The best independent guide to Praia da Rocha
The best independent guide to Praia da Rocha
Praia da Rocha provides not only stunning beaches and a vibrant holiday atmosphere, but also a wealth of fascinating day trips.
These day trips could involve discovering the rich seafaring history of Lagos, visiting the traditional market town of Loule, and experiencing the dramatic Carvoeiro coastline. A holiday to Praia da Rocha can be relaxing, but it can also be thrilling, cultural and packed with new experiences.
This article will detail the best day trips from Praia da Rocha, along with ideas for longer distance day trips, if you have access to a rental car.
The best day trips from Praia da Rocha, which are easily accessible by public transport are:
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 theme/waterparks are in yellow, and the best natural features of the Algarve are shown in green. Praia da Rocha is indicated by marker 5.
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
Theme/water parks (yellow) 1) Slide & Splash 2) Aqualand 3) Zoomarine 4) Aquashow Park
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)
The following section provides details of the best day trips from Praia da Rocha, with links to further in-depth guides.
Historically, Lagos 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 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
Silves was the capital of the Algarve during the Moorish era (9-12th century) and the huge redbrick castle is a testament to the town's former importance.
Leading down from the castle is a charming Portuguese town of cobbled streets, traditional tiled houses and open air-cafes. At the foot of the town are the cooling waters of the Rio Arade, and this is crossed by an ancient Roman bridge.
Silves is far removed from the hecticness of the Algarve coastline and is a wonderful destination for your day trip.
Related article: Silves introduction
The red brick Castelo de Silves is a highlight of a day trip to Silves
The view over Silves
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
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
Heading down to the Algar Seco cliffs
The main beach of Carvoeiro
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 following day-trip destinations are further from Praia da Rocha, and a car is needed to visit them.
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 untamed natural scenery of Sagres is very different from the tranquillity found in the rest of the Algarve, and is a wonderful day trip if you appreciate natures raw beauty or an outdoors person.
During your day trip, you will want to visit Sagres fort, 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
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...
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
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
When tourists imagine the quintessential Portuguese town they are thinking about Tavira.
This delightful town straddles the Gilão river, and boasts 36 churches, a castle, and cobbled streets lined with traditional tiled houses. Departing from Tavira’s harbour are ferries to the tranquil beaches found along the seaward side of the Ilha de Tavira.
Tavira lies in the much quieter eastern Algarve, and is a long drive from your accommodation, but if you want to discover authentic Portugal, you'll want to visit.
Related articles: Tavira guide
Tavira is bursting with character