The Algarve is one of the most famous and visited areas of Portugal, and it’s easy to see why. With its pristine beaches, turquoise sea and dramatic golden cliffs, it’s a region of stunning natural beauty.
It’s the perfect destination for anyone searching for great beach holiday, but it’s also much more than that. It’s perfect also for active travellers who want to surf, SUP or kayak, or for history fans that want to explore cute Portuguese towns.
If you need help planning your Algarve itinerary, this guide is exactly what you need!
In this article I will go over exactly how many days you need to visit the Algarve, a detailed day-by-day breakdown of the best activities and places to see, tips on where to eat, where to stay and more!
So what are you waiting for? Let’s dive in and start planning your perfect Algarve itinerary!
- 1 Do you need travel insurance to visit the Algarve?
- 2 How many should you spend in the Algarve?
- 3 How to travel around the Algarve
- 4 The best Algarve 5-day itinerary
- 4.1 Day 1: Faro, Tavira & Albufeira
- 4.2 Day 2: Benagil Cave, Praia da Marinha & Lagos
- 4.3 Day 3: Lagos Beaches & Cliffs!
- 4.4 Days 4 & 5: Sagres & surroundings
- 4.5 Costa Vicentina
- 5 What to pack for your Algarve trip
Do you need travel insurance to visit the Algarve?
After my personal experience spending two nights in a private hospital in Tenerife, and having to pay for it out of pocket (it wasn’t cheap), I always recommend getting travel insurance.
You might not end up needing it, but for a small fee you can travel without worries. Personally, I suggest getting your travel insurance with Heymondo.
Heymondo offers tailor made travel insurance, providing the best value for money for your specific trip. You can also buy it once you’re already abroad and have forgotten about it before flying (which, if you’re anything like me, is quite likely).
Besides the usual cancellation, medical expenses, luggage coverage and general travel insurance services, Heymondo also has a 24/7 doctor chat and instant assistance through their app.
Plus, as a Greta’s Travels reader, you get 5% off your Heymondo travel insurance!
How many should you spend in the Algarve?
If you’ve only just started planning your Algarve itinerary, you might be wondering how many days you should spend in the Algarve.
It ultimately depends on your personal interests and your overall Portugal itinerary, but I would say the bare minimum is 3 days in the Algarve.
In this guide I have included a day-by-day breakdown for my Algarve 5-day itinerary. Three days will allow you to see all the main sites, but you will be rushing around a bit, spending a lot of time driving from one place to the next.
If you spend five days in the Algarve you will have enough time to visit all the most famous spots, do fun activities and relax at some world-renown beaches.
For those who want to relax and spend more time at the beach, then you can easily spend up to one week in the Algarve, taking it slow at every beach and discovering all the gorgeous seaside towns.
So to answer your question; how many days should I spend in the Algarve? I would say 3 days is the bare minimum, but I personally recommend 5 days for an awesome Algarve itinerary.
How to travel around the Algarve
The easiest way to get around the Algarve is to rent a car and do an Algarve road trip. That way you will have the maximum flexibility over where you want to go and travel times.
There are also trains and buses that run across the whole region, but they might not go to the smaller towns or unknown beaches.
Especially if you’re travelling as a group of friends or family, renting a car might also work out cheaper than with public transport. Just make sure to check all the details of your car rental before booking.
I rented two cars in Portugal and both times we had to argue with the car rental, as they include lots of hidden charges and on one occasion they also didn’t include all the damage the car already had in the initial check-out document.
If you want to save money on your car rental, you can use Rental Cover for your car insurance. I always purchase my insurance for car rentals with them as they are much cheaper than the insurance rental companies offer.
The best Algarve 5-day itinerary
Day 1: Faro, Tavira & Albufeira
Located a short 30-minute drive away from Faro, I thought I’d start this Algarve itinerary with something a little off the beaten path. This small city sits on the mouth of the Gilao River, and is right next to the famous Tavira Island.
This part of the Algarve coast is famous for its long sandy beaches and saltpans, which attract flamingos and other birds. They’re very different from the other beaches you will see in this Algarve itinerary.
Tavira town is also worthy of a visit. The old town centre is characterised by the typical Portuguese white houses and cobbled streets. There’s also the medieval Tavira Castle from which you get great city views.
You can also do a fun tuk-tuk city tour of Tavira! That way you will have a local guide taking you to all the must-see spots, and telling you about the history of this cute Portuguese town.
Being the capital of the Algarve, no Algarve itinerary would be complete without a visit to Faro. You can spend a few hours exploring the gorgeous old town of Faro, its unique architecture and quirky shops.
Some must-see sights are Arco da Vila, Faro Marina, Igreja do Carmo and Faro Cathedral. Walking around the white cobbled streets and cute white houses will give you all the Portuguese vibes you’re looking for.
After a busy morning of sightseeing you can sit down, relax a bit and eat at one of the many local restaurants. We ate at A do Pinto and had a delicious acorda, a traditional Portuguese dish. It looks ugly, but tastes delicious!
Beach & Nightlife in Albufeira
With a full belly it’s time to hit the road again! Albufeira is one of the most famous seaside towns in the Algarve, and it’s easy to see why. It used to be a fishing village, which became a major holiday hotspot.
You will find a huge beach waiting for you, where you can relax and tan after a busy sightseeing morning. Right behind the beach is the promenade and town centre, so that you can easily explore it.
The old town is perched on the hill above the beach. You can walk up there and wander around the cute white streets, as well as enjoying the epic view over the beach and coast.
Albufeira is also known for its busy nightlife. Once the sun goes down you can enjoy the many restaurants, bars and clubs of the town centre. But don’t stay out too late, as you have an early rise on tomorrow’s itinerary!
Where to stay in Albufeira
I have listed below some great places to stay in Albufeira for every budget.
Budget – Alfagar Cerro Malpique: This residence has lovely studios that are perfect for budget travellers. It’s located a bit outside the centre of Albufeira, but it has a huge pool and epic views over the sea and town.
Mid-range – Casa dos Arcos: This charming guest house is the perfect place to stay for those who want to treat themselves without breaking the bank. You can relax in their lovely courtyard after a long day of exploring the Algarve.
Luxury – Hotel Baltum: If you want to treat yourself, this is the place to do so. This hotel has modern rooms and a huge rooftop terrace with epic views over the white houses of Albufeira and the sea.
Day 2: Benagil Cave, Praia da Marinha & Lagos
This day was probably the best day of my Algarve trip. It’s a pretty tiring one, but you will be very happy by the end of it.
Sunrise kayak tour to Benagil Cave
If you’re planning an Algarve itinerary, chances are you’ve seen photos of Benagil Cave. Benagil Cave is a huge sea cave, with two entrances on the sea and a hole on the ceiling.
You can only access it by the sea, so you will have to join a kayak, boat or SUP tour to reach it.
It’s one of the most popular stops on every Portugal itinerary, so be ready to either get up at sunrise or battle thousands of other tourists to visit it, especially in summer.
We joined a 7AM kayak tour starting from Benagil Beach and it’s the best decision we could have taken. We kayaked along the gorgeous coast of the Algarve as the sun was rising, and were the only group inside Benagil Cave.
The tour lasts around 1.5 hours, of which about half an hour is spent inside Benagil Cave, taking photos and enjoying the beauty of this natural formation. Being alone inside this sea cave is well worth the early alarm.
After that we went to three more sea caves, and kayaked all the way to Praia do Marinha, before returning to Benagil Beach, just as many other kayak, SUP and boat tours were getting ready to get in the water.
Being one of the most popular attractions in Portugal, you want to make sure you book your Benagil Cave tour beforehand. I have linked below some of the most popular tours to Benagil Cave.
Benagil Caves Kayaking Experience – This is the same tour we did, which will take you to explore Benagil Cave, other sea caves and this part of the Algarve coastline.
Benagil Caves Stand-Up Paddle Board Tour – If kayaks aren’t your thing, you can reach Benagil Cave by SUP!
From Portimao: Benagil Caves 2-Hour Speed Boat Tour – If you don’t want to paddle in a kayak or SUP (understandable if it’s 7AM) you can also join this comfortable speed boat tour.
From Albufeira: Benagil Caves & Dolphin Watching Speed Boat Tour – This tour is perfect for those who want to combine visiting Benagil Cave with a bit of dolphin spotting!
Hike the Seven Hanging Valleys trail
The Seven Hanging Valleys trail is a 12km trail that starts in Praia da Marinha and runs all the way to Praia de Vale Centenaes, passing by Benagil. It’s famous for its gorgeous views over the cliffs and coastline.
We didn’t want to do the whole trail, as after we had woken up before sunrise and had already spent 1.5 hours kayaking. So we only did the part of the trail that goes from Benagil to Praia do Marinha, and takes around 40 minutes.
Along the trail you’ll walk past the hole of Benagil, so that you can peek inside the famous sea cave from above. You will also walk past some gorgeous spots like the “Heart of the Algarve” and other iconic coastline sights.
If you do the 7AM kayak tour you’ll be able to hike the Seven Hanging Valleys trail and still arrive in Praia da Marinha by around 10AM, before it gets too hot to hike and before the big crowds arrive.
Relax at Praia da Marinha
Praia da Marinha has been ranked amongst the most beautiful beaches in the world, and it’s easy to see why. This beach is characterised by fine white sand, clear emerald water and picturesque sandy cliffs up to 50m high behind it.
After your sporty morning, you can spend a few hours relaxing at this gorgeous beach, lying on the soft sand and cooling down in the crystalline water.
There is a café at the start of the beach and food trucks in the parking area above it, so you can grab food and drinks there if you didn’t want to bring them on the hike.
Being such a famous beach, you can expect loads of people to arrive in the course of the day. We stayed until around 2PM, by then the tide had come up and the beach had gotten smaller, and too many other people had arrived.
Grab some cold water and get ready to hike 40 minutes back to Benagil (and be ready to be shocked by the amount of people that will have arrived in Benagil compared to 9AM)!
Do a stop in Carvoeiro
After hiking back to Benagil Beach it’s time to continue this Algarve road trip! You’ll be driving to Lagos, where you will be spending the night, but not without doing a couple of scenic stops first!
The first stop will be Carvoeiro, which is around a 15-minute drive from Benagil. This cute town is home to one of the most picturesque beaches of the Algarve.
Imagine a white sand beach with bright turquoise water, lined by tall sandy cliffs and pristine white houses perched behind it. Sounds like a postcard picture? That’s what you can expect to find in Carvoeiro.
There are two viewpoints above the beach where you can stop to enjoy the view, then maybe go for a wander in the town centre and even relax at the beach there.
Another stop you can do to break up your drive is Ferragudo. Ferragudo is a cute seaside town with a beautiful beach and a picturesque old town centre.
You can spend a bit of time wandering around the cobbled streets, discovering pretty white houses and flower-lined streets, and maybe stop at one of the local pastelarias for a pastel de nata!
Spend the night in Lagos
By the time you arrive in Lagos you will probably by a bit knackered. Head to your hotel, take a shower, relax a bit and get ready to head out before the sun goes down!
Lagos is a town famous for its walled old town, picturesque architecture and nearby beaches.
I personally wasn’t expecting much from Lagos, I thought it was just going to be a good place to stay to explore the Algarve, but the town itself amazed me.
You can explore the cobbled streets of the old town centre, admiring the houses with azulejos facades and lively atmosphere of Lagos. There are also lots of delicious seafood restaurants, we personally loved xxx.
Where to stay in Lagos
Lagos offers a huge variety of accommodation for every budget. Here are some with excellent reviews.
Budget – Topcity Hostel & Suites: This is the hostel we stayed at for two nights and a great choice for budget travellers. They have a rooftop pool, spacious terraces for every dorm and a fun sociable atmosphere.
Mid-range – Hotel Marina Rio: Located in the heart of Lagos, this hotel is perfectly located for your evening wanderings around town. It also has a panoramic terrace and spacious rooms, without breaking the bank.
Luxury – Cascade Wellness Resort: This 5-star resort is perfect if you want to treat yourself. With their epic pool, garden and sea view, you can fully relax after your busy exploring days. It’s also really close to Ponta da Piedade.
Day 3: Lagos Beaches & Cliffs!
Today will be a relaxing beach day with limited driving, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be rich of gorgeous cliffs and views!
The Algarve is one of the most popular winter sun destinations in Europe, and these are the beaches you can visit all year round.
Visit Praia do Camilo
If you want to make the most of this beach, I highly recommend you visit it early. We arrived around 10:30AM and there were already quite a few people there, but the big crowds didn’t arrive until 1PM.
Praia do Camilo is one of the most famous beaches in Portugal, and it’s easy to see why. Praia do Camilo is surrounded by tall sandy cliffs, has clear emerald water and soft golden sand.
To reach it you have to walk down the 200 steps of a wooden stairway, which add to the picturesque scenery. It’s the iconic beach you always see in photos of the Algarve.
Don’t make our mistake and put your towel too close to the sea, as the tide comes up really quickly and high, meaning you’ll have to retreat a lot. However if by then more people arrived, there might not be much space left on the beach!
Hike along Ponta da Piedade
When the tide rose at Praia do Camilo and started splashing our towels we decided it was time to leave. We headed on foot for Ponta da Piedade, a headland famous for its stunning rock formations.
To say Ponta da Piedade left me speechless would be an understatement. We spent around an hour walking along the cliffs, and each viewpoint we stopped at amazed me more than the previous one.
From Ponta da Piedade you can stand at the top of these golden cliffs, looking down at the towers and arches of these unique rock formations, emerging from the crystal clear emerald sea.
It’s a sight that should feature on everyone’s Europe travel bucket list. There’s an unofficial trail all along the cliffs, so take your time wandering along the cliffs and taking in the views from every side.
From here you will also see little boats setting off for Ponta da Piedade tours. If you want to do one, I recommend you wait before doing one, more on that in the next section!
Relax at Praia de Dona Ana
After hiking along Ponta da Piedade you will probably want another break. You can walk down to Praia de Dona Ana, a gorgeous beach a short 15-minute walk away.
Similarly to Praia do Camilo, this beach is characterised by turquoise water, towering golden cliffs and soft white sand. Praia de Dona Ana is bigger, which means it can get busier but also that there is more space to accommodate everyone.
At Praia de Dona Ana you will also find bars, restaurants and sunbeds and umbrellas to rent. It might be less famous, but its equally beautiful and a must-see on any Algarve itinerary.
Do a boat tour to Ponta da Piedade
I know you’ve already seen Ponta da Piedade from above, but believe me when I say you will want to see it also from below.
Cruising along the base of these giant golden cliffs, winding your way below arches and through narrow cracks and inside sea caves is completely different.
If seeing these rock formations from above left me speechless, admiring them from the sea left me even more thunderstruck. From below the sea will appear even more clear and turquoise.
We hadn’t planned to join a boat tour, but when we saw boats setting off from Praia de Dona Ana, we couldn’t help but inquire.
The tour costs 20 EUR per person, independently from how many people you have on board, last around 45 minutes and don’t need to be reserved beforehand, just ask the stand on the beach and they’ll call you a boat.
I personally think it’s better to join a tour from Praia de Dona Dana or Lagos, as you’ll be able to enjoy more of the coastline than those starting directly in Ponta de Piedade.
If you’re visiting Portugal in high season you might not want to risk booking your tour on the beach on the day. After all, if there aren’t any available you will be missing out on a great experience!
To be sure you’ll be cruising along Ponta da Piedade, you can book online beforehand one of these popular tours.
From Lagos: 75-Minute Boat Cruise to Ponta da Piedade – This is similar to the boat cruise we did, except it starts in Lagos so you’ll be able to see more of the coastline.
From Lagos: Algarve Golden Coast 4-Hour Catamaran Cruise – This tour is much longer, since the boat you’ll be cruising with is much cooler! It wouldn’t just be a sight seeing tour, but a proper catamaran sailing experience.
Ponta da Piedade Sunset Cruise From Lagos – If you want to do something more unique, cruising this coastline at sunset and enjoying the beautiful golden light is simply magical!
From Lagos: 2-Hour Kayak Cave Explorer Tour – For the more active travellers, this tour is perfect! It will allow you to get close to these gorgeous rock formations, and really appreciate their natural beauty.
Visit Praia dos Estudiantes
On your way back to Lagos at the end of the day you can do a stop at Praia dos Estudiantes. I didn’t personally love this beach, but there’s no denying it’s one of the most famous beaches in the Algarve and a must-see.
It’s famous because you have to walk through a rocky tunnel to reach it, and because of the Roman bridge that connects two of the cliffs that tower above it. It’s similar to other beaches in the area, but arguably more scenic.
If you visit it towards the end of the day it will be less busy, so that you can enjoy the scenic beach all to yourself.
Days 4 & 5: Sagres & surroundings
I grouped the final two days of my Algarve itinerary since, while I believe you need two days to properly enjoy this part of the Algarve, the order in which you do the activities is flexible.
The drive from Lagos to Sagres is only around 30 minutes, once there it’s time to hit some of the most famous surfing beaches in Portugal!
Surf at Praia do Telheiro, Praia do Amado or Castelejo Beach
The whole western coast of Portugal is famous for its world-class waves, but the southern region around Sagres is especially popular. Even if you don’t surf, these beaches are still spectacular and worthy of a visit.
The main surf beaches are Castelejo Beach, Praia do Telheiro and Praia do Amado. I tried surfing at all of them, but since I was visiting Portugal in summer I got unlucky with the conditions and there were no waves.
The beaches here are much bigger than their neighbours on the southern coast of the Algarve. Here you will never have issues of space or rising tides pushing you onto the towels of other travellers.
My personal favourite was Praia do Amado. It won me over with its soft white sand, the unique cliffs behind it and the clear turquoise water. There were also two very affordable bars overlooking it.
Castelejo Beach is also very scenic, with the tall behind it and the wide beach. You can find surfing schools directly on the beaches or book your lessons online beforehand.
Explore Sagres Town
Sagres might not be as unique and quaint as some of the other towns in this Algarve itinerary, but it’s still worth exploring. You will find lots of unique shops, bars and restaurants.
There is a very famous ceramics shop called Artesanato a Mo. If you’ve seen photos of someone standing in front of a wall of ceramics, chances are it was the front of this shop.
We also had lovely dinner at Laundry Lounge. As the name suggests, it’s a bar and restaurant where you can also do your laundry. It’s a bit on the higher price end, but the food and cocktails were great (and we really had to do laundry).
Watch the sunset at Cabo de Sao Vicente
Along with the surfing and beaches, Cabo de Sao Vicente was one of the highlights of our time in Sagres. Make sure to bring an extra jacket as it can get very windy, we didn’t plan for that and were freezing while watching the sunset!
Cabo de Sao Vicente is a rocky headland with steep cliffs and a lighthouse perched at the end. Here you can watch as the sun sets directly into the ocean, and turns the cliffs pink.
There are also food trucks from which you can get food and drinks to nibble on while watching the sunset. It can get very busy, so make sure to head there a bit early if you don’t want to park miles away!
From Sagres you can then drive along the Western coast of Portugal to the Parque Natural de Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina. This 900km squared natural park is one of the few places where you can find wild European coast.
Here you will find long wind-beaten beaches with fine white sand, strong waves and dramatic landscapes. It’s very different from the rocky cliffs of the Algarve, but equally beautiful and much less crowded.
Being a natural park, there are restrictions in place to avoid it becoming an overdeveloped tourist destination. This wild and rugged beauty is exactly the main selling point of the Costa Vicentina.
Where to stay in Sagres
I found Sagres was much more expensive than other parts of the Algarve. However thanks to its surf vibe there are lots of fun hostels and surf houses. Here are some accommodation options for every budget.
Budget – The Lighthouse Hostel: We stayed here for two nights and loved it. They have dorms, private rooms and bungalows, so there’s an accommodation style for everyone. They also have a pool, a lovely garden and friendly vibe.
Mid-range – Casa Azul Sagres: If you’re looking for something nice that won’t break the bank, this hotel is perfect. They have both cheaper double rooms and apartments for families or those who want more space.
Luxury – Mareta Beach House: If you want to treat yourself, this boutique residence is the place to do so. With their spacious rooms and infinity pool with sea views its the perfect place to relax after a long day of surfing and beaching.
What to pack for your Algarve trip
Besides the usual travel essentials, there are a few things you’ll want to be sure you pack for your Algarve trip.
Waterproof bag – Whether it’s to protect your electronics during your Benagil kayak tour or your boat tour of Ponta da Piedade, a waterproof bag is always handy in these situations.
Sun protector – The sun in this part of Portugal can get very intense, make sure to stay protected!
Power bank – You don’t want your phone to die while you’re taking photos of the gorgeous Algarve or while you’re trying to Google Map your way around a new city.
Final thoughts on the ultimate Algarve itinerary
There you have it, the ultimate Algarve itinerary! Have you been to the Algarve before? How did you find it? Let me know in the comments below!
Visiting the Algarve had been on my travel bucket list for ages, and finally exploring this part of Portugal was a dream come true.
From the dramatic cliffs of Lagos, to the scenic Benagil sea cave and the epic surfing beaches of Sagres, you will have an unforgettable time in the Algarve.
My Algarve itinerary is based on my trip and my five days in the Algarve. You could easily spend more or less time there, but this Algarve 5-day itinerary will allow you to see all the main sights, while also having time to relax a bit.
I hope you find this article useful in planning your own Algarve itinerary! If you have any questions, just let me know in the comments below!
Looking for more Portugal travel guides? Check out my other articles!
- The ultimate Azores 10-day itinerary
- Everything you need to know about hiking in the Azores
- 10 best things to do in Sao Miguel, Azores
- 11 awesome things to do in Terceira Island, Azores
- The best whale watching tours in the Azores