If you’re considering a holiday in Portugal, be prepared to fall in love with this earthly paradise! Since our first visit in 2020, the charm of Algarve has captivated us so deeply that we’re now looking to buy a house there.
To share our experience, we’ve crafted a 7-day road trip itinerary showcasing the stunning beauty of southern Portugal. From pristine white beaches and majestic cliffs to historic castles and exquisite traditional ceramics, this journey offers a rich tapestry of experiences. We’ve included our top picks for tours, accommodations, dining, and cafes, confident that you’ll be as enchanted by Portugal as we are.
The Best Time to Visit Portugal
Peak tourist season in Portugal spans from July to mid-September, ideal for beachgoers as the ocean is at its warmest. In the Algarve, water temperatures vary; in the east near Tavira, they can reach up to 26 degrees Celsius in summer, while towards the west near Sagres, they’re cooler, often below 20 degrees.
For those more interested in exploring than swimming, the Algarve is welcoming almost year-round. The region enjoys sunny weather even during January and February, with temperatures pleasantly hovering between 17-20 degrees Celsius. We usually spend February in Algarve, enjoying the mild climate. May, June, and the months of October and November are particularly delightful, offering beautiful weather with fewer tourists.
Car Rental in the Algarve
Our go-to for car rentals has been RentalCars, a reliable service we’ve used worldwide. Cars can be rented directly at Lisbon or Faro Airports, providing easy access for your travels.
Where to stay in Algarve
The compact nature of the Algarve means you can comfortably base yourself in one location for your entire stay. Recommended spots include Carvoeiro, Portimao, or Albufeira.
Staying in Carvoeiro
A top choice in Carvoeiro is Quinta Nova Vale Del Rey, known for its stunning pool and delightful breakfast. It’s conveniently located near Praia da Marinha, one of the Algarve’s most picturesque beaches.
Staying in Albufeira
For a distinctive experience, consider The Homeboat Company Albufeira, which offers charming houseboat stays.
Beachside and Luxurious Options in Portimao
In Portimao, the Cozy beachfront apartment offers a stay right by the sea. Alternatively, for a more secluded retreat, Villa Moments – Guest House is an exquisite villa with a pool, located a short distance from the beach.
Ideal Duration for a Portugal Trip
A summer visit ideally spans 10-14 days, allowing a mix of sightseeing and beach relaxation. Outside the peak season or for those focusing solely on exploration, a 7-day trip suffices. While a 5-day itinerary is feasible, it may require a more fast-paced schedule or skipping certain attractions.
Exploring Portugal’s Best: A Tailored Itinerary
Our itinerary is designed for efficiency, whether starting from Faro or Lisbon, minimizing travel time. However, the sites we suggest are also great for day trips if you prefer to stay in one spot. This approach is perfect for those who wish to balance relaxation with exploration.
Day 1. Sagres and surroundings
Head first thing in the morning to one of the wildest beaches on the Algarve’s west coast – Bordeira Beach. Huge waves, surfers and beautiful dunes are all to be found on this breathtaking beach.
From here, head to Pondal da Carrapateira, and along the way you’ll encounter a number of viewpoints that you may or may not want to stop at. See how much time you have. ☺️Na Pondal da Carrapateira has beautiful views of the cliffs, although it is tempting to walk, the day will be long, so I don’t recommend going too far.
Your last stop before lunch will probably be one of Portugal’s most beautiful beaches – Praia do Amado. Again, this is a beach that is very popular with surfers.
For lunch, head to Sagres, either to Arte Bianca (Italian) or Three Little Birds bistro, if you love Indian, we can recommend Holi Diwali, even though it’s a bit of a dive, they cook very well. 😅
In Sagres, the Sagres Fortress is a popular tourist destination (it’s probably a crowd frenzy), the inside is not worth a visit, personally I would only look at the fortress from the outside and not go inside. You can get a better view from Cabo de Sao Vicente, or rather from anywhere and for free.☺️ After lunch you can relax on Praia da Mareta beach or go to the slightly wilder and less visited Praia do Telheiro beach .
If you like ceramics, visit Cerámica Paraiso. For sunset, head to Cabo de Sao Vicente. This cape is the extreme southwestern tip of the European continent, and the sunsets here are especially beautiful.
Where to stay in Sagres and surroundings:
Day 2. Lagos
Head to the beautiful Praia da Luz beach and boardwalk for a great breakfast or brunch at Endless Summer Beach Bar & Pizza and a sumptuous lunch at Boaty’s Tapas Cafe. Take a stroll along the short boardwalk or go for a swim. Enjoy the southern air and white sands of the Algarve to the full.
From here, we’ll head to one of the best views of Ponta da Piedade, where you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to walk and photograph the view.
From Ponta da Piadade we will head towards Lagos and visit two more beautiful beaches on the way, namely Praia do Camilo, which you will know from the photos, and Praia de Dona Ana.
If you’re in Portugal during the warm spring days or summer, we recommend taking a kayak or boat trip from Lagos. Do book well in advance (especially in the summer season), below I’ll throw in some trip tips that can be easily booked through GetYourGuide.
Spend at least an hour in the afternoon walking around Lagos, which is a small city, but the old town is well worth a visit. Those of you who love fine coffee can visit Black and White Coffee Shop or The Studio – Coffee Roasters.
For sunset, head to Portimao on Praia da Rocha (beware, there are more under this name in Portugal).
Where to stay in Portimao:
Day 3. Carvoeiro
Head to the centre of Carvoeiro, where Praia de Carvoeiro beach is located. If you’re in the mood for a fine coffee, there’s a restaurant right by the beach called Levels that makes the best cappuccino in town (I’m not saying it’s the best cappuccino in the world, but you can’t get better in Carvoeiro😅). Levels also has excellent brunches, but for lunch, head to Earth Café or Chef’s Kitchen. If you’re in the mood for Indian, they’re all great (yes, we’ve been to all of them).
From Carvoeiro you can also go to Grutas – the caves. You can book your trip in advance through GetYourGuide or directly in Carvoeiro. I recommend booking in advance, though, as they were often full even in February when the weather was nice, so it can be a problem in the summer.
Depending on when you travel, make sure to check out Carvoeiro and the surrounding area. Just above the beach in Carvoeiro, climb the stairs and walk up to the Caminho do Algar Seco promenade , where the views are breathtaking and you can walk all the way to Algar Seco.
There really are a lot of beautiful places around Carvoeiro and you will see what you can do with a trip. I recommend several beaches, namely Praia do Vale Covo, Praia do Vale Centeanes and Praia do Carvalho, which you can reach by walking along the cliffs from Miraduoro to Vale Suspenso.
For sunset, head to Marinha Beach or if you fancy a glass of wine, head to the restaurant right on Praia do Vale Centeanes Beach .
Where to stay in Carvoeiro:
Stay at Quinta Nova Vale Del Rey, where they have a beautiful pool and great breakfast. The hotel is close to one of the most beautiful beaches in the Algarve – Praia da Marinha.
Day 4. Carvoeiro
I recommend staying in Carvoeiro for two days because you may not be able to do everything in one day. In the morning, go and explore Praia da Marinha beach properly, where you can walk up along the cliffs, but in the morning I recommend going to the beach first, which fills up quickly.
If you missed the walk from the lighthouse from Miraduoro to Vale Suspenso to Praia do Carvalho, now is your chance. You can also use this day for kayaking or relaxing.
We are staying in Carvoeiro.
Day 5. Silves and Monchique
We will leave the beaches for a day (unless you go to the beach first thing in the morning ☺️) and go to the local mountains, or rather hills, don’t imagine any Dolomites. Specifically, you’ll be going to the small town of Monchique, which lies amidst beautiful unspoilt countryside full of green between the two highest peaks of the Algarve.
In Monchique you will find the Igreja Matriz Church, Igreja de Sao Sebastiao and the small art gallery Santo António. For views, head to the top of Fóia, which sits at 922m and is the highest point of the Serra de Monchique. You can walk or drive there.
All the way from Monchique you can stop for local wines at Queinta do Francês Winery. Next stop is the city Silves, whose massive landmark is a huge castle from the fourth century. Definitely worth a visit.
There are also a number of excellent restaurants in Silves where you can have lunch or dinner, our favourite being Café Inglés, which often has live music. In Silves you will also find the beautiful Sé Cathedral and the Archaeological Museum. A short distance from the town is the Queinta do Frances Vineyard.
Where to stay in Silves:
We recommend staying right in the centre of Silves – for example at the Mosaiko 5 Suites – or staying in the same place as the previous days in Carvoeiro.
Day 6. Ceramic workshops and Albufeira
A visit to the Algarve would not be complete without a visit to the ceramic workshops. At the very least, visit the traditional Porches Pottery, where you can see how typical Portuguese pottery is made and have a coffee in the summer.
If we had to pick another workshop not to be missed, it would be Olaria Pequena, where the pottery is made by a father and daughter and we have several pieces from them at home and regularly leave a lot of money there. 😁Be warned, this pottery is not traditional.
The cheapest ceramics can probably be found at Casa Grade – Artesanatos.
Once you’ve done your shopping, taken your photos and had your fill of ceramics, we’ll return to exploring the beaches. You can visit, for example, Praia de Armacao de Pera or Praia Grande de Pera and combine it with birdwatching at Lagos dos Salgados.
A very popular beach (and no wonder) is Praia da Coelho and Praia da Rocha Rota. If you want, you can also go to the beach right in Albufeira(Praia do Tunel) and check out the marina there(Marina de Albufeira).
Albufeira also has a little “The Strip” like Las Vegas (The Strip in Las Vegas is home to many of the largest hotels, casinos and entertainment resorts in the world, making it one of the most iconic tourist destinations), a boulevard where you’ll find neon signs, lots of hotels and restaurants. Well, it’s a long way from Las Vegas, but it’s famous here, so we’ll mention it… 😅
Not far from Albufeira, you’ll also find the vineyard of British singer Cliff Richard, just behind Algarve Shopping. From Albufeira, there are also dolphin watching trips.
Where to stay
You can try accommodation directly in the houseboat: The Homeboat Company Albufeira or you can stay again in Carvoeiro.
Day 7. Loule, Tavira and Faro
Spend your last day exploring towns that are often overlooked by tourists. Start with beautiful and romantic Tavira, one of the few that still retains its non-touristic character. Here you will find the remains of a castle with a beautiful garden and a church with a huge clock. There are reportedly dozens of churches here. You’ll probably be most enchanted by the cute Portuguese streets full of typical Portuguese architecture with azulejos (tiles).
Another town to visit is Faro, famous for its beautiful Sé Cathedral, which is in the square where the orange trees that line it always smelled on our visits. Faro has a pleasant historic centre and there are often markets by the harbour in the park where you can buy a souvenir.
Loule is a pleasant town that is popular especially during the carnival season. Some of the biggest festivals are held here. It is also popular for its markets where you can get herbs, cheese, chili peppers, as well as marzipan cakes or honey. They also have fish and flower markets. The town is dominated by the castle, which was reconstructed in 19. century.
Where to stay on the last day:
If you are leaving from Lisbon, I would stay in Carvoeiro again or go straight to Lisbon, depending on what time you are flying. For those of you flying in from Faro, I recommend staying in Faro itself, at the Lemon Tree Stay or the stylish Casa da Madalena Backpackers Hostel .
Map with points of interest in the Algarve for your phone
Save a map of the most interesting places in the Portuguese Algarve directly to your phone. After purchase, you will receive a link to a non-public Google Map that you can open or print at any time on your phone. All recommended ones are clearly marked on the map:
- Cities (9x)
- Viewpoints and places of interest (13x)
- Recommended accommodation (6x)
- Beaches (16x)
- Restaurants and cafes (11x)
- Shops and ceramic workshops (4x)
What to see in the Algarve in 5 days?
If you have less time, I would definitely check out Sagres, Lagos and Carvoeiro and the surrounding areas. If there was time, I would definitely go to Silves and the ceramic workshops.
What to see in the Algarve in 3 days?
Three days in the Algarve is quite a few, so I would only focus on Sagres, Lagos and Carvoeiro.