The Algarve's geographical position on Europe’s westernmost tip in the south of Portugal makes the Algarve all-year a great and especially safe holiday destination. Although situated by the Atlantic Ocean, it has a temperate climate with Mediterranean characteristics, more than 3,000 hours of sunshine per year and a low annual average rainfall, mainly during the winter months. Even in the hottest days in July and August a mild breeze from the Atlantic provides relief.
The best holiday destinations in the Algarve
With a size of less than 5.000 sq km the Algarve covers only 4% of Portugal’s land mass. Nevertheless this region in the south of Portugal comprises a variety of attractive landscapes. To help you to select the best destination for your next holiday stay in the Algarve, please find below profiles of these different destinations.
The easternmost coastal area extends from the estuary of the river Guadiana on the border of the Algarve with Spain to the lagoon landscape of the Ria Formosa near Tavira. Long and flat sandy beaches separated by dunes from the interior, stretch for over 10 km. The major holiday resorts are Monte Gordo near Vila Real de Santo António, Manta Rota and Altura. Because of the Mediterranean winds coming from an easterly direction the sea is usually warmer here than in the western part of the Algarve and more inviting for a swim or a paddle, making this region an ideal holiday destination during the summer season for families with young children.
The adjacent coastal area, of the so called Ria Formosa, stretches from the Peninsula de Cacela to the Ilha de Faro (Peninsula de Ancão) west of Faro International Airport. This unique nature reserve is a system of lagoons, protected from the open sea of the Atlantic Ocean by a chain of barrier islands. The most important holiday locations are Cabanas de Tavira, Tavira, Santa Luzia and Pedras d’el Rei, Fuseta, Olhão and Faro, the capital of the Algarve. The holiday resorts and hotels are situated on the mainland, whereas most of the splendid sandy beaches, protected by dunes, can be found on the sea side of the islands.
Since the 1980s the so called „ Golden Triangle“ of the Algarve west of Faro has established a legendary reputation in the Algarve as an exclusive golf and holiday destination. The properties in the three world-renowned golf and holiday resorts of Quinta do Lago, Vale do Lobo and Vilamoura on the Atlantic coast belong to the most sought-after second homes in Europe. Golfers from all over the world can enjoy 14 unique golf courses built and maintained to the highest international standards. The most important cities in the Golden Triangle are the municipality of Loulé in the interior, Almancil and Quarteira.
The rugged southern coast of the Algarve between Albufeira and Sagres in the extreme west has particularly influenced the international image of the Algarve as a holiday destination. Hidden rocky bays with small sandy beaches, grottos and bizarre rock formations shaped by erosion are broken up by larger bays with extended beaches and sand dunes. The best known places for holidays are the two tourist centres of Albufeira and Armação de Pêra, the former fishing villages of Carvoeiro and Ferragudo in the municipality of Lagoa, Praia da Rocha – the main beach of Portimão on the mouth of the river Arade, Alvor, Lagos, Porto do Môs and Praia da Luz. Holiday makers selecting this area are especially attracted by the sunbathing and swimming opportunities and the large number of water sports facilities on offer during the summertime.
The western coast of the Algarve between Sagres and Odeceixe in the north near the border with the Alentejo, which is more than 50 km long, presents a completely different scenario for holidays. The climate is harsher here, the rocks are steeper and rougher and the inset sandy beaches more exposed to the westerly winds from the Atlantic Ocean. Surfers and paraglider will find excellent conditions all year round; lovers of nature and hikers will enjoy the untouched landscape of the nature reserve and its special flora and fauna on the plateau of the cliff top. Watching the migrating birds in October during their stop-over on their flight to their winter quarters in Africa is an annual highlight.
Half of the area of the Algarve is covered by the hills and small mountains of the Serra, the border between the Algarve and the Alentejo in the north. The Serra is of great importance to the Algarve climate, because the ridge of hills forms a weather barrier. The most important holiday locations are Monchique and the neighbouring Caldas de Monchique, which was renowned in Roman times for its healing warm springs. The Serra de Monchique as well as the Serra de Caldeirão (Serra do Mú) are ideal for biking, mountain biking and other outdoor activities.
The river Guadiana is one of the three larger rivers on the Iberian Peninsula having its source in Spain and flowing into the Atlantic Ocean in Portugal. The area on the lower course of the river, the border of the Algarve with Spain, is still almost undiscovered as a holiday destination. It is only recently that several excellent golf resorts have been built on both shores of the Guadiana, offering ideal conditions for enjoyable golf holidays during spring and fall. The peaceful undulating landscape west of the river between Castro Marim and Alcoutim is also appealing for extended undisturbed hikes.
Travel to the Algarve
With more than 5 Million passengers per year Faro International Airport is the third largest airport in Portugal (after Lisbon and Porto). Faro is only three hours away from many European destinations. During the summer season many airlines have direct flights to Faro, whereas a stop-over in Lisbon may be necessary in wintertime. Cheap car hire and airports transfer with local companies can be booked here.
Driving to the Algarve by car may take around three hours from Lisbon and one and a half hours from Seville in Spain. The road network in the Algarve –like in most areas of Portugal – is excellent. On the motorway A22, the main thoroughfare of the Algarve in a west-eastern direction, has an electronic toll collection system in place. You can find more about tolls in Portugal here.
If you prefer to go to the Algarve by public transport, you can take a train or bus from Lisbon to Faro, which is around three hours. A direct bus line to major cities in the Algarve is also available from Seville in Spain.
Algarve Hotels & Resorts
The Algarve has a great selection of holiday accommodation of every type, comfort level and size available. You can book through us your hotel, holiday apartment or holiday villa, selecting from almost 2.500 different properties – at guaranteed best rates. And in most cases you need to pay only upon arrival.
The largest and best known golf and holiday resorts in the Algarve are Quinta do Lago, Vale do Lobo and Vilamoura (all in the Golden Triangle), Pine Cliffs near Albufeira and the Robinson Club on the Ria Formosa east of Tavira.
The majority of hotels and holiday resorts are located near the southern coast of the Algarve, where tourist activities are concentrated. Prices can vary significantly depending on the season of the year; if you do not have to travel during school holidays we recommend considering the months outside the peak season of July and August, as the weather is equally great, but prices will be much lower.
Golf in the Algarve
Penina, the birthplace of golf in Portugal, Quinta do Lago, Vale do Lobo and Vilamoura have established the international reputation of the Algarve as a global leader for golf destinations. Golfers from all over the world have the choice of more than 38 challenging golf courses with different characteristics, all of them in excellent condition due to the mild climate.
If you want to come to the Algarve for a golf holiday during the golf high season in spring or fall, we recommend you book in advance to get your preferred tee times. Visitors to the Algarve Portal can easily book their tee times online on all courses in the Algarve with very favourable terms. In addition you here will also find current promotions, golf packages and golf tournaments. We can also arrange the rental of leading brands of golf clubs should you not want to take your golf luggage with you.