After touring the bustling, steep streets of Lisbon my legs needed time to recoup and the sun kissed beaches of the Algarve seemed like the perfect place to unwind. The Algarve is Portugal’s southernmost region best known for its beautiful sandy coves, picturesque Mediterranean beaches, and colorful seaside villages. The weather is warm and sunny all year round and the tropical scenery, ocean breeze and swaying palm trees creates a laid-back island vibe.
Getting to the Algarve from Lisbon
From Lisbon we rented a car from the airport and drove two and a half hours to the Algarve. Even though we booked the car online before our trip, the disorganized process at the airport and extremely long lines took well over an hour so make sure to give yourself extra time. Renting a vehicle is the best way to see the coast because you can stop at all major points of interest and explore the towns at your own pace. Except for taxis and tour buses there isn't much public transit available.
Travelers Tip: Rent a GPS or buy a road map to help navigate, all the roundabouts can be confusing.
Where to Stay
I chose an Airbnb apartment in the beautiful little town of Armaҫão de Pêra - Praia Beach which had a full kitchen, spacious living room, cozy terrace and all the amenities we needed. The building was a 5 min walk to the beach which also had many restaurants, shops and romantic scenic points. This is a wonderful area to stay in because it is located mid-way between the most popular towns and beaches making it a great starting point. If you drive to the west you reach Lagos and to the East you have Faro. It is also very close to Albufeira and Lagoa.
Praia Beach is very quiet and serene – ideal for a relaxing getaway. To read my review on Airbnb click HERE.
Although there are many food options including traditional Portuguese (mainly consisting of fresh fish), pizza, burgers, steak and more, my favorite was Bollywood Indian Cuisine. The seaside dinning was a great way to end the day and the sangria was amazing!
Don’t forget to indulge in some creamy gelato. At Praia Beach there seems to be a delicious ice cream shop on every corner and the flavours are to die for!
Praia de Marinha
My favorite beach in the Algarve is Praia de Marinha – One of the most beautiful beaches on the coast and ranked top 10 in Europe. The steep limestone cliffs composed of crustaceans, sea animals and shells are estimated to be 16-24 million years old and if you hike to the top you can capture the most spectacular photos.
I was able to find my own little cave on the beach which provided shade from the sun.
The sparkling blue coves are breathtaking and this beach is much less crowded then Banagil which is very popular with tourists.
We also drove to Lagos and stopped at Ponta da Piedad – an impressive collection of rock formations jutting out from the sea. This point is very popular with photographers and those looking to capture the perfect scenic backdrop. I recommend arriving at sunset for the best display of color and light.
We also went to Praia de Dona Ana – located about 2 km southwest of the city center. This is another great spot for photos.
If you stop in Lagos I recommend going into town. The narrow, cobblestone streets are hard to manoeuvre with a vehicle but there is much to discover on-foot and it is a great place to have an authentic Portuguese meal or shop for souvenirs.
Cave Exploration & Tours
The highlight of my trip to Portugal was exploring the caves along the coast, especially Benagil Cave which features a secluded beach hidden within the rocks. You can access the beach by paddle board or kayak but we chose to book with Targua Tours which uses exhilarating speed boats. The 30 min tour cost €15 per person and stopped at 10 caves but there are several options available. If you feel a little adventurous I highly recommend this thrilling expedition! The kiosk is located at Praia de Benagil Beach or you can buy tickets online at tarugatoursbenagilcaves.pt.
Travellers Tip: The walk back up from Praia de Benagil Beach is not very pleasant. The hills are very steep so be prepared and wear comfortable shoes.
One of the prettiest towns in the Algarve is Carvoeiro and the view from the beach is incredible. I did some shopping, had an ice cream and enjoyed lunch at one of the many restaurants in the area.
If you haven’t read my post on Lisbon click HERE and stay tuned to see my travel guide for Madrid Spain!