The Algarve can be a little overwhelming at first. This isn’t entirely accurate — most come here to get themselves a tan at the beach after all — but the abundance of small towns and options can leave the nervous, well, nervous. We’re efficient folk here at In Your Pocket, so we’ve meticulously compiled a list of the 10 things you absolutely must get done while in the region. And yes, there is sunbathing involved…
Wander the streets of Faro
Faro is the largest city of the Algarve, its capital if you will, and it also happens to be one of the most underrated cities in Europe. The old town is particularly charming, a mixture of architectural styles that act as a living slideshow of the town’s fascinating history. Entering the old town through the Arco da Vila is one of the great Algarve experiences.
Conquer the castles and fortresses
The Algarve is full, chock-full we say, of castles and fortresses that bear witness to the long and storied history of controlling this highly sought-after pocket of Europe. These castles are reminders today, beautiful echoes of a long gone past, and a spot of castle-hopping is a must when in the area. Be sure to nip by the examples in Silves, Loule and Alvor.
Head to the end of Europe
Cape St. Vincent is one of the most popular locations in the region, and it only takes a cursory glance to understand why. This is just about as southwest as Europe gets, the very end of the continent before the vast ocean begins and the Americas await. The ancient Greeks knew it as the ‘Land of Serpents’, although it isn’t quite as sinister as that suggests. Immensely beautiful, for sure.
Birdies, Eagles, Bogeys and Pars
There was a time when golf was an unintelligible word in these parts but those days are long gone. The Algarve is now one of the premier golfing destinations in Europe, with a collection of gorgeous courses that are as pleasing as they are challenging. If you’re looking for a tremendous golfing experience, look no further.
Get that tan
Okay, we’ll talk about beaches now. The Algarve is famous for its beaches, but there is more to them than simple sunbathing. These are some of the most picturesque coastal spots on the planet, picture-perfect combinations of sun, sea and sand with stunning geological formations for company. Marinha (Lagos) gets ‘Best Beach in the World’ billing, while Falesia (Albufeira), Dona Ana (Lagos) and Arrifana (Aljezur) vie for main event status. Just don’t forget the book and the sunscreen.
Stroll down 200 steps towards heaven
The Algarve has plenty of beaches but few tug at the heartstrings quite like Camilo (Lagos). This tiny slither of magic is found at the bottom of 200 treacherous steps, a walkway that feels like a chore but is utterly rewarding once the expanse of deep blue sea reveals itself. Arguably the region’s prettiest beach.
Visit Hell’s Pit
Yes, Hell’s Pit. The name suggests one thing but the reality is quite the opposite, and Tavira’s Pego do Inferno is one of nature’s great accomplishments. A lake and a waterfall, this hidden spot is perfect for forgetting the stresses of the modern world and embracing whatever comes your way. Heaven for climate, hell for conversation, and all that jazz…
Take a selfie with Vasco de Gama
The museums of the Algarve don’t get anywhere near as many column inches as they deserve. There is history here and just as much culture to match. The Municipal Museum in Faro is arguably the region’s best, but we’ve never been shy of our fondness for a classic wax museum. Lagos is home to the Wax Museum of Portuguese Discoveries, where you can take a selfie with the many explorers of this proud nation’s history. Delightful stuff.
There are some gorgeous churches in these parts, and that is one huge understatement. Faro Cathedral is the first that jumps to mind, and the Fort of Nossa Senhora da Rocha is as Instagrammable as it gets. Then there is the Chapel of Bones, which is exactly what the name suggests. Our favourite? We don’t do favourites, but if the gun is pressed to our head then we’re going to go with the Church of São Lourenço in Loule. Just you wait until you see that interior.
Go Underground, Overground
The Benagil Caves are caves the likes of which you have never seen. Located in the adorable fishing village of the same name, these geological curiosities have been formed over thousands of years, and the hole in the ceiling allows sunlight to stream down into the cool water. It all makes for one of the Algarve’s great images, the sort of vision that is simply too beautiful for any camera to do it justice.