Algarve - 19 reasons to visit in 2019
The ultimate guide to why you should visit Southern Portugal this yearWhat is it that makes the Algarve so special? Here are 19 reasons why we’re sure you should visit in 2019.
In recent years the world at large has woken to the amazing allure of the Algarve. This small region in the South of Portugal has been recognized as Europe’s Leading Destination and an absolutely top place to visit and to live in. The Algarve isn’t a new invention though – those in the know have been enjoying its magnificent bounties for decades - the food, the scenry and superb quality of life. Here’s why:
1. The beaches
Until you’ve wiggled your toes in the fine sand of a gorgeous Algarve beach, you haven’t lived your best beach life. We have beaches for all tastes here – wild and unspoilt beaches along the Costa Vicentina (west coast), fine white sands and calm azure waters of the Ria Formosa, golden sands backed by red cliffs and green pine trees in the central Algarve and the most amazing cove beaches with magical sea caves and natural rock sculptures in the Western Algarve. Check out our Top 10 Algarve beaches and the best beaches for families.
Our favourite beaches for 2019
Armona island (hop on the island express with Salt & Sea Tours).
Praia do Camilo – for its picturesque setting and fab views from the cliff tops of Lagos, Meia Praia and Ponta da Piedade.
Odeceixe – on the west coast, spectacular natural setting, super sunsets and the best fun riding the currents as the tide comes in along the estuary.
Alvor – a huge expanse of golden sand, with coves and rock pools to explore at the eastern end and a great boardwalk that runs between the ocean and the river estuary, Alvor beach is one of the best around.
Praia do Carvalho – a secret smugglers cove, surrounded by caves and cliffs, great for adventurous cliff jumpers!
Check out some more great Algarve beaches.
2. Beach clubs and restaurants
Summer is synonymous with fun in the Algarve and a lot of that fun happens on the beach. As day slides to night there’s no need to leave the beach. There are some great beach restaurants and beach bars in the Algarve where you can start the day with a tasty breakfast, linger over lunch when the sun is at its hottest, get the party started with sundowners and dance into the night with your toes in the sand. Check out NoSolo Agua, Parrilla Beach Club and Caniço for stylish beach living and Medusis Club for a chic and modern day to night pool club. (Don't worry if you're not a party animal - most beaches in the Algarve tend to the tranquil rather than the lively).
3. Serious Sunsets
Perched at the western end of Europe, in Portugal the sun sets in the sea! For the most spectacular sunsets of all head to the Costa Vicentina (the west coast) where there is nothing to impede your view of 3000 miles of Atlantic Ocean and the sun sinking below the horizon. Good spots for sunset viewing are Sagres and Odeceixe. On the South coast, any west facing beach will also have superb sunset views. Check out some of the beautiful beaches west of Albufeira – Praia das Piratas, Praia da Ponta Pequena and Praia de Manuel Lourença. For an elevated view, head inland and up into the hills for countryside sunsets. The highest point in the Algarve is at Fóia in Monchique. Alsafari and Portitours run sunset Jeep Safaris with off-road fun as an added bonus.
4. Coastal marvels
The southern coast of the Algarve is about 155km long, with another 50km of coastline on the west. A lot of it is beach and most of it is gorgeous. There are great boardwalks along many stretches of the coast - for example you can walk from Carvoeiro beach, up across the cliff tops to Algar Seco which is famous for the strange rock formations, caves and natural sculptures carved into the rock. There are dinosaur footprints to be seen at Salema beach in the West Algarve and beautiful sea arches near Praia da Marinha . The fort at Cape St. Vincent near Sagres is perched on top of sea cliffs and offers some of the most dramatic scenery in the Algarve, especially if the surf is up. The best way to explore the coast and to really appreciate its beauty is by taking a boat trip. You can explore the Ria Formosa lagoons and islets, visit the caves and even search for dolphins in the wild on boat trips in the Algarve.
5. Benagil Sea Cave
This now world famous cave is one of the outstanding sea caves that you can find along the Algarve coast. The Benagil cave is particularly compelling due to its massive size and the ever-changing light within the cave. Beautiful sunlight streams through the natural openings in the cave dome, down onto the sand and translucent water, creating a shimmering palette of pure Algarve colours. You can visit the Benagil Cave by hopping a boat trip to explore the cave. There are departures from Alvor, Portimão, Carvoeiro, Albufeira and Vilamoura.
6. Ponta de Piedade
A fantasy landscape of caves, grottoes and coastal sculptures, this wonderful spot is just outside the town of Lagos. At Ponta da Piedade explore the cliff tops for the best views then descend the steps (there are quite a few) and take a boat trip around the caves.
In the Algarve the food is both delicious and good for you. What’s not to love? Traditional Algarve fare tends to be grilled or one-pot dishes. Seafood features strongly. Fresh fish, shellfish, squid, octopus….all delicious grilled on the barbeque or cooked with garlic and herbs. Simple yet tasty. Fish stews flavoured with fresh coriander; Cataplanas of pork and clams, fish or rabbit as tasty as the copper cataplana pots are pretty. Fresh salads that pack more flavour than you ever thought a salad could. Spicy piri-piri prawns or chicken – finger licking good. Juciy tender steaks - try a Bife à Portuguesa. You can even catch your own food – go out on a fishing trip or dig for clams at the Ria Formosa or the Ria de Alvor. Discover some more top Portuguese food.
8. Pastel de Nata, Bifanas and Bola de Berlim
Three of our favourite things. The Portuguese Pastel de Nata is a delicious custard tart. Flaky pastry, sweet filling and an optional dusting of cinnamon. Enjoy with a “bica” – a short, strong coffee. A Bifana is a pretty humble looking sandwich of a small pork steak in a bread roll. One of Portugal’s favourite’s it can look a little underwhelming - there’s not much fanfare or fuss about it…but wow, does it pack a flavour punch. The pork is marinated with garlic, bay leaf, wine, vinegar and paprika. Perfect as a hearty breakfast, a quick lunch or even at the end of a long night of partying. 5am bifanas are delicious! The Bola de Berlim is a sweet donut, typically bought from vendors on the beach. Generations of Portuguese holiday makers have memories of licking sugar from salty fingers while devouring their daily summer treat - what summer is all about.
9. Dinner with a view
Many restaurants in the Algarve don’t just serve up great food - you get views too. How about dining beneath the canopy of a fig tree that is more than 200 years old? Look up from your table at Casa do Campo and you’ll see fat juicy figs hanging from the tree, ready to drop into your lap at any moment. Or walk through the cliffs, yes through the actual cliffs, until you emerge into the sunlight and onto the terrace at Caniço restaurant, with the ocean before you. Or enjoy the wide open views at Izzys restaurant on Praia do Garrão, golden sand stretching for miles to the East and to the West. Check out some more Algarve restaurants with views. There is a huge array of restaurants in the Algarve to sample all sorts of delicious food, everything from Michelin star restaurants for fine dining experiences to going local and eating at Portuguese tascas.
10. The Wine
Red, white, rosé or green. Choose your favourite and enjoy. Portuguese wines in general are very good and very reasonably priced. Even wines priced at €3 or €4 a bottle in a supermarket are very enjoyable. While the Algarve is not yet well known as a wine producing area there are several excellent wineries in the region that are gaining a deserved reputation for excellence. For summer, the green wine or Vinho Verde, mostly from the North of Portugal is perfect. It’s light and refreshing and very drinkable.
11. The Beer
Travellers thirst for craft beers can be slaked in the Algarve too. There are several craft beer producers and their beers are available in cafés and restaurants across the region. Some producers such as Algarve Rock and Dos Santos also have guided tours to their breweries with tasting sessions included. Other craft beer brands include Marafada, Abaladiça and Moura. VILA VITA Parc has it's own beer too - Porches IPA - which you can enjoy at the annual June BeerFest or the massive Oktoberfest at the Biergarten. If beer or wine isn’t your thing – there’s always gin. The Algarve has its very own gin – Tangerine Gin – which is made near the town of Silves and in which local citrus and aromatics are used.
12. Sports for all
The weather (more on that later) in the Algarve is conducive to all sorts of sports and the region has superb sports facilities. Algarve golf courses are recognized as being among the best in the world and have won about a gazillion awards. Top tip – leave your clubs at home, travel light and have My Caddy Master deliver clubs to you on arrival. Racket sports are big in the region too. If you wanted to try Padel (one of the fastest growing sports around, give it a go in the Algarve – there are lots of clubs where you can play padel with both covered and uncovered courts. The Campus in Quinta do Lago not only has tennis and padel facilities, there is also a high performance centre that attracts top sporting teams from around the world. Portimão is the European City of Sport for 2019 and will host a huge number of sporting events welcoming thousands of athletes from all over Europe. Watersports are huge in the Algarve too. 2019 could be your year to finally try surfing or SUP.
13. Fabulous walks and scenic drives
There are some stunningly beautiful walking trails, both by the coast and inland, for you to enjoy. They range from fairly short and easy walks to more demanding hikes. Here are some of our favourite walks in the Algarve. If you prefer a scenic drive, check out these great road trips you can take around the region.
14. Festival Fun
There is so many festivals in the Algarve throughout the year. They range from local festivals celebrating sweet potatoes (at Aljezur) or chouriço (at Querença) to large festivals that attract over 100.000 people, celebrating the region’s history, such as the amazing Silves Medieval Fair. There are festivals showcasing Tango, celebrating Jazz and even smugglers, as well music festivals such as the BPM Festival and Summer Sounds Festivals and the ultra modern light festival Luza. Check out our Algarve Festivals page for information on upcoming festivals in 2019.
15. Fine Wines and Food Fair
In 2019 VILA VITA Parc will host another edition of the Fine Wines and Food Fair, which brings together top chefs and gourmet producers from around the world. Without doubt one of the leading luxury gastronomy events in the world, if you're a serious foodie, this reason on it's own is enough to convice you to visit the Algarve in 2019.
16. It’s romantic
The Algarve is one of the most romantic spots around. It’s no surprise that so many people opt to get married here. Not only are there so many amazing wedding venues, the whole place exudes a sense of romance, from the ancient roman bridge in Tavira, to the fleeting beauty of spring-time almond blossoms, the charmingly picturesque Senhora da Rocha chapel and the sea views that are ever present. Even the natural landscape joins in with heart shapes visible from just the right angle ….Discover some top romantic spots in the Algarve and if you are planning to pop the question this year, here are some great Algarve proposal ideas.
17. It’s so Instagrammable
In 2019 embrace the ‘gram and get posting pics that will makes your friends envious. Yes, snap those shots of Benagil and the sinking sun, the white surf and the turquoise waters. But don’t forget the beauty that lies inland….the contrasting hues of bark on a cork tree, the warm, red glow of Silves town in the sun, the black and white of storks riding the thermals, the lush vibrancy of bougainvillea on a white washed wall in a village such as Alte, or the eerie Chapel of Bones in Faro, where skulls and skeletons are stacked in rows.
18. It’s easy get to
Flights into Faro airport are easy and reasonably priced. Flight time from most major European cities is under 3 hours. And because there are so many great flight connections, you can build out your itinerary to include visit to Lisbon and Porto. They’re not the Algarve but they’re pretty special too.
19. The weather
We’re just going to say this about the weather: the Algarve averages 3.000 hours of sunshine per year. Chances are, when you’re here, the sun will shine.
Bonus Reason – the Algarve is real
Tourism is very important here and there are fabulous facilities to support the tourism industry. But it’s also a region where people live their lives and work their jobs, where they raise their children and send them off to school each day. It’s a place where generations come together and linger for hours over tables laden with local produce, where people have lived from the sea and worked the land. The cadence of the seasons brings juicy, tangy oranges in the spring; fat, succulent sardines in the summer, grilled over charcoal on the streets enjoyed after a languid day on the beach; a relaxed and slower pace of life in the Autumn and Winter, when the near empty beaches are picture perfect for strolls in the gentle sunshine. The Algarve is a place with deep roots and an open heart, where visitors are welcomed and locals are quietly very proud that their corner of the world is considered one of the most beautiful places you could experience. So come and visit . E sejam bem vindos!