(Last Update, August 2023): Portugal is definitely a hotspot for travellers from all over the world. The Southern coastal region of the Algarve is one of the most incredible places in Portugal (and can be easily added to a city visit of Lisbon)! We spent 3 days at the coast and compiled our best tips for your visit.
Travel tips for a 3 day trip to the Algarve
Our itinerary included sunrise boat tours, climbing a lighthouse, hiking along the Southern mediterranean coastline and shopping with a local at the market. Here’s an overview:
- DAY 1: Charter a boat at sunrise to visit the famous cave of Praia de Benagil before everyone else. Explore the lovely city of Tavira and it’s rather unique attraction: the Camera Obscura at the old water tower. In the afternoon make a short visit to the fishing village of Santa Luzia before you take a boat tour around Ria Formosa to Farol island. There you can climb up the lighthouse at sunset and eat dinner in a traditional restaurant.
- DAY 2: After a breakfast at your hotel drive along the Southern coastline around Lagos and explore the multitude of beaches and cliffs. Eat lunch in Sagres (we recommend: Restaurant Armazem). Drive on to the Atlantic West coast and end the day by watching surfers at Praia do Amado. Portuguese Tapas Dinner at Salmora in Vilamoura.
- DAY 3: Visit the market in Olhão and wander around the streets to discover the fabulous tiled facades of traditional Portuguese architecture. After that take the small railway to Barril Beach and enjoy lunch with the locals at the long stretch of sand.
Day 1: Welcome at the Algarve & Boat tour
We got up early for a special sunrise boat tour, which was already the first highlight of the whole trip.
Most of the sunrise boat tours start at Portimão harbour.
Your captain will take you on a gentle ride along the coast…
… before you make your entrance to the famous Benagil sea cave.
Spot the tiny humans to get an idea how big this cave is. You’ll have to wade through water to get in here, as there is no entrance from the mainland.
It’s also important to know about the tide as the cave isn’t always accessible. Make sure to enquire with your boat company to make sure it’s low tide!
Santa Luzia is a sweet fishing village, that is worth a short visit to wander around the narrow paths and stumble upon tiled facades – a typical architectural feature of Portuguese houses.
After a short boat trip from Faro’s harbour you’ll arrive on Farol island (Ilha do Farol). This island is a famous vacation spot in the summer, but when you come outside of the season there’s only one inhabitant left, which makes for quite a unique atmosphere. The view from the top of the lighthouse is worth the climb.
After the climb up the lighthouse it’s time to explore a bit more of the island until the sun sets.
Just so you know: The lighthouse is 220 steps high – so it’s doable 😉
After the sun has set you can eat a very traditional dinner on the island (we went to Restaurant À-do-João). It typically includes the catch of the day – so very fresh fish, but they also have a few, limited vegetarian options (salads, potatoes with dips, fresh bread and olives). The atmosphere topped the limited veggie offering for us!
Day 2: Combine the Mediterranean & Atlantic Coast
The second day is dedicated to exploring the diverse coastline of the Algarve. In the South you can visit the mediterranean beaches – all lined with fine sand beaches and cliffs. The water is clear and calm here, that’s why it attracts a lot of visitors.
Praia de Dona Ana is one of the most visited beaches of the region.
The parking lots are usually on top of the cliffs, so you can hike around for some amazing views of the crystal clear water from above. Make sure to wear proper shoes if you want to hop around the cliffs, as they are rocky and slippery!
Aren’t they cute? 🙂
Next up on our itinerary: Lunch in the little town of Sagres. At Restaurant Armazem you’ll get local Portuguese cuisine with a modern twist in a wonderful atmosphere. We highly recommend this place – it was one of our favourite spots to eat!
Sagres itself isn’t the most picturesque city, but the beach is pretty fantastic. We wouldn’t want to stay in one of the hotels here, but it’s perfect for a day trip.
And here’s the contrast: The Atlantic coast of Portugal – it’s wild, it’s rough and perfect for water sports of all sorts. This isn’t far away from Sagres, so we recommend to combine the two during a day trip. You’ll get to experience the calm beaches at Sagres (and go bathing) and then the wild coast with all it’s surfers and action – for example at Praia da Bordeira.
Kite surfers love Praia da Bordeira and its heavy winds and waves. But even if you’re not into water sports you can walk around the cliffs and coves here and watch the action, or just sip a beer at the beach!
Even if it’s windy the West coast can also be a romantic place, as the beaches are less visited than the ones at the calm Mediterranean. You can simply find a spot to relax and sit, but also take the walkways to the lookout spots alongside the whole Atlantic Coast. There’s also some of them at Praia da Bordeira.
The walkways lead to some of the most amazing lookout spots alongside the coast!
Just be warned: The cliffs can be rough and wild.
Here the seagulls enjoy the views just like us humans 🙂
After the beach explorations we decided to make a short stop for drinks at the sleepy town of Carrapateira and were quite intrigued by this little surfer’s retreat. We definitely recommend to stop by here and walk around a bit or check out one of the little bars!
For us our next stop was calling: The very famous Praia do Amado, which you could also call surfer’s paradise. We stayed here until sunset to watch the surfers dive into the cold Atlantic ocean, fearless and free! The whole atmosphere at this beach is laden with surfer spirit – very relaxed and chill.
The sunsets at the West coast are truly spectacular!
Many of the surfers take their homes with them and travel in their camper vans or transformed busses.
After sunset the beach empties up as the last surfers leave the ocean for the day.
We ended our day here… it doesn’t get a lot better if you ask us!
Day 3: Saturday market in Olhão
Saturday is market day in Olhão and we also wanted to be part of it. We strolled around the little stands and discovered everything from fresh herbs to home made churros. Then we walked around the picturesque alleys of the small town and fell in love with Portugal all over again.
Churros! Fat and sugar = happiness 🙂
The streets of Olhão are all blue and white – not all the houses are covered in decorative tiles though.
But some sure are! The intricate tiles are a perfect souvenir as well (don’t steal it from the houses though 😉 )!
Walking around the streets of Olhão is a must do when visiting the Algarve!
Where to stay?
We stayed at the most wonderful hotel called Vila Monte Farm House in Moncarapacho. The buildings come in traditional fashion with whitewashed facades, the gardens are lush and well-kept with all sorts of small paths and greenery. The local food is fantastic and the location is a bit off-the-beaten-path, tranquil and relaxed. They even grow their own vegetables and herbs and focus their cuisine on local ingredients. There’s a pool to relax in. We didn’t miss a thing!
The tables are set at Vila Monte Farmhouse!
A pool and an outdoor cinema are part of the relaxation program at Vila Monte Farmhouse!
We hope you enjoyed this blogpost with our tips for 3 days at the Algarve.
If you’re planning a Portugal trip make sure to also check our other blogposts:
Let us know in the comments if you have any questions or remarks! We wish you a happy holiday 🙂