The most beautiful villages and towns in the Algarve
Well known for its golden beaches and tourist resorts like Albufeira, the Algarve, Portugal’s long southern coastal region, has plenty to offer visitors who want to explore a little further afield. It is a region filled with history, heritage and incredible landscapes of rocky coastlines, pristine beaches, impressive mountains and deep, fast rivers waiting to be discovered. Below we introduce you to some of the most beautiful towns in the Algarve, including what to see and do in each destination.
Head north to discover the pretty rural town of Silves. Originally built by the Moors, it was conquered in 1189 with the help of Danish crusaders. For several centuries it was the capital of the Algarve. Explore the narrow streets, filled with whitewashed houses, and the imposing polygon-shaped castle with fantastic views from its ramparts. The Hotel Colina Dos Mours is housed in an ancient Arab castle and has an excellent restaurant.
Not far from Silves is the small town of Algoz dating back to Muslim times. Explore the historical sites of Emida de Nossa Senhora do Pilar, Igreja Matriz and Ålpeadeiro de Algoz. It’s also a great place for shopping – gastronomic delights include wine, almonds, figs, olive oil and citrus fruits. People come from far and wide to seek bargains at the city’s long-established flea market. Try restaurants like Sobretempero and O Foral specializing in local Algarve cuisine.
Nestled in the Algarve mountains, 29 km from Silves, the small village of Monchique has been attracting visitors since Roman times. Kings and queens were drawn here by the presence of medicinal thermal waters that can still be tried today. Segway tours further into the mountains offer a fantastic way to explore the spectacular scenery. Try A Charrete or Luar da Foia restaurants while the Monchique Resort & Spa is a good hotel option.
On the southwest coast, Sagres gives the impression of having reached the end of the world. Steep cliffs, little vegetation and wild winds mark the site chosen by Infante Henrique in the early 16th century as the seat of his nautical school to train Portuguese explorers crossing unknown seas. The port was often attacked by corsairs, which led to the creation of the imposing fortress of Sagres located on the other side of the promontory. It is also a great place to surf. Memmo Baleeira Hotel or Pousada Sagres with panoramic ocean views are worth considering, while A Sereia Restaurant is good for seafood.
Carvoeiro and Ferraguado
On the south coast is Carvoeiro, a picturesque seaside resort. Its Praia da Marinha is said to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and it is a perfect place for visitors who want outdoor activities. Hike through the valleys of Sete, explore the Algar Seco cliffs and kayak to the Benagil caves and stop at the Mar d’Fora for seafood. Try the Tivoli Carvoeira Algarve Resort or Mirachora Praia hotel.
Another pretty coastal village nearby is the fishing village of Ferragudo. This beautiful village also offers access to the Bengil Caves as well as boat trips in search of dolphins. Ferragudo has been known for its fishing skills since Phoenician times, as the mouth of the Arade River is well stocked with fish of all kinds.
Bordeira is another very beautiful coastal town, surrounded by white sand and translucent waters. Located on the Costa Vincentina, 26 km from Sagres, the current town dates back to the mid-15th century when the Bishop of Silves ordered the construction of a church on the site. Archeology has shown that people have lived here for much longer than that since Paleolithic finds were discovered. The restaurant O Sito do Rio, not far from the beach, is worth trying. Most hotels are close to the beach and the Praia do Canal Nature Resort has its own spa.
Castro Marim and Tavira
The mighty Guadiana River marks the border between Portugal and Spain. People have lived here since Phoenician times, drawn by the region’s valuable resources. The small town of Castro Marim is built around an imposing protective fortress and is surrounded by magnificent salt pans producing the highly prized sea salt.
Not far away is Tavira, a coastal town on the banks of the Gilao River in the Ria Formosa National Park. Wildlife abounds here, especially flamingos and spoonbills. Colorful houses painted in pretty blues, yellows, pinks – check out the rooftops as almost every house in the Algarve has a different ornamental chimney design!
Visit the medieval city of Santa Maria do Castelo with its Crusader Tombs and the Cemetery of Anchors at Praia do Barril. Well stocked with hotels, Hotel Villa Gale in Tavira is a popular option with good access to the whole region. Try tapas at Ti Maria on R. dos Fumeiros or Mediterranean cuisine at Tasquinha da Paula on Lagos dos Martires da Republica.
Head inland a bit away from Tavira to explore the pretty town of Moncarapacho set amongst gently rolling hills. Mentioned for the first time in royal documents in the 14th century, it is a very fertile region where fig, almond and pomegranate trees provide excellent harvests. It is a very picturesque little town with flowery streets and garlands of flowers hanging from the alleys. Take a walk on the 411 meter high Cero de Sao Miguel for a fantastic panoramic view of the Algarve. The attractive, whitewashed Octant Vila Monte Hotel offers a relaxing garden and an excellent restaurant.
In the Tavira region, look for the small village of Cachapo located between mountains and valleys. All the buildings are made of schist and the town museum has beautiful exhibits relating to the culture and customs of the region. A great place to buy the local food specialties – sausages and fresh honey. Very rural and non-touristy, best seen as a day trip from Tavira.
This pretty town in the Algarve is 11 km from the airport city of Faro, and is a beautiful and serene place to relax and drift away. Explore the pretty streets and visit the Roman ruins of Milreu. Don’t miss the Estoi Palace which was built in the 19th century. Now a guest house and one of the world’s small luxury hotels, it has an extensive range of stucco-paneled rooms, painted ceilings and a pretty blue and white tiled exterior leading to the gardens. Located in the palace’s former kitchen, the restaurant even has the original stove and fireplace adorned with restored tiles.