What are the five best things to see and do in Algarve?

Gillian White

In a region as spread out as Algarve, there is no shortage of things to do or places to see. This southern area of Portugal is best known for its resorts, beaches and golf courses, but visitors can experience much more than that. With a focus on tourists, Algarve is the perfect place to combine adventure with relaxation. Forbes Travel Guide picked out the five best activities to take on during your stay in Algarve:
 
1. Head to a spa in Caldas de Monchique. A popular spa stop, the waters in the Monchique Mountains are rumored to have healing properties. Spend a day relaxing in one of the area’s many luxury resorts, such as Villa Termal.
 
2. Spend a day at the beach. Algarve’s popularity as a tourist destination is partly due to the area’s amazing beaches and temperate climate. A trip to Algarve usually means spending a day or two playing in the sand and enjoying the region’s beautiful beaches. Popular spots for shore fun include Olhos de Agua, Praia da Coelha and Falesia Beach.
 
3. Check out the underwater world of Faro. If you’re interested in diving into the history of Algarve (literally), take an underwater tour off the coast of Faro, the southernmost city of Portugal. Look into companies like Hidroespaco that have experienced dive teams who can guide you through shipwrecks and other underwater sights, including reefs and submerged ruins.
 
4. Fortress at Sagres. Constructed during the 15th century, the Fortress at Sagres was built by Prince Henry the Navigator, destroyed by 1587 and then rebuilt in the 1780s. The imposing structure also includes a historic monastery and chapel, and it offers impressive views over the surrounding cliffs.
 
5. Visit Tavira. Built along the waters of the Rio Gilão, this charming old town offers visitors plenty of interesting architecture and quaint cobblestone streets. Take a walk through the area and check out the old Roman bridge and hilltop castle. It’s a quiet escape when you’re ready to get away from the Algarve beaches for the day.

  • On August 16, 2012
    Gillian White answered the question: Gillian White

    When is the best time to visit Algarve?

    With its temperate weather — it seems to never get too hot or too cold — it is almost always a good time to visit Algarve. One of the Forbes Travel Guide editors’ favorite times to hit up this Portuguese region is in the spring, which lasts for several months and provides opportunities for comfortable sightseeing and enjoyable beach weather. However, they suggest you might want to avoid the time period between November and February, when Algarve has a short rainy season.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Gillian White answered the question: Gillian White

    What is the best thing to bring home from Algarve?

    Forbes Travel Guide editors say the best things to bring home from Algarve are its homemade goods. Like many areas of Portugal, Algarve is known for its delicate artwork. The Algarve region produces beautiful arts and crafts like pottery and textiles; azulejos (hand-painted tiles) are particularly popular. You can check out numerous pottery centers in Almancil, Porches and Loulé if you would like to purchase tiles and other handmade items to take home with you.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Gillian White answered the question: Gillian White

    What are the five best Algarve food experiences?

    Due to Algarve’s proximity to the ocean, seafood is accessible and especially popular at local eateries. But the Portugal region has more than just treats from the sea. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s five food experiences that any visitor to Algarve should partake in:
     
    1. Squid. Given its proximity to the coast, there’s an abundance of amazingly fresh seafood available throughout Algarve. If you want to try one of the most popular menu items in the region, settle down at a crowd-pleasing seaside restaurant like A Sagres and order a plate of tender squid.
     
    2. Pudim flan. A creamy caramel flan similar to the egg custards popular throughout Portugal, Pudim flan is available both at local pastry shops and many Portuguese restaurants in the region.
     
    3. Chicken piri-piri. One of the most popular dishes in Algarve, chicken piri-piri is essentially chicken in a spicy sauce, which usually includes chili flakes and a variety of other spices. Available at many locations in Algarve, some consider the chicken piri-piri at A Rampa in Monchique the best around.
     
    4. Honey cake. A local cake popular in both Sagres and Lagos, honey cake is usually served moist and dense.
     
    5. Caldo verde. In English, the name caldo verde means green broth. This popular Portuguese dish — typically made with potatoes, onions and kale or collard greens — is on the menu of most traditional Portuguese restaurants. Don’t miss it.
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  • On August 16, 2012
    Gillian White answered the question: Gillian White

    Where is the best nightlife in Algarve?

    Algarve is made up of 16 municipalities, and many have their own distinct nightlife scene. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend that avid club-goers hit popular dance spots in Almancil, Vilamoura and Albufeira. For those looking for a mix of opportunities, Albufeira offers no shortage of entertainment on what is known as “the strip,” a long road filled with bars, restaurants, shops and tattoo parlors. Go there to find popular bars and clubs like Kadoc, Kiss and Tunes Bar.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Gillian White answered the question: Gillian White

    What is the best way to see Algarve in one day?

    If you only have one day to explore Algarve — made up of 16 municipalities, spread across the Portuguese coast — our Forbes Travel Guide editors say your best bet is to focus on one or two neighboring areas. History buffs will want to start their day off in Sagres with a trip to the historic 15th-century fortress. Take in the sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean via the cliffs before heading for a bite to eat at A Sagres, where you’ll enjoy Portuguese specialties like squid and grilled sardines. After lunch, venture to Albufeira and lounge on the beach for a bit, before taking on a more adventurous sightseeing expedition via all-terrain vehicles. After your trek through the wide-open spaces of Algarve, indulge in a cozy dinner at Dom Carlos Restaurant before heading out to enjoy the nightlife at the local bars. 
  • On August 16, 2012
    Gillian White answered the question: Gillian White

    Where is the best shopping in Algarve?

    Algarve offers plenty of luxurious shopping opportunities. Venturing between the regions of Faro and Guia, you are likely to find shops that will suit any retail itch. If you’re interested in department stores and familiar names, our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend checking out the new Algarve Shopping Center located near Guia. The mall provides a large shopping complex with more than 100 stores and a movie theater. Faro is also home to a large shopping mall, as well as smaller shops that sell everything from golfing necessities to specialty food items.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Gillian White answered the question: Gillian White

    What are the five best things to do with kids in Algarve?

    Algarve is the perfect vacation spot for parents with kids who crave adventure. Access to wide-open spaces, the ocean and sporting venues leaves children and parents with no shortage of options when it comes to entertainment. When lazy days on the beach become a bore, zip-lining, off-roading and a water park might spark the interest of restless kids and parents. Here are five Forbes Travel Guide-recommended activities for kids in Algarve:
     
    1. Soccer match. Visit the home of the Algarve Cup, one of the most prestigious women’s soccer events. The Estádio Algarve stadium is located between Faro and Loulé and is home to both the Sporting Clube Farense and Louletano Desportos Clube.
     
    2. Slide & Splash. Kids will get a kick out of the Slide & Splash water park located in Lagoa. It makes for a nice break from historic sightseeing and lounging on the beach, and both kids and parents will love speeding down the slides. 
     
    3. Zoomarine Algarve. What better way to learn about marine life than at an aquarium situated directly on the sea? At Zoomarine Algarve, children will learn all about life underwater, while checking out impressive dolphin shows and amusement park rides.
     
    4. Off-roading. The wide-open spaces of Algarve present the perfect opportunity for adventure. Take kids on a trip they won’t forget by joining an off-road tour in all-terrain vehicles. Many companies are available to take you off the beaten path in Algarve, including off-roading experts Quad Ventura and Rooster Quad.
     
    5. Parque Aventura. Children can experience the natural beauty of Algarve as they swing from tree to tree on Parque Aventura’s zip lines. Located a few minutes away from Oura Beach, the series of outdoor games will challenge and delight the whole family.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Gillian White answered the question: Gillian White

    What are the five best things to see and do in Algarve?

    In a region as spread out as Algarve, there is no shortage of things to do or places to see. This southern area of Portugal is best known for its resorts, beaches and golf courses, but visitors can experience much more than that. With a focus on tourists, Algarve is the perfect place to combine adventure with relaxation. Forbes Travel Guide picked out the five best activities to take on during your stay in Algarve:
     
    1. Head to a spa in Caldas de Monchique. A popular spa stop, the waters in the Monchique Mountains are rumored to have healing properties. Spend a day relaxing in one of the area’s many luxury resorts, such as Villa Termal.
     
    2. Spend a day at the beach. Algarve’s popularity as a tourist destination is partly due to the area’s amazing beaches and temperate climate. A trip to Algarve usually means spending a day or two playing in the sand and enjoying the region’s beautiful beaches. Popular spots for shore fun include Olhos de Agua, Praia da Coelha and Falesia Beach.
     
    3. Check out the underwater world of Faro. If you’re interested in diving into the history of Algarve (literally), take an underwater tour off the coast of Faro, the southernmost city of Portugal. Look into companies like Hidroespaco that have experienced dive teams who can guide you through shipwrecks and other underwater sights, including reefs and submerged ruins.
     
    4. Fortress at Sagres. Constructed during the 15th century, the Fortress at Sagres was built by Prince Henry the Navigator, destroyed by 1587 and then rebuilt in the 1780s. The imposing structure also includes a historic monastery and chapel, and it offers impressive views over the surrounding cliffs.
     
    5. Visit Tavira. Built along the waters of the Rio Gilão, this charming old town offers visitors plenty of interesting architecture and quaint cobblestone streets. Take a walk through the area and check out the old Roman bridge and hilltop castle. It’s a quiet escape when you’re ready to get away from the Algarve beaches for the day.
  • On July 5, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best places to eat in Algarve?

    The 16 municipalities of Algarve each offer a unique dining experience. Given the proximity to the sea and temperate weather, many Algarve restaurants offer diners amazingly fresh seafood and top views of the ocean. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s picks for the five best places to eat in Algarve:
     
    1. Dom Carlos Restaurant. Located in Albufeira, Dom Carlos Restaurant is the perfect spot for an intimate night out. Owners Peter and Ana make every diner feel like a VIP and go into great detail when explaining the menu offerings. Make reservations and enjoy the five-course menu that includes classic Portuguese fare, such as cod and stewed steak.
     
    2. Couleur France. A five-course prix fixe menu at Couleur France will get you some of the finest dining Algarve has to offer. Located in Almancil, this modern restaurant serves Mediterranean food with a twist. It’s a little off the beaten path but well worth the venture for a menu that starts with melt-in-your-mouth steak and an impressive wine list.
     
    3. Cabana Fresca. A perfect combination of top-notch food and scenery, Cabana Fresca offers guests fresh seafood right on the ocean. Located on Fisherman’s Beach, the restaurant features enticing menu options like paella, fish soup and the popular chicken piri-piri.
     
    4. Le Marquis. Located in the hills of Faro, Le Marquis offers impeccable food in a relaxed environment — far from the more tourist-heavy areas. When the weather permits, guests can sit outside and enjoy fare like smoked scallops and spinach soup.
     
    5. O Luis Restaurante Bar. Located in Alvor, this family-friendly restaurant sits right on the beach. Diners can indulge in fresh fish cooked to order while taking in the  scenery of the Portuguese coast. Visit at sunset for dinner with a view.
  • On July 5, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best places to stay in Algarve?

    The relaxed and luxurious vibe of Algarve permeates many facets of life in the region, including local hotels. As one of the richest regions in Portugal, no expense is spared when it comes to keeping guests happy at these upscale spots. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s picks for the five best places to stay in Algarve: 
     
    1. Vila Joya. This luxury beachside boutique hotel boasts beautiful gardens and unrivaled views of the Atlantic from atop its perch on a cliff in Albufeira. The Algarve hotel contains 17 rooms, which means a highly attentive staff is ready to help with your every need. We love the traditional Portuguese turquoise-tiled bathrooms, large terraces and striking décor elements, like the Royal Suite 2001’s ceiling-high wood headboard carved in an intricate flower pattern. Vila Joya also offers a fully equipped spa, an extensive list of activities (pool, tennis) and a great European-influenced restaurant of the same name headed by acclaimed Austrian chef Dieter Koschina.
     
    2. Vila Monte. Originally built as a manor home, Vila Monte is now a small and modern boutique hotel. While it is a far cry from some of Algarve’s large resorts, it still has big perks like an onsite spa and golf course.
     
    3. Martinhal Beach Resort and Hotel. For those looking for a home away from home, Martinhal Beach Resort and Hotel offers all the amenities you would expect at a world-class hotel, with the intimacy of a private residence. Guests can even enjoy their own kitchens and private pools when staying in the property’s Pinewood Houses. 
     
    4. Vila Vita Parc. When you stay at Vila Vita Parc, choose between lavish suites or residence-style accommodations. And be sure to dabble in the full menu of amenities, including a ride on the luxury hotel’s 72-foot-long yacht. Located near the beach, Vila Vita has a top-notch spa, a golf course and numerous bars and restaurants. Don’t miss a meal at the standout Ocean, the signature seasonal eatery overseen by Austrian chef Hans Neuner.
     
    5. Sheraton Algarve Hotel. The Sheraton Algarve Hotel sits on a cliff, providing beautiful views of the ocean. Indoor and outdoor pools and spacious multi-level suites are only the beginning of the amenities this Algarve hotel has to offer. It boasts a nine-hole golf course, game room, spa and the popular Piri Piri Steak House, all within the confines of the luxurious Portugal hotel.