finest restaurants, of the 5-star hotels, in Algarve.
Handicrafts shopping experience in Algarve
The Algarvean craftsmen produce refined works of handicrafts, which are sold at fairs and local markets, as well as in crafts stores throughout the Algarve. Some of the main handicraft products are wicker baskets, algarvean houses miniatures, wooden appliances, wooden toys, rag dolls, copper cataplanas (item of cookware of Arab influence) and clay pots.
Enjoy the excellent Algarve’s infrastructure
In the Algarve you can enjoy its excellent infrastructures, such as facilities for holding sport events, namely the “Autódromo Internacional do Algarve” (racing circuit near Portimão) and the “Estádio do Algarve” (stadium near Loulé). Furthermore, there are also cultural events such as exhibitions, conferences, conventions and company and product presentations.
Among these facilities stand out the Portimão Arena, the “Palácio de Congressos do Algarve” (Congress Palace), the Cultural Center of Lagos, the António Aleixo Cultural Center, in Vila Real de Santo António and the “Palácio da Galeria” (art museum) in Tavira. There is also the Vilamoura Casino, the Montegordo Casino, the Portimão Casino (or Praia da Rocha Casino) and the Teatro Lethes (theatre) in Faro. In the main hotels and resorts, such as the Hotel Tivoli Marina in Vilamoura, also takes place exhibitions, conferences and company presentations.
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