The best independent guide to the Algarve

The best independent guide to the Algarve

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

If you’ve spent some time on Vilamoura’s beautiful beaches, explored the marina, and are now wondering what to do for the rest of your holiday, then this article is for you.

Vilamoura is a fantastic location for a beach or golfing holiday, but it can also be a wonderful base from which to discover the central Algarve. Found within this region are historic cities, traditional market towns and charming fishing villages, with its coastlines providing dramatic natural scenery.

Day trips are ideal for more adventurous travellers who prefer exploring new places and get restless with days spent lounging on the beach. These day trips can be an opportunity to see the authentic side of Portugal and discover the many wonderful sights here.

Taking an independent day trip may seem daunting if you are unfamiliar with Vilamoura, however there is good public transport and most of the popular destinations are only a short Uber or Bolt journey away.
This guide will detail the most popular day trips from Vilamoura, helping you to make the most of your holiday.
Related articles: Vilamoura sights & activities

The best day trips from Vilamoura

The best day trips from Vilamoura include:
Faro - The capital of the Algarve region, with its charming medieval quarter, bustling shopping streets and creepy bone chapel. (a day trip to Faro)
Loulé - A traditional market town that hosts two lively Saturday markets. This is a great place to experience the authentic daily life of Portugal. (Loulé guide)
Zoomarine - A fantastic marine-themed water park that's fun for the whole family.
Albufeira - The Algarve’s largest and liveliest resort town, boasting stunning beaches, a vibrant atmosphere and a charming old quarter. (Albufeira as a day trip)
Praia da Falésia - The magnificent red cliffs to the west of the beach, with a scenic cliff top walk from Vilamoura to Olhos de Água. (Praia da Falésia beach guide)
Benagil Cave (boat tour) - Explore the dramatic coastline of Carvoeiro with a boat tour.
Olhão - A hard-working and non-touristy fishing town situated on the saltwater lagoons of the Ria Formosa nature park.(Olhão guide)
Silves - A historic fortified town known for its impressive Moorish castle, offering an insight into the rich history of the Algarve. (Silves guide)
Sete Vales Suspensos - A stunning 4km clifftop hike along some of the most beautiful coastline in Portugal. (Sete Vales hike guide)

Faro Portugal

Charming and historic Faro makes for a fantastic day trip from Vilamoura


Albufeira parties all day and all night during the summer!

Benagil Cave boat trip

Benagil Cave and the coastline near Carvoeiro is best explored by a boat trip

The interactive map below marks the best sights of the Algarve for day trips from Vilamoura. The best towns to visit are marked in blue, the finest natural features of the Algarve are shown in green, and the theme/waterparks are in yellow. Vilamoura is indicated by marker 11. (Note: zoom in or out to see all of the points.)

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 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 following section provides details of the best day trips from Vilamoura, with links to further in-depth guides. The first section lists the best day trips that can be easily reached by public transport, while the second section features the most popular day trips in the Algarve, but will require a car to visit due to their distance.

Day trip destinations that are easily reached from Vilamoura

The following day trips can be easily reached from Vilamoura by the use of public transport. The regional bus company of the Algarve is Vamus ( and the train company is Comboios de Portugal (CP -

Faro - places to see from Vilamoura

Although often overlooked, Faro has a surprising amount to offer for a day trip.
The compact historic centre is encircled by medieval walls and contains a Gothic cathedral, a 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.

A unique attraction of Faro is the Capela dos Ossos (Bone Chapel), which has the bones of over 1250 skeletons lining its walls.

Faro lies on the edge of the saltmarshes and lagoons of the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve, and these mudflats are a haven for seabirds and small marine life. To explore the Ria Formosa, there are boat tours that depart from the harbour.
Related articles: Faro introduction

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

Faro Portugal

Faro has a pretty historic centre

Capela dos Ossos Faro

The creepy bone chapel

Albufeira as a day trip from Vilamoura

Albufeira is the largest and liveliest resort town of the Algarve, making it an enjoyable destination for a day trip.

It has a reputation for drinking, parties, and over-the-top holidays, but it actually also has a charming old quarter, a colourful marina complex and pretty cliff-top walks.

The Old Town of Albufeira is centred around the original fishing village and comprises of whitewashed houses (now restaurants, bars and hotels) and cobbled streets that lead down to a magnificent beach.

If you do want to experience Albufeira’s party side, then head to ‘The Strip’, a street of themed bars offering all-day drink promotions, wild nightlife and comfort-food restaurants to help you recover from the night before.

Albufeira makes for a surprisingly good day trip, and a full guide of what to see and do in a day can be read here.

The pretty old town of Albufeira

The pretty old town of Albufeira

Albufeira  marina

The marina complex is where all of the boat tours depart from

The strip Albufeira

And of course, there are Albufeira’s nighttime shenanigans along the strip

Loule; as a day trip from Vilamoura

Loulé is a traditional market town and the ideal destination if you want to experience the real Portugal.

The highlight of Loulé is the daily market, which is housed in a building inspired by Moorish architecture. Within the market are a variety of stalls selling fresh produce, handicrafts and gifts.

Loulé has a pretty town centre, while to the south is a warren of cobbled streets lined with traditional workshops and whitewashed houses.

The best time to visit Loule is on a Saturday morning, when it comes alive with an additional two markets. There is a fresh produce farmer’s market hosted outside the covered market, and a bustling gypsy market on the edge of the town.
Related article: Loule guide

Loule market

The covered market in Loulé

Loule Algarve

Loule is a pretty place to visit as a day trip


Zoomarine is one of the Algarve's top attractions, perfect for a fun-filled family day trip. This marine-themed water-park combines the best aspects of a zoo and water-park to offer entertainment, education, and adventure for all ages.

The main attractions include impressive dolphin and sea lion shows, bird of prey demonstrations, and tropical bird performances. For thrill-seekers, the park features water slides, flumes and a wave pool along with a relaxing beach area. Zoomarine also offers the Dolphin Emotions Experience, allowing visitors to interact closely with dolphins.
Simply a fun day out for everyone.


The beach area and flumes of Zoomarine


Overlooking the saltwater lagoons and waterways of the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa is Olhão.

This industrious fishing town is one of the few coastal towns in the Algarve where tourism is not the primary industry. This focus on fishing rather than attracting holidaymakers gives Olhão a unique atmosphere, which is complemented by many outstanding and inexpensive seafood restaurants.

For a day trip, you could visit the pretty harbour front and distinctive market building, while inland lies the fisherman’s quarter with its cubic-shaped houses.

As part of your visit, you could also catch the ferry and head to the beaches on the Ilha da Armona, or visit the fishing village on the Ilha da Culatra.
Related article: Olhão guide

Olhão market building

The red brick market building of Olhão

fishing quarter of Olhão

The fishing quarter of Olhão is where the excellent seafood restaurants are located

waterfront of Olhão

The waterfront of Olhão, overlooking the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa


Estoi is only a small village, yet it contains two of the Algarve’s most important historical sights:; the Palácio de Estoi and the Milreu Roman ruins.

Palácio de Estoi is a magnificent villa, and the finest Baroque-styled building in the Algarve. The palace has been converted into a luxurious hotel, retaining its lavish interior and ornamental gardens that are adorned with beautiful azulejos tile paintings.

The Milreu Roman ruins date from the 2nd century and were once a luxurious villa complex that included a temple, mausoleum and bathhouse. The site is renowned for its well-preserved, ocean-themed Roman mosaics. The ruins have remained in an excellent state of preservation due a farmhouse being constructed on the site after the villa was abandoned.

Palácio de Estoi

The colourful Palácio de Estoi

Milreu Roman fish mosaics

The marine mosaics of the Milreu Roman villa are over 2,000 years old.

The Percurso dos Sete Vales Suspensos

The Percurso dos Sete Vales Suspensos (Trail of the Seven Hanging Valleys) is one of the Algarve’s most stunning coastal hikes. This 5.7km trail offers breathtaking views of dramatic cliffs, secluded beaches and turquoise waters.

Starting at Praia da Marinha and ending at Praia de Vale Centeanes, the hike takes you through a range of diverse landscapes including limestone cliffs, natural arches and lush vegetation. Highlights include the iconic Benagil Cave and the picturesque Praia da Marinha. This moderately challenging trail is well-marked and suitable for most people.
Related article: The Percurso dos Sete Vales Suspensos

Sete Vales Suspensos hiking trail

The Percurso dos Sete Vales Suspensos passes many interesting cliff features

Day trips a bit further out from Vilamoura

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

Silves; as a day trip from Vilamoura

Silves is one of the best destinations in the Algarve to visit for a day trip.
This delightful town was the capital of the Algarve region during the Moorish era (9th to 12th century), serving as a major stronghold and important trading town.

Remnants of this glorious past are found throughout the town, including the imposing red brick castle, the massive town walls, and the Gothic church built on the site of a former mosque.

Along with these historic buildings, Silves has an authentic Portuguese atmosphere, with bustling cafes, charming cobbled streets and a lively daily market. If you're looking for a day trip that combines a genuine taste of Portugal with fascinating sights to explore, you should visit Silves.
Related article: Silves introduction

Silves Portugal

The view over Silves

Sancho I Silves

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


Carvoeiro is a popular holiday destination that sits on one of the most stunning sections of the Algarve coast.

Here, the coastline is formed of golden-coloured cliffs, with small sandy beaches hidden in sheltered coves. Within the limestone cliffs, unique coastal features have been carved out, including sea caves, rock pillars and intricately-eroded cliff faces.

Carvoeiro is also a pretty village, with whitewashed houses hugging the cliffs and leading down to the largest beach of the region.

For your day trip, you could take a clifftop walk eastward to the Algar Seco rock formation, seeing the Boneca cave and the stunning Vale de Centeanes beach. An alternative is to join a short boat trip to the stunning Benagil Cave.
Related article: Carvoeiro guide

Carvoeiro cliffs and coastline

The stunning coastline to the east of Carvoeiro

Carvoeiro Portugal

Carvoeiro is a very pretty place to visit for a day trip

Boneca cave Carvoeiro

The view from the ‘Boneca’ or ‘Doll’ Cave, which is named as such due to the cliff face resembling a doll with two eyes.

Sagres and Cabo de São Vicente (car day trip)

Sagres is the most westerly town of the Algarve and is situated in a region of massive cliffs, vast beaches and raging seas. These powerful seas attract experienced surfers, and the town has developed into a hub for surfing, with numerous surf schools, beach hangouts and laid-back bars. The town may have a ramshackle appearance, but spend any time here and the unassuming, trendy vibe will become apparent.

For a day trip, Sagres offers a working fishing harbour, three stunning beaches, numerous hiking trails and a unique fort. The Fortaleza de Sagres covers the entire southern headland, with only the northern side conventionally defended by a wall, while the three remaining sides are protected by sheer cliffs. Inside, the fort can be best described as sparse, but as with everything in Sagres, the dramatic scenery is the main attraction.

A trip to Sagres is always combined with a visit to the Cabo de Sao Vicente, the southwestern tip of mainland Europe. Up until the 14th century, the headland was believed to be the end of the known world and the bleak landscape only enhances this once-held belief. The main attraction of the Cabo de Sao Vicente is the distinctive lighthouse that has the second most powerful beam in Europe, with its light being visible for 50km.
Related articles: Sagres guide

Fortaleza de Sagres

The Fortaleza de Sagres with the Cabo de Sao Vicente headland in the distance

Sagres fishing harbour

The fishing harbour of Sagres lies on the sheltered side of the peninsula.

Cabo de São Vicente

The powerful lighthouse perched atop the cliffs of Cabo de São Vicente


When tourists imagine the quintessential Portuguese town, they will be thinking about somewhere like 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 retains its authentic Portuguese atmosphere.

As well as being the finest town in the Algarve, Tavira is also close to pristine beaches. These lie along the seaward side of the Ilha de Tavira and are reached by a ferry.
Tavira is a long journey from the main tourist areas of the Algarve, but it is truly worth the effort. If you have a car, Tavira should be one of the first destinations you visit.
Related articles: Tavira guide

tavira as a day trip

Tavira has a pretty historic centre that includes a mix of Moorish-era buildings.

tavira place to visit

Tavira has a relaxed and slow pace, which is very different from the hectic central Algarve


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

Portimão and Praia da Rocha make for a fantastic day trip, as they combine two very different aspects of modern Algarve. Praia da Rocha is an attention-grabbing beach town that knows how to party and guarantees a fun time, whereas Portimão is more authentically Portuguese, with hidden highlights that are well worth seeking out.

Portimão has a pretty waterfront that has been transformed from the warehouses and fish processing factories that once lined its docks. Within the town are grand plazas and bustling shopping streets, but the true hidden gems of Portimão are its fresh fish restaurants near the Ponte Velha de Portimão bridge.

Praia da Rocha is an energetic beach resort that combines a stylish marina and trendy beach clubs with the holiday fun of themed bars and lively nightlife. The beach at Praia da Rocha is one of the Algarve’s finest, and the many bars and restaurants make it an entertaining place to end a day of sightseeing.
Related articles: Guide to Portimão

Praia da Rocha Portugal

Praia da Rocha is famed for its massive beach

The Convento do Colégio dos Jesuitas in Portimão

The pretty waterfront of Portimão, blending modern charm with its rich maritime heritage.

The Convento do Colégio dos Jesuitas in Portimão

The Convento do Colégio dos Jesuitas in Portimão

Monchique and the Algarve Hills (Car needed)

The highest point in the Algarve is Mount Fóia (902m), located within the picturesque Serra de Monchique mountain range. If you have a car, exploring this region can make for an enjoyable day trip.

The recommended route follows the N266 into the hills, with your first stop at the charming village of Caldas de Monchique. This village is famed for its hot springs (31°C), which are reputed to have healing properties due to the rich mineral content and a pH of 7.6. In Caldas de Monchique, spa hotels have been constructed over the springs, but there is a natural spring at Fonte dos Amores in the shaded forests, just as the N266 winds around the valley. This picturesque spot is also perfect for a picnic.

Next is the pretty town of Monchique, with the 16th-century Igreja Matriz church, the ruins of the Convento de Nossa Senhora do Desterro monastery and many wonderful viewpoints, such as the Miradouro de São Sebastião.

From Monchique, it is only a short drive to the summit of Fóia, with its spectacular view southwards over the Algarve and out to the Atlantic Ocean.

For the final part of the day, you could drive westwards along the scenic N267 as it twists through the rolling hills down to the village of Aljezur. Here you can visit the Castelo de Aljezur or take a short drive to the stunning Praia da Amoreira beach.

The magnificent panoramic views from the top of Mount Fóia

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