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Algarve Itinerary: the best itinerary for 3-10 days

Are you getting ready to discover the impressive coast of southern Portugal? With this Algarve itinerary, you will see all the beautiful beaches, the charming towns and, not to forget, the artistic rock formations.

The Algarve is a refreshing mix of culture, nature, sport, and relaxation, bathed in lots of sunshine.

Planning a trip to the Algarve is electrifying but with so many sights spread over a coastline of nearly 200 kilometers, it can become a bit overwhelming.

With this article, we want to help you with your Algarve Itinerary. We have suggestions for trips of 2, 3, and 5 days, Algarve vacations of a complete week, and even an Algarve Itinerary of 10 days.

So jump in your car and let’s go.

There is a really good chance that this post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, we may receive a small commission (for which we are deeply grateful) at no extra cost to you.

The best Algarve Itinerary

First things first. The easiest option to see all the eye-candy the Algarve has to offer is with a car.

For our latest trips, we’ve found the best cars at Discover cars.

This is a website where you can quickly and easily compare the prices of different rental companies.

All rates include the CDW and we like that the deductible is already clearly shown on the comparison page. The fuel policy, included mileage, and the cancelation policy is also clearly stated.

Most cars are cancellable up to 2 days in advance without any fees.  In some cases, a fully refundable deposit is taken at the time of booking.

That’s why most of these Algarve itineraries are designed as road trips.

During short trips, we stay in 1 place and explore the region with day trips.

For longer itineraries, we use different bases in order not to spend too much time in the car.

We start with an Algarve Itinerary of 2 days showing the highlights around Lagos and then systematically add days as you have more time.

Read Also:

In this post we share everything about renting a car in Portugal. 

Without further ado, here’s our first Algarve Itinerary.

2 days in Algarve

Whether you arrive at Faro airport or come by car from Lisbon, if you only have 2 days to visit the Algarve, we recommend staying in or around Lagos.

Read Also:

It is easy to spend 2 wonderful days in this region.

Praia Dona Ana is one of the best beaches in Lagos in the Algarve

Day 1: Beaches in Lagos, Lagos old town, Ponte da Piedade

Lagos is a popular resort town in the Western Algarve and is known for its historic center.

The town is surrounded by numerous picture-postcard beaches. Whether you are looking to enjoy the serenity of a cliff-enclosed beach or an adventurer chasing extreme water sports, there is a perfect beach for you.

Surfers will love the waves at Praia de Porto de Mos, while those who just want to stretch out in the soft sand can head to Praia Dona Ana.

All beaches are beautiful but some are even more heavenly than others. It’s hard not to use superlatives when describing the rocky coastline and the sunkissed beaches.

You can choose to relax at one beach or go on a beach-hopping adventure and check out several Lagos beaches.

Algarve - Ponta Da Piedade
Ponta Da Piedade
Ponte da Piedade

If there’s one section of coastline that you absolutely shouldn’t miss it’s Ponte da Piedade. Located only 2 kilometers from Lagos this part of the coastline offers an awe-inspiring view.

The caves, grottoes, and arches are the workmanship of natural elements for thousands of years.

You can walk along the coast and admire the cliffs from a series of vantage points. There’s also a staircase to go to the beach, which is actually more a concrete pier, from where you can join a boat tour.

This is a short tour that will show you the cliffs from the waterside.

To see more of the coast you can join a boat tour that leaves from Lagos and lasts for something over an hour.

Check prices and availability:
Ponte da Piedade boat tour

Lagos old town

By late afternoon you can return to Lagos to stroll through the old town.

Lagos is often used as a base to explore the West Coast and you will see that it is touristic with lots of bars, restaurants, and souvenir shops.

There is always a lively vibe in the tourist season.

You will also find some restaurants around the yacht harbor and the boardwalk from the marina to the fortress is ideal for a romantic sunset walk.

Where to stay in Lagos

Here is an overview of the best vacation homes in Lagos.

If you are looking for a hotel, take a look at the Lagos Tivoli.

Lagos Tivoli hotel

This centrally located hotel lies within walking distance from the Marina and Lagos old town.

They serve a good champagne breakfast buffet and you can park your car in the free outside parking.

We liked the signature restaurants.

The only thing we disliked is that the hotel is quite big and needs a little refurbishment.

But overall good price value.

Check prices and availability:
Lagos Tivoli

Benagil Cave - Algarve caves boat tour
A trip to the Benagil Cave in Winter

Day 2: Benagil Cave tour and Sagres

The beautiful coastline is what attracts so many tourists to the Algarve so it will come as no surprise that these rock formations will also take the center stage on day 2.

We start the day with what is probably the most famous attraction of the Algarve.

Benagil cave

The Benagil cave is touristic but it is a majestic sight and a must-see when you visit the Algarve. Its sheer size is sure to leave an impression.

The true beauty of the cave can only be seen from the sea.

When hiking the 7 hanging valleys trail you pass the cave but all you can see from the top is a big gaping hole.

Inside the cave, you will find a small secluded beach. You can spend some time on this beach by joining one of the kayak or SUP tours to the beach.

There are also numerous boats that sail along the coast and show the Benagil cave along with other caves and rock formations.

When on a boat you see much more of the coastline but you don’t get to disembark inside the Benagil cave.

We discuss all options to see this breathtakingly beautiful cave in this article. It’s best to book your tour in advance.

The Lighthouse at Cabo de Sao Vicente
The Lighthouse at Cabo de São Vicente
Sagres and Cabo de São Vicente

Next, we head to Sagres and Cabo de São Vicente, the westernmost tip of the Algarve.

We first pass Sagres, a small fishing village.

This part of the coast is often terrorized by strong winds. Beaches here are not loved by sunbathers but attract hordes of surfers.

You will find many surfing schools if you want to start surfing or just want to up your game.

Driving further west we will arrive at Cabo de São Vicente, or the “end of the world” as it was known at the time of the great Portuguese explorers.

At the cape, you find one of the most powerful lighthouses of Europe. You can admire the dramatic cliffs and there are excellent birdwatching opportunities.

If you have the time you can go for a hike in the Costa Vicentina Natural Park, an often forgotten and underrated part of the Algarve.

On clear days, bring a picnic and a nice bottle of wine, and enjoy a romantic sunset at the cape.

 

If you prefer spending the night in Sagres, take a look at this post.

The Carvoeiro boardwalk
The Carvoeiro boardwalk

Algarve 3 day itinerary

On our third day, we head to the town of Carvoeiro.

Lagos is still a good base for these three days but if you want to stay a little more centrally you could look at Portimão.

Here’s a selection of vacation homes in Portimão.

Day 3: Carvoeiro

Carvoeiro is a picturesque white-washed resort town along the Algarve coast.

Its atmosphere and scenery will take your breath away. It’s an open-air museum with endless charm, perfect for sun-seekers and beach bums alike.

Carvoeiro boardwalk

Just outside the charming town, you will find the Carvoeiro boardwalk, a 600-meter long wooden promenade that hugs the shore.

The promenade leads to the beautiful rock formations at Algar Seco, but halfway through is another gate where you can descend a flight of stairs to even more elegant rock structures.

Just some of the many slides in Slide and Splash
Just some of the many slides in Slide and Splash
Visit a water park

For a little more adventure you can combine your visit to Carvoeiro with a side-trip to a water park.

Both Slide ‘n Splash and Zoomarine can be reached in under half an hour.

For a relaxing day, you can head to Carvoeiro beach or Marinha beach.

The second is a little further out and is one of Algarve’s favorites.

Quinta dos Vales

End the day in style in Quinta dos Vales.

This winery, about 15 minutes inland from Carvoeiro, is a feast for your taste buds.

Enjoy a gastronomic three-course meal paired with delicious wines or have a seat at the panoramic terrace for a wine tasting.

You can also tour their wine-making facilities with a pre-booking.

Jurassic River in Zoomarine, one of their latest additions
Jurassic River in Zoomarine, one of their latest additions

Algarve itinerary 4 days

Lagos is still a good base for this 4-day Algarve Itinerary. Since the last 2 days are near Carvoeiro you could also opt to spend 2 days in Lagos and 2 days in Carvoeiro.

Day 4: Water fun at Zoomarine Algarve or Slide and Splash

After three days of imposing coastlines and quaint fishing villages, it is time for something a little different.

Spread across the Algarve you find several water-/themeparks. Ideal for cooling off during the sweltering summer days.

Slide and Splash and Zoomarine are arguably the most popular of the pack. We love both with maybe a slight preference for Zoomarine.

The truth is that both are hard to compare. Zoomarine is more of a theme park with lots of spectacular and entertaining shows whereas Slide and Splash is all about, you guessed it, slides.

Being adults, although young at heart, we found more variety in the combination of shows with water attractions in Zoomarine. That’s not to say that Slide and Splash isn’t fun.

Both parks have ample attractions. More than enough to keep you busy for a whole day.

When we were in Zoomarine this year we didn’t even manage to do them all. And that was without the crowds and queues you can expect in peak season.

Whatever park you choose, it will be a day well-spent!

The marina at Vilamoura
The marina at Vilamoura

Algarve itinerary 5 days

For this 5-day Algarve itinerary, we recommend spending the last day in either Vilamoura or Albufeira. We have hotel recommendations and a list of highly-rated Airbnb’s in Vilamoura and Albufeira.

Day 5: Vilamoura and Albufeira

After a day full of laughs we’re completely rejuvenated and ready to explore more of the Algarve coast. We’re heading east towards Albufeira and Vilamoura.

Vilamoura

Vilamoura is an artificial town created to attract a high-heeled clientele to the Algarve coast.

The town is surrounded by award-winning golf courses and boasts an upscale marina where you can feast your eyes upon million-dollar yachts. Several posh bars and restaurants are lining the marina.

The difference with the rest of the Algarve is striking.

As you get closer to Vilamoura the roads turn into wide boulevards lined by perfectly manicured and watered gardens.

Many people actually mean the region of Vilamoura, including Quarteira and Quinta do Lago, when they refer to Vilamoura.

Read Also:

Here is a list of more great towns in the Algarve. For a list of the best places to visit in the Algarve, click here. 

The Ludo trail passes some salt flats in the Ria Formosa
The Ludo trail passes some salt flats in the Ria Formosa
Quinta do Lago

Quinta do Lago is a gated community to the east of Vilamoura that includes more magical golf courses.

It is set against the backdrop of the beautiful Ria Formosa lagoon and you can drive, bike, or take a segway tour through the resort to marvel at the impressive million-dollar villas, many owned by international celebrities.

We did this Segway tour on a relatively hot day and had a lot of fun. You can read more about this Segway tour here. 

The Vilamoura region is home to what many say is the most beautiful beach of the Algarve, Praia da Falésia.

Praia da Falésia

A large soft sandy stretch with striking red cliffs.

These cliffs gave the beach its name and also make the beach so popular. Sunset, when the cliffs seem to be on fire, is when this beach is at its best.

The region is a true effervescent tourist hot spot and you will find several, hotels, and Airbnb’s, as well as a wide choice of activities.

Paratriking in Albufeira

Active types can go paragliding, water skiing, or wakeboarding while those looking for a moment of zen will find it in the spas.

We booked a paratrike tour in Albufeira and flew over Praia da Falésia by sunset. It was an unforgettable experience. We will write a full post about our experience later.

Check prices and availability:
Paratrike tour

Read Also:

If you are looking for a great place to stay in Vilamoura, we definitely recommend the Hilton Vilamoura. You can read our complete review here. If you prefer Airbnbs, have a look at our selection of Vilamoura Airbnbs

Albufeira beach sunset Algarve Portugal
Albufeira beach
Albufeira

Albufeira is the liveliest resort town in the Algarve. Visitors can enjoy the stunning beaches during the day and party in the many nightclubs in the evening.

Unlike Vilamoura, which was only founded in 1966, Albufeira has a quintessential historic center waiting to be explored. Still, most people choose the city because of the huge range of outdoor activities, the golden beaches, and the vibrant nightlife.

Quad-biking, ziplining, and a forest adventure park with high rope walkways are just a small selection of the evocative outdoor fun that is waiting for you at this resort town.

The city’s nightlife is spread across the old town and a 2-km long street called ‘The Strip’ a little outside the city.

In the old town, you will find bars and restaurants, not so much different from other tourist hubs at the Algarve.

‘The Strip’ on the other hand, is unlike anything you can find anywhere else in the Algarve. It is 2 kilometers of rowdy pubs where the beer flows freely after dark.

Read Also:

Looking for accommodation in Albufeira?  Here’s a selection of highly-rated Airbnb’s.

With such a wide range of water and sports activities, you will certainly not be bored today.

You can end the day as you wish, in a chic restaurant or a lively pub.

The Faro Harbor in Portugal
Welcome to Faro

Algarve 7 days itinerary

A full week in the Algarve doesn’t need to be all about beaches, coastline, and historic charming villages.

As entrancing as these villages are, and as impressive the coastline is, in 7 days you have time to go wild in both water/theme parks Zoomarine and Slide and Splash.

Here’s our suggested 7 day Algarve itinerary.

Day 1: Lagos and surrounding beaches

Day 2: Sagres and Benagil cave tour

Day 3: Carvoeiro

Day 4: Slide and splash

Day 5: Zoomarine Algarve

Day 6: Albufeira and Vilamoura

Day 7: Faro

Faro is seen as the capital of the Algarve.

Its airport is where for many their vacation begins.

Most of them directly rush to their hotel and don’t return until their last day to catch their plane back home. That’s a shame because Faro has quite a bit to offer.

The town’s history dates back to the 4th century BC when the Ria Formosa lagoon attracted settlers.

The settlement quickly grew to one of the commercial ports of the region.

In the years that followed the town often was the center of conflicts. As you walk through its cobblestone streets you will see Roman and Moorish influences.

The city is still partly surrounded by the original 9th-century Romanesque walls. There are 3 richly decorated gateways to the old town.

Places worth visiting are, amongst others, the Capela dos Ossos, Igreja do Carmo, the Sé Cathedral, and the Bishop’s Palace which is only open to the public during exhibitions.

While the old town can feel deserted on a typical weekday the shopping streets in the new town will be lively at any time of the day.

We recommend staying in your hotel in Vilamoura or Albufeira but if you are looking for an apartment or vacation home in Faro, take a look at this overview.

The Ludo trail passes some salt flats in the Ria Formosa

Faro also borders the Ria Formosa. You can hike the Ludo Trail to explore this natural park or you can do a Segway tour.

Segway tour

The Segway tour treats you to all kinds of beautiful scenes in about an hour and a half.

It takes you past salt flats and golf courses and traverses part of Quinta do Lago to allow for some celebrity-house spotting. On the way back it follows a wooden boardwalk from where you have mesmerizing views. It was a great tour and we did see a lot of interesting places.

We definitely recommend this when it’s too hot to walk or when you want to try something different.

Check prices and availability:
Segway tour

The perfect place to end the day in Faro is at Faro beach. The beach is lined by beach bars from where you can admire the sunset with some snacks while sipping on a well-deserved cocktail.

Algarve itinerary 10 days

Day 1: Lagos and surrounding beaches

Day 2: Sagres and Benagil cave tour

Day 3: Carvoeiro

Day 4: Slide and splash

Day 5: Zoomarine Algarve

Day 6: Vilamoura and Albufeira

Day 7: Faro

Murals Street art Olhão Algarve Portugal
Olhão also counts dozens of beautiful murals

Day 8: Olhão

Olhão is another gem along the Algarve coast.

It likes to call itself the gateway to the Ria Formosa but it deserves a visit for more than just that.

Olhão is the perfect place for street art lovers and other art fans.

There is so much street art that you’ll be left asking where do I start first?

The murals are based on archive pictures and some are made to show what life used to be like inside the buildings.

Near the fish market, you will find rich images of women working in canning factories and fishermen returning with their catch.

Olhão’s port is the departure point for many boat trips through Ria Formosa.

It is also where you can take the ferry to Ilha da Cultura and Ilha da Armona, 2 unreal inhabited islands in the lagoon where it looks as if time has stood still.

In addition to tiny villages, both islands also have some quiet beaches.

Where to stay

Olhão can be visited from Vilamoura and Albufeira. If you’re staying for 10 days or more and will also be visiting Tavira you can opt to already head to your accommodation in Tavira.

Tavira Portugal
Tavira

Day 9-10: Tavira and East Algarve

Tavira

Tavira is often described as the Venice of the Algarve. While you won’t find any gondolas maneuvering in canals like in Italy or Aveiro, it’s not hard to see how Tavira got its nickname. If you enjoy a beer at the riverfront market in the evening, you cannot deny that this village exudes a certain charm and romance.

The old city has retained much of its yesteryear’s charm. There are numerous elegant historic buildings and lording the town is the impressive Tavira castle.

The iconic sight of the town is the seven-arched Roman Ponte Antiga Sobre o Rio Gilão.

Tavira is a coastal town and naturally also features some beautiful beaches such as the picturesque Praia do Barril.

Being located in the east of the Algarve the town is an excellent base from which to discover the less-visited gems of the eastern Algarve.

Cacela Velha
Cacela Velha
Eastern Algarve

There is Cacela Velha beach, a pristine beach separated from the mainland by a wide lagoon. It can only be reached by a long hike or short boat transfer and is therefore usually quite deserted, even in high season.

You can also do a day trip to the Spanish border and visit Vila Real De Santo António and the adjacent natural park, Reserva Natural do Sapal de Castro Marim.

The village of Vila Real De Santo Antónia sits on the banks of the mighty Guadiana river which to a large extent defines the border of the two countries.

The town is a small-scale copy of Lisbon, when it was constructed in 1774 several design ideas, including

North of the town is Castro Marim where 2 castles can be found and the nature park, named after it.

The park is a great place for bird watching. Around 50 bird species are commonly spotted including flamingos, storks, bee-eaters, ibis, and many others.

The region is especially worth a visit during the Medieval festival in August.

Where to stay in Tavira

We stayed a couple of days in Vila Gale Albacora.

The pool of Villa Gale Albacora

This hotel lies in the middle of Ria Formosa a bit outside Tavira ( 5minutes by car to the city center). Here you will stay in a unique, historical setting. The hotel is a restored tuna fishing camp. We found the rooms quite small and dark but the hotel certainly has a unique look to it. There is a good breakfast selection and a nice pool area. We also loved the small spa with a jacuzzi and sauna.

Check prices and availability:
Villa Gale Albacora

Algarve FAQ

What is the best time to travel to the Algarve?

You can visit the Algarve all year round but your experience will differ greatly based on the season you’re there.

Summer

Most tourists head to the Algarve in summer.

It can be extremely busy in July and August and that can take away quite a bit of the charm of the destination.

That’s why, if you can, you’re better to plan your visit during the shoulder season when the temperatures are still very pleasant and most of the crowds are gone.

Winter

You can also visit the Algarve in winter.

While you have to keep in mind that there will be higher chances of rain, in general, the temperatures are not too bad. With lows around ten and highs in the high teens, it can be ideal for more active hiking holidays.

It is also nice to have all the impressive sights all to yourself.

A disadvantage is that in winter some towns feel deserted because shops, restaurants, and pubs are closed for the season.

Read more about visiting the Algarve in winter.

How to get around in the Algarve?

The Algarve is a vast area, from east to west it has 160 km of beautiful coast.

Public transportation is limited so whatever you wish to do, a road trip as we described here, or a few day trips. It’s best if you have a car.

When renting a car, as already said above we advise you to check out Discover cars.

If you don’t want to drive it’s best to base yourself in one of the larger towns such as Albufeira, Vilamoura, or Lagos. The boat trips depart from here and also most other tours offer pickups from the hotels in these towns.

The church at the main square in Lagos
The church at the main square in Lagos

Where to stay in the Algarve?

That depends on many factors, not in the least what you want to see and do.

Lagos

This is the most popular resort town in the western Algarve.

It has managed to retain its charm in the historic center but can become crowded in the high season.

There are many hotels here, from large to small, and there is also no shortage of hotels and bars.

Lagos can appeal to everyone, both those on a family outing or a group of friends traveling together.

This is a great place to stay if you want to explore the western Algarve.

Here is an overview of the best apartments and vacation homes in Lagos.  If you are looking for a hotel, take a look at the Tivolo Lagos hotel.

Portimão

Lagos and Portimão are just 30 minutes apart. Both towns grew out of what was once a small authentic fishing village.

Lagos has largely retained its charms, Portimao, which is also larger and more expansive, feels more artificial.

In Lagos, the old town borders the beach and many beaches are within walking distance.

Portimao is located on the banks of the Arade River.

Meanwhile, the city has expanded to the beach where you will find many resort hotels. From the beach to the old center it is about a half-hour walk, which means that it is difficult to combine the best of the two.

That is why we would prefer Lagos to Portimão.

The cathedral in the old town of Faro
The cathedral in the old town of Faro

Faro

Faro feels more like a normal city and less like a resort town.

You will not find large resort hotels here. This is partly because Faro’s city center, including the old town, is not adjacent to the beach.

The beach is located on a long narrow spit of land called Faro Island where you will only find a handful of small-scale hotels. Both are separated from each other by the Ria Formosa lagoon. If you’re staying in the city and don’t have a car you will need to take the bus or the ferry to reach the beach.

The ferry is obviously the most scenic option as it traverses the lagoon. Faro has some budget hotels where you could spend the first or last night if you have a late/early flight. The city is also relatively good connected with the other resort towns by train or bus. Buses and trains run approximately every hour.

Albufeira

A lively seaside resort that is overrun with tourists in the high season.

Known for its wide range of watersports and other activities, as well as the nightlife scene where you can easily socialize with other travelers.

A good location to discover the central part of the Algarve. Less than ideal for family-style vacations.

If you value a good night’s sleep, you should definitely avoid the area around the strip.

Here is an overview of the best vacation homes in Albufeira. If you are looking for a hotel in Albufeira, click here. 

Vilamoura

Also a vacation hotspot with a wide range of activities. Loads of restaurants and bars, more upscale and not as wild as the neon-lit bars lining the Strip in Albufeira.

In Vilamoura, you will find more chich and sophisticated hotels and villas for rent. It’s more easterly location makes it better suited to explore the east of the Algarve.

Here is an overview of vacation houses in Vilamoura. If you prefer staying in a hotel check out our review of the Hilton. This is an amazing hotel and home to one of the best spas in the Algarve.

Tavira

In Tavira, you’ll find fewer of those big resorts that have cropped up everywhere else in the Algarve.

It’s not that Tavira isn’t touristy, but it still retains more of its charm than the other places on this list.

This is a good place to avoid the crowds in the high season.

In fact, the more easterly you go, the less touristy the Algarve seems to become. Tavira is a good place to discover the eastern Algarve and the eastern spurs of the Ria Formosa.

Here is an overview of the best vacation homes in Tavira. If you prefer a hotel, take a look at Villa Gale Albacora hotel which is just outside Tavira. We stayed here a couple of days and had a great time.

Bird watching at Lagoa Dos Salgados in the Algarve
Bird watching at Lagoa Dos Salgados in the Algarve

How many days do you need in the Algarve?

The Algarve lends itself to both short weekend trips and holidays of 2 weeks or longer.

But, if you’re coming here for the first time, you’ll probably leave feeling disappointed if you’ve been here for less than a week.

There is so much to see and do that 7 days is the very minimum to see the highlights and leave some time to relax at one of the many beautiful beaches.

What is the nicest part of the Algarve?

Being nature lovers we like the vast Ria Formosa lagoon and the Costa Vicentina Nature Park.

Both are marvelous and not as overrun by tourists as popular rock cliff formations like Ponta da Piedade.

Algar Seco
Algar Seco

What should I not miss in the Algarve?

The Algarve offers something for everyone.

Absolute highlights that are sure to impress everyone are the Benagil Cave and other rock formations such as Ponta da Piedade and Algar Seco.

Water sports enthusiasts will find something of their liking in the many water sports activities, while golfers can easily discover a different golf course every day.

Hikers can explore hundreds of kilometers of trails in the Algarve.

The 7 hanging valleys trail is undoubtedly one of the more famous, but there are many others that are also very worthwhile. A walk in the Ria Formosa and the Costa Vicentina park should not be missed.

Bird lovers can indulge in their hobby in the Ria Formosa Lagoon, Lagoa dos Salgados, Cabo de São Vicente and several other places.

Conclusion

The Algarve is truly an all round destination that will appeal to everyone.

These sample itineraries combine a mix of cultural and natural highlights while also allowing time for some water fun, either in the ocean or in one of the water parks.

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