Guide to the Algarve
Top insider tips and recommendations
Discover the Algarve’s sun-kissed treasures with a little expert help
On Algarve holidays, you’re guaranteed a few things – mesmerising Atlantic sunsets, wildlife-rich lagoons and seafood-laced platters being but three of them. And with our Algarve guide, you have the information to discover this Portuguese region for yourself.
It’s brimming with serene sunspots, like Faro’s coves, and authentic market towns like Loule. So, explore glorious coastlines at your own pace, leaving time for a few famous Algarve sunsets while you’re there.
An authentic Algarve experience
Delve into the local way of life on your holiday in the Algarve with a few ideas for your getaway, such as where to find the best local delicacies, how to get around and which significant sites to visit. Let Saga be your in-the-know advisor to Algarve holidays, giving you the freedom to explore the many beaches, caves and basilicas whenever and however you choose.
Portugal is renowned for its role in the Age of Discoveries, and now you can do the discovering for yourself – with some top insider tips.
How to explore the Algarve
Things to see and do
The best food and drink
Weather and climate
Events in the Algarve
Holidays in the Algarve
Travelling by bus in Vilamoura
There's a bus stop near the marina in Vilamoura. Frequent services run approximately every 30 to 40 minutes to Faro alongside other destinations. Typically, a bus from Vilamoura to Faro takes 50 minutes, while numerous services drive throughout the day. If you were heading to Albufeira, a coastal city east of Vilamoura, it would take around 35 minutes. Both journeys cost around €4 each way.
Travelling by train from Vilamoura
Unfortunately, there isn’t a train station in Vilamoura, the nearest ones being Boliqueime, 15 minutes away by road, or Loule, 20 minutes by road. These stations can link you to the wider Algarve, with prices for these journeys ranging from around €2 to €6, depending on where you’re travelling.
Travelling by bus in Lagos
Lagos’ bus station is a pickup point for the ONDA bus service, which links Lagos to its surrounding areas, including beaches. Day tickets for this cost just over €3.50, while individual tickets come to €1.20.
Another service, called the EVA, runs to wider Algarve locations outside of Lagos. You can use this to get to Albufeira in just over an hour, and to Faro in just over two. Both journeys cost a little over €5.
Travelling by train from Lagos
Lagos’ train station is a half-hour walk from the Aqualuz Suite Hotel. Train routes here span the entire Algarve coast, taking you to Silves in 35 minutes or Faro in one hour 45 minutes. Prices for these trips are €3 (Silves) and €7 (Faro) respectively. In Lagos, there’s a tourist train that takes half an hour to run from the marina to the Ponta da Piedade cliffs. This runs between 10am and 7pm and takes you across all the city’s main sites for around €2.50.
Bike rental in Lagos
If you wish to explore the area by bike, then you can. Coast Supply Co., based in Lagos, offer bike rental services.
Praia da Rocha
Travelling by bus in Praia da Rocha
A bus stop is situated 450 metres from the Hotel Oriental. You’ll need to get a bus to Portimao if you’re wanting to go further afield, with routes from Portimao to Lagos departing regularly and taking just over 30 minutes, with a return ticket costing you eight euros. Getting to Faro from Portimao takes one hour 45 minutes and return tickets cost around €12.
Travelling by train from Praia da Rocha
If you want to travel by rail, then you’ll also need to get to Portimao, although getting on a train here can be a quicker alternative to bussing it. Train routes from Portimao to Lagos take 20 minutes, whereas it takes 90 minutes to get to Faro, with regular services running daily.
Travelling by bus in Quarteira
First of all, Quarteira is just three kilometres away from Vilamoura, so you can reach it on foot if you fancy a short hike. Otherwise, when staying in the Hotel QuarteiraSol, you’re just a quick walk from the bus station. Routes can take you around Quarteira and Vilamoura for €1. You can also go to the Algarve’s other main hotspots, like Albufeira and Faro, both of which cost €9 for a return journey. They run between 8am to 7pm, so you can tick off the wider region’s attractions and still get back to Quarteira in time for dinner.
Travelling by train from Quarteira
For train services you’ll have to travel to either Loule or Almancil, both of which are a 15-minute bus ride away. From there, you’re a quarter of an hour train ride from Faro – costing €2 each way – and a 75-minute journey from Tavira, which costs around €4 to €5.
Bike rental in Quarteira
You have a couple of options if you would like to explore the coastline by bike. You can either hire a bicycle at BikeRent Portugal, or you can use Bikeaway. Please note that the latter site will require browser translation from Portuguese.
Car hire in the Algarve
You may want to rent a vehicle for your Algarve holiday. If so, speak to a Saga tour guide or Host who’ll be more than happy to help with the hiring process. This’ll mean you’re free to uncover the area’s most secluded spots at a pace which suits you, going between them as you please. Simply ensure you bring the relevant documentation on holiday with you.
Useful transport links
Use these links if you want the latest information from Algarve travel providers. Please note the sites are written in Portuguese but your web browser may be able to translate them for you:
Trains: Comboios de Portugal
Buses: EVA Transportes
Buses (Lagos): A ONDA Transportes Urbanos de Lagos
Bike rental (Vilamoura and Quarteira): Bikeaway
Please note that all prices are accurate at time of publishing.
The Algarve’s attractions cater for many different tastes. No matter whether you’re visiting to see cultural and historic sites or verdant golf courses, you’ll not go short of things to do when holidaying on the Portuguese coast.
Vilamoura’s marina and sea life
Algarve holidays and refreshing sea breezes go hand in hand. You’ll experience this first hand when staying at the Luna Olympus Hotel, which is a stone’s throw from the beach and walking distance from Vilamoura’s scenic marina. Park up and sip a coffee by the pier, or book yourself onto an organised boat or fishing trip.
The waters surrounding Vilamoura see warm Mediterranean currents mix into colder Atlantic streams, making a distinct and varied ecosystem. Look out for white marlin, swordfish and hammerhead sharks, amongst other fish.
Golf in Vilamoura
If you love golf, you’re well catered for here, with five golf courses within easy reach of both the Luna Olympus and Vilamoura Garden hotels. The championship courses require handicap certificates, but there are courses for all ability levels.
Vilamoura – history and nature
For your history fix, head to the Roman ruins of Cerro da Vila. These remnants show classic Roman architecture, and the area even has evidence of Bronze Age settlers. Alternatively, you can’t go wrong with a trip to the Praia da Rocha Baixinha, a golden strip of sand lining Vilamoura’s coastline. Spend at least one or two afternoons here soaking up vitamin D and gazing out onto the Atlantic.
Lagos – historic sites
Lagos is full of historic sites, like Mercado dos Escravos, Europe’s first slave market which dates back to 1444. Today, the museum serves as a poignant reminder of the horrors many slaves endured. The Santo Antonio church, and its Baroque-style interiors, are also a must-see in Lagos, as is the Bandeira Fort, a small fortress built in the 17th century to protect the town’s port. Immerse yourself within this cultural gem before making your way back to Lagos’ more lavish charms.
Lagos – natural beauty
For natural beauty, go to the sea arches and caves of Ponta de Piedade on the shoreline of Lagos. This spectacle comprises rocky pillars, caves and towering sandstone cliffs. On sunny days (and let’s face it, it’s nearly always sunny in the Algarve) the landscapes glint a vibrant shade of gold, making for endless photo opportunities and dreamy beachside evenings.
The Quintana Do Paraiso beach is within walking distance from the Hotel QuarteiraSol and a wide range of other amenities. Go here to experience local life by the coast – and don’t be afraid to enjoy a tipple or two while you’re at it!
Praia da Rocha – natural beauty
Like much of the Algarve, Praia da Rocha is known for its beaches. The town is quaint, explorable by foot and perfect for long days losing yourself to Portuguese sunshine and a good book.
Silves – historic sites
For something a little more adventurous, drive from Praia da Rocha to the region’s so-called Moorish capital, Silves. It’s a 30-minute journey inland, at the end of which you’ll see an iconic sandstone castle. Visit here and gaze over the surrounding region, enjoying stretching vistas that’ll be a certified highlight of your Algarve holiday.
Portimao – museums and spiritual sites
You can walk to Portimao, a larger inland town, from Praia da Rocha. The Museu de Portimao gives an insight into the fishing and canning industries, which were the backbone of this town’s economy before tourism arrived. It also houses an interactive exhibition explaining the recent seabed conservation efforts taken to preserve the Algarve’s Atlantic shores.
Otherwise, visit the Igreja do Colegio, a majestic 17th century church, overlooking a plaza. It managed to survive the earthquake of 1755, unlike many other nearby buildings. Take a tour and marvel over the fanciful interiors which make up one of Portimao’s most sacred sites.
For more ideas, try the official Portimao City Hall website. Note that you’ll need to understand Portuguese or have your web browser translate the pages to understand it, though.
Quarteira – scenic walks
Similar to Praia da Rocha, Quarteira’s beauty lies in its size. Quarteira is easy to explore by foot, particularly the long promenade which leads to Vilamoura. It’s a three-kilometre walk here, so load up on coffee before a leisurely stroll in the Algarve sun.
You’ll come across plush yachts sailing amongst the various Algarve port town and no shortage of bars and cafes for whenever you’re in need of replenishing.
Quarteira – beaches
Across from the Hotel QuarteiraSol, there’s the Praia de Quarteira. This classic Algarve beach has been reeling in holidaymakers since the 1960s, and to this day holds Blue Flag status due to its cleanliness.
It’s around two kilometres long, adorned with gentle lapsing waves that make swimming simple and safe. Once you’ve sunbathed or swam, retreat back to the hotel and sip a cocktail – or dig into a fine meal – as the sun sets.
It takes a lot to top awe-inspiring Algarve sunsets, but the food and drink here may just surpass this regional highlight. Fish and seafood is highly revered here, thanks to its coastal location.
Garlic is a staple of many dishes and quite often, chefs will cook meals with whole cloves still in their skins! Camarao Portuguese is a local speciality comprising prawns (in their shells) fried in olive oil and garlicy butter, sprinkled with coriander and a bay leaf.
This simplicity is mirrored in other dishes centring around pork, clams or cockles.
You’ll find that alcohol is reasonably priced in the Algarve, but the quality is still everything you’d expect from a warm country straddling the Mediterranean.
The region produces its own wine in vineyards near Lagoa, Portimao and Tavira, with tours regularly giving visitors a more accurate taste of the region.
Most restaurants solely serve Portuguese wine, although some serve varieties from Spain and elsewhere.
Beer and spirits
In terms of beer, there are three main national brands sold in the Algarve – Sagres, Super Bock and Cristal.
These are often poured on tap, although you’ll also come across more common international lagers that you’d find back home, which tend to be more expensive.
In terms of distilled spirits, aguardente is a Portuguese drink which’ll leave a fiery taste in your throat. A cousin of grappa and cachaça, it’s the region’s most famous spirit, and is probably best enjoyed as a digestif.
With year round sun, the Algarve is the perfect holiday destination for any time of the year.
Visiting the Algarve in the summer
Algarve holidays have a well-deserved reputation for warm temperatures. This is true for most of the year, with July’s temperatures reaching averages of around 24 degrees Celsius.
Between June and September, the thermometer rarely dips below 20, so if you’re planning on visiting at this time, it’s best to pack light clothes which you feel comfortable wearing to the beach.
Don’t forget to bring sun cream, too. Rainfall is scarce in the summer, but bring a waterproof on the off chance there’s a shower.
Visiting the Algarve in the spring or autumn
Holidaymakers heading out to the Algarve in either spring or autumn are usually greeted with temperate, but pleasant weather.
It’ll averages at 18 degrees Celsius in May and 19 in October, although highs can reach 25 degrees in both months.
Regardless of when you visit, it’s always good to bring some warmer clothes for the evening, when it’ll get slightly cooler.
Visiting the Algarve in the winter
Winters are prone to rainfall, particularly January and December. Temperatures average at 12 and 14 degrees for these months respectively.
It’s worth bringing some cosier garments for Algarve winter holidays, with a raincoat thrown in for good measure.
Whether you’re visiting the Algarve in the heat of July or a mild week in January, there’s often a traditional festival or celebration you can partake in. Here’s a few of the best.
Festival of Chouriço (January)
Winter highlights include the Festival of Chouriço, an event dedicated to the Portuguese equivalent of Spain’s chorizo sausage.
It takes place just north of Loule every January. Visit to see a procession and musical entertainment, plus lots of homemade chouriço with tastings throughout the course of the day.
Pleasures of the Sea festival (June)
June brings annual festivals like the ‘Pleasures of the Sea’ festival, which takes place in Aljezur, a municipality around a half hour drive from Lagos. Like its name suggests, this celebration involves local restaurants setting out delicious sea food dishes for guests to sample.
Visitors can also educate themselves about the region’s culinary history and traditions. While you’re tucking into locally sourced oysters or clams, try pick up a few tips from local chefs and then who knows, maybe you’ll be able to take a few signature Algarve flavours back home with you.
International Sand Sculpture Festival (May – October)
Algarve visitors between May and October can go to Sand City in Pera, near Silves, which is also referred to as the International Sand Sculpture Festival.
It’s been described as the world’s biggest sand sculpture event which sees around 45,000 tons of sand, covering an area of 15,000 square metres, get shaped into an impressive array of well-known movie characters, intricate buildings and much more.