With miles of stunning coastline, abundant sunshine and golden sandy beaches its no wonder the Algarve is a firm favourite with holidaymakers – but it has so much more to offer than just sun, sea and sand. Here are eight of the best and most engaging things to see and do in the Algarve!
1. Benagil Caves
The Benagil cave is the most famous sea cave in the Algarve and it’s worth taking some time to see this incredible spot. It’s located in the small village of Benagil, which is situated between Carvoeiro and Armação de Pêra. Benagil cave is circular with a colourful dome and an opening at the top for light to flood in. It’s best accessed by boat or kayak, although swimming is not advised due to strong sea currents and tides that change quickly.
2. FIESA INTERNATIONAL SAND SCULPTURE FESTIVAL – PERA
This attraction is quite different and well worth a visit. In Pera, Sand City is the largest sand sculpture exhibition in the world and it hosts the FIESA International Sand Sculpture Festival. Each year, talented sculptors use around 40,000 tonnes of the unique sand found only in this area, to build enormous sculptures for a different theme. A good tip is to visit an hour before sunset so you view the sculptures in both daylight and when they are illuminated at night. Pera is located around 15km northwest of Albufeira.
3. CASTLE OF SILVES
Silves was the once capital of the Algarve and Silves Castle still stands overlooking the town below. It’s one of the longest surviving castles in the Algarve, and it should sit on top of your list of things to do in Silves. The castle is one of the best preserved examples of Moorish Castles in Portugal and has been a national monument since 1910. The castle that can currently be seen is what remains of a defensive system in the Almohade period of Muslim rule in the 12th and 13th centuries. At the entrance, there is a statue of King Sancho I whose forces, supported by an even stronger Crusader army, conquered the citadel of Silves in 1189.
4. PRAIA DA MARINHA
Surrounded by steep cliffs and clear turquoise water, it’s no surprise that this golden sandy beach is often called one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The clear waters at Praia da Marinha make is a perfect spot to do some snorkelling. Praia da Marinha is only accessed by car and is situated between Portimão and Carvoeiro. It’s worth noting that there are steep stairs down to the beach.
5. Wine Tasting
While on holiday why not discover the exciting and delicious wines being made in the Algarve. The Algarve boasts the perfect climate for the growing of vines and has four main wine regions. These are Lagos, Portimão, Lagoa and Tavira. In these regions there are a number of vineyards and many are open to the public.
While most visitors to the Algarve will travel through Faro Airport, Faro itself is often overlooked but there surprising amount to do and see in this ancient and vibrant city. The historic centre of Faro is encircled by ancient city walls, while the city centre is filled with pedestrianized shopping streets and peaceful plazas. Faro is is the gateway to the Ria Formosa Nature Park, a series of saltwater lagoons and mudflats with deserted islands and pristine beaches, a haven for migratory birds and wildlife. From the Cathedral you can enjoy the most magnificent view over the Ria Formosa.
7. CHURCH OF SAO LOURENCO DE ALMANCIL
In the town of Almancil, 10km east of Villamoura you will find a small white 18th century Baroque style church. From the outside this church may look quite ordinary but he secret that lies within, as the interior is simply quite stunning. The interior decoration is an outstanding masterpiece of decoration in azulejo panels. The main altar has a gilded woodwork altarpiece and the walls are completely covered by characteristic blue tiles that depict the life of São Lourenço including his martyrdom in Rome.
8. DOLPHIN WATCHING
Take the opportunity to watch dolphins interact in their natural habitat on the Algarve coast. The are a variety of dolphin species that can be found near the coast including the Common dolphin, the Rissos dolphin, the Harbor Porpoise and the Bottlenose dolphin and there is always the chance you might also come across the Minke Whale, the Orca, sharks or sea turtles. Dolphins generally don’t get too close to the shore, so the boats need to go around 10 kilometers offshore to deeper waters. A dolphin watching tour usually takes between one and three hours, and they run from all of the main marinas on the coast (Lagos Marina, Portimão Marina, Albufeira Marina, Vilamoura Marina or Tavira Marina).