Algarve Intro > Which resort town? > Top 10 Algarve > 1 week tour > Albufeira
Top 10 Algarve: Regional highlights and best things to do and see
The Algarve is the beautiful coastline of southern Portugal. It is a region of extreme diversity and contrasts; there is pristine natural scenery, traditional fishing villages through to party focused resort towns.
The sheer variety of the Algarve means that will appeal to a wide range of tourists, for families, thrill seekers or those seeking a cultural experience. This article will detail our top 10 highlights of the Algarve, and provide links to further in-depth guides.
Our top 10 and best of the Algarve
The following section details why each of these is in our "top ten of the best of the Algarve".
Number 10 - "The Strip" in Albufeira
With themed bars, crazy nights and a hedonistic atmosphere, “The Strip” in Albufeira, is always a memorable experience. Its sheer variety of bars, drinks promotions and general insanity of the street can’t be beaten, and rivals any of the other party destinations in Europe.
In the summer season, there’s a banging atmosphere, which tends to verge on excess; if you want to drink and party then head to The Strip.
Our opinion: Does the Algarve really want to be tarnished as an excessive party destination, but after 5 Sagres beers, a few shots of Cachaça, a ride on the Bucking Bronco at Matt’s bar and a drunken dance at Club Vida…. Who cares!
Related articles: Albufeira introduction
9. A Cataplana meal
The Algarve’s regional dishes tend to be fish and shellfish based, and this is no surprise with a coastline of over 200km and numerous fishing harbours.
A culinary highlight is a Cataplana (a seafood stew), which is cooked and served in a clam-shaped copper cooking pot. This pot is actually the Cataplana, and there are slight variations with meat, shellfish, or fish varieties, but they all have the same characteristics, delicious and filling!
Number 8. The Ponta da Piedade
The Ponta da Piedade is a picturesque headland south of Lagos. These golden coloured cliffs of miss-sharpened cliffs and jagged rock formations, have been carved out by savage winter storms that batter this coastline. Within the Ponta da Piedade are sea arches, hidden grottos and precariously balanced sea pillars, all encircled by the turquoise sea waters.
The cliffs are scenic when viewed from the landside, but to appreciate the real beauty, charter a small boat, which is able to navigate around the cliff formations.
Our opinion: The sheltered bay in the Ponta da Piedade cliffs is often used for promotional material of the Algarve, and is actually more beautiful in real life!
Related articles: Lagos introduction – The Ponta da Piedade
7. Capela dos Ossos (Bone Chapel), Faro
The Bone Chapel (Capela dos Ossos) in Faro, is one of the strangest and most macabre sights of the Algarve. In this creepy chapel, the bones of over 1,100 monks line the walls and the skulls of the deceased are even used for decorative patterns. The chapel lies in the grounds of the Igreja do Carmo (GPS: 37.020365, -7.934833), an elegant Baroque church.
Our opinion: Do not miss the inscription above the doorway which reads (in Portuguese) “Stop here and consider, that you will arrive at this state too” – Now if that is not motivation for travel and wanderlust….
Related articles: Capela dos Ossos - Faro introduction
6. Anchor cemetery and the Praia do Barril beach
The Praia do Barril combines both a beautiful beach and insight into the heritage of the Algarve. The beach used to be the location of a tuna fishing community, which was abandoned in the 1960s due to overfishing. As a lasting memorial to this once thriving industry, the fleets anchors were placed in the sand dunes, creating the Cemitério das Âncoras (anchor cemetery).
Our opinion: The east of the Algarve offers pristine beaches and historic towns, but is surprisingly little visited by foreign tourists. We think Tavira is one of the finest holiday destinations in the Algarve, and highly recommend it.
Related articles: Tavira introduction – The Praia do Barril
5. Silves castle and town walls
The imposing redbrick castle of Silves stands high above the town, and from this castle, the Moors (9-12th century) ruled over the entire Algarve. Guarding the Moorish town were some of the most formidable walls ever to be constructed in Portugal, while trade followed down the Arade River to cross the Mediterranean to North Africa.
Remnants of this illustrious past are scattered throughout the town, and this includes the beautifully-persevered castle and Gothic cathedral, which was originally a mosque. Away from the historic sights, Silves is a charming town with a distinctive laid-back Portuguese ambience.
Our opinion: Silves is a delightful town, and is the best day trip from the coastal resort towns.
Related articles: Silves introduction
4 Cabo de São Vicente
The Cabo de São Vicente is the southwestern tip of mainland Europe, and is a wind-blasted headland of towering cliffs and raging Atlantic seas. This dramatic and rugged coastline is for those who appreciate nature’s raw beauty and immense power.
Further along the coast is the popular surfing town of Sagres, with its vast beaches and giant waves, ideal for experienced surfers. The town has a trendy surfing vibe, while the fort is unique being protected by massive cliffs on three sides.
Our opinion: The Cabo de São Vicente is remote, barren and it is difficult to believe you are in the crowded Algarve.
Related articles: Sagres guide
3. The Praia da Marinha beach
The Praia da Marinha is widely considered as the most beautiful beach in the Algarve, and we are in full agreement.
This is a picturesque beach with golden sandstone cliffs surrounding the soft sands, which are lapped by the cool turquoise sea waters. These waters are teeming with marine life and just perfect for snorkelling.
Along with the pristine beach and inspirational natural scenery, there is the unique double sea arch (as in an M shape). And yes, if you photograph it at the right angle you do get a heart shape, which is so popular in Instagram…..
Our opinion: Please come to the beach to appreciate the natural beauty, not just to get the Instagram sea heart……
2 - The Climate
With an average of over 3,000 hours of sun a year and one of the best climates in mainland Europe, the Algarve’s glorious weather had to be included in our top 10.
The summers are hot and magnificent, while the spring season is the ideal time to discover all of the sights listed within this guide. The autumn is for a golfing holiday or late sun trip, and the winter season is a time for adventure sports, hiking and surfing.
Note: The weather is suitable for spending time on the beach from May until October.
Even in the supposedly extremely hot summers, the Algarve is pleasant, with a summertime humidity of only 60% and refreshing evening winds along the coastline.
Our opinion: The Algarve should never be considered as a winter sun destination, but it will always have the best weather of mainland Europe. Also, April can be a surprisingly wet month.
The average weather conditions for the Algarve, look at those wonderful temperatures!
1 The Percurso dos Sete Vales Suspensos hiking trail and the Benagil Cave
You may wonder why a 6km hiking trail has been named as the best highlight of the Algarve. We suggest you walk it, and then you will understand why.
This challenging cliff top trail encompasses everything good about the Algarve. The path weaves through some of the most beautiful natural scenery in Portugal; there are hidden cove beaches, pristine landscapes and partway along the route is the much photographed Benagil Cave.
The route begins at the Praia da Marinha beach (number 3 in this list), and ends at the beautiful Praia do Vale de Centeanes. Personally, we recommend continuing further west past the gnarled Algar Seco headland and finishing at the delightful town of Carvoeiro.
Be warned that this path is demanding, you will feel like you are constantly scrambling up hills, and the intense summer sun is punishing.
Related articles: The Percurso dos Sete Vales hiking trail – Carvoeiro introduction
Part way along the route is Benagil Cave (Algar de Benagil), which is only accessible by boat. Boat tours (€15 30min) depart from Benagil beach and make a welcome break from the demanding Percurso dos Sete Vales Suspensos hiking trail.
Thank you for reading our guide, and we hope it has inspired you to plan your holiday to the Algarve, you won’t be disappointed!