Algarve Holidays

A sunny coast with plenty to see

The Algarve is famous for its long, golden, sandy beaches – but you don’t have to go far inland to discover all the other things this magical part of Portugal has to offer. Spend a few days soaking up the cultural and culinary scenes in the capital city, Faro, or step back in time in beautifully cobbled historic towns like Silves, where the pristine castles and ancient Moorish ruins are equally impressive and act as magnets for history fans.

Year-round sunshine and mild winter temperatures make Algarve holidays a popular choice for families and groups alike, particularly parties of golfers who flock to the region for its impressively lush golf resorts and luxury spas. Anyone wanting to turn the adrenaline up a notch should head to the Atlantic coast, where beaches boasting world-famous surf are a paradise not only for surfers, but also for bird-watchers.

Thriving party towns like Albufeira offer lively nightlife with a local flavour, or you can seek more peaceful escapes inland among vineyards and hillside trails. But you’ll probably end up wending your way back to the coast at some point, where there are magical caves to be discovered and fresh sardines to be eaten right on the seafront. Holidays to the Algarve promise days full of sunshine, adventure and great food.

Three tips for a top trip

Rent a car
Seeking out the region’s best hidden beaches and rugged coves is easiest by car. Outside of Faro, roads are also surprisingly quiet and easy to navigate.
Venture inland
Sure, the Algarve is known for its beaches – but there are also plenty of beautiful historic sites to explore. You’ll find that dinner costs much less just a few miles inland.
Take a boat trip
Head out to sea for the best views of picture-perfect sandstone coastlines. Plenty of tour companies offer boat trips to see nearby caves, which are often inaccessible from land.

Best attractions to see in Algarve

Moorish castle

The charming town of Silves is home to one of the best surviving Moorish castles in Portugal. With architecture dating back to Roman times, visits here make a great day out.

Benagil Cave

This is just one of many fascinating natural cave formations in the region – get there by renting a kayak or paddleboard, or join a motorboat tour from Benagil beach.

Cape St Vincent

You’re at the very edge of Europe, facing out to sea from these iconic cliffs. The lighthouse here is a must-see, not to mention the adjacent museum and cliff-top bar.

Your Algarve questions, answered

Party animals will enjoy crawling the bars of Lagos, Albufeira and Praia da Rocha, while resorts like Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo offer more upmarket beach club vibes.

Late April to mid-June is warm without being scorching, while glorious summer weather can stretch on until early October. In winter, evenings are chilly but never freezing.

The summer months of July and August are hot but not excessively so – daytime temperatures average around 25˚C – so if you're planning on hanging out on the beach or pool, this is a good time for almost guaranteed sunshine. April to June are better times to consider if you're planning a walking, cycling or golf holiday. And, if you’re looking for a bit of last-minute sun at the end of the season, you will find it still warm during September and October. The temperatures during these months still manage to hit a very respectable 18-20˚C.

The Algarve is famous for its fish dishes and the catch of the day will leave you spoilt for choice. Mediterranean influences are also strong, with tapas-style menus a popular choice.

You'll find some of the best beaches in Europe along the Algarve, and there's more than 150 to choose from. One of the jewels has to be the Praia da Marinha, about a 15-minute drive southeast of Lagoa. If you're looking for a beach that pretty much guarantees you plenty of space, head to Praia da Falesia near Albufeira. Those with a passion for something more energetic should try Meia Praia in Lagos. It's a four-kilometre strip with an exhaustive variety of bars and plenty of watersports.

Many people treat Faro as simply the location they fly into, but it's worth looking deeper into the region's capital. The medieval old town is stunning, with a mixture of local and Moorish architecture. And you're also very close to the beautiful Parque Natural da Ria Formosa. Albufeira is an obvious destination for those looking for something more lively. Its bars and clubs deliver a vibrant nightlife, while the beaches and resorts make it a great choice for families, too. You're also close to some of the best theme parks in Portugal.

Whether you want to lie on them, party on them or push a surfboard away from them, the beaches in the Algarve have something for everyone. And, because of the sheer number, it's easy to find the ideal one for your holiday. Then you have the incredible architecture. Numerous beautiful towns and villages blend local style and taste with Roman and Moorish influences to superb effect. Finally, there's the food. If you go to the Algarve and don't try at least one dish of piri-piri prawns – ideally cooked in garlic – then you're seriously missing out.

Ultimately, it depends on what you want from your holiday. Buses and trains run regularly along the length of the Algarve so, if you're just planning on travelling to the beach and back to your hotel every day, you're well catered for. If you want to explore the area, you might need to hire a car, though, as a lot of the prettiest villages and beaches have no access to public transport. It's also hard to get a bus after eight in the evening and getting one on weekends and public holidays is a bit hit and miss, too.

As the Algarve coast is mostly supplied by water from the Mediterranean, it's significantly warmer than the west coast of Portugal. Therefore, it stands to reason that the sea around the Algarve is warmer on the east side than the west. The Algarve is also prone to warm winds coming up from North Africa. Although the winds can last for up to several days, you do find that the sea becomes noticeably warmer. You will also feel an increase in water temperature from the start of the holiday season compared with near the end – August and September.