Day 1 in Algarve West

Spend the first day heading from Faro to either Vilamoura, Quarteira or Albufeira, where you will check into your accommodations. Albufeira is a popular tourist city, and much of the action happens at Avenida Doutor Francisco Sa Carneiro, or `The Strip`. For those who wish to enjoy some time on the beach, the two popular beaches in Albufeira are Praia do Peneco and Praia dos Pescadores. Make sure you view our Must Sees page and visit such important sights as the Igreja Matriz and the Igreja Sant`Ana. Paderne Castle is located a few miles outside the city and dates from the twelfth century. Also close by are the theme parks Zoomarine Algarve, a cross between Busch Gardens and Sea World; and Aqualand, one of Portugal`s most popular water parks.

If you want to stay closer to Vilamoura and Quarteira, there is a popular water theme park four miles northeast of Vilamoura called Aquashow, where there is a roller coaster that is the second-longest in all of Europe. The beach furthest to the east is Praia de Vale do Lobo, which is where one of the oldest five-star resorts in the Algarve is located. Heading west, you will see signs for four additional beaches: Forte Novo Beach, Vilamoura Beach, Rocha Baixinha Beach, and Praia da Falesia. Feel free to hire a boat or yacht from Vilamoura Marina, the largest marina in the country, or see a stage show and gamble at the glitzy Casino Vilamoura. If there`s time, take a moment to view the Roman ruins at Cerro da Vila, northwest of Casino Vilamoura. Return to your hotel at the end of the day.

Day 2 in Algarve West

Start your day early by heading east and consider staying a night in Portimao or on the beach two miles south called Praia da Rocha. As you head toward Portimao, you will first run into the towns of Armacao de Pera and Porches. Of particular note in this area is the beach Praia do Vale do Olival, named the least polluted beach in all of Portugal, and the Forte de Nossa Senhora da Rocha, located on a cliff above the ocean.

Just east of Portimao, there are beach towns and bedroom communities like Carvoeiro and Ferragudo. A popular beach, Carvoeiro Beach sits between two limestone cliffs, and is quite picturesque. Slide and Splash, the largest and oldest water park in Portugal, is also located nearby. The Forte de Sao Joao do Arade is a cliffside fortress built right next to the city beach in Ferragudo, and multiple vantage points show off fabulous views of the Arade River and nearby Portimao.

Once you get to Portimao, make sure to stroll the Zona Ribeirinha (the Portimao Riverside in English), and stop by the Portimao Museum, located inside an old cannery, to learn more about the city and its seafaring traditions. Two miles to the south is the seventeenth century Fortaleza de Santa Catarina, built high above a cliffside adjacent to Praia da Rocha. The Praia da Rocha Boardwalk begins just off the premises of the Fortaleza and continues for nearly a mile down the coast. One of the most popular beaches in the country, Praia da Rocha offers shopping, food and nightlife for every type of traveler. If you are a history buff, consider visiting the Roman Villa of Abicada, located just outside Portimao`s municipal airport; the Megalithic Monuments of Alcalar, dating from the third millennium before the Common Era; and Alvor Castle, a former Carthaginian castro located just four miles away from Portimao in the town of Alvor. Return to your hotel at the end of the day.

Day 3 in Algarve West

Begin the day by heading to Lagos, one of the larger cities in Algarve West, and where you will most likely make your home base for this portion of the trip. If applicable, check into your new accommodations and explore this beautiful city, located on the Bensafrim River. Lagos was a key city in the Portuguese Era of Discovery, and you can learn more about this time in history by visiting such must-see attractions as the seaside Fortaleza da Ponta da Bandeira; the Moorish-era Lagos Castle; the Statue of Henry the Navigator (perhaps Lagos`s most famous part-time resident); the former slave auction house-turned-museum, the Mercado dos Escravos; and the city`s wax museum, the Museu de Cera dos Descobrimentos, which tells the story of the Portuguese Discovery Era in sixteen vignettes. For those wishing to sun themselves and swim in the crystal-blue waters, consider lounging at Praia de Porto de Mos, Batata Beach or Meia Praia, and definitely make a stop at a well-known seaside rock formation, the Ponta da Piedade.

Five miles west of Lagos, the town of Luz offers many interesting points of interest, such as its internationally-known beach, Praia da Luz; the Manueline Igreja da Luz de Lagos; and the Renaissance-era fortress Fortaleza da Luz. Further west, you will approach the Vicentine Coast and Cape Saint Vincent, the southwesternmost point in mainland Portugal. Of particular interest in this area are the two cliffside fortresses which protected this coast from the Spanish Armada: the Fortaleza de Sagres and the Fortaleza de Beliche. Stroll the streets of downtown Sagres afterward. Head back to your hotel at the end of the day.

Additional Days in Algarve West

If you have the opportunity, explore the Vicentine Coast and the inland areas of Algarve West. Drive up the coast from Sagres to Aljezur, a small town four miles from the Atlantic Ocean and positioned on the Aljezur River. The town castle, Aljezur Castle, was once a Lusitanian castro, and the remaining portions of the fortification were renovated in the twentieth century to Middle Age-era authenticity. From there, drive east and visit the cozy Algarvian village of Marmelete as well as the provincial center of the inland Algarve region called Monchique. Monchique, a town which marries quaint provinciality and sprawling modern city planning initiatives, is a great place to decompress before or after hiking in the eponymous Serra da Monchique mountains to the west.

Northeast of Portimao and Praia da Rocha by approximately 10 miles, the city of Silves is full of history and sights to be seen. The capital of the Algarve before Faro, Silves was founded in the eighth century by the Moors, who incorporated the settlement into the nearby Caliph of Cordoba. An important center of science and learning, Silves was described as the `Baghdad of the West`. After the Portuguese retook the town in 1242, its importance declined, but Silves`s fortunes were reversed in the twentieth century with the advent of national and international tourism. In 1910, city officials began a preservation of Silves Castle, which was first built in the third century before the Common Era. Later, the remnants of the city`s walls were also restored, and the local government has funded a number of archaeological excavations in the area. People visiting Silves come for the history and stay for the charm.

Before you return to Faro and leave the country, stop for a day in the city of Loule. You will find that Loule offers history buffs some exciting sights. A settlement was first built in the area now known as Loule in the Paleolithic era, and has been a continuous settlement since the time of the Romans in the second century before the Common Era. The current city boundaries (based on the city`s Medieval-era walls) date from the eighth century and the rise of the Moors. Loule Castle was built in the eighth century, and is now preserved and open to the public as a national monument; preservation has also been undertaken on what remains of Loule`s city walls. Visit Loule during the winter carnival, the June Mediterranean music festival and bazaar, and the August "White Night" which transforms the city into one buzzing party.

Your Last Day in Algarve West

Depart your hotel and head to the airport for your return home. We hope you enjoyed the noteworthy sights of the western Algarve!