Sprawling along Portugal’s southern coast, from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to Spain in the east, is the Algarve. This sun-soaked region (residents bask in 3,000 hours of sunshine each year) has two distinct sides. The coast is all luxe hotels, manicured golf courses and busy fishing towns, while the interior has more of a rustic, undiscovered feel to it.
Albufeira and Vilamoura are two of the most popular spots in the Algarve, thanks to winning combos of spectacular scenery, please-all restaurants and pretty, historic town centres. Further east, Lagos is lovely, with a maze of cobbled streets lined with restaurants, shops and bars. The region’s capital, Faro, is a bit of a hidden gem – it’s often overlooked by visitors, so still maintains a very Portuguese ambience. The al fresco cafés and charming old town make it a great day trip option, plus it’s close to the airport so you could pop by for a visit on your way home. If you fancy a quieter escape, look to the villages of Sagres, Olhos d’Agua or Porches.
“Vilamoura’s marina is a lovely place to spend an evening. There are restaurants galore and there’s a great atmosphere on warm summer evenings when everyone’s dining outside.” Debby, Sovereign PA
The Algarve’s beaches tend to be golden and sandy and they’re often backed by handsome, honey-hued cliffs. In Lagos, lay your towel out at Meia Praia Beach if you want restaurants and snack bars on hand, or clamber down the steep steps to Camilo Beach for a bit more peace and quiet. Vilamoura has a pair of sandy beaches that are great for families, while Albufeira is home to Praia da Falesia (above), a three-kilometre-long belt of sand – more than enough space for your bucket and spade (try the Pine Cliffs Resort for easy access). Ten minutes’ drive from Porches is Praia da Marinha – its rock arches and sea stacks make it one of the Algarve’s prettiest (and most photographed) seaside spots.
“My favourite Algarve restaurant is in Lagos. Linda the Beach Bar on Meia Praia Beach does the most amazing salads (try the Rainbow Salad, which is topped with slices of juicy mango) and has great views of the beach.” Christina, Content Editor
Back to nature
The Algarve is home to a handful of nature-rich reserves, including Casto Marim and Ria Formosa – both popular with bird-watchers. Walkers might like to tackle a section of the Via Algarviana (also known as the Algarve’s backbone), an old pilgrimage route that traces a 186-mile path through the countryside. Kayak tours are the best way to get up close and personal with the craggy coastline – you can paddle through caves and up to hidden coves for secluded swims.
“The Monchique mountains are lovely, particularly in summer when they’re nice and cool compared to the coast. Excursions allow you plenty of time to take photos, and some offer a glass of bubbly to sip as you watch the sun go down over the hills.” Katie, Concierge
If you’re pondering Portugal, take a look at our collection of luxury holidays to the Algarve.