An Algarve travel guide – sandy bays, championship golf courses and waterfront restaurants

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It’s no surprise that Algarve holidays are a popular choice with their warm climate and long coastline. Between sunbathing and rounds of golf, Moorish castles, mountain spa retreats and fresh seafood dinners are within easy reach of Algarve hotels.

Get your bearings

Portugal’s southernmost region, the Algarve has a long coastline stretching west from Vila Real de Santo Antonio to Sagres, and north to Praia de Odeceixe. A vast natural park covers the west coast, its sandy beaches popular with surfers. The south coast’s sheltered bays and golf courses cluster between 5th-century Lagos, lively Albufeira and regional capital Faro. Behind is the Ria Formosa Natural Park which stretches west past Tavira’s quiet beaches. Inland, central Loulé and Silves further west retain elements of their Moorish past. Northwards the terrain rises to Monchique, renowned for its therapeutic waters.

Surf and sun

The south coast has numerous popular Algarve hotels with beaches to suit families, windsurfers and fun-seekers. Sheltered by rocky cliffs, Praia da Rocha near Portimão is popular for its sandy beach and watersports. Further east, Carvoeiro has a small beach and clear waters, and at nearby Slide & Splash, visitors of all ages can enjoy fun water rides. At the heart of the Algarve coast is Albufeira, a lively tourist village with beaches and watersports from Falesia to Armação de Pera. Ilha de Faro and Tavira beaches are the most tranquil. They are perfect for quiet getaways or romantic Algarve holidays.

Scenic golfing

Several Algarve hotels are located on golf resorts and attract novice and expert players from around the world. The Quinta do Lago resort has several courses, including the championship 18-hole South course and the Laranjal, set in a former orange grove. Some golfers opt for the Vale do Lobo resort nearby with its scenic Ocean and Royal courses. Penina Golf near Portimão is home to the Algarve’s oldest course and a golf academy. Other courses include the nine-hole clifftop Pine Cliffs near Albufeira and Parque da Floresta, the most westerly Algarve course. 

Moorish castles and Monchique spa

Away from the beach and golf courses, Zoomarine, close to Albufeira, brings in the kids for dolphin shows and fairground fun. Jeep Safaris find hidden corners of the Algarve countryside. In the hills of Monchique, the sulphur waters are used for thalassotherapy (seawater therapy), a refreshing pick-me-up before an historic tour of town. Discover Moorish and medieval heritage in Faro old town and Silves Castle. Further west in Sagres lies Henry the Navigator’s 15th-century fortress. 

Casinos and bars

With warm evenings and affordable restaurants, alfresco eating and drinking is commonplace in the Algarve. Lively bars and clubs cluster around Albufeira, Montechoro and Quarteira. The rich and famous head to Vilamoura for marina-front restaurants and a casino. Nightlife is more low-key at smaller resorts, and in Faro old town or Loulé you’ll find more traditional restaurants. Try grilled seafood or a stew in a cataplana copper dish.