Indulge in all the beauty and entertainment served up by Portugal’s most popular destination, holidays to the Algarve promise a unique break to an area blessed by a vibrant atmosphere, immense natural beauty and an endless stream of fun and thrills by the beach. A relatively fresh-faced contender in the all inclusive holidays market, the Algarve is also a top pick for a decadent all inclusive getaway.
It is easy to see why the Algarve has become so popular with holidaying families and couples, especially when you bear witness to the blue waters, stretching sands and dramatic cliffs that characterise the Algarve’s alluring coastline – truly a remarkable gem of Portugal.
Traditional and historic cities and towns tower over the ocean, from the bustling Albufeira, to the majestic Vilamoura, promising cultural highlights and a culinary scene to die for, while active holidaymakers will revel in the region’s adventurous ethos. Top picks for resorts include Alvor, Carvoeiro and Olhos d'Agua.
Most popular hotels in Algarve
Balaia Golf Village
Alfamar Villas - Algarve Gardens Apartments
Monica Isabel Beach Club
Aquashow Park Hotel
Auramar Beach Resort
Clube Praia Da Rocha
Praia da Rocha, Algarve
At a glance
- Currency: Euro
- Language: Portuguese
- Time Zone: GMT +0
- Average flight time: 2h 40m
When to go
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Portugal’s most popular holiday destination is rich in clean beaches, attractive white-washed towns and beautiful natural landscapes. The best things to do in Algarve tend to be based around the region’s coastline which is decorated with white sands, dramatic rock formations and sparkling blue waters.
The beaches lure those visitors seeking relaxation and sunshine, while the landscape that towers over the ocean is a haven for mountain bikers and walkers. The Algarve has also experienced a gradual transformation into a popular party destination, with the likes of Faro and Albufeira catering to those seeking more thrills after the sun goes down.
The likes of Albufeira or Lagos will base you in a lively destination with more than its fair share of attractions and plenty of luxury hotels. Albufeira is a wonderfully diverse destination, defined by its wonderful beaches, great restaurants, charming old town and bustling nightlife, unrivalled anywhere else in the region.
Lagos offers a similar vibe to those on their Algarve holidays, alongside an energetic water sports and outdoor adventures culture, mingling with that of a bygone era. Traditional architecture and colours adorn the historical city centre, marked by the old city walls, ensuring both culture vultures and sports enthusiasts are appeased by a visit to Lagos.
Outside of the primary destinations, numerous traditional towns and villages are dotted along the expansive coastline of the Algarve, displaying a more authentic way of life that is easily overshadowed by the region’s modernised infrastructure. Olhos d'Agua is a great example of a destination retaining its traditional charm yet catering to the tourism influx.
Meanwhile, other adventurous types may like to dip out of the region all together to visit some more of Portugal’s gems, and none come more alluring than the stunning coastal city Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal – a mesmerising place to daytrip to during you holidays in the Algarve.
Wine and Dine
Some of the best cuisine of Portugal can be found in the Algarve; the seafood on offer along the coast is particularly a must try. One of the signature fish dishes in this part of the world is grilled sardines, which are often barbecued before being served with boiled potatoes and salad. One of the best restaurants for fish has to be Passaro Azul, located on Olhos de Agua Beach just east of Albufeira.
One of the tastiest Algarve attractions is its famous piri piri chicken. Forget the chow you get at Nando’s; this is the real deal. The sauce here is arguably unmatched anywhere else in the world, and the barbecued chicken is as succulent as it comes. Blue Sky Restaurant in Albufeira is one of the best local eateries to sample this dish.
Portugal has some great wine, although the Algarve doesn’t really produce much of it. However, there are various bars around the region that stock fantastic port, most of which originates from the city of Porto. Sampling a few of these after a meal would provide a welcome nightcap.
There are plenty of family friendly places in the Algarve especially if you stay at a catered resort where everything is laid on and you don’t have to worry too much about meals or travel. Top resorts for a family holiday include Albufeira with its popular beaches and facilities, Alvor, Carvoeiro and Olhos d'Agua for their sleepy, charming personas and of course, if you're going for glitzy, Vilamoura is your best bet.
For a day out of activity for everyone, head to Parque Aventura where you can try your hand at zip wires and various activities rigged up in the forest. At Albufeira, surf lessons are offered for any age so even children can have a go at catching some waves. For some sporty children, the Calo do Lobo Tennis academy offers coaching across 14 courts and there is even a spa centre on-site for parents to indulge in while the kids are learning to play tennis.
Krazy World Zoo is worth a day trio, located in Algoz or for water away from the sea try Slide and Splash waterpark in Lagoa. However you and the kids like to spend your time the Algarve makes a fantastic family holidays destination.
Action and Adventure
Some of the world’s finest golf courses can be enjoyed in the Algarve, blessed by great weather, stunning scenery and challenging courses, delivering something of a playground to those that like to bring their woods and irons on holiday with them.
Golf isn’t the only activity you’ll discover away from the beach; there is also a great mountain biking scene in the Algarve, allowing visitors to explore the region’s beautiful inland scenery on active tours around the landscapes. Inevitably you’ll find yourselves down by the water at some point during your Algarve holiday, and around Albufeira and Lagos there’s so much to do, you could spend the entire holiday in and around the water here. Water sports are rife around Lagos, with a great surfing scene supported by sea kayaking and windsurfing, while others may just prefer to lay on the sandy bays around Albufeira and catch some rays.
Snorkelling and boat trips are also on offer to tourists, allowing you to explore the region’s highlights on and beneath the surface of the ocean. The standard array of beach activities are on offer to visitors all along the coast. There are always things to do in the Algarve away from the sand and water, but you’ll find the best variety of activities on the beach and in the sea. Getting out on the water is a great way to explore the expansive coastline, especially by pedalo or kayak. Those looking for more thrills will find satisfaction in Lagos where you can experience surfing, sailing and kite-surfing.
Mountain biking is another high entry on the list of Algarve attractions. One of the most enjoyable routes takes you into the nearby Monchique Mountains, eventually bringing you to the highest point of the range. The Algarve is blessed with some fantastic golf courses in equally impressive locations. The Pine Cliffs Course is one of the most picturesque and challenging, so is ideal for those who want to show off their swing.
Life's a Beach
The beaches are undoubtedly the biggest attraction around the Algarve, endless stretches of fine sand flanked by beautiful clear blue water and towering, dramatic cliffs and rock formations – this is one of the most remarkable coastal scenes in Europe.
Despite this, you’ll find a great deal of things to do during your holidays to the Algarve that don’t involve planting your feet in the sand. Relaxing on quiet and sandy beaches is a perfect way to recharge your batteries, and many of the beaches provide visitors with comfy sun loungers and umbrellas. Pick from resorts such as Tavira, which retains its charm, the mega beaches in Albufeira bustling and teeming with activities and facilities, and the glitzy beachfront in Vilamoura.
When the water is calm, bobbing around on a lilo in the ocean will also do the trick. From Carvoeiro, a sleepy village and a small beach, to the sweeping sands of Alvor and its trendy harbour, the Algarve has so many beaches to offer. Alvor is a hidden gem with cliff tops and tradtional romance and Carvoeiro is a sleepy, postcard-perfect beach destination.
If you’re after bustling nightlife, you’ll never run out of things to do in the Algarve. The region has become one of the most party-orientated areas in Southern Europe, rivalling destinations like Ibiza and Majorca.
Albufeira is the primary hub of this party mayhem, with the majority of the pubs, bars and clubs situated in the Old Town and along ‘The Strip’. Pubs like Sir Harry’s provide the perfect joint for warming up on a few cocktails, before tackling the real deal at clubs like Domino and The Cellar. You can find a classier side to the Algarve’s nightlife, most notably in the smaller towns and in sophisticated jazz and cocktail bars. Cabana Bar in Olhos de Agua is one of the best cocktail bars in the region and comes complete with pool tables and classic tunes.
If you're not after mad nightlife, the sleepy resorts of Carvoeiro and Alvor balance peace and quiet with a lovely cafe culture, offering some bars and restaurants open later into the warm Algarve evening.
There is real romance in the air in the Algarve, found in the secluded coves, beautiful cliff walks and golden sunsets. The Algarve makes for excellent couples holidays because of its host of peaceful, charming villages and empty beaches. Or, if you fancy it, the refinement of Vilamoura is a treat for your senses. For narrow cobbled streets and stretches of sand, Alvor might be the place for your loved-up holiday.
You can experience some great vistas from the cliffs surrounding the bays to the east of Albufeira, especially at sunset when the sandy-brown cliffs sparkle. The sleepiness of Olhos d'Agua and its cobbled streets aren't far from Albufeira, and the town of Carvoeiro exudes just as much charming character.
Tavira, a little less well-known, is another one of this unspoiled holiday destinations that visitors to the Algarve are so blessed with. Tavira is a sleepy, peaceful and romantic area to enjoy the best of Portugal's southern coast.
Every town and region has its own particular take on culture in the Algarve with Moorish and Arab influences seen in the architecture. One of our favourites is Tavira, a charming old world town in the east of Albufeira.
The Algarve is well-known as a holiday destination and so there are plenty of events and festivals throughout the year but particularly in the summer months. Food and local produce markets are held in most towns in the Algarve and are a great place to absorb a little bit of local culture and maybe take it home with you as a souvenir. Saints festivals usually include food and drink, with barbecued sardines being a speciality. Other festivals centre around the sea, with fish and fishermen celebrated and honoured.