Unfortunately for the lazy, you can’t just rock up to the bus station and demand a ticket to the Algarve. This is actually a region of Portugal, not a single city, an area of the country made up of a variety of beautiful seaside villages and culturally fascinating towns. There are countless places to stop but some are more interesting than others — these are our favourite spots in the Algarve.
Faro might be the administrative centre of the Algarve but for don’t for one second presume that means its all office blocks and paperwork. History goes back a long way here, but it is the reminders of the region’s Moorish heritage that excites the most, with one of the most quaint Old Towns in the country. The capital of the Algarve is full of bars, restaurants, cafes and more, not to mention some of the best museums in the region. Faro is probably the most underrated town in the south of Portugal.
This is the Algarve you have been dreaming of. Lagos is nature’s playground, gorgeous beaches that struggle to keep the cascading waves back, water that stretches to the horizon and beyond holding romance and promises under the breaks. That isn’t to discount the town itself either — Lagos is all adorable cobblestones, stunning white houses and churches that are lost in time.
They’ve been fishing here for many a century, and the Algarve’s biggest fishing port is probably the best place to experience that laid back life you’re after. The water is calmer here, elegant stretches of the blue stuff that encourage another beer and another story. This really is the edge of Europe, a Medieval-heavy part of the world that transcends whatever time it claims to be. Oh, and it is pronounced ‘ol-yau’, if you were wondering.
The Algarve is almost overwhelmingly idyllic, with its gorgeous beaches and serene Old Towns, so the need for a little bit of grit is always appreciated. Portimão provides it in spades, a living town in all manner of ways but one that doesn’t skimp on its history either. Fields of pine trees and the laid back fisherman’s mentality exist as well. Portimão is a little bit of everything in a plucky modern shell.
The epicentre of mass tourism in the Algarve, Albufeira might rub some of our readers up the wrong way. You should prepare yourself for English voices, Irish pubs and all the other trappings of mass tourism, but don’t abandon your traveller spidey senses — there is plenty to enjoy here. There is an old fishing village hiding under the neon, and the tranquility of the past isn’t far away. The beaches are pretty good too, although that almost goes without saying.
Now we’re talking, oh boy we’re talking. Tavira is a beaut, an adorable little place of wonder and elegance, the Algarve that you have dreamt about minus all of the tourists. The old parts of town are a veritable sweet shop of colourful houses and quaint churches, and the view from the hilltop castle is one of those that make travelling the absolute pleasure it is.
We’ll bring our roundup to a close with Silves, another hugely underrated but thank the lord for that town in the Algarve. It isn’t too far from Portimão but it is far more picturesque than its big brother, offering undulating streets of interest with the Algarve’s best castle on top like the proverbial cherry. This was the capital of the Kingdom of Algarve, so don’t begin to underestimate its importance. Gorgeous.