The best independent guide to the Algarve
The best independent guide to the Algarve
Albufeira not only offers beautiful beaches and a fantastic holiday atmosphere, but also many fascinating day trips.
There is the rich history of Faro, the traditional market town of Loule and the dramatic Carvoeiro coastline, all only a short journey from Albufeira.
A holiday to Albufeira can be relaxing, but it can also be thrilling, cultural and packed with new experiences. This article will detail the best day trips from Albufeira, along with ideas for longer distance day trips, if you have access to a rental car.
Insight: Albufeira has excellent public transport so many of these day trips can be reached by bus
Related articles: Albufeira introduction – Albufeira's beaches - Activities and sights
The best day trips from Albufeira, which are easily accessible by public transport are:
1) Silves 2) Faro 3) Loule 4) Vilamoura & Quarteira 4) Olhão
If you have a car and you are happy travelling a bit further we would suggest these day trips:
1) Lagos 2) Far western Algarve (Sagres, Cabo de São Vicente, Burgau) 3) Tavira 4) Monchique
The map below shows the best day trips of the Algarve.
The towns are marked in blue, the best natural features of the Algarve are shown in green, and the theme/waterparks are in yellow. Albufeira is indicated by marker 10.
Towns for day trips (blue) 1) Sagres 2) Burgau 3) Lagos 4) Alvor 5) Praia da Rocha 6) Portimão 7) Ferragudo 8) Monchique 9) Carvoeiro 10) Albufeira 11) Vilamoura 12) Quarteira 13) Loule 14) Faro 15) Estoi 16) Olhão 17) Tavira 18) Castro Marim 19) Vila Real de Santo António
Natural sights (green) 1) Cabo de São Vicente 2) Ponta da Piedade 3) Benagil Caves 4) Praia da Marinha 5) Praia da Falésia 6) Ilha Deserta 7) Parque Natural da Ria Formosa 8) Cemitério das Âncoras (anchor cemetery)
Theme/water parks (yellow) 1) Slide & Splash 2) Aqualand 3) Zoomarine 4) Aquashow Park
The following section provides details of the best day trips from Albufeira, with links to further in-depth guides.
During the Moorish era (9-12th century) Silves was an important trading town and defensive stronghold, which ruled over much of southern Portugal.
The town is dominated by a massive red brick castle, and is one of the best-preserved Moorish buildings in the Algarve. Below the castle are cobbled streets, an ancient cathedral, impregnable town walls the and the slow-flowing Rio Arade.
Being slightly inland Silves has barely been altered with tourism, and still retains its distinctly Portuguese atmosphere.
If you are going to take one day trip from Albufeira, Silves should be it.
Related article: Silves introduction
The view over Silves
The red brick Castelo de Silves is a highlight of a day trip to Silves
Loulé is a bustling Portuguese market town and great location to first-hand experience typical Portuguese daily life.
At the centre of the town is a covered market (closed Sunday) with stalls selling local produce, handicrafts and fresh fish.
Surrounding the market are pretty cobbled backstreets, traditional houses and pleasant plazas. Loulé is an unhurried town with a distinctive Portuguese ambience and is a joy to explore.
On Saturdays, there is a large gypsy market held on the western side of the town and a large farmers market in the streets surrounded the covered market.
Related article: Loule guide
Loule is a pretty place to visit as a day trip
Although one of the most overlooked destinations in the Algarve, Faro has a surprising amount to offer as a day trip.
The compact historic centre is encircled by ancient city walls and contains a gothic cathedral, baroque city hall and the ruins of a citadel. The modern city centre lies outside the city walls, and is filled with pleasant pedestrianised shopping streets and pretty plazas.
The Igreja do Carmo church is one of the most visited sights of Faro, due to the macabre Capela dos Ossos - bone chapel.
Faro is on the edge of the salt-marshes and lagoons of the Ria Formosa nature reserve, and these mudflats are a haven for seabirds and small marine life. To best explore the Ria Formosa join one of the boat tours which depart from the harbour.
Related articles: Faro introduction – The bone chapel
Faro's old quarter is delightful
The mudflats and water ways of the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa as seen from the top of Faro Cathedral
Olhão is a hard-working fishing town, and one of the only towns within the Algarve whose primary industry is not tourism.
Along the harbour front is a pretty park and the distinctive market building, while inland is the fisherman’s quarter with its cubic houses.
Olhão has an authentic Portugal atmosphere while the unkept appearance adds to the character of the town.
Related article: Olhão guide
The Igreja Matriz church at the centre of Olhão
Quarteira and Vilamoura are fascinating as they reflect the two extremes of the Algarve.
Vilamoura is unlike any other location in the Algarve as it was purpose-built during the 1980s as a centre for golfing and luxury yachting. Today Vilamoura retains the air of exclusivity and refinement, and is the most sophisticated resort town of the Algarve.
In Vilamoura, million-dollar yachts moor, minor-celebrities play golf and fining dining restaurants surround the marina.
Quarteira is more residential, with a busy fishing harbour and is a popular holiday destination with Portuguese tourists. Quarteira is without the finesse of Vilamoura but is famed for its inexpensive seafood where a delicious meal will cost the same as a single cocktail in Vilamoura.
Vilamoura and Quarteira are only a short walk from each other, and can be easily combined in a day trip.
The marina complex of Vilamoura
Carvoeiro is a popular family holiday destination, which sits on one of the most stunning sections of the Algarve coastline. Here the coastline is formed of golden coloured cliffs, with small sandy coves nestling at the base.
For your day trip take a clifftop walk eastward to the Algar Seco rock formation, the stunning Vale de Centeanes beach and then on to the spectacular Benagil Cave.
If you don't fancy a cliffside walk, there are always boat tours to Benagil Caves departing Carvoeiro beach.
Related article: Carvoeiro introduction
Heading down to the Algar Seco cliffs
The main beach of Carvoeiro
Estoi is only a small village, but it contains the best-preserved Roman ruins in the Algarve and the Palácio de Estoi, a magnificent Baroque villa.
The pink Palácio de Estoi has been converted into a luxurious hotel, but it still retains the lavish interior and ornamental gardens, with beautiful azulejos tile paintings.
The Milreu Roman ruins date from the 2nd century and was a wealthy villa complex, which included a temple, mausoleum and bathhouse. Milreu contains many ocean-themed Roman mosaics, and are in a great state of preservation, as a farm was constructed on the site after the villa was abandoned.
The Palácio de Estoi
The following day-trip destinations are further from Albufeira, and a car is needed to visit them.
Historically, Lagos was a centre for seafaring and exploration.
The city contains a diverse selection of tourist attractions, including the ornate Igreja de Santo António, the Bandeira fort and the Mercado Municipal.
The charming historic centre is full of cafes, shops and restaurants, while at the end of the estuary is a modern marina complex.
South of Lagos lies the Ponta da Piedade, one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the Algarve. This dramatic headland formed of golden sandstone rocks has been carved into unique features by winter storms.
Related articles: Introduction to Lagos
The historic centre of Lagos and the estuary leading to the modern marina
The Ponta da Piedade headland is one of the finest natural features of the Algarve
The peaceful town of Monchique is situated high up in the hills of northern Algarve.
This is a location to escape the hustle and bustle of the coastal towns, and the mountainous region is ideal for hiking, cycling or simply admiring the scenery. A popular hike is to Mount Fóia (902m) the highest point of the Algarve.
A short distance downhill lies Caldas de Monchique, a spa town renowned for its natural spring waters, heated to 30C and reputed for their healing properties.
There are many wonderful viewpoints and hiking routes near Monchique
The Cabo de São Vicente is the southwestern most tip of mainland Europe, and was considered the end of the known world up until the 14th century. This is a barren and dramatic landscape, with ferocious Atlantic waves battering the giant cliffs and the ceaseless winds prevent any meaningful vegetation from growing.
A visit to the Cabo de São Vicente will not be long, but you will want to visit.
Cabo de São Vicente – literally the end of Europe...
Sagres is located on the far western side of the Algarve. This remote fishing town lies in a wild and rugged region that boasts towering cliffs, vast beaches, and powerful seas.
These huge waves make Sagres a favourite for surfing, while the ramshackle appearance of the town conceals an underlying trendy vibe.
The wind blasted landscapes, and untamed natural scenery surrounding Sagres is very different from the tranquillity found in the rest of the Algarve. This is a fantastic day trip destination if you are an outdoors person or appreciate natures raw beauty.
Your day trip should include Sagres fort, which is protected on three sides by 30m high cliffs, and a visit to the Cabo de São Vicente headland.
Related articles: Sagres guide
The harbour of Sagres is on the sheltered side of the peninsula
When tourists imagine the quintessential Portuguese town they are thinking about Tavira.
This delightful town straddles the Gilão river, and boasts over thirty churches, a castle, and cobbled streets lined with traditional tiled houses. There is no prettier town in the Algarve than Tavira, and being located in the much quieter eastern Algarve, it still retains its authentic Portuguese atmosphere.
Along with being the finest town in the Algarve, Tavira is also close to pristine beaches, which situated along the seaward side of the Ilha de Tavira.
For a day trip, Tavira is a long journey from your accommodation, but it is worth the effort.
Related articles: Tavira guide
Tavira is bursting with character
Praia da Rocha is a lively and vibrant resort town situated on one of the finest beaches of the Algarve. This is a modern resort town which buzzes in the summer and offers everything an enjoyment seeking tourist could want. There are sophisticated lounge bars, a stylish casino and riotous themed bars.
Portimão is a large residential city that sits inland from Praia da Rocha. Portimão has a surprisingly calm atmosphere and a scenic waterfront, which was converted from the former sardine fishing docks. This fishing heritage continues in the city's delicious and inexpensive seafood restaurants located near the Ponte Velha bridge.
It is only a short walk from Portimão to Praia da Rocha, and they can be both easily combined in a day trip.
Praia da Rocha is famed for its massive beach
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