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 perfect destination if you want a relaxing, beach-based holiday.
The town sits on the banks of the Ria de Alvor Estuary, while to the south of the town 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 whitewashed houses, narrow cobbled streets, and fishing boats are moored 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, the calm atmosphere of Alvor makes it a favourite with families, while outside of the peak season, it is popular with older visitors.
A holiday to Alvor is often focused around the beach, but there is a lot to see and do within the surrounding region. There are exciting waterparks, boat tours, golf courses, nature trails, dolphin watching trips, along with day trips to the fortified town of Silves, the historic city of Portimão, or the lively resort of Praia da Rocha.
Alvor also makes for a pleasant destination for a day trip. A common day trip visits the town, sees the harbour and wanders around the Ria de Alvor Nature Reserve (a detailed day trip guide is later in this article).
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.
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Praia de Alvor – The magnificent sandy beach that extends for 3.5km along the coastline of Alvor. This vast beach provides soft golden sands, clean sea waters and ample space for all of the summertime tourists.
The Passadiços de Alvor – The series of raised walkways that pass through the protected sand dunes of the Ria de Alvor Nature Reserve and along the Praia de Alvor beachfront.
The relaxed ambience of Alvor – The town has a calm and unhurried pace, where days are spent relaxing on the beach, eating delicious Portuguese food, and socialising in the late-night bars and cafes.
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 Portugal provides exceptional value for money.
Alvor was historically a fishing village, but it has responsibly grown into a popular tourist destination. Along the coastline are modern hotel complexes, while in the town are authentic Portuguese restaurants and lively bars. Alvor still retains its traditional Portuguese charm and character, and has not succumbed to mass tourism, as with many other beach towns.
Being a mid-size resort town, means Alvor has a decent selection of restaurants and shops, but it is still small enough to feel personable and welcoming. Being slightly smaller, Alvor does not attract focused party groups, and is much calmer in the summer than the larger resort towns (such as Albufeira, Praia da Rocha, Lagos and Vilamoura). This calmer atmosphere makes the town popular for families and older tourists.
The location of Alvor benefits from being close to the buzz of the central Algarve but is sufficiently distant not to feel overrun with hordes of package tourists. Activities within the Alvor region include boat tours, coastal hikes, golf courses, waterparks, surfing, and day trips to historic towns.
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
The bars and restaurants leading down to the waterfront of Alvor
Alvor is not a common destination for a day trip, but an enjoyable half-day can be spent within the town.
A typical trip would visit the town centre, the fishing harbour and the Ria de Alvor Estuary (by following the Estação da Biodiversidade de Alvor nature trail). The later part of the day could wander along the footpaths of the Ria de Alvor Nature Reserve and visit the Praia de Alvor beach.
Alvor does not have any historical monuments, it’s main draw is its Portuguese character and pretty setting.
Below is an interactive map for a suggested tour of Alvor (green line) and the sights of the region. The centre of Alvor, where most of the bars and restaurants are found, is highlighted in yellow. (Note: zoom out to see all of the markers)
Sights of day trip: 1) Igreja do divino Salvador church 2) Biodiversidade de Alvor footpath 3) Alvor harbour front 4) Passadiços de Alvor and the Ria de Alvor Nature Reserve 5) Praia de Alvor beach 6) Praia dos Três Irmãos beach
Sights around Alvor: 7) Slide & Splash (water park) 8) Alto Golf (golf course) 9) Aeródromo de Portimão (skydiving) 10) Ponta João de Arens headland
Day trips from Alvor: 11) Lagos (a historic city) 12) Silves (a fortified town) 13) Praia da Rocha (lively beach resort) 14) Ferragudo (pretty fishing village) 15) Portimão (a port city)
Sights of the day trip
The Igreja do Divino Salvador is a simple whitewashed church with a decorative Manueline entrance. The church dates from the 14th century but was completely rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake. The most notable feature is the 16th-century altar.
The Biodiversidade de Alvor is the footpath that weaves along the cliff tops of the Ria de Alvor up to the Torre dam and Torre Lake.
Note: This is a very rough footpath and follows the top of a cliff, so good shoes are needed.
Alvor has an extremely pretty harbour and waterfront. The northern side is lined with restaurants and cafés, while to the south are traditional fisherman’s huts.
The waterways of the Ria Alvor are sheltered from the powerful Atlantic Ocean waves by the sandbanks of the Praia de Alvor. There has been a fishing community based on these calm waters since the Moorish era (8th century) when Alvor was called as Al-bur.
At the far eastern side of the Praia de Alvor beach is the picturesque Praia dos Três Irmãos beach, which nestles at the base of golden sandstone cliffs.
These cliffs lead up to the João de Arens headland, one of the few untouched areas of the central Algarve coastline. Within this headland are forested walks and pristine cove beaches.
Alvor has an extensive history. It was originally established by the Romans, and grew to be an important trading town during the Moorish era. In 1189 the town was conquered by King Sancho I, who fortified the castle and improved town defences. In 1495, King John II (who is regarded as one of Portugal’s greatest kings) died in Alvor castle.
With all of this varied history, you would expect numerous historic monuments, but they were all destroyed by the 1755 earthquake. The only remnants from prior to the earthquake are the foundations of the castle, which has been converted into a children’s playground.
Alvor is expecting a sell-out summer season for 2023, as more visitors seek holidays to safe and established destinations within Europe.
In 2023, the Algarve is expecting to attract many new tourists, and this will be in addition to the large number of returning visitors, who know just how great the region is.
Due to this increased popularity, Alvor is expecting a sell-out 2023 summer season. We strongly advise you to book your flights and accommodation as soon as possible before prices increase and sell out.
The map below displays the best hotels and accommodation in Alvor; if you adjust the dates to your holiday, it will display current prices and availability.
Insight: Many of the large hotel complexes, line the Praia de Alvor beach or are close to the João de Arens headland. From these locations, it is only a short walk into the centre of Alvor. There is also a regular bus service connecting Alvor, Praia da Rocha and Portimão that passes the hotel areas. The Algarve has ride-hailing apps (such as Uber and Bolt), and these provide an inexpensive method to travel around the region.
Alvor has 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 beaches are packed, and hotels are sold out.
Outside of the peak season, Alvor becomes a calm and relaxed town, and the best season to visit is during the late spring or early autumn. The weather in southern Portugal is suitable for spending time on the beach from May through to the end of October.
Alvor closes down for winter at the end of October and reopens at Easter. During the closed season, the town will feel very quiet.
Related articles: When to visit Alvor?
Faro airport is the main international airport of the Algarve region, and this is located 70km to the east of Alvor.
For the transfer from the airport to Alvor, it is recommended to pre-book a transfer, as the journey by public transport is very 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 ranges between €70-80 while a shared transfer by coach will be around €20-30 per person. A taxi hired from Faro airport will be significantly more than a private transfer.
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Faro airport is modern and relatively easy to travel through
Alvor has an amazing sandy coastline that extends for over 3.5km from the mouth of the Ria de Alvor in the west to the João de Arens headland in the east.
This is a beautiful sandy beach with clean seawaters and large waves depending on the weather conditions. During the summer, the beach is supervised by lifeguards and is safe for children. On the beach, sunshades and parasols can be hired for €15 per day.
To the rear of the beach are numerous beach bars and restaurants (Restinga, Cinco Quinas and Dunas Restaurante).
The sea temperature at Alvor is always chilly, reaching a maximum of just 21C in the hot summer months.
The Praia de Alvor, early in the morning before the summertime crowds arrive
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