Portugal’s Algarve is dotted with beautiful towns and villages, guarding beautiful beaches, and natural parks, surrounded by towering rock formations, and overlooked by historic castles.
There’s no end to the beauty you’ll be met by entering these Algarve towns that used to be home to ancient settlements that all left their mark. Especially if you travel to the Algarve in the winter, you’ll have a blast exploring the towns.
After traveling extensively across the region, I’ve picked the best towns in Algarve so that you can get the best out of your itinerary in the Algarve.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. That means that if you make a purchase through one of those links, I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Table of Contents
Best towns in Algarve
One of the most enchanting towns in Algarve is without a doubt the old fisherman’s town, Tavira, in eastern Algarve.
With the Gilão river gently flowing through the town made up of appealing tiled houses in different colors only disrupted by a number of bridges.
The most famous is the Roman footbridge connecting the Praça da República with the busy restaurant quarter on the other side.
The river takes you straight to the outskirts of the town where it elegantly undulates through Ria Formosa Natural Park.
There you can take a boat to Tavira island to enjoy a day on one of the Algarve’s best beaches or you can continue past the tiny fisherman’s village of Santa Luzia to take the little tourist train to the famous Anchor Cemetery on Barril beach.
Besides the natural lagoons, marshes, salt pans, and dunes protected by barrier islands, there are a lot of things to do in Tavira.
Other than stroll around the fisherman’s quarter admiring the old tiled houses, pay a visit to the remains of Tavira Castle, relax in the castle gardens, see the city from a new perspective in the Camera Obscura, and visit the 13th Century Igreja de Santa Maria do Castelo.
Arguably one of the most beautiful towns in Algarve, Carvoeiro offers a tranquil atmosphere within the whitewashed houses lining narrow, cobbled streets. Yet there is a great ambiance for eating out and trying local bites. Even with as little as a weekend in Algarve, you should try to make time for a visit to Carvoeiro.
But walk a little further and enjoy the charming Carovoeiro boardwalk, detour down to the cliffs, and venture through tunnels and into caves.
By the end of the boardwalk, you can have a refreshing drink at Algar Seco before exploring the natural pool and caves, especially the one unique for its two natural windows overlooking the glittering blue ocean outside.
Carvoeiro is also the perfect base for heading to Benagil beach to explore the famous Benagil Cave. If you venture further, hiking the astounding Seven Hanging Valleys trail, you’ll reach the most beautiful beach in the Algarve, or even in Portugal, Marinha beach.
No list of towns in the Algarve can be complete without a mention of Lagos. The quaint town is popular among backpackers and surfers for the astounding Lagos beaches and the lovely relaxing vibe fused with a vibrant nightlife.
There are a lot of great things to do in Lagos like learning how to surf or scuba dive, walking from beach to beach, or just enjoying a cold drink at an outside table in the enchanting old town. You can also go back in time at Lagos Fortress, Ponta da Bandeira.
Make sure you make the trip to Ponta da Piedade, one of the most jaw-dropping rock formations in the Algarve surrounded by astounding nature walks. But also the nearby beaches like Camilo beach and Dona Ana beach are worth the trip! Check out this organized kayak tour to Ponta da Piedade or this boat trip.
There are also many exceptional day trips from Lagos Portugal you can take to other towns or to spectacular nature spots. I also recommend checking out some of the fun boat rides from Lagos you can take.
Here are a few popular tours from Lagos:
- Dolphin and Whale Watching Tour
- 2-Hour Boat Trip to the Benagil Caves
- Cliff Jump, Swim & Climb in Sagres
- Historic and Cultural Group Tour of West Algarve
- Small-Group 4-Hour Wine Tasting Tour
Set on the far south-west corner of the Algarve, the tranquil surf town of Sagres whispers a promise of outdoor adventure. Not only are some of the best surf beaches on the coast around Sagres’ cliffs, but a network of walking trails crisscross the top of the cliffs offering jaw-dropping views of a dangerously rough landscape.
With pugnacious waves splashing the cliff walls that curtain down as golden wallpaper giving a home to a magnitude of nesting birds, this is no arguing one of the most unique places to visit in the Algarve.
Other than nature, which is truly what draws most travelers to Sagres, you should visit the fortress that’s set on the cliff edge, once serving as a defense against the Moors, it’s now one of Algarve’s most visited attractions.
Not far from Sagres Fort, on Cabo de São Vicente, there’s a 28-meter tall white and red lighthouse guiding the way for ships passing Europe’s end.
Albufeira is arguably one of the most popular resort towns in the Algarve and not without a reason. With an old town climbing sideways up the cliffside from the beach, it’s one of the most charming towns in the Algarve.
There are endless things to do in Albufeira, starting with the awesome nightlife at “The strip”. If you’re planning for a party holiday, this is the place to be. Even winter in Albufeira is wonderful, though a lot quieter than in the summer.
The coast is lined with stunning beaches and you can enjoy multiple watersports from there. Rent a kayak or a paddleboard to explore the hidden beaches and sea caves. One of the most popular day trips from Albufeira is a boat trip to Benagil Cave.
Here are a few organized tour alternatives if you prefer to go with a guide:
- Benagil hidden caves tour by Kayak
- 2-hours Cliffs and Kayaking experience
- Stand-up paddleboarding at Praia da Coelha
- Dolphins, Benagil Cave, and Coastline boat tour
- Caves of the Algarve boat tour
But there are many other fun activities in Albufeira both on land and in water that you can do like scuba diving, paragliding, and quad tours. Albufeira is literally Algarve’s capital of adrenaline!
Here are a few of my favorite activities:
- Certified divers scuba diving at 2 dive sites
- Paragliding experience
- Snorkeling trip
- Parasailing boat trip
- Half-Day offroad quad tour
- Full day Jeep safari tour with lunch
You can also check the top-rated kayak tours in Albufeira. But Albufeira is so much more than adrenaline activities. Stroll around the enchanting cobblestoned streets with whitewashed houses, go shopping for local souvenirs, and eat local food at any of the many restaurants.
Visit the archaeological museum to learn more about the area’s history and enter the churches to discover traditional tiled interiors.
Silves is one of southern Portugal’s most charming inland towns. Algarve is not only coastline, and Silves shows you why it’s worth exploring the inland.
Holding the best-preserved Medieval castle on the Algarve where you can get a bird’s eye view of the town and surroundings. Silves used to be an important town and a central place from where the Moors ruled the Algarve region.
Next to it, the Moors had built a mosque. After the Portuguese conquered back the land, the mosque was torn down and today, the town’s Gothic cathedral stands on the exact same spot.
Wander the cobblestoned streets through the colorful houses and take advantage of a slower pace of life than in the crowded Algarve coastal towns.
Silves is truly one of the most beautiful towns in the Algarve that you should add to your itinerary.
I couldn’t write this without giving the beguiling fisherman’s village of Santa Luzia a mention. In the outskirts of Tavira, this place gets way less attention than it deserves.
If you’re looking for local life in Algarve, sauntering the cobblestoned streets of Santa Luzia past old, colorfully tiled houses is the perfect way to spend an afternoon.
There are a few restaurants to try local food and bars where you can enjoy a coffee in the morning or a refreshing drink to cool down on a hot day.
The waterfront is crowded with small, wooden fishing boats and traditional fishing shacks line the marina. Boats can take you to Tavira island from here too, as the village is situated in front of the Ria Formosa Natural Park.
Nonetheless, Santa Luzia is only a 20-minute walk from the footbridge connecting the mainland to Tavira Island. From there you can cross to the Anchor Cemetery either by foot or by train and enjoy a relaxing day at Barril beach.
If you enjoy hiking and need a break from the coast, Monchique is the place for you – also referred to as Algarve’s hiking capital.
The whitewashed hillside town is adorned by endless, green trails taking you to lush vegetation and waterfalls like Barranco de Pisões. But it also offers easy access to Algarve’s highest peak, Fóia, where you can maze at the coastal views from 902 meters of altitude.
Other than hiking, the 17th-century monastery Convento Nossa Senhora do Desterro is well worth the walk from the town center. It was much ruined by the 1755 earthquake, though the remains tell the story of the Franciscan monks that once inhabited the cloister.
Just 7 km south of Monchique you get to what has been a spa town all the way back to Roman times. Caldas de Monchique only consists of a few houses but the hot springs are the main draw. They hold a temperature of around 30 degrees Celsius and are said to hold beneficial medicinal properties.
What better after a few days of hiking? With so much to offer for mind and body, there’s no wonder Monchique is a favorite among the offbeat Algarve towns and villages.
Just a short day trip from Albufeira, you get to the old defensive town of Loulé. The Moors used the town as an important defense post and the Loulé fortress was central in protecting the area.
However, it played an important role all the way to the bronze age. You can also explore Roman remains in Cerro da Vila to get an idea of how they lived on the Algarve.
If you love exploring markets or not, the market in Loulé is absolutely worth a peek. It’s truly the most beautiful in the Algarve with its red-painted oriental domes.
Other attractions worth seeing are the Capela de Nossa Senhora da Conceição and the astounding Almacil parish that dates back to the 1600s.
Loulé is also a wonderful destination for going on a wine tour. The region’s wineries produce exquisite wines like Chardonnay, Sirah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine tour is highly recommended.
If you fancy the beach, it’s a 20-minute drive to Vilamoura’s beaches. There are no direct buses, so unless you have a rental car, I would recommend splitting your trip by staying in different locations to soak in the beach vibes.
Alvor is one of the most picturesque Algarve beach towns you can find. There are a lot of wonderful things to do in Alvor. The astounding beaches in Alvor are perfect for a relaxing day in the sun. Go for a sunset stroll along the Alvor boardwalk that takes you across a natural scene with a mesmerizing beach view.
The remains of Alvor Castle, dating back to the Moorish era were one of few that survived the 1755 earthquake. Peek into Alvor’s churches, Igreja da Misericórdia, and Igreja Matriz to see the traditional tiled interior.
Of all the towns in the Algarve, Alvor is a lesser-visited one, but not because it lacks charm. Quite the contrary. However, it’s situated close to some of the most popular resort towns and lucky for you, it stays in the shadows giving a calm atmosphere to those who venture there.
Planning your holidays in Alvor will definitely make a trip of a lifetime!
Reflections on Algarve towns
These amazing towns in Algarve, Portugal, are well worth your time. There are many more places to visit for sure, and if you take your time and spend a few days in one place, you can discover nearby towns and villages that didn’t make it to this list that I’m sure you’ll love too.
The Algarve is so stunning in every possible way and the people that you’ll meet will possibly make the trip more special than any town can do alone.
The towns in Algarve are waiting, so start planning your trip!