The best independent guide to the Algarve

The best independent guide to the Algarve

Vilamoura day trips; the best places to visit and towns to see in 2024

Vilamoura is a fantastic holiday destination, which is ideally positioned to explore the entire Algarve via day trips.

These day trips could include the rich history of Faro, the magnificent castle of Silves and the stunning Carvoeiro coastline, all only a short journey from Vilamoura.

This article will detail the best day trips from Vilamoura, which can be reached via public transport, along with ideas for longer distance day trips, if you have access to a rental car.

Insight: Vilamoura has excellent public transport so many of these day trips can be reached by bus

Related articles: Vilamoura sights & activities - Viamoura beach guide

The best day trips from Vilamoura

The best day trips from Vilamoura, which are easily accessible by public transport are:
1) Faro
2) Albufeira
3) Loule
4) Olhão

If you have a car and you are happy travelling a bit further we would suggest these day trips:
1) Silves
2) Lagos
3) Tavira
4) Far western Algarve (Sagres, Cabo de São Vicente, Burgau)
5) Ferragudo & Portimão

The map below details the location of the main day trips of the Algarve.
The towns are marked in blue, the best natural features of the Algarve are shown in green, and the theme/waterparks are in yellow. Vilamoura is indicated by marker 11.

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 Vilamoura, with links to further in-depth guides.

The day trips which are close to Vilamoura


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 day could be extended with a boat tour of the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa or with a visit to the Ilha Deserta (the Deserted Island).
Related articles: Faro introductionThe bone chapel

Faro Portugal

Faro's old quarter is delightful

Faro Parque Natural da Ria Formosa

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 beach

Albufeira’s main beach on a hot summer’s day

Loule; as a day trip from Vilamoura

Loule is a traditional Portuguese market town and a great destination to experience authentic Portugal.

The daily market is housed in a Moorish inspired building, and includes stalls selling fresh produce, handicrafts, and gifts. Behind the market is a warren of cobbled streets lined with traditional workshops and houses.

On Saturday mornings, Loule comes alive with an additional two markets; a farmer’s market hosted outside the covered market, and a bustling gypsy market on the edge of the town.
Related article: Loule guide

Loule Algarve

Loule is a pretty place to visit as a day trip


Olhão is a hard-working fishing town, and one of the only towns within the Algarve whose primary industry is not tourism.

Along the harbour front is a pretty park and the distinctive market building, while inland is the fisherman’s quarter with its cubic houses.
Olhão has an authentic Portugal atmosphere while the unkept appearance adds to the character of the town.
Related article: Olhão guide

Olhão Igreja Matriz church

The Igreja Matriz church at the centre of Olhão


Estoi is only a small village, but it contains the best-preserved Roman ruins in the Algarve and the Palácio de Estoi, a magnificent Baroque villa.

The pink Palácio de Estoi has been converted into a luxurious hotel, but it still retains the lavish interior and ornamental gardens, with beautiful azulejos tile paintings.

The Milreu Roman ruins date from the 2nd century and was a wealthy villa complex, which included a temple, mausoleum and bathhouse. Milreu contains many ocean-themed Roman mosaics, and are in a great state of preservation, as a farm was constructed on the site after the villa was abandoned.

Palácio de Estoi

The Palácio de Estoi

Day trips a bit further from Vilamoura

The following day-trip destinations are further from Vilamoura, and a car is needed to visit them.


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

Carvoeiro Portugal

The main beach of Carvoeiro

Carvoeiro Portugal

Heading down to the Algar Seco cliffs


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

Sagres harbour

The harbour of Sagres is on the sheltered side of the peninsula

Cabo de São Vicente

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

Huge waves, massive cliffs and strong winds at the Cabo de São Vicente

Silves; as a day trip from Vilamoura

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

Silves Portugal

The view over Silves

King Sancho I Silves

The statue of King Sancho I, who laid Silves to a 3-month siege in 1189


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


Lagos is a city where tourism, history and culture have seamlessly blended together. Lagos was historically an important port and trading town, and today baroque churches and ancient city defences sit next to lively bars and hotels.

Just south of Lagos is the Ponta da Piedade a headland comprising of sea-arches, stone pillars and hidden grottos, which is best explored by boat.
Related articles: Introduction to Lagos

Lagos Portugal

The historic centre of Lagos and the estuary leading to the modern marina

Ponta da Piedade lagos

The Ponta da Piedade headland is one of the finest natural features of the Algarve

Portimao and Praia da Rocha as a day trip from Vilamoura

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 Portugal

Praia da Rocha is famed for its massive beach

Rio Arada Portimão

Portimão sits on the Rio Arada


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.

Monchique hiking

There are many wonderful viewpoints and hiking routes near Monchique

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