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Where to Stay and Have a Holiday in the Algarve?
Click here for an introduction to the Algarve
The Algarve is the beautiful coastline of southern Portugal, which comprises of golden beaches, stunning scenery and picturesque fishing towns. The resort towns of the Algarve are varied, ranging from modern and bustling through to calm and traditional, making the region a fantastic holiday destination for families, young couples or those seeking a cultural experience. This guide will summarise the major towns and help identify the best resort towns for your holiday.
Summary of the Algarve for Different Types of Holidays
(Please click on the underlined link to take you to the destination guide)
Best Overall Destination -
Lagos, Albufeira or Praia da Rocha.
For families with young children -
Praia da Luz, Alvor and Carvoeiro
For Families with teenagers -
Albufeira, Praia da Rocha, almost all of the central Algarve
History and Portuguese Culture -
Lagos, Tavira, Faro and Silves (as a day trip)
Where to Party -
Albufeira, Praia da Rocha and Lagos
Stag or Hen Do's -
The strip in Albufeira (Stag do guide here)
Relaxing Holiday -
Tavira, Alvor, Praia da Luz or Carvoeiro
Class and Exclusive -
Vilamoura or Vale Do Lobo region
Somewhere different -
Faro, Tavira or Alvor
Golfing Holiday -
Vilamoura, Albufeira or Quarteira
Surfing Holiday -
For Christmas -
Albufeira, Praia da Rocha or Lagos
The Algarve is sold out or is too expensive in the summer -
Lisbon or Porto
(Lisbon and Porto both have great beaches, cheap flights and lots of accommodation, ideal for families and couples)
What about a touring holiday?
The Algarve makes for a great location for a touring or multi-destination holiday. Each of the towns of the region has their own distinctive culture and heritage, and a surprising amount can be seen within a relatively short space of time. A touring holiday does not require a rental car as there is reliable and inexpensive public transport within the Algarve. Below are two 1-week suggested routes for the west or east of the Algarve; for a guide to different touring routes of the Algarve, please see this article.
Summary of the Algarve's Major Towns and Resorts
The following section details the best towns and resorts of the Algarve for different styles of holiday
What's the Best Destination to Party?
1st – Albufeira
2nd – Praia da Rocha
Albufeira is the largest of the resort towns situated in the Algarve and there are two very distinct section to the town; The Old Town and The Strip. “The strip” in Albufeira town is ideal for visitors who want cheap drink, themed bars and all wild late night clubs.
There are lots of bars and places to drink in Albufeira
The strip is where groups of young adults (equal amount of men and women) head to for a fun time and will not be turned away by night wrecking bouncers. This section of Albufeira is 2km from the pretty Old Town, just far enough not to annoy other visitors on a more conventional holiday. The Old Town in Albufeira has many bars and restaurants but is designed for slightly more mature visitors or for families.
Praia da Rocha has a great reputation for lively nightlife during the summer season. Praia da Rocha has a happy mix of revellers and a cool and trendy atmosphere with a Portuguese twist. The cliff top promenade is the main hub of activity in Praia da Rocha has numerous bars, restaurants and clubs. Both Praia da Rocha and Albufeira are very busy in the summer season, so always book well in advance.
The massive beach of Praia da Rocha
Best location for Traditional and unspoilt Algarve?
1 – Tavira
2 – Sagres
3 - Faro
Tavira is a traditional Portuguese town that has managed to retain its charming historical centre, even with the advent of mass tourism. Tavira is situated on the banks of the slow flowing Gilão River and the edge of the Ria Formosa natural park, a series of salt water lagoons that are a haven for migratory birds. Tavira has a relaxed and unhurried atmosphere and makes for a good base from which to explore the eastern Algarve.
Tavira is a pretty traditional town on the Algarve
Sagres is the small village at the very western tip of the Algarve and is the place to escape the crowds. The region surrounding the fishing village offers rugged surfing beaches, challenging coastal hikes and isolated national parks. Sagres is a very small village, and certain visitors may feel as if they are missing some of the Algarve experience by being based here, but if you want nature’s raw power, Sagres is the ideal place for you.
The peaceful harbour of Sagres
Faro is the transport hub of the Algarve and is often over looked by the majority of visitors but the town provides a scenic old town. The old town is surrounded by 11th century city walls that were constructed but the Moors and at the heart of the old town is the ancient Sé cathedral. Faro is ideal for the first night’s stay in the Algarve as it is so close to the airport.
Where to go for a Family based Holiday?
1st - The coastline between Praia da Rocha and Albufeira
The Algarve and the Portuguese are very welcoming and accommodating for families with young children. The Algarve is a great destination for a family holiday and the coastline between Praia da Rocha and Albufeira is the most popular area with families. This section of the Algarve has purpose-built family hotels, great beaches and there are many enjoyable day trips which include “Zoomarine” and “Slide and Splash”. To read a guide for families visiting the Albufeira, please click here.
The water parks at Zoomarine
Where are the Algarve’s best beaches?
1st – Lagos
2nd - Praia da Rocha
3rd – Monte Gordo
The Praia da Dona Ana beach, just outside Lagos, is regarded as the most stunning beach of the Algarve coastline. This small beach is set in a scenic location of sandstone coloured cliffs, golden sands and crystal clear waters; to read more about the beach please click here. Lagos also has a vast, flat sandy beach ideal to find space during the busy summer months and another scenic beach positioned next to the town’s fort.
The Praia da Dona Ana beach
Praia da Rocha has a vast beach in front of the main resort while further along the coast are a series of picturesque hidden cove beaches. Monte Gordo, in the very east of the Algarve, has the largest beach but the bland resort town has few other redeeming qualities. Albufeira has a very good beach, which is sufficiently large enough for all of the summer tourists.
The vast beach of Monte Gordo at sunset
The Algarve is blessed with a wonderful coastline, and no matter the location it is only ever a short journey to a fantastic beach. All of the Algarve’s beaches are sandy (there are no pebble beaches) and the sea waters are all very clean but the issue is that the water temperature is very cold even in the height of the summer.
Where to go for an Algarve golfing holiday?
1st – Vilamoura
2nd - Quarteira
3rd – Albufeira
Vilamoura was construct as an exclusive resort town, with the marina and the championship golf courses as the primary draw for Europe’s multi-millionaires. Within Vilamoura there are six golf courses, and are some of the best in Portugal (if not Europe). For a golfing holiday there is no better destination as Vilamoura provides easy access to the golf courses and there are multiple shops to hire golf clubs or to organise travel to the golf courses throughout the Algarve.
A wonderful golf course in Vilamoura
The down side to Vilamoura is that it is an “exclusive resort” expect to pay the top prices for hotels, meals and socilising. For a much cheaper destination consider the town of Quarteira, which is only a 5 minute drive from Vilamoura. Quarteira has a wonderful beach and provides much better value but does have a less refined atmosphere and look. Another choice for a base for a golfing holiday is the larger town of Albufeira, which is only a short drive from many of the major golf courses in Portugal. For a golf holiday to Portugal consider renting your golf clubs in Portugal instead of flying with them as this can be significantly cheaper.
Best Destination Overall
1st – Lagos
2nd - Albufeira
Lagos is a destination that has a lot to offer for a holiday, and is the ideal destination for visitors who want a bit of everything for their holiday. Lagos has an extensive history and this is reflected in the variety of historical monuments while close to Lagos are wonderful beaches and beautiful natural landscapes. There are many enjoyable day trips from Lagos and the town offers a range of restaurants cafes and bars. In our opinion Lagos is the best resort town of the Algarve, the only issue is that it is a long way from the airport.
The traditional centre of Lagos
Albufeira is the most popular holiday destination of the Algarve and is a good choice for a holiday. Being the largest resort town, Albufeira offers the widest range of restaurants, bars and cafes but even with the huge influx of tourists the Old Town still retains its traditional appeal and character. For a beach holiday Albufeira has a massive sandy beach and excellent all-inclusive hotel complexes.
Albufeira beach is suitable for children and families