The best independent guide to the Algarve
The best independent guide to the Algarve
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, and ideas for longer day trips if you have a rental car.
Insight: Vilamoura has excellent public transport so many of these day trips can be reached by bus
The best day trips from Vilamoura, 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:
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.
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
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
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 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
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.
The Palácio de Estoi
The following day-trip destinations are further from Vilamoura, and to visit them a car is need.
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
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 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 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.
Huge waves, massive cliffs and strong winds at the Cabo de São Vicente
Silves was the Moors (9-12th century) capital of the Algarve, and the huge redbrick castle is a testament to the once importance of the town.
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 view over 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
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
Portimão sits on the Rio Arada
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
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