The best independent guide to the Algarve
The best independent guide to the Algarve
Vilamoura is a stylish and enjoyable holiday destination, which lies in the heart of the beautiful Algarve. This region boasts an incredible diversity of sights and activities, ranging from cultural day trips through to thrilling water parks.
No matter the style of holiday you are after, you will find something to love about Vilamoura. This guide will provide a suggested itinerary for a one-week holiday and includes the major sights and attractions of the region.
Related articles: Vilamoura sights & activities - Day trips from Vilamoura
The following tour is the suggested itinerary we recommend to friends and family when they visit Vilamoura for the first time:
• Day 1 – Relaxing day on the beach and discovering the marina complex
• Day 2 – Day trip to Faro
• Day 3 – Day trip to Quarteira or an exciting waterpark
• Day 4 – Excursion to Zoomarine or a round of golf
• Day 5 – Day trip to Loulé
• Day 6 – Boat tour, dolphin watching or deep-sea fishing trip
• Day 7 – Day trip to Albufeira
For the above itinerary, there is no need for a rental car, as there is regular and inexpensive public transport throughout the Algarve.
The remainder of this article will explain in depth each of the days, along with links to further information.
Vilamoura is located on a beautiful coastline of soft sandy beaches and crystal-clear seawaters. For the first day, it is suggested to have a relaxing day on the beach and explore the marina complex. The Praia de Vilamoura is a beautiful beach, which is located close to many of the major hotels of Vilamoura. This is the destination if you enjoy a buzz about your beach; there are banana boat rides, ringos, para-sailing, and the uber-chic lounge bar of Purobeach.
On the opposite side of the marina is the Praia da Falésia, one of the finest beaches of the Algarve. This beach is famed for it’s dramatic red sandstone cliffs, and these rise up from the rolling sand dunes about 1km west from Vilamoura. The sheer size of Praia da Falésia (over 5km) means it is very easy to escape the summertime crowds, by strolling along the beach.
For the evening, we recommend heading to the marina complex, with its extensive selection of fine dining establishments and stylish lounge bars or themed bars.
Related articles: Vilamoura beach guide – Purobeach official website
Faro is a delightful and historic city, which makes for an enjoyable day trip from Vilamoura. Faro has a delightful old quarter, encircled by ancient city walls, and contains a gothic cathedral, traditional cobbled streets and an abundance of Portuguese charm. A truly unique sight of Faro is the Bone Chapel, (Carmo church, GPS: 37.020354, -7.934788). In this chapel, the bones of deceased monks line the walls and even uses skulls as part for decorative patterns.
Faro is the gateway to the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa, a series of saltwater lagoons and mud flats that are a haven for bird and marine life. Departing from Faro harbour are boat tours of the Ria Formosa, or taxi boat to the sandbar islands, which lie the edge of the nature park. There is a direct bus from Vilamoura to Faro.
There is a lot to see and do in Faro, and it is the best day trip from Vilamoura.
Related articles: Faro introduction
Quarteira is just to the east of Vilamoura and is famed for its fresh seafood and beautiful beach. Vilamoura is separated from Quarteira by a large fishing harbour, and from here freshly caught fish is served up in one of the many excellent seafood restaurants. Quarteira has a distinctly Portuguese atmosphere, and there is a scenic promenade extending along the length of the beach.
As an alternative activity, is to visit one of the Algarve’s famed water parks. There are three major water parks; Aqualand, Aquashow and Slide and Splash, each filled with massive flumes, near vertical slides and other adrenaline-inducing rides. The closest water park to Vilamoura is Aquashow (GPS: 37.095096, -8.072512), which is just to the north of Quarteira, further information can be found on their website:https://aquashowpark.com/
Related articles: Quarteira introduction
Zoomarine is the Algarve’s premier theme park, which is part marine life centre and part water park. Zoomarine has a lot of offer including dolphin shows, an artificial beach, exotic bird displays and flume park. The animals are well cared for and housed in modern facilities, and the entire park is professionally operated. Further information can be found on their website:
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 articles: Loulé introduction
The coastline to the west of Vilamoura is formed of dramatic natural scenery. There are steep sandstone cliffs, vast sandy beaches and unique weathered rock formations, including the much-photographed Benagil Cave.
The Algarve sea waters are also the migratory route for dolphins heading from the warm Mediterranean to the food-rich Atlantic Ocean. There are daily sightings of dolphins in their natural environment, and fortunately, they are also not too far from the shoreline.
Note: The Portuguese respect and admire their wild dolphins, they keep boats a safe distance from the animals and will never cause distress to them to please tourists.
For keen fishers, there are fishing trips which head out for bass, mackerel and grouper, or deep sea fishing trips for Swordfish, Tuna or Dorado. If you're after exhilaration take a ride on the jet boat tours or if you prefer luxury charter a stylish yacht for the day.
There is a huge variety of boating activities departing from Vilamoura marina, and the standard of all of them is very high. We have worked with GetYourGuide.com for the previous 6 years, and a selection of their better tours includes:
Albufeira is the Algarve’s largest and liveliest resort town, and is a fun destination to visit as a day trip. There is a pretty old quarter, which manages to respectively integrate the numerous restaurants and bars within the historic centre. At the base of the old town is a wonderful beach, which is always a hive of activity in the summer season.
To the east of Albufeira is the new town centred around "The Strip", a chaotic street of themed bars and late-night clubs, which actively encourages excessive drink and general craziness. If you are after a party focused holiday (or stag/hen do) then The Strip is the place for you.
Albufeira’s buzzing and hectic summertime atmosphere is very different to the more sophisticated vibe in Vilamoura. There is a direct bus from Vilamoura to Albufeira.
Related articles: Albufeira guide
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