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Experience dramatic cliffs, scalloped sandy beaches, blue waters and Portuguese charm on beautiful Algarve holiday - one of Europe’s best destinations.

Mesmerising coves and bays that line the southern coast of Portugal have long made the Algarve a popular place in Europe with holidaymakers. Thanks to the azure waters, white sand and rocky backdrops, the Algarve will always be able to accommodate you with inviting beaches, such as Praia da Rocha. But, the region has a whole lot more to offer you during holidays in the Algarve than just the blissful beaches.

The Algarve also has a long and storied history. The area boasts relics and archaeological sites from the Carthaginian, Moorish, Phoenician and Greek eras. An afternoon of exploration during Algarve holidays can provide a fascinating way to learn about Portugal’s past. And don’t forget about the area’s natural riches – from turquoise waters to verdant hillsides, there are so many sights to inspire your eyes.

 

Top holidays in the Algarve

Culture and history

The Algarve is a Catholic region and some visitors come here solely for religious reasons. One of the biggest draws is The Sovereign Mother festival, which takes place every April and attracts religious tourists not just from Portugal, but from all over the world. The highlight of the festival is the final parade. This parade starts at Loulé’s main church and finishes at the shrine of the Sovereign Mother, where thousands of people gather to watch the procession.

A particularly important tradition in the Algarve that’s still practiced today is the art of pottery making. You’ll see intricately hand-painted pottery and tiles in market places all over the Algarve. You can see potters in action at one of the many working potteries and ceramics workshops in the area. Other traditional crafts such as basket making, weaving and lace making are also still practiced today, and the products from these are usually sold in markets as souvenirs.

While you’re on your holiday in the Algarve, take the time to try some bacalhau com natas (cod in cream). This is the Portuguese national dish and they bake it in the oven with potatoes and cream. The dish has a strong flavour, and the Portuguese love the cod so much that they even refer to it as the ‘faithful friend’.

Things to do

Whether you cruise into one of its ports or fly over for a Portuguese walking holiday, Algarve holidays offer so many things to see and do. With a wealth of first-rate golf courses to help you perfect your swing, as well as gorgeous scenic beaches and delightful whitewashed villages to explore, the Algarve offers immense variety. The regional capital Faro also has plentiful attractions for tourists, due to its historic buildings and cobbled streets.

Olhão

The home of the largest fishing port in the Algarve, quaint Olhão is a fishing village like no other. This charming place is famous for its whitewashed, North African style houses. Browse the local fish market before trying the fresh produce in one of Olhão’s cafes or restaurants. During this leisurely visit, you can cool off in the shade of the gardens and watch the local merchants and fishermen arranging their market stalls as you walk along the picturesque waterfront.

Faro

Most visitors to the Algarve are attracted by the scenic coves and beaches that adorn its tourist brochures, but the region’s towns and cities have a magnetism of their own. This is especially the case with the region’s historic capital, Faro. The narrow, cobbled lanes of Faro appear to have resisted the passing of time, looking unchanged for centuries, and the city is infused with a tranquil charm that captivates visitors to this day.

You can’t leave the Algarve without seeing the medieval quarter of the regional capital. The Cathedral of Faro is like a physical manifestation of the region’s long history. At different points in the city’s past, the building has been a site of worship for Romans, Moors, and Visigoths – nowadays, the Catholic Church calls it home. Faro is also full of excellent cafes and restaurants, as well as bars that offer a change of pace from the beach.

Loulé market

Find the best of Portuguese produce and crafts at Loulé market, in the town of Loulé, which is approximately 16 kilometres north of Faro. Many Portuguese people come to the indoor market to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables for the week. Since you’re on holiday, you can treat yourself to locally produced piri-piri sauce, freshly made cakes or a delicate hand painted teapot or plate. The most popular time to come to this market is on a Saturday morning when all of the stalls are out.

Lagoa dos Salgados

Discover the wildlife of the Algarve with a journey to Lagoa dos Salgados. One of the country’s most important ecological reserves, the lagoon is rich in bird life, including everything from gulls and spoonbills to flamingos. Wildlife like this makes the reserve a must-visit location for nature lovers and amateur ornithologists, so there are packages available that includes field guides and binoculars. See how many of the 150 different species of bird you can spot.

Flight time

Flights to the Algarve from London take approximately 2 hours 30 minutes if you’re flying to Faro

Settle in and catch up on one of the latest films while the plane wings you over to Portugal. You’ll be in the Algarve before you know it!

Currency

Euro - Like the rest of Portugal and much of Europe, Algarve uses the euro.

Passports and visas

British citizens don’t need a visa to visit the Algarve as a tourist. All you’ll need is a passport that’s valid for the duration of your holiday there and you’re ready to go.

If you plan to stay for more than three months, you must apply for a registration certificate from the local authorities.

Visit GOV.UK for more advice on passports and visas.

Phrases

Try out some of these handy Portuguese phrases on your holiday in the Algarve:

Olá – Hello

Adeus – Goodbye

Por favor – Please

Obrigado or obrigada – Thank you

Ó, desculpe! Or com licença! – Excuse me

Fala inglês? – Do you speak English?

Quanto custa? – How much is it?

Vai mais uma? – One more?

Viva! – Cheers!

Timezone

There’s no time difference between the Algarve and the UK from November to late March, as the time in the Algarve reverts from Western European Summer Time, which is 1 hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), back to Western European Standard Time and this is the same as GMT.

Until summer time, forget about changing the time on your watch – instead, you can get stuck into your Algarve holiday straight away!

Electricity

The Algarve uses standard, two-pin European sockets. Remember to pack some European plug adaptors so that you can charge up your phone or other electronic devices at the hotels in the Algarve.

Language

Portuguese - Portuguese is the official language of the Algarve, although other languages such as French, Spanish and English are also widely spoken.

Tipping

Since the Algarve is a popular holiday destination, restaurant staff expect to receive tips. Despite not being compulsory, a tip of around 10% of the bill is reasonable when you’ve received good service.

When the service is spectacular, or when you’re in a high-end restaurant, a tip of 15% of the bill is considered very complimentary. Similarly, you should tip taxi drivers about 10% of your fare.

If you’d like to tip bar staff, leave €1 or €2 when you leave and you’ll probably make someone’s day.

Climate

The weather in the Algarve is generally warm and dry. The region boasts a long summer with average temperatures between 18 and 24 degrees Celsius from May to October.

The highest temperatures come in July and August with temperatures reaching up to a scorching 33 degrees Celsius. Visit during March, April or November for cooler average temperatures of around 16 degrees Celsius.

Health

As health information can change at any time, we’d advise you to consult your GP at least 12 weeks before departing on holidays in the Algarve.

Country-specific information and advice on possible health risks is also published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre, and The British Foreign and Commonwealth Travel Advice Unit provides important health and safety information for British nationals travelling abroad.

Population and size

The Algarve is the southernmost region of mainland Portugal and has a small population of just over 450,000 people.

Smoking

Portugal has a smoking ban that prohibits smoking in public places. This includes bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Smoking outdoors is permitted, so there are plenty of options for smokers and non-smokers to enjoy their time in the Algarve.


Places in the Algarve


Climate

Turismo de Portugal - Algarve

Guide to the Algarve

The stunning Algarve coast at sunset

Discover the Algarve’s sun-kissed allures with a little expert help from Saga.