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Portugal's golden child, the Algarve is holiday royalty at its finest. Stretching out for almost 155km and blessed with some of the best beaches in all of Europe, the 24-carat coastline has holidaymakers well and truly hooked. From the Old Town of Albufeira to super chic Vilamoura and its VIP holiday experience, here's our guide on where to stay in the Algarve.
Tycoon of Portugal's travel scene, the Algarve needs little introduction. Thanks to its popularity and award-winning credentials, big-name resorts line the sought-after shores all vying for your affections.
Beach-bums beeline to Blue Flags, sun-seekers bathe on iconic sands, sightseers gravitate to culture-rich towns and golf aficionados swing over to world-class courses. Whatever your tastes, you're spoilt for choice in this Portuguese paradise…
Lagos holidays have got it all! Beautiful beaches, historic heritage, relaxed atmosphere, energetic nightlife, delicious dining experiences and first-class facilities. Tourism has only left a small trace on this traditional treasure, so the town's character and charm has remained well and truly intact. Good news for anyone hunting for a more authentic base for their beachside break! Simultaneously sophisticated and easy-going, you'll find Lagos ticks all the holiday boxes without even trying.
The starting point for many Portuguese ships during the Age of Discovery, intrepid explorers launched excursions from Lagos' port in the hopes of finding new lands on their voyages. You might even say these were the very first jet-setters of sorts! From early century wanderlust to the town's impressive historic heritage, the otherworldly Old Town is teeming with architectural attractions including a castle, baroque churches and a fort. All cosied between ancient Moorish walls and connected with cobbled lanes, Lagos is a picture-perfect snapshot of a bygone time.
Away from culture vulture antics, there's plenty of sandy sweet spots to enjoy the breathtaking natural beauty. Sun-drenched and seductive shores sit beneath some of the most famous cliff lines of the entire Algarve, with Praia da Dona Ana cast as poster child for the dreamy destination. Families fall in love with Lagos' beach scene year in, year out, and who can blame them? Sheltered coves, warm waters, fascinating sea stacks, shallows for splash-happy shenanigans and lifeguards on watch in the summer months.
For those torn between action and relaxation, every kind of activity imaginable is available here. Try your hand at horse riding, set sail on a boat tour, explore the underwater world with watersports, cycle deserted trails, hike picturesque pathways or simply sip a cocktail at the modern marina. Holidays in Lagos are proof that you can please every member of your travelling party in one place!
Get away from it all in captivating Carvoeiro! A destination doppelganger of Albufeira's own Old Town, holidaymakers hit the jackpot with this cute and compact resort. Traditional sugarcube residents and quaint cobble streets are trademark traits of the one-time fishing village. Fronted by a golden beach and cocooned by two rocky headlands, Praia de Carvoeiro is a firm family favourite and for good reason! Gentle tides and warm waters welcome parents and their children for a day of paddling, while limestone cliffs watch over the 24-carat sands – idyllic for walking enthusiasts who like to seek out fresh vantage points.
Speaking of walkers, Carvoeiro is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. Between iconic sea caves, amazing Algar Seco National Park and patchwork quilt of beautiful beaches – there's countless ways to unleash your adventurous streak. Boat tours are your ticket to the breathtaking Grutas de Benagil, where you'll come face to face with a dazzling domed sea cave. Three nature-carved arches and counting, there's also a hole in the roof where sunlight spills in and illuminates the golden sands and glistening sea below. The most photographed spot in the whole of the Algarve, be sure to come armed with a camera!
The Carvoeiro boardwalk brings you up close and personal to a handful of heavenly beaches, as well as Algar Seco National Park. Accessible for all abilities, the wooden walkway leads you beside weird and wonderful sandstone shapes and sea stacks. Curious coastal creations look like they've been carved from honeycomb toffee and nibbled at by nature's elements for centuries, so savour every second as you follow the trail around the sweet scenes…
One of the most famous viewpoints of the whole boardwalk is 'A Boneca'. Affectionately referred to as 'the doll', a short passage leads you into a small chamber, where you're greeted with two gaping holes in the cave wall. Through these 'eyes' you can watch over the wild, deep blue ocean below. Pure back-to-nature bliss!
Arguably the biggest and best-loved of all the Algarve's resorts, Albufeira has something for everyone. Whether you're raring to unleash your adventurous side with wet and wild watersports or simply looking for a hassle-free holiday hotspot – this dreamy destination more than delivers. Stretching out for 20 miles and blessed with no less than 25 sandy sweet spots, it's fair to say the beach is the be all and end all here. Sun, sea and splash enthusiasts will be swooning over this shoreline long after they've headed home for the evening…
While it's clear that praias take precedence as Albufeira's main attraction, there's plenty more fun to be had away from the waves. Tee-off on some of the world's most revered courses, from Pine Cliffs to Monte Rei Golf and Country Club. Tree-lined fairways and pristine greens are immaculately kept and lovingly tended. Perched on craggy cliff tops or backed by majestic mountains, even wayward shots into the bunker are easier to take with views like these. Putting your way through prestigious courses is a holiday must for keen golfers – just don't forget to pack your favourite clubs!
Albufeira's Old Town is one of its biggest draws and most irresistible attractions. Overflowing with wonderful, whitewashed architecture and quaint cobble streets – the whole place is picture perfect. Ideal for a lazy afternoon or two, wander the boutique-lined streets in search of souvenirs or set up camp in one of the inviting cafés. Beckoning you closer with a waft of tempting aromas, let your nose dictate the culinary direction of the day. Around 100 family focused restaurants are part of Albufeira's pull, so whether you're travelling with fussy feasters or experimental eaters – you'll be well catered for.
Welcome to the holiday high-life! Vilamoura is home to a huge marina teeming with celebrity-style yachts and billionaire boats. Life revolves around the heavenly 1,000 berth harbour, which acts as centrepiece for any stay in the purpose-built leisure resort. Chic and sophisticated, the finer things in life come as standard in this cosmopolitan city. Perfect for strolls along the pretty promenade and café culture, grab a seat in the warm sun and laze the day away by watching the world go by…
A crowd-pleaser to the core, holidays in Vilamoura aren't only fuelled by the hum of hedonism. History hunters can get their fill of the region's heritage with a visit to the impressive Roman ruins of Cerro da Vila. The coveted collection is made up of architectural and archaeological relics of residences, not to mention ruins of baths, fishing stations, tombs and a museum.
Bucket list road trips are within easy reach – good news for day-trip devotees! Lovely Loulé is a stone's throw from Vilamoura and prime candidate for an outing. A traditional Portuguese market town just 30 minutes away, feast your eyes on the quaint town centre, captivating cathedrals and churches and its imposing castle walls. The Mercado de Loulé, aka market hall, is one of the biggest reasons to visit. Easily mistakable for a Moorish palace at first glance, amazing arches and oriental-style domes decorate the outside. Arrive early to get your hands on the freshest produce and handmade souvenirs. It's virtually impossible to resist the aromas that waft through the rows of stalls, so you're guaranteed to leave with something!
As if all that wasn't enough, Vilamoura has a whopping five championship golf courses, its very own casino and a duo of beaches to die for! Praia de Marina and Praia de Falesia are the answer to all your holiday praias. The latter being one of the best beaches on offer, it extends for an enormous 5km and is flanked by distinctive red sandstone cliffs. Even in this well-loved part of the world, there's still a few sandy sweet spots you can sneak away to. Socialites flock to the aptly named 'golden triangle' nearby, drawn up between a trio of towns – Almancil, Vale do Lobo and Quinta do Lago.
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