Mouthwatering cuisine, golden sands, the warm welcome from friendly locals – there's endless reasons to visit the Algarve. This is a slice of Portugal that every holidaymaker should head to at least once. The problem is that once you see all this charm up close, you'll want to come back time and again. A nice dilemma to have! But what are the best things to do in the Algarve? The itinerary staples for savvy travellers, the must-see sights, and the activities that you definitely need to do. Dive a little deeper in Portugal's southernmost coast, with our guide below.
If you're looking for a dose of adrenaline, ride the slides at an Algarve waterpark. As the name suggests you'll find everything you'd ever want at Slide & Splash, close to Portimão and Carvoeiro. Go head to head, racing side by side on two towering slides – this is your chance for holiday bragging rights. Perhaps you'd prefer to zoom down head first on your mat, or tackle The Black Hole on a tandem inflatable. The Big Wave lives up to its name, so if you're seeking the ultimate splash and thrill be sure to tick this off your list. There's animal surprises here too, the perfect tonic for when you need a break. Watch the falcons spread their wings at daily flying shows, or simply catch the parrots squawking. Recharge your batteries with some animal entertainment and you'll be raring to go all over again.
The family fun continues at Aqualand Algarve, where your little ones will find all the magic they could ever want. You might even get that tingle of excitement once you hear some of the fantastically named slides and rides. Crazy Leap, Flying Carpets, Supersurf – this is the perfect place for the whole gang to make a splash. And with Children's Paradise and Rainbow Park tailor-made for children, this is a day out that your kids will absolutely love.
Ever harboured dreams of spotting dolphins out on the open ocean? Dancing their way through the waves in perfect formation? Chances are that our picture has already sent you off to pod paradise so we should probably start with dolphin spotting tours. There's a number of species to be spotted off the Algarve's coastline, including the beautiful bottlenose kind. And if you're lucky you might even spot turtles and sharks in your time at sea! A full house of amazing underwater creatures.
Maybe our feathered friends are your animal kingdom favourites? Ria Formosa is your Algarve gateway to brilliant birdlife. Beautiful lagoons meet peninsulas of golden sand in this natural park, making it ideal for a holiday voyage. Thousands of migrating birds make a pit stop here on their journeys between Europe and Africa – a real treat for keen birdwatchers. So be sure to look up and keep your eyes peeled for soaring flocks overhead! Flamingos even call Ria Formosa home throughout the year. You'll spot these colourful pinks birds standing out against the beautiful blue and gold – even if that is only on one leg.
And what about those of you that prefer stunning scenery? If you love natural beauty then a boat tour discovering the coast should tick all your boxes. This is your chance to explore parts of the Algarve that you simply can't reach on foot. Coves, caves and cliff face arches characterise the shores here – perfect for inquisitive minds and intrepid explorers. If there's just one cave that you choose to visit, make sure it's Benagil. This rocky dome holds a hidden surprise, a wonderful beach tucked away from the rest of the world. An injection of light shines through the almost perfect circle in the top of the cave. These golden rays illuminate this stunning work of art, created by the wind and waves.
There's historic gems scattered all around the Algarve. You're never far from a fascinating sight in this part of Portugal. From towns with tales to tell, to pockets of seafaring past – there's so much to discover. But one town in particular packs a stronger cultural punch than the rest. Despite being named Silves and boasting monuments with a bronze tint, this town takes Portugal's gold medal for history. Not many of its neighbours can claim to have two monuments as impressive and intriguing as those that you'll find here.
Silves' castle and cathedral sit side by side, keeping watch over the town from their hilltop position. And it's the former that's the most eye catching! As you'd expect from a Moorish castle, deep red bricks are the foundation – creating a great contrast with the brilliantly white buildings that dominate the town. Although the terracotta rooves are a great tie between the two. Silves was a key port for trading, meaning that it needed to be protected at all costs. Its 11 towers gave it both security and the architectural appeal it holds today, so keep an eye out for them as you wander around.
The castle may dominate your eyeline from afar, but once you get up close you'll be just as impressed by the cathedral. Its Gothic details and features are particularly impressive. Especially when you consider that an earthquake struck this monument in the 18th century. The marvel of a stroll here is not only a testament to its architects, but those who restored its former glory. And if just need a little extra slice of history, take in the Roman Bridge over the Arade River – the perfect cherry to top this cultural cake.
It's no surprise that the Algarve's long coastline seems to sparkle so brightly. The rugged rockfaces and fine sands are brilliantly golden – creating 24 carat coastal beauty. And the year-round sun is like a spotlight, drawing attention to its amazing charm.
The nearby marina and town add a bustling seaside feel to Praia da Rocha – a vast beach where you'll find plenty of space. Perhaps you'd prefer a stroll along the sand? A wooden walkway winds it away along the length of Da Rocha, letting you take in all the coastal scenery. Albufeira's Fishermen's Beach puts the seaside charm even closer to your sunbathing spot. Aromas of the catch of the day drift down to the beach from grills across town. So it's just as well that there's only a short stroll between you and your next amazing lunch. That smell just seems too delicious to resist!
It's just you and the natural beauty at Praia Nova. There's plenty of space here, but the imposing cliff face gives it a secluded feel. You won't find huge crowds flocking here, despite its size it has remained a somewhat hidden gem. And if it's space you're searching for, Praia de Falesia is the pick of the bunch. 6km of golden sand, with eye-catching red cliffs creating a striking coastal contrast. Thrillseekers and families will feel equally at home on this stretch of the Algarve. A mix of calmer, shallow waters and spots for surfing and diving offer perfect beach day variety.
For the inside scoop on the Algarve's wonderful bays and coves, check out our guide to the best beaches in the Algarve.
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