The best independent guide to the Algarve
The best independent guide to the Algarve
Alvor is one of the finest resort towns of the Algarve, and is the ideal destination if you are seeking a relaxed, beach-based holiday destination.
The town lies on the banks of the Alvor Estuary, overlooking the protected marshlands of Ria de Alvor Nature Reserve, while to the south is the Praia do Alvor, one of the largest sandy beaches of the Algarve.
Alvor is a delightful town, with a distinctively Portuguese ambience; there are traditional white-washed houses, narrow cobbled streets and small fishing boats pulled up along the banks of the river. Alvor may be a relatively small town, but it contains a surprisingly large selection of restaurants, shops and late-night bars, all of which are found within the pretty historic centre.
During the summer, Alvor is a favourite with families, while in the low season, the town is popular with older visitors, who are drawn by the relaxed and peaceful ambience.
A holiday to Alvor is often focused around the beach, but there is a lot to see and do within the region. There is the fortified town of Silves, the historic city of Portimão, or the lively resort of Praia da Rocha, along with boat tours, dolphin watching trips and the waterparks!
There is a lot to love about Alvor, and this article will show you why you should visit, and help you get the most from the region.
The beautiful Praia de Alvor beach
Alvor effortlessly combines all of the aspects needed for an amazing beach-based holiday. There is a vast sandy beach, the weather is glorious, and southern Portugal provides exceptional value for money.
Alvor boasts an extensive selection of modern hotels, authentic restaurants and lively bars, while still retaining its traditional Portuguese charm.
The location of Alvor benefits from being close to the central Algarve, with its buzzing holiday atmosphere and varied activities, but is sufficiently remote not to feel overrun with hordes of package tourists. Possibly activities during your holiday could include; boat tours, coastal hikes, rounds of golf, the thrill of the waterparks, surfing, visiting historic towns or big nights out.
Alvor is calm and low-key, but the surrounding region certainly is not, and a holiday here can be peaceful or exciting as you wish to make it.
Related articles: Day trips from Alvor
Alvor is a likable resort town
Below is an interactive map of the tourist attractions, beaches and day trips of the Alvor region. The centre of Alvor, where most of the bars and restaurants are found, is highlighted in yellow and is marker 1. (Note: zoom out to see all of the markers)
Sights: 1) Alvor centre 2) Ria de Alvor Nature Reserve walkways 3) Slide & Splash (water park) 4) Alto Golf (golf course)
Beaches: 5) Praia de Alvor 6) Praia dos Três Irmãos 7) Praia do Vau 8) Praia da Rocha 9) Meia Praia
Day trips: 10) Portimão (a port city) 11) Lagos (a historic city) 12) Silves (a fortified town) 13) Praia da Rocha (lively beach resort) 14) Ferragudo (pretty fishing village)
Alvor is ideal if you are wanting a beach holiday to a medium size town. The town is large enough to have a decent selection of restaurants, bars and activities, but is without the chaos of the larger resorts (such as Albufeira, Praia da Rocha).
Alvor may not have many historic monuments, but the town boasts Portuguese charm and a pleasant, laid-back ambience. Generally, Alvor caters for the slightly mature visitor, and does not cater for rowdy drunks looking to party all night long. As Alvor is less hectic than many of the other resort towns in the central Algarve, it is a great destination if you are travelling as a family.
A similar alternative to Alvor, within the Algarve, is the town of Carvoeiro.
Alvor has remained as a traditional fishing village
Alvor and the Algarve have long hot summers, pleasant spring and autumn seasons, and mild but unpredictable winters. July and August are the height of the tourist season and is when the sun is at its most intense.
The weather in southern Portugal is suitable for spending time on the beach from mid-May through to the end of September.
The best time of year to visit Alvor is during the spring or early autumn months, the weather is pleasantly warm but the region is not crowded with tourists.
Alvor closes down for winter in October and reopens at Easter. During the closed season, the town will feel very quiet as there is not a large permanent population or large ex-pat community.
The sea temperature of Alvor is always cold, as the waters are fed by the Atlantic Ocean, not the warmer Mediterranean. Even in the hot summer months the sea water only reaches a chilly 20C, so if you are planning to spend a lot of time in the water (surfing), bring a wetsuit.
Related articles: When to visit Alvor?
Alvor is expecting a sell-out summer season for 2021, as more visitors seek holidays to safe and established destinations within Europe.
As Alvor is expecting a sell-out 2021, we strongly advise you to get your flights and accommodation as soon possible before they increase and sell out.
Use the map below to discover the best accommodation in Alvor, if you adjust the dates to your holiday it will display current prices and availability.
Alvor’s unique tourist attraction are the elevated walkways that cross the sand dunes and mud flats of the Ria de Alvor Nature Reserve. These pathways provide pleasant walks with scenic views over the estuary, which is a haven for bird life. The paths are wide enough to cycle along and have been extended eastwards along the beach.
The pathways cross the lagoons and waterways of the Ria de Alvor Nature Reserve
Alvor has a single vast beach that extends for over 3.5km, from the mouth of the Ria de Alvor in the west to the sandstone cliffs of Prainha in the east.
This is a sandy beach with clean and safe seawaters, and is within walking distance of the town centre. The beach has a pristine appearance , as there is very little tourist development directly on the beach front, apart from the odd beach bar, restaurant and raised footpaths.
The view over the massive beach of Alvor
Alvor was originally founded by the Romans as a sheltered fishing port. The town later grew to became an important Moorish fortified town (known as Albur), which was conquered by King Sancho I and the Christian crusades in 1189. During the 14th century Alvor was strengthened to defend against pirate raids, and in 1495 the beloved Portuguese King, John II died in Alvor.
With this extensive history you would expect numerous historic monuments, but the devasting 1755 earthquake complete obliterated the town. The only remains from prior to the earthquake are the foundations of the castle, which have been converted into a children’s playground. All of the churches were rebuilt following the Manueline and Rococo styles that were popular in the 18th century.
From Alvor it is very easy to visit the towns of Portimão and Praia da Rocha, as these two destinations are connected by the inexpensive local bus network.
Praia da Rocha is a busy and hectic resort town that is situated on a beautiful beach. This is the perfect place to head to for a big party night out, as the town is crammed full with themed bars and late night venues.
Portimão is a large residential city that offers a scenic harbour, good shopping, and a chance to experience typical Portuguese daily life. Portimão is a major transport hub and from here it is possible to catch further buses to the historic towns of Silves and Lagos.
Silves was the ancient capital of the Algarve and contains the Algarve’s best-preserved castle along with other monuments that reflect the once importance of the town.
Lagos is a much larger city and was the centre for Portugal’s glorious 14th century age of exploration. Lagos’ attractions including a fort, city walls, decorative churches and even a former slave market. Within walking distance of Lagos are the highly weather cliffs of the Ponta da Piedade, which are regarded as best natural feature of the Algarve.
Related articles: Portimão - Praia da Rocha - Lagos - Silves
The main international airport is Faro airport, and this is located 70km to the east of Alvor. Faro airport is a major international airport and has direct flights covering the whole of Europe. All of the major low-cost airlines fly into Faro, which can provide great value flights, if booked far enough in advance.
For the onward connection from Faro airport to Alvor, it is recommended to pre-book a transfer as the journey by public transport is difficult and time-consuming. The route from Faro airport to Alvor by public transport requires two buses and one long train journey and, depending on connections can take more than four hours.
Private transfer range from €70-80 while a shared transfer by coach will be around €20-30 per person. If you are in a large group, it is often more cost effective to hire a private transfer. A taxi hired from Faro airport will be significantly more than a private transfer.
Related articles: Faro airport to Alvor
Alvor is a great destination for young children and families. Having children also, we would recommend Alvor based on the following:
• The town has a calm atmosphere and is family focused.
• Children will be welcomed in all restaurants and the Portuguese are a very family focused nation
• The beaches are safe, with clean and calm sea waters, which are supervised in the summer.
• Supermarkets stock all common items, and pharmacies are widely available all minor ailments.
• English is widely spoken by all who work within the tourist industry, language will never be a problem.
• There is a wide selection of rental apartments and holiday homes, ideal for self-catering holidays.
A rental car is not needed for a holiday to the Algarve, but it does make exploring the region significantly easier. If you intend to solely have a beach holiday, with a couple of day trips to Portimão or Praia da Rocha then a rental car is not needed and will be more hassle than it’s worth due to the limited car parking in the centre of Alvor.
Note: Always be aware of the additional fees which are added on to a car hire rental (CDW €15 per day, toll transponder €10, additional driver €10 per day, young driver €20 per day, the list is endless….)
There is a wide selection of restaurants in Alvor, that cover all styles of cuisine and dining. Restaurants include Portuguese, English, Indian, Chinese, Italian and Spanish. Eating out is significantly cheaper than back at home and the evening meal is an important part of the Portuguese day, therefore meals tend not to be rushed.
Portugal is a comparatively inexpensive country; with food, accommodation and transport much cheaper than many of the other established holiday destinations, especially when compared to Greece, or the Balearic islands.
Everyone who works within the tourist industry speaks English fluently and English is the second language used in the Algarve (in the airport, on buses etc). All restaurants will have English menus.