Are you unsure which towns to visit on your upcoming trip to the Algarve? We understand that it’s a tough decision! Southern Portugal is filled with incredible towns and villages, from the serene charm of Silves to Faro and its natural wonders.
Faro is the capital of the Algarve, so it’s the perfect gateway to explore the region. It’s also the place we call home! With our Ria Formosa boat tours, you can explore the stunning natural park on our doorstep with a friendly, local guide.
For now, though, let’s focus on some of our picks for the best towns in the Algarve! But remember, this isn’t a comprehensive list — these are just a few of our favourites.
Faro: The Enchanting Gateway to the Algarve
Nestled in the heart of the Algarve’s beautiful coastline, Faro serves as a delightful gateway to this picturesque region. But don’t mistake it for just an entry point! There’s much more to Faro than meets the eye.
Explore the Old Town, a fascinating melting pot of history and culture. The maze of cobbled streets, lined with colourful buildings, reveal charming, hidden squares.
Take in Faro Cathedral, with its varied interior and history dating back to the 13th century. You can also scale the bell tower for a bird’s eye view of the town!
Then there’s the Arco da Vila, the neoclassical archway leading into the Old Town. The current arch was built over a much older Moorish structure after an earthquake in 1755. However, inside the current arch, you can still see a well-preserved section of the original.
Given Faro’s location, it’s also the perfect place to explore the remarkable Ria Formosa Natural Park. Designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and a Wetland of International Importance (or Ramsar Site), this special place is home to a diverse range of animal life — and it’s incredibly beautiful too!
Lagos: Where Towering Cliffs and Pristine Beaches Steal Hearts
Further west, you’ll find Lagos, a town that seems like it was lifted from a postcard. Its breathtaking cliffs and golden beaches looking out over the Atlantic Ocean have stolen many a heart!
Thankfully, as Lagos’ popularity with tourists has grown, it has managed to retain its character. So, as you stroll around the walled Old Town, you will immerse yourself in an authentic Algarve experience.
Explore the mesmerizing Ponta da Piedade cliffs, a photographer’s dream. Then, bask in the sun at Praia Dona Ana, one of the Algarve’s most beautiful beaches. Lagos also boasts a vibrant nightlife, so be prepared for a night to remember.
Tavira: A Glimpse into the Algarve’s Past
Tavira is a hidden gem, nestled on the eastern Algarve coast. Its well-preserved history and tranquil atmosphere will transport you to another era. You can find a fascinating blend of Portuguese traditions and deep-rooted Moorish influences here.
The town straddles the Gilão River, a slow-moving river that passes through the Ria Formosa Natural to reach the sea.
Visit Tavira Castle and be captivated by its views over the town. Walk across the ancient Roman bridge and explore the tranquil Jardim do Coreto. Tavira is the perfect place for a serene getaway.
Looking for more inspiration in this area? Check out our recommendations for the best things to do in the eastern Algarve.
Albufeira: Where Beach Bliss Meets Bustling Nights
Albufeira, a true Algarve icon, is where the party meets the beach. This lively town is all about the good times and vibrant energy.
Enjoy the sun on the Albufeira beaches, then hit the Old Town for some shopping and dining. After dark, Albufeira’s Strip comes to life with bars and clubs that keep the party going all night.
Of course, as a popular resort town, it has plenty that appeals to many visitors. But it’s also not for everyone, especially those looking for a quieter break with a more authentic local connection.
Olhão: A Slice of Authentic Algarve
If you’re looking for an authentic taste of the Algarvian lifestyle, Olhão is your destination. This wonderful coastal town boasts a traditional fishing port and a lively fish, meat, and produce market.
There aren’t many historic sights here, which can deter some visitors. But as a working town, it offers the kind of experience many other places can’t.
The bustling market is the perfect example. It’s a brick building spanning two floors and sells delicious and fresh local produce. In the surrounding area, you can find numerous waterfront restaurants serving seafood caught that same day!
And when you’ve finished, you can enjoy a walk along the waterfront promenade, cooled by a sea breeze while taking in views over the ocean to the horizon.
Olhão is only a short drive east of Faro, so we included it in our list of the best things to do near Ria Formosa Natural Park.
Silves: The Algarve’s Castle in the Hills
Given its jaw-dropping coastline, it’s easy to understand why many of our picks for the best towns in the Algarve are beside the sea. However, Silves is an enchanting place that’s a little further inland.
A trip here will take you back in time, as Silves has a fairytale-like appearance. The well-preserved Moorish fortress is the perfect example of its rich history. It’s also one of the best-preserved castles in the Algarve, making it ideal for history buffs.
The climb up to the castle is well worth it for the panoramic views of what was once the Algarve’s capital and the countryside surrounding it.
There’s also a Roman bridge in Silves, and the Old Town is a delightful place to wander, shop for local handicrafts, and eat mouthwatering Portuguese cuisine.
Are you looking for ideas for less typical holiday activities? We think you’ll love our blog Unusual Things to Do in the Algarve.
Sagres: A Remote Escape to Nature and History
For a more remote experience, head to Sagres. This town on the southwestern tip of the Algarve is a paradise for lovers of nature and history.
The rugged coastline here is a joy to explore, with multiple paths covering the dramatic cliffs as the wild Atlantic Ocean crashes against them below. And if you want to take it easy, simply head to one of the beautiful beaches!
Visit the Fortaleza de Sagres, a historical landmark where Prince Henry the Navigator planned Portugal’s Age of Discovery. Outside of the town itself, you can also find the famous lighthouse at Cabo de São Vicente.
Until the 14th century, people believed that this remote part of Portugal was at the edge of the world. There aren’t many better places to simply get away from everyday life.
We included Sagres in our list of the best off-the-beaten-path places in Portugal!
Explore the Algarve’s Gem with Our Ria Formosa Boat Tours
The Algarve’s towns are a delightful mix of history, natural beauty, vibrant nightlife, and coastal charm. There’s much more to discover in the towns above — and plenty more towns to explore too!
Do you have any questions for the Formosamar team? Please get in touch for all the answers you need.