The best independent guide to the Algarve
The best independent guide to the Algarve
Alvor is a fantastic holiday destination, which is ideally positioned to explore the entire Algarve via day trips.
These day trips could include rich seafaring history of Lagos, the magnificent castle of Silves and the stunning Carvoeiro coastline, all only a short journey from Alvor.
The majority of tourists to Alvor come here to relax on the beach, but if you want to, there is an abundance of places to visit as day trips.
Insight: Alvor has very limited public transport, so to get the most from the region a rental car is needed
The best day trips which are close to Alvor are:
3) Portimao and Praia da Rocha
If you have a car and you are happy travelling a bit further we would suggest these day trips:
1) Far western Algarve (Sagres, Cabo de São Vicente, Burgau)
5) Vilamoura & Quarteira
The map below details the location of the main day trips of the Algarve.
Towns for day trips are marked in blue, the best natural features of the Algarve are shown in green, and the theme/waterparks are in yellow. Alvor is indicated by marker 4.
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 Alvor, 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 Alvor, Silves should be it.
Related article: Silves introduction
The view over Silves
The statue of King Sancho I, who laid Silves to a 3-month siege in 1189
Lagos was historically was a centre for seafaring and exploration.
Today tourism, history and culture are seamlessly blended together within the city. Lagos 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 is the Ponta da Piedade, one of the most beautiful coastlines of 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
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
Ferragudo is one of last remaining unspoilt fishing villages of the central Algarve, and is a delightful place to visit. Within the village is a traditional fisherman's quarter, a charming harbour front and an abundance of Portuguese character.
Ferragudo lies on the sheltered waters of the Arada estuary, and to the south of the village are the golden sands of the Praia Grande beach and the picturesque Praia dos Caneiros.
Ferragudo is small and only takes a couple of hours to fully see, but during the summer, a ferry connects Ferragudo to Portimão, and they can both be visited as a day trip.
Related articles: Day trip to Ferragudo
Ferragudo maybe small but it is delightful
High in the Algarve hills the peaceful town of Monchique.
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.
Slightly further downhill is Caldas de Monchique, a spa town with natural spring waters at 30C and offers supposedly healing properties.
There are many wonderful viewpoints and hiking routes near Monchique
The following day-trip destinations are further from Alvor, and to visit them a car is need.
Albufeira is the largest resort town of the Algarve and is a fun place to visit.
The town has two distinct areas; the Old Town and the Strip. The Old Town is centred around the original fishing village and comprises of whitewashed houses (now restaurants bars and hotels) and cobbled streets that led down to a magnificent beach.
The Strip is the party area of Algarve, offering all-day drinking promotions, wild nights and a place recover during the day. If you want a crazy night out Albufeira' Strip is the place to head to.
Related article: Albufeira introduction
Albufeira’s main beach on a hot summer’s day
The Cabo de São Vicente is the south-western tip of mainland Europe, and up until the 14th century was thought to be the end of the known world. 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 – buchstäblich das Ende Europas...
Sagres is at the far western side of the Algarve, and is a wild and rugged region of 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 underling 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
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
For most tourists Faro is regarded as a transit destination, either flying into the city's airport or catching a connecting train, but there is a surprising amount to see within the city.
There is a delightful old quarter dating from the Moorish era, charming pedestrianised shopping streets and a pretty fishing harbour. An enjoyable half-day can be spent exploring the old quarter of Faro, with its gothic cathedral, castle ruins and city walls.
The old quarter of Faro
The mudflats and water ways of the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa as seen from the top of Faro Cathedral
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 to the stunning 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
The main beach of Carvoeiro
Heading down to the Algar Seco cliffs
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
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