The Algarve is Southern Portugal’s coastal gem, with endless beaches, cliffs, caves, arches, sinkholes and unique sandstone formations jutting out from a multi-colored turquoise sea. Located 2.5 hours South of Lisbon by driving, the Algarve Coast has been a long time favorite for vacationing Europeans (especially sun-worshiping Brits.) 😉 We visited this beautiful area of Portugal in June, expecting the sea to be warm, so we were shocked to say the least, when we jumped in and it was icy cold! On some days it even felt like the Puget Sound in Seattle! Thankfully, the air was warm, especially when the sun was out, so it was a nice contrast to do some cold training!
WHERE TO STAY IN ALGARVE
We stayed in the area of Porches (pronounced POR-SHESH) and we loved it due to its central location; it’s right smack in the middle of the Algarve coast, in between Faro and Sagres, and we found this area to have the most beautiful beaches, great restaurants, and nice weather.
FOOD IN THE ALGARVE
Due to the Algarve’s prime location on the Atlantic Ocean, seafood is king here. Sardines and prawns are two of the most popular, but you will find all kinds of fish and seafood. You may also be surprised to know that there are lots of Indian restaurants in the Algarve! My hypothesis is it’s because this area is highly frequented by vacationing Brits, who are used to having Indian food in the UK.
TOP 10 SIGHTS TO SEE IN ALGARVE
In this blog post I will detail 10 beautiful sights to see in the Algarve (spoiler alert: most of them are beaches) 😉 By the way, the word praia in Portuguese means beach.
- Praia Marinha
- Walk the Seven Hanging Valleys Coastal Trail
- Take a Boat Tour Into Benagil Sea Cave
- Praia do Camilo
- Praia de Falesia
- Praia de Albandeira
- Church of São Lourenço
- Loule Saturday Market
1. PRAIA MARINHA
By the way, the “h” in Portuguese is silent and acts like an ñ in Spanish so it sounds like Praia Mariña. This was one of our favorite beaches in the Algarve because of its unique sandstone rock formations and caves. The sand can get extremely hot, so be sure to bring slippers (how we call flip flops in Hawaii where I’m from.)
**NOTE ABOUT PARKING** There is only one small car park for this beach, and this is also where the Seven Hanging Trails begins from, so the parking situation can get maddening if you don’t show up early enough. There are very narrow dirt roads surrounded by thorny bushes where people go for overflow parking, but it’s not worth trying to squeeze through, because the dirt roads are only wide enough for cars to go one way (which they don’t – people will try to squeeze in both directions), so you’ll end up waiting for people to reverse, and risk scratching the car along the thorny bushes which line the road.
2. HIKE SEVEN HANGING VALLEYS COASTAL TRAIL
This coastal trail stretches for over 12 kilometers along the coast with delightful surprises and sights along the way, including giant sinkholes straight down to the ocean. You can join the path at any point, as there are several car parks along the route.
ADVICE FOR WALKERS:
- Wear proper footwear
- Bring sunscreen, a hat, snacks and water, especially if you plan to do the entire trail
- Look out for sinkholes (natural wells) and do not go beyond the fencing. Sandstone is extremely lose, and the ground can crumble and collapse at any time, especially when it rains
- Spring is mating season for birds; do not approach their nests on the cliffs (this area is highly populated with seagulls)
- Do not explore the caves in winter or spring, as this is hibernation and mating season for bats
3. TAKE A BOAT TOUR INTO BENAGIL SEA CAVE
Benagil Sea Cave is the most popular attraction in the Algarve, and there are many ways to see it! The most common is by boat, kayak or SUP (stand up paddle board). You can actually even swim into the cave because there is a beach just to the right hand side of it. Lastly, you can hike, as this sight is along the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail and you can walk right up to the fencing and look over into the cave below. We flew our drone over the sinkhole, and it was pretty epic footage.
4. PRAIA DO CAMILO
This small sandy beach is characterized by its long staircase leading down to the beach. There are several sandstone formations in the sea off the coast, a cave, and a small sinkhole just to the left of the beach!
When you reach the beach, if you go all the way to the left and through the arch, there’s a sinkhole where the ceiling opens up to the sky.
5. PRAIA DE FALESIA
Praia de Falesia is a super long stretch of white sandy beach with calm waters, great for swimming. There is a coastal trail that runs parallel to the ocean, with interesting rock formations, which reminded me of a mini Bryce Canyon.
6. PRAIA DE ALBANDEIRA
This beach is split into two small beaches with a stairway leading down to the water, surrounded by tall cliff walls, giving it a very intimate feel. The beach is along the path of the Seven Hanging Valleys coastal trail. I didn’t take any photos of this beach out of a sign of respect because many women go topless. There is a neat cave to the right of the beach, where, when the tide is low and wave conditions are calm, you can walk through it to the other side and see this jaw-dropping view of a sea arch:
7. VISIT SAGRES
Sagres is the Southwestern most part of the Algarve coast of Portugal and a popular beginner’s surf spot. The most visited sight here is the Sagres Fortress, a 15th century fortress located at the tip of this windy coast perched atop a rocky cliff. We were shocked to see cliff fishermen here, literally perched on the edges of a 30-meter (nearly 100′) cliff! It looked like they would be blown off with one strong gust of wind! It was pretty terrifying to see, but they do this every day, so I just had to trust that they knew what they were doing!
In Sagres, be sure to eat at Arte Bianca Cucina Italiana where you’ll find excellent pizza, beer and organic wines & kombucha. It’s just a five-minute drive from the fortress.
8. VISIT FARO
Faro is located on the far Eastern end of the Algarve Coast, and has a quaint town with shops and restaurants, perfect for a day of strolling.
9. VISIT THE CHURCH OF SAO LOURENCO
Located just a 20-minute drive from the downtown area of Faro, this church is whitewashed outside, and inside is decorated in the style of azulejos tiles, which line the entirety of the interior of the church. Operating hours are 10AM – 5PM, and they are closed on Sundays and Mondays.
10. LOULE SATURDAY MARKET
Just 15 minutes by car, is the Loule Market (only runs on Saturdays), also known as the “Gypsy Market”. This is an indoor / outdoor farmers market, perfect to grab a snack or pick up some groceries. ifyou’re staying longer and have a kitchen to cook in.
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Susan DuvalJuly 2, 2021 at 11:53 am
Thank you, Lisa!! I have been waiting for this!!! I have heard so much about the Algarve, and now I know why! Wonderful tour and photos. Obrigada!!
culturalfoodiesJuly 2, 2021 at 2:00 pm
Hi Susan! I’m so glad that you liked this one! De nada! 🙂
Christopher ParsleyFebruary 17, 2022 at 6:59 am
Hey, maybe you didn’t realize or you ran out of petrol . . but there is another whole stretch of the Algarve to the East of Faro. Just saying 😊
culturalfoodiesFebruary 17, 2022 at 8:57 am
Lol, I know, we didn’t have as much time to explore much further East, but it looks beautiful!