The Algarve, Portugal's southernmost region, is known for its jaw-dropping rugged coastline, pristine beaches that stretch as far as the eye can see, and imposing stunning cliffs, that stand tall and proud, as if guarding the secrets of the sea. It is, in fact, a dream destination for travelers seeking the warmth of the sand, to bask in the bright Portuguese sun and dive into the turquoise waters.
This region has become a popular vacation spot for people from all over the world, and it is quite easy to see why. Having won “Europe’s Leading Beach Destination” for three times in a row, it is common knowledge that the Algarve is a fantastic holiday destination, where the summer breeze is a soothing symphony. And if you are planning a trip to visit this one-of-a-kind region, you are in for a treat!
Seven days is the perfect duration to explore and appreciate the diverse attractions of this sun-kissed region without feeling rushed or overwhelmed. There are plenty of experiences to enjoy, ranging from thrilling adventures to tranquil moments of relaxation. Moreover, there are plenty of lovely towns to discover. We will take you on a journey through this beautiful region and share with you some must-have experiences that will make your summer trip unforgettable.
Pack your bags and join us on this adventure as we discover the best that this magnificent region, where the summer never ends, has to offer!
Go to Porches to see the pottery
Porches, a small village nestled in the heart of the Algarve region, between Lagoa and Albufeira, is renowned for its rich pottery tradition. For centuries, local artisans have been creating original and impressive works of art using traditional techniques passed down from generation to generation.
The pottery of Porches is characterized by its unique blend of Moorish, Mediterranean, and Algarvian influences. The vibrant colors and intricate patterns of the pottery reflect the region's rich cultural heritage.
The process of creating pottery requires skill, patience, and a deep understanding of the materials used. The clay used in the pottery is sourced locally - from the surrounding hillsides - and is of high quality. The artisans use a potter's wheel to shape the clay and create vessels of all shapes and sizes, from delicate bowls and plates to sturdy jars and urns. Then, they decorate it using a technique called "sgraffito", which involves scratching designs into the surface of the clay. With a range of lively colors, the designs are often inspired by the local flora and fauna, as well as traditional Portuguese patterns. The pottery is fired in a kiln at high temperatures, which gives it its distinctive color and durability.
The result is a stunning array of pottery that is both beautiful and functional! The pottery of Porches is highly prized by collectors and enthusiasts around the world, and is a testament to the skill and dedication of the local artisans who have kept this ancient tradition alive for centuries.
After admiring the eye-catching pottery and visiting some of the quaint shops – and maybe even watching the artists at work and purchasing unique pieces - take the time to further explore Porches. Did you know that this adorable village is also famous for its great wine? Have a glass and immerse yourself in the exquisite flavors! You can also pay a visit to the Nossa Senhora da Rocha Chapel, a small chapel perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean. It offers stunning views! Although it is an inland village, Porches is located near several beautiful beaches, including Praia da Senhora da Rocha and Praia Nova. If you want to enjoy the Portuguese sun, head out to a heavenly beach and just relax!
Eat a delicious cataplana
Cataplana is a traditional Portuguese seafood stew, named after the copper pot/stainless-steel vessel - with two clam-shaped halves that are hinged together - in which it is cooked. The dish hails from the stunning Algarve region and is a mouthwatering combination of fresh seafood, vegetables, and aromatic spices, all cooked together in a flavorful tomato-based broth.
This culinary delight is a feast for the senses! The scent of garlic, onions, and herbs wafting through the air will leave your mouth watering even before you’ve tried it. The colors of the dish are vibrant, with bright red tomatoes, green peppers, and golden onions all mingling together. The taste is simply divine, with the sweetness of the tomatoes balancing perfectly with the salty, briny flavor of the seafood.
The dish is typically served family-style, with everyone gathered around the table, sharing in the bounty. It's easy to see why it has become such a beloved part of Portuguese cuisine. Whether you are enjoying it in a rustic taverna or a high-end restaurant, the cataplana is sure to leave you feeling satisfied and content. And it is the perfect choice for seafood lovers!
You can try this traditional and tasty meal in pretty much every Algarvian town, such as Albufeira, Lagos, Faro, Tavira or Portimão.
Discover the Ria Formosa Park
The Ria Formosa Natural Park is surely a place where nature shows off its beauty and diversity with pride. This park is like a giant playground for Mother Nature! It is easy to understand why it is considered one of the 7 natural wonders of Portugal.
You will find all sorts of creatures here - there are flamingos in the lagoons, chameleons blending in with the trees, and crabs scurrying along the sand dunes. It's like a real-life zoo! Fauna aside, the Ria Formosa Park has some of the most breathtaking landscapes you will ever see. You've got the endless stretches of golden sand beaches, the rolling hills covered in lush greenery, and the sparkling blue waters of the lagoons. The canals, salt marshes, dunes, marshlands, pine woods, agriculture fields… It's like a postcard come to life.
There are plenty ways to enjoy this natural park to the fullest. You can hop on a boat and explore the lagoons and canals of the park on a wonderful boat trip. That way, you will get to see all sorts of wildlife up close and personal. You can also go birdwatching, as this park is certainly a birdwatcher's paradise. Bring your binoculars and see how many different species you can spot. Alternatively, you can visit the islands: there are several islands within the park that you can visit, each with its own unique charm. If you are a hike enthusiast, then lace up your hiking boots and hit the many beautiful trails available. You will get some amazing views of the park from the hilltops.
There are also some pretty amazing beaches spread throughout the park. Bring a picnic and spend the day soaking up the sun. The truth is: the wildest side of the Algarve coast is a nature lover's dream come true.
Go to Sagres and marvel at Cabo de São Vicente
Nestled in the captivating Algarve region, a mere stone's throw from the charming town of Sagres, lies the southwesternmost point of the European continent. Believed to be the edge of the world in ancient times, this site boasts an otherworldly beauty that leaves its visitors spellbound. From the cliffs, you can see the endless expanse of the Atlantic stretching out before you. The rugged terrain, rocky coastline and untamed splendor of this legendary location make it a treasure of unparalleled allure in Portugal.
Nowadays, this prominent landmark is mostly known for its charming lighthouse, considered to be one of the most powerful lighthouses in Europe, built over the ruins of a Franciscan convent. It offers mind-blowing views of the coastline and is a great spot for a photo op!
The history of the Cabo de São Vicente dates back to the Roman times, when it was known as the "Promontorium Sacrum" or the "Sacred Promontory". It was believed to be a place of worship for the ancient peoples who inhabited the region.
Once in Sagres, there are plenty things to do and see besides visiting this unique site. You can visit the Fortaleza de Sagres, a fortress built to defend the coast from pirates, which is now an important historical landmark, home to a museum that showcases the history of the region; soak up the sun in Praia do Tonel, a beautiful beach that is actually a paradise for surfers, given its large waves (you can sit and just watch surfers perform their tricks); or simply lay back and try the local cuisine - Sagres is known for its fresh seafood, so be sure to try some of the local dishes, such as grilled sardines or octopus stew.
Discover the Arab heritage of Silves
Silves, a captivating town located in the heart of the Algarve, boasts a rich and diverse cultural heritage, with a particularly strong Arab influence. As one wanders through the winding streets and alleyways of this ancient town, it is easy to be transported back in time to the days when Silves was a thriving Arab stronghold. During the almost five centuries of Arab rule in Portuguese territory, Silves became known as the “Baghdad of the West”.
From the imposing red walls of the Moorish castle, which loom over the town and offer great views of the surrounding countryside, to the intricate tilework and decorative motifs that adorn many of the town's buildings, the Arab influence is everywhere in evidence.
This heritage is also found in the town's cuisine, for example. Many of the traditional dishes of the Algarve, such as couscous and tagine, have their roots in Arab cuisine! The truth is: the Arab heritage of Silves provides a fascinating glimpse into the history and culture of this enchanting corner of Portugal.
Visit the imposing castle, which is considered to be one of the best-preserved Moorish fortifications and the most beautiful Islamic military monument in Portugal; the Silves Municipal Museum, located in the old town, featuring exhibits on the history of Silves, including its Arab heritage; the walls of Silves, which served as a defense against invading forces; and the ancient great Mosque, now transformed into the Cathedral.
Head to Monchique and enjoy the outdoors
Nestled in the heart of the Algarve, Monchique is an alluring town that exudes a sense of tranquility. Surrounded by lush green hills and majestic mountains, this idyllic retreat offers a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life.
As you wander through the narrow-cobbled streets of Monchique, you will be transported back in time, to a more peaceful era. The town's whitewashed buildings, adorned with colorful flowers, create a stunning contrast against the verdant backdrop of the Serra de Monchique. This mountain separates the Alentejo from the Algarve and is located between the Espinhaço de Cão and Caldeirão mountains. The highest point of this mountain, Foia, is the highest in the Algarve!
This town provides a wealth of outdoor activities, from hiking to mountain biking. As you take a leisurely stroll along the meandering pathways, you will find yourself enveloped by a verdant, opulent, and diverse array of flora. It is easy to understand why this particular region has earned the title of "Garden of the Algarve”.
Monchique is also home to a number of natural springs and thermal baths, where you can relax and rejuvenate your body and mind. There is an important thermal complex called Caldas de Monchique, surrounded by a quaint park, dotted with large trees. Enjoy the outdoors, get in touch with nature and relax in the natural springs!
Taste the Algarve sweets and typical drinks
The Algarve region of Portugal is known for its rich culinary heritage, which includes a variety of mouthwatering sweets and traditional drinks. From typical pastries to locally distilled spirits, the Algarve offers a range of delicious treats that are sure to delight any food lover.
One of the most popular sweets in the Algarve is the Dom Rodrigo, a small sweet made from eggs, sugar and almonds. This sweet is named after Rodrigo de Menezes, a nobleman who lived in the region back in the days. The Dom Rodrigo is a small, golden-colored sweet that is often served in a paper cup. It has a rich, creamy texture and a sweet, nutty flavor. Another popular sweet in the Algarve is the fig cake (Figos Cheios), a dessert made from dried figs, stuffed with a mixture of ground almonds, cinnamon and sugar. This cake is a traditional treat that is often served during the holiday season. It has a dense, chewy texture and a sweet, fruity flavor that is perfect for satisfying a sweet tooth.
There is also a traditional sweet in the Algarve region made out of almonds called "morgado" or "morgadinho". It is a small, almond-based cake that is typically made with ground almonds, sugar, egg yolks, and sometimes cinnamon or lemon zest. Morgado is usually baked in small paper cups and served as a sweet snack or dessert. The truth is that almond is an ingredient quite used in local pastries. The carob cake is another traditional dessert in the Algarve region that is made with carob flour, sugar, and eggs. It has a rich, chocolatey flavor and is often served with a dusting of powdered sugar.
As for typical drinks, the Algarve is famous for its arbutus brandy, a strong spirit made from the fruit of the arbutus tree. It is commonly called “Medronho”. This drink has a strong, fruity flavor that is both sweet and tart, with a slightly bitter aftertaste. It is often served as an aperitif, and is said to have a number of health benefits. In fact, the “aguardente”, a type of clear brandy made from fermented fruit, usually grapes, which is a strong, potent drink that is often served as a digestif, is quite popular throughout this region.
Another famous drink in the area is the Licor de Alfarroba, also known as carob liqueur, which is a traditional sweet liqueur made from the fruit of the carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua), native to the Mediterranean region. These traditional drinks from the Algarve are an important part of the region's cultural heritage and are often enjoyed alongside the delicious local cuisine. Whether you are looking for a sweet treat or a strong spirit, the Algarve is a great place to be!
Explore the heavenly beaches and caves
This region is renowned for its great beaches that have been attracting visitors from all over the world. In the summer, these beaches transform into a paradise that is nothing short of breathtaking. The crystal-clear waters, soft golden sand, and stunning backdrop of towering cliffs and lush greenery make the beaches of the Algarve a sight to behold. From Praia do Camilo or Praia Dona Ana in Lagos, to the Praia do Vau in Portimão, Praia dos Alemães in Albufeira or Praia do Barril in Tavira, each beach has its own unique charm.
Besides the beaches, there are numerous mesmerizing locations waiting to be explored, and the renowned Benagil Cave is unquestionably among them. This expansive cave, featuring a hole in its "ceiling" that bathes it in light, is distinguished by its spiral walls in varying shades of brown, orange, and yellow, as well as a small beach with crystal-clear turquoise waters inside. To reach it, you can take a boat ride and marvel at the rock formations you encounter along the way.
When it comes to remarkable rock formations, the Ponta de Piedade is another must-see attraction. This natural wonder located in Lagos is made up of cliffs and rock formations that make up for the perfect place to watch the sunset. You can either explore it on foot or by taking a boat ride, but no matter which option you choose, the idyllic scenery will leave you in awe.
Carvoeiro boasts another concealed coastal gem, namely the Algar Seco. This enchanting site is characterized by beautiful golden rock cliffs, caves that plunge into the sea, and natural pools that are perfect for admiring the stunning surroundings. You can also explore the lengthy wooden promenade, which leads you to the famous "Boneca", a rock formation that remarkably resembles a doll. As the sun sets over the horizon, the beaches come alive with vibrant energy. The smell of freshly grilled seafood wafts through the air, tempting your taste buds with the delicious local cuisine. There are plenty of good restaurants with terraces by the sea to try some fresh fish or seafood.
Whether you are looking to relax and soak up the sun, or take part in the many water sports and activities on offer, the beaches of the Algarve have something for everyone. In the summer, they truly are a heavenly paradise. With their unique natural beauty, vibrant energy, and endless activities, they are a must-visit destination for anyone seeking the ultimate beach experience.
Stroll through the historic centres of picturesque towns, such as Albufeira, Lagos and Tavira
The Algarvian towns have retained their historic charm. Among these towns are Albufeira, Lagos, and Tavira, each of which boasts a unique character and a rich cultural heritage.
Albufeira, located in the central Algarve region, is a town that has been shaped by its long history. Once a small fishing village, it has grown into a vibrant tourist destination that still retains its traditional appeal. Its historic centre, also known as "Old Town”, is a maze of winding streets and whitewashed buildings, and a hub for restaurants, cafes and shops. The charming main square, Largo Engenheiro Duarte Pacheco, is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike and is surrounded by historical landmarks such as the Church of Sant'Ana and the Clock Tower.
Lagos also boasts a captivating historical centre, which is home to a mix of Moorish, Gothic and Renaissance architecture. The city was once a major port and centre for trade and exploration during the Portuguese Age of Discovery. The historic centre is surrounded by walls that is said to date back as far as the Roman period. However, they were rebuilt by the Arabs and considerably enlarged during the 16th century. The Old Town features several landmarks such as the Church of Santo António and the Slave Market, which dates back to the 15th century. The town's main square, Praça Infante Dom Henrique, is a bustling hub of activity, sometimes with street performers and vendors selling local crafts. In the Lagos Municipal Museum, you can find a collection of artefacts from the town's history.
Tavira is a town that bears the indelible marks of its enduring past, shaped by a rich history of Moorish rule. The city was once a major centre for trade, and its historic centre actually features a mix of Roman, Moorish, and Renaissance influences. The town is also home to several historic churches and a castle that offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside. This town is also known for its traditional crafts, including pottery and lace-making. Notable landmarks include the castle, the Roman Bridge, and the attractive Praça da República, a popular gathering spot for locals and tourists.
Besides these lovely towns, there are plenty of other sites to explore. Loulé's medieval castle and bustling market square, Olhão's vibrant fishing port and architecture, Portimão's historic churches, quaint alleys and vibrant nightlife, Vila Real de Santo António's elegant riverside promenade and grand squares, and Aljezur's hilltop fortress and sweeping ocean views all offer a glimpse into the region's fascinating past.
Whether you are interested in history, culture, or simply soaking up the atmosphere of a charming Portuguese town, these towns are well worth a visit.