The southern coast of Portugal, also known as the Algarve, has been blessed with an amazing coastal landscape that shouldn’t be missed by any sea lover. This is where the golden coast and sandy beaches meet the turquoise waters to form a fantastic blend of colours. Although these are already the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, the warmth of the Mediterranean Sea is still very much felt, making it perfect for swimming and beach relaxation. Also, the waters have shaped the coast into a stunning scenery that will make a trip to the Algarve simply unforgettable.
How to get there
The easiest way to go to the Algarve is by taking a flight to Faro. The airport serves lots of daily flights from many destinations. But there is also a possibility to fly to Lisbon and drive to the Algarve. In any case, it is highly recommended to rent a car, because there are plenty of lovely beaches in a short driving distance, but not all of them are convenient to reach by public transport. Having a car will also give you a lot of flexibility to chose your accommodation and will allow you to see as many places as possible, especially if you are here for a short visit.
Where to stay
There are plenty of accommodations choices in the Algarve, from big hotels and holiday complexes to rental apartments or small boutique properties. For us the best option was to rent a car and find a very nice hotel in the middle of the Algarve coast, not so close to the beach, but with very good road connections to all beaches. This allowed us to go to a different beach every day and also to get a very good value for money, since we had compromised on beach proximity. But no matter what your main needs are, be sure you will find a suitable option.
As for the beaches, we enjoyed very much all of them, but below we have picked the first 5 ones we consider you should really know about when planning your visit.
Our top 5 amazing beaches of the Algarve
Praia do Camilo
Our favourite beach was Praia do Camilo, located in the western Algarve, very close to Ponta da Piedade panorama. The access to the beach is via stairs from the top of the 70ft tall coast, opening up for a picture perfect view. On the beach there is also a small tunnel that connects it to another smaller beach just near. The beaches can be crowded, as both of them are quite small and very touristy, but we spent most of the time in the water and we didn’t mind that too much. You can find a cafe and the necessary facilities on the top of the coast, just before going down the stairs. When visiting this beach don’t forget to also visit Ponta da Piedade panorama, located at a short distance, from where you can admire the dramatic rocky coast shaped by the ocean waters.
Praia de Benagil, Lagos
This beach is the perfect spot for taking a boat tour to explore the Algarve caves, especially the Benagil cave, one of the images that Algarve is identified with. The beach itself is rather small and without many amenities, but is worth adding it to your itinerary for the boat tour and as a starting point of a very beautiful coastal trail to admiring the stunning landscape. The pedestrian path starts from the top of the Benagil cave (we entered from the parking area) and offers good spots to take wonderful pictures.
Praia do Alvor & Praia dos Tres Irmaos, Ribeiro
Although not very famous like the other ones, this very large beach portion perfectly combines the golden smooth sand, calm clean waters, beach facilities, including sun beds, with interesting rocky shapes. You can walk along the beach and you don’t need to worry about the tide, there is plenty of space. We really found this beach very beautiful and relaxing, far from the crowd of tourists.
Praia da Marinha
This beach has a fantastic scenery and the interesting rock formations found here are going to test your imagination. The beach is not very small, but it is recommended to visit it when the tide is low, otherwise a big portion of it will be covered by water and it can get very crowded. There is a small restaurant and a cafe, with perfect views of the scenery.
Praia da Rocha, near Portimao
This beach is a vast area of smooth golden sand that makes it perfect for tourists looking for space and classical beach facilities. It is a typical resort beach, with sunbeds, cafes, restaurants and fun activities. Even during high season, when it gets very crowded, you can walk along the shore and still find enough place to sunbath. Only the parking near can be a bit tricky, so you might need to consider walking some distance from the car to the beach, as this is a very popular resort.
Other tips when visiting the Algarve:
– spend some time in Faro old city, it’s very charming and deserves a stroll around its narrow streets. You can find here some really interesting industrial sites reconverted to have a modern use, such as cocktail bars or cafes
– visit Lagos if you are in the area. The city is full of history, especially related to slave trade and still has plenty of places to show this, including a museum that incorporates various digital technologies to display its artifacts and information
– be ready for unexpected heavy rain, sometimes it happens even in the summer, but the good thing is that in general also passes very fast
– try local food and wine; they are delicious and the portions are quite big. An omelette for example comes with French fries and can be a consistent main dish in many places.