10 Best Things To Do In Algarve
The Algarve is known for it’s sandy beaches, world class golf courses and exciting nightlife, but there is also a world of culture, spectacular nature and little known treasures to be discovered! We’ve put together our top 10 best things to do in Algarve, some of them FREE!
Known as one of the most traditional villages in the Algarve, Alte is set in the countryside, with green rolling hills and whitewashed houses. Grab you car, hire an Uber, or book a tour so you don’t miss out! Strolling around the village, you will find little traditional shops selling local artisan work.
Another highlight and must do in Alte is a quick visit to the 13th century church in the middle of the village, complete with an array of gorgeous hand painted tiles.
To cool off, we also recommend taking a dip in the fresh water springs of Alte. There is a local cafe where you can enjoy a snack or drink, and communal BBQ’s, so bring along a picnic lunch and enjoy jumping into the cool spring waters! No visit to Alte is complete without the descent to the Vigario Waterfall! A beautiful little gem in the middle of nature, you will not want to miss, the waterfall is reachable by a steep descent on dirt tracks… trust us, it will be worth it!
2. Ria Formosa
As you’re flying into Faro Airport, you will see a lovely and intricate cable of little islands and water channels… you’ve seen the Ria Formosa! Take a wonderful day out in nature and check out this 60km natural reserve, filled with amazing wildlife, fauna and flora. You can go out on your own and explore, or you can take one of the many tours offered by land or sea!
You can book a boat tour to explore all of the lovely little deserted islands, do some fun water sports, or if you prefer your feet on solid ground, book a hiking tour! One of the best things we feel you should do while in the Ria Formosa is snorkel with seahorses!
A little known fact, the Ria Formosa has the largest seahorse population in the world! You’ll get to know over 35 different species of seahorse, the smallest being 4cm (1.5in) and the largest, a whopping 35cm (13in)! A day spent on the Ria Formosa is truly unforgettable
3. Rocksalt Mines in Loule
A recent attraction in the Algarve, the Salt mine tour in Loule is a must-do! A two hour tour, taking you 230mt underground on a breathtaking tour of geological formations dating back centuries! Friendly and qualified guides will teach you all about the production of salt, both in ancient times and now.
There are 45km (28 miles) of galleries filled with amazing structures, some as old as 230 million years! Though this is not a free tour, it is well worth paying the entrance fee to get a glimpse of the only below sea level salt mine! The tour is available Mondays through Fridays from 9am to 4pm. Tickets start at 25 euros for adults, and 8 to 12 years of age, pay 15 euros.
4. Silves Castle
A day trip to Silves is something you will not want to miss while in the Algarve! This delightful little medieval village is set in beautiful country surroundings alongside the Arade River, with a wealth of things to see and do! You can hire a car to drive to Silves, or book one of the many tours that will guide you along the most popular visiting points. Public transportation is also an option, as there are trains and buses you can catch, but Silves itself does not have a station, so you would have to catch a taxi to get to the historical center.
Silves itself is quite small and very easy to explore on foot and highlights include walking along the Arade River, marveling at the religious buildings (Silves Cathedral and Nossa Senhora de Martires Church). Paying a two euro entrance fee, you can also check out the Silves Musuem filled with amazing Moorish ceramics, considered one of the most impressive collections in the country!
Silves Castle is the highlight of any visit to Silves! With a mere 2,50 eur entrance fee, you can explore the many towers, ramparts and of course spectacular views of the village! As you are spending the day in Silves, you will likely want to enjoy a meal! There are a few lovely places to eat, where you can choose between traditional Portuguese restaurants and also a few offering more continental options! If you prefer a light snack, you will find cafes dotted along the river, where you can enjoy a sandwich or pastries.
5. St Vincent’s Cape
Return to the Discoveries Era on a fun day out at Cape St Vincent! Enter the fortress walls and you will find a square complete with lighthouse, Maritime Museum and an open air bar/cafe. We recommend you visit on Wednesday afternoons, when both the lighthouse and museum are open to the public. Walking along the impressive cliffs, it is frequent to see fishermen sitting on some of the scariest locations on the cliffs! One of the loveliest things you can do is view the sunset at the cape, as you get to see the sun set on the vast expanse of the sea – a wonderful holiday photo opportunity at the southwestern most tip of the European continent!
Fun fact: the 23rd season of The Bachelor was filmed in Portugal, with one of the dates at this exact location!
If you are a nature lover, Monchique should be on your list of places to visit in the Algarve! With impressive natural viewpoints and colorful village houses, this is a wonderful location to come with family and friends!
Highlights in Monchique include the notable mountains of Foia and Serra da Picota. In the town center, you’ll find the 16th century church, as well as the Nossa Senhora do Desterro Convent.
We also recommend checking out Parque das Minas, which is a small historical park where you can learn about the old iron mine, and if you’re bringing along the children, visit the on site petting zoo! In Parque da Mina, you can also learn about how the famous Medronho liquor is made. Caldas de Monchique is one of the main highlights of this location, and one of the most beautiful spas in the region. You can taste its pure freshwater, and marvel at the healing 31o Celcius (86o Farenheit) waters, which are known for treating a variety of ailments. If you are into hiking, take advantage of the 18km trail (11 miles) for more breathtaking beauty!
7. Hiking at the Seven Hanging Valleys
Known as one of the loveliest and most scenic walking trails of the Algarve, spanning over 12,000 meters (7.46 miles). We recommend bringing along a backpack with some nibbles to keep your energy up throughout the 4 to 6 hours it takes to hike the trail. You will have no trouble finding beautiful locations to sit and marvel the amazing blue ocean dotted with caves and rock formations along the way! The trail is marked throughout, so you will be able to follow along with no problems. Bring along a swim suit and towel, as it will be impossible to resist taking a dip in the ocean along the trail!
8. Local Markets
The Algarve is known for it’s fresh fruit, as well as fish and seafood markets! From one end of the Algarve to the other, you will find the freshest fruit and vegetables, as well as the most amazing delicacies and home made products. Most markets work in the mornings, so it is possible to get a bit of shopping done and then go on to explore the local towns. Sonme of our favorite market locations, both for the quality of food and for the lovely surroundings include: Loule, Quarteira, Tavira, Olhao, Portimao, Monchique and Silves
9. Visit a Cork Factory!
In the hills of Sao Bras, away from the normal tourist hangouts, you’ll find a little cork factory called Eco-Fábrica de Cortiça Francisco Carrusca, produces cork for a variety of uses, which you will get to see on their tours! This factory offers a variety of tour options including their cork surfboard factory! We recommend contacting them in advance to book a tour.
10 – Alcantarilha Bone Chapel
Here’s something totally different and out of the way! A little bit creepy, yet incredibly interesting, there are a variety of bone chapels in Portugal, two of which are located in the Algarve! Every centimeter of these ancient buildings is covered with all forms of human bones, from skulls to femurs and more! The town itself is quite lovely with many outdoor cafes and of course beach views you will not want to miss. If you are closer to Faro, we also recommend visiting the Faro Bone Chapel in the Carmo Church. Each is equally fascinating and is comprised of the bones of over 1000 people, forming intricate geometric patterns – an unforgettable experience!