Located on the southern coast of Portugal, The Algarve is world renowned for its white sandy beaches, unbelievably stunning natural landscape and incredible food. With over 3000 years of history, it was under Moorish rule that the region got its lasting name. Coming from the Arabic, Al-Gharb which means ‘the west’ and it was called this as it was the westernmost country in their empire. Today, holidays in the Algarve attract tourists the world over who seek to bask in its glorious weather. Somehow, Portugal has managed to escape me all these years. I don’t know why it has taken me so long to visit but now that my eyes have been opened as to how incredible this country is, I will definitely be returning for another weekend in The Algarve and to explore more of what the region has to offer!
Getting to The Algarve couldn’t be easier. There are flights to Algarve available from airports across the UK to take you directly to Faro, the ‘capital’ of The Algarve. We caught a Jet2 flight from London Stansted and in just over 2 hours we were hopping off our plane to a warm and sunny reception. A London to Algarve flight couldn’t have been easier! After a short drive into the centre of Faro we meandered the picturesque streets where we were taken into the mother of all Pastel de Nata bakeries – Faisca & Henriques. It is a little off the beaten path and only really known to the locals (which means it is the place to go for a fresh nata) but is not to be missed! Especially as these little beauties are a national speciality. Essentially a Portuguese custard tart with a dusting of cinnamon, the Pastel de Nata’s were created by the nuns and monks who used egg whites to starch their clothes. Not wanting to have any waste, they began using the leftover yolks to make custard and the nata’s were born! Anyway, enough about pastries and onto an itinerary on how to spend the most amazing weekend in The Algarve. Which I have to say, Jet2 pulled out some gems for us with the Algarve itinerary they put together!
Find below all the best Algarve destinations, Algarve restaurants and of course, the best Algarve resort.
Pin For Later:
Algarve Accommodation – Where To Stay For A Weekend In The Algarve
One thing I love about being on holiday is the comfort of being able to put your feet up and relax in style. Waking up to views out over the ocean, listening to the waves rolling onto the shore and watching as the sun peeks out from the horizon, illuminating the sky in the most fantastic array of colours. This is how I spent each morning, sat on my balcony at the Tivoli Marina Vilamoura hotel which we got with Jet2Holidays. It was complete and utter bliss. I forgot how much I love to be beside the sea, I really do feel at home there.
The Tivoli Marina was rather a grand affair. You could quite easily while away an afternoon sat by the pool drinking Aperol Spritz’s – we may have done a bit of this – or laying on the white sands down by the beach soaking up the rays. Inside is very modern and sleek with the friendliest customer service. There was an older chap that helped us with our luggage who we all absolutely fell in love with, he was adorable! But it’s not just the service that made this place the perfect place to stay, it is also central to all the best places to explore and most importantly, to eat. I’m sure you all know by now that I love good food and my goodness have I got some gems for you!!
What To Do In The Algarve – The Best Algarve Destinations
Hike The Seven Hanging Valleys Trail
The Seven Hanging Valleys is a 7.3 mile walk along one of the most iconic views of the Algarve. Stunning views, magnificent caves, geology and landscape like I’ve never seen before – this trail is not to be missed! It is one of the best natural gems in the entire of the Algarve. The waters are a vibrant shade of emerald that attract visitors in their masses in the height of summer. Visiting off season we were able to appreciate the peacefulness a little more and our only wish was that after the walk we were able to kayak in the waters below. Next time I’ll book a kayaking tour of the caves! The cliffs and stone were an incredible shade of red which offset against the turquoise waters beautifully. The red rock and the shape the elements had formed them into over the years made me feel like I was on mars, it was truly a unique place that stands out in my memory.
This walk was one of the highlights of the trip for me. It really shone. We had a guide with us to teach us about the the area and its history which really was fascinating. We didn’t walk the full trail, however walked until we arrived at the town of Carvoeiro where we stopped for lunch. More about that in the Where To Eat section.
Take A Boat Tour Of The Ria Formosa Nature Park
Sticking to the nature theme, make sure not to miss out on a boat tour of another of The Algarve’s gems. Faro is the gateway to the Ria Formosa Nature Park and it is here that you can get a boat to take you out onto the salt marshes. Stretching nearly 40 miles along the coast, the Ria Formosa is a maze of canals, islands and marshes teeming with bird and aquatic life. Our guide was so informative on all the animals that make their homes here and we saw such a variety of birds on our short journey as we made our way to Ilha Deserta for lunch. If you’re interested, you can find more information on tours of the Ria Formosa here. Oh by the way, make sure to bring a cardi or a big comfy jumper. It gets a bit fresh out on the ocean waves!
Click here for information on booking a boat trip to Ilha Deserta and Farol Island via catamaran.
Explore Ilha Deserta
Ilha Deserta translates quite literally to the desert island and this is exactly what to expect. A deserted desert island. My kind of place! I’m always one to shy away from the hustle and bustle and much prefer quiet, picturesque places where I can get lost in my own thoughts. This is the perfect place to do just that.
Arriving on the island you will notice that actually, the island isn’t entirely deserted. It is home to one solitary inhabitant who looks after the island, a caretaker if you will. His name is Mr. Alves and he and his dog are the only permanent residents on the island. Even his wife isn’t allowed to live on the island with him, instead she has to remain living back on the mainland in Faro.
The island is also home to one restaurant – Estaminé Restaurant where you can tuck into some of the freshest seafood I’ve ever had. We spent an hour walking around the island before lunch and worked up quite the appetite!
Have Cocktails On A Roof Top Bar
No weekend in the Algarve would be complete without a cocktail. I for one love a good cocktail and there is no place better to indulge than at the rooftop bar at Hotel Faro. The Cosmopolitan Bar not only offers cocktails made by Portugal’s award winning best bartender but serves them with a side of panoramic views out over the Ria Formosa Nature Park. I don’t think it gets much better than that! I’d definitely recommend you sample the Merano Grape Fest which arrives fabulously presented. I could quite easily have had more than just the one of those!!
Pay A Visit To Faro Cathedral
Situated in the heart of the cities Old Town, Faro Cathedral dates back to the 13th century and was built over remnants of a Roman temple, Visigoth church and then a Moorish Mosque – building completed in 1251. This pretty much sums up the history of The Algarve. It has had such a mix of influences throughout its history that make it the incredible place it is today. Inside the Cathedral you can find the morbidly fascinating Chapel of Bones and some beautiful azulejo tilework. Make sure not to miss out on climbing up to the bell tower to get unparalleled views over Faro.
Visit The Museu Municipal De Faro
Located just behind Faro Cathedral you will find the Faro Museum, or Museu Municipal de Faro. The museum occupies the site of the 16th century convent of Nossa Senhora da Assuncao (Our Lady of the Assumption). It’s peaceful, cloistered gardens were utterly beautiful and well worth a visit to the museum in their own right. I’m always a sucker for cloisters, there is something so magical about them and these didn’t disappoint. Not to mention, it is only a stones throw away from a truly terrific place to grab lunch – Tertúlia Algarvia.
Where To Eat In The Algarve – The Best Algarve Restaurants
You will find this gem just across from Faro Museum so it is perfect to pair with a day of exploring the Old Town. Grab a seat outdoors where you can relax under the shade of an umbrella whilst you tuck into some delicious local delicacies. This was our first meal of the trip and as soon as we were seated the wine was cracked open! It was also the beginning of a love affair with the incredible local produce The Algarve has to offer.
The meal began with plates of Octopus salad, air-dried tuna almost in a beef jerky style and plates of local cheese which was served with almonds and honey. I had never heard of that pairing before in my life but it was brilliant! The courses didn’t stop coming. The dish that stole the show was the Seafood Cataplana which was a variety of clams, razor clams and cockles that came from the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve that very morning, cooked in a broth of garlic and olive oil. It. Was. Divine. If I could bottle that sauce up I’d be a millionaire. I kept dunking my bread in for more!
The meal ended with a delicious cake made of chocolate and carob. The Moors originally introduced the Algarve to carob trees and it was lovely to be able to taste this thoroughly local dessert. The best description I can give is that it tasted a lot like a cake made with dates, a flavour I absolutely love having spent my childhood growing up in the Middle East. Needless to say, I’d definitely recommend you try the carob cake.
You will find EMO Restaurant in the gorgeous Anantara Vilamoura hotel, just a short drive away from where we stayed at the Tivoli Marina Vilamoura. Our evening began with a glass of bubbly downstairs before heading up to take our seats in the restaurant. This restaurant offers diners a fine dining experience, pairing each course with the perfect Portuguese wine.
The first course was a superb tomato tart with a basil sauce followed by some of the most succulent rib-eye I can remember eating! It tasted divine. I’d go back here in a flash just for this dish alone. Just thinking about it has gotten me salivating. The final course of the evening was quite surprising in appearance and combination of ingredients but lived up to its predecessors in the taste department. Chocolate, raspberry, sweet potato, carrot…not the usual flavour combinations that spring to mind when you think of dessert but it was delicious!
Now this place is one of the Algarve’s best kept secrets! To get to it you have to catch a boat to Ilha Deserta but it is seriously worth the effort. You will be rewarded with the freshest fish you’d had in your life! The views from the restaurant are fantastic too. Estaminé restaurant has floor length glass windows the entire way around the dining area so customers can take in the scenery of the desert below and look out to sea.
Every ingredient was fresh and local, all the seafood being caught that very day. My highlight was the sea bass which was caught a couple hours before, smoked over a charcoal fire (which you can watch outside if you fancy) and brought to the table to be deboned in front of us before we all devoured every morsel. The theatre of it was perfect. No surprise this place attracts some big names. I have it on good authority that it is a firm favourite with Cristiano Ronaldo when he comes to town.
After dinner, don’t miss a shot of Aguardente de Medronho or firewater as it is commonly called in English. This is a traditional brandy made from the fruit of the Medronho tree which grow across the Algarve. You couldn’t find a more traditional Portuguese ending to a meal.
On the topic of traditional Portuguese, one thing that sets their meals apart is their love of sharing courses. It is common for multiple different sharing plates to arrive at the table for everyone to tuck into. At Paixa you will be served a luxurious tapas style meal which I absolutely loved! It is the best way to sample multiple dishes of incredible Portuguese food and boy did we sample the menu. Oxtail croquettes, fresh goat cheese, tomato & basil salad, cured cheese with honey and almonds, Manchego cheese with olive oil & oregano, Iberico ham, Bresaola carpaccio, smoked duck breast, thinly cut slices of roast beef, marinated beetroot, asparagus with mustard sauce, octopus salad with peppers, anchovies from the Cantábrico Sea, salmon mousse, smoked salmon, local oysters, crab tartar, wild tiger prawns, maize porridge, Paris mushrooms stuffed with Iberico ham…the list was endless, and each dish so incredible.
And did I mention the interiors? So dreamy. A place to dine in style!
O Patio Restaurant
We stopped here for lunch when we arrived in the beautiful little town of Carvoeiro after walking the seven hanging valleys trail. Chance to sit under some shade, tuck into some amazing food and have views out to the beach. What more could you want for lunch? I would highly recommend ordering the cod, it was mouthwateringly good and washed down with a cold glass of local wine it was just what was needed.
Quite simply, the most stunning restaurant I’ve seen in a long time! From the tiling to the green velvet bar stools, every detail was sheer perfection. I really fell for the interior of this place. But that’s not the only thing that bowled me over. The food was ramped up to another level for our final evening in the Algarve. One of the best steak houses in the whole of Portugal, Bovinos lived up to its reputation. In traditional Portuguese style we had a multitude of sharing platters which I heartily went back for seconds and thirds of.
Go for the sharing menu. It was divine. The meal started with plates of grilled tiger prawns, cheese & onion empanadas, the most incredible lamb croquettes (there were my absolute favourite!!) and grilled Spanish Chistorra sausages. If that wasn’t enough to line your stomach, the main course is certain to! A platter of all the steak you could possibly want, served on a hot plate so it keeps cooking at the table. Fillet, rump, ribeye, USDA prime New York strip. You will be satisfied. I guarantee it. This is all served alongside a delicious potato gratin, mac and cheese, fries, corn, garlic, and some seriously tasty sauces.
To finish off the evening, tuck into the dessert menu which features a classic Crème brûlée, cheesecake and the star – the chocolate hazelnut brownie with ice cream.
My last evening in the Algarve left a memorable impression and it is definitely on my list to return to. In fact, I couldn’t have had a better time exploring this region of Portugal and the Algarve in October was perfect weather wise. If you’re looking to discover more then I’d highly recommend taking a look at Jet2’s package holidays to Portugal. And the fact that Jet2 have flights to Faro from pretty much most UK airports makes them so convenient, which is what you want at the start of a holiday! A short journey to your local airport and off on your jollies for a weekend in Portugal!
If you go you’ll have to let me know if you try out any of the places in this guide and tell me what you think!
My Proposed Daily Itinerary To Make The Most Of The Algarve:
Day 1 – Wander around Faro stopping by Faisca & Henriques for one of their famous Pastel de Nata’s, explore Faro Museum and Cathedral, lunch at Tertúlia Algarvia, cocktails at Hotel Faro, check into Tivoli Marina Vilamoura Hotel, dinner at nearby EMO restaurant.
Day 2 – Catch a boat from Faro to Ilha Deserta via the Ria Formosa Nature Park, lunch at Estaminé restaurant on the island, return back to the hotel and lounge by the pool/beach, dinner at Paixa restaurant.
Day 3 – Walk the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail, stop for lunch at O Patio in Carvoeiro, explore Carvoeiro, head back to the hotel for some afternoon pool time, dinner at Bovino steakhouse.
Everywhere is easily accessible but if you’re wanting complete transport freedom then I’d recommend hiring your own car whilst you’re there. This place have plenty of good options available!
I hope you have an amazing trip!!
Like It? Pin It!
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. That means I may earn a small commission to help with the running of this website, at no extra cost to you. Please read my Disclaimer Page for more information. Thank you for your support!