With the choices being so limited on countries on the UK Green List to visit, it’s reassuring to see Portugal, an old favourite on the list of permitted destinations.
The Algarve, situated in the southernmost region in Portugal and framed by a 200km coastline, is a favourite summer holiday destination for many Brits who flock to the region for its pristine beaches, diverse gastronomy and wide range of activities, both water-based and on land.
Less than a three-hour flight from most UK airports, it’s a family-friendly, and weirdly enough, cheaper option than a number of staycation ideas in the UK. This proximity to the UK means that many families have visited several times, but if you are yet to enjoy the many delights of the Algarve, we have partnered with Algarve Tourism to collate a guide for first time visitors to the sunny destination.
Our list offers a mixture of well-known and off the beaten track locations and activities that will enable visitors to discover the region’s stunning scenery, history and tasty cuisine and more.
Read our list of ‘must do’ experiences for first timers visiting the Algarve.
Visit Ria Formosa Natural Park
Take a boat trip in Ria Formosa Natural Park, a unique coastal lagoon in central Algarve, elected as one of the 7 Natural Wonders of Portugal.
See the sunset at Cape St. Vincent
Visit Cape St. Vincent, the southwest edge of mainland Europe, which is particularly spectacular at sunset. Heading north from here you can enjoy a scenic drive or walk up the Vicentine Coast, considered Portugal’s greatest coastal paradise and part of a protected Natural Park.
Head to Portugal’s equivalent of the ‘12 Apostles’
Hike along some of Algarve’s key walking routes such as the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail near Lagoa, with views over the famous Benagil Cave. Towards Lagos you can see Ponta da Piedade with its rock formations and caves carved by the elements over thousands of years, Portugal’s equivalent to the 12 Apostles.
Discover the Ecovia trail
Cycle on the Ecovia trail to discover the natural marvels of the region. Highlights include the birdwatching haven of the Alvor Estuary, the majestic cliffs of Sagres point, and the pretty coastal fishing villages of Salema and Burgau.
Learn Portuguese history
Walk through Portuguese history. The Algarve’s numerous, white-washed parishes bordered with greenery, like the picturesque inland village of Alte or the shore-lined Alvor offer a glimpse into traditional rural and coastal living. The Castelo de Silves is a great national monument to learn about the Moorish influence on the region, whilst the Church of Lourenço in Amancil is a wonder to behold with its vibrant interior of blue and white azulejo tiles.
Leave the beaten track
Take a ferry from Olhão to Armona Island or from Faro to the least developed and inhabited Deserta Island, for an authentic Algarve experience.
Eat authentic Portuguese cuisine
Enjoy an alfresco lunch of sardines or fresh seafood in Portimão, at one of the many riverside restaurants, or in Olhão, next to Ria Formosa promenade. Heading inland try the stews and dishes of rich game and meat with strong, aromatic flavours.
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Chill out on one of the Algarve’s many award-winning beaches
Enjoy a day relaxing on the beach. The Algarve is often lauded as having some of the best beaches in Europe. From sandy beaches to deserted islands, and award-winning beaches like Dona Ana, Camillo, Meia, Marinha and Falésia beach, there is plenty of choice to suit every taste. A trip to explore the impressive Benagil Cave is also a must.