A rugged coastline adorned with dramatic cliffs, pristine white sandy beaches, gorgeous little coastal villages along with luxury accommodation and exquisite seafood at reasonable prices. It’s no big surprise the Algarve in southern Portugal is one of Europe’s most celebrated beach locations.
The name Algarve comes from the Arabic word ‘Al-gharb’ which means ‘the west. The influence of the former Moorish conquerors which reached across the full length of the southern Iberian peninsular can still be seen everywhere here, making the area a fascinating place to explore.
Located some 30 minutes from Faro airport, the small village of Vilamoura has become a particular popular spot over recent years.
A great part of its appeal certainly comes from the nearby golf courses and a rising number of luxury hotels. Easily reached through the close by airport, Vilamoura is the perfect location for a quick weekend getaway if you grave some sunshine and relaxation close to the sea.
So here is my list of the many amazing things you could do over a weekend at or around Vilamoura.
Hit one of the over 30 golf courses at and around Vilamoura
Yes, there are more than 30 golf courses within Vilamoura and the surrounding Algarve region (five of them directly in Vilamoura). Thus if you are a passionate golf player, you should have no problem to find the right course for you.
Check out the Marina of Vilamoura
Whilst origins of Vilamoura are going back to Roman times, today the area is one of the largest beach resorts in southern Europe. Development took off in the 1980 largely around golf activities but has significantly widened since.
The Marina of Vilamoura complex itself today is the largest in Portugal. It is lined by numerous cafes and restaurants along with small shops selling local craft products as well as international brands.
It is also home to a large number of dolphins and if you are lucky you can see them even swimming into the small harbour at times. Another option to see them and get a different perspective from the Algarve coastline is to hop on a boat tour starting from the marina.
A little bit outside of the main marina area, just behind Tivoli hotel, you will find Purobeach a modern beach club following the example of famous Nikki Beach. It’s a nice location to spend some hours on the beach with a good food offer and rather impressive drinks menu. I totally loved my raspberry mojito!
Explore the Algarve coastline with its many incredible beaches
You will need more than just a day (or weekend) to explore the amazing Algarve coastline with its many incredible beaches and coastal villages. Especially as you certainly want to stop and wander down the steep cliffs to enjoy some of the most stunning beaches you’ve ever seen.
But there are several spots not too far from Vilamoura definitely worth a day trip if your mood is set on some beach time.
The stunning Benagil Cave is just a 40 minutes drive away. The cave itself is accessible by boat; taking one directly at Benagil beach or from other nearby beaches. The benefit doing the latter is usually a reduce wait time (the case is extremely popular and during peak season there can be very long lines to get on a trip at Benagil).
Closer to Vilamoura (about 15 minutes drive) you will find Praia da Marinha is often recognized as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. In fact, whenever you come across brochures or guides of the Algarve, it’s pretty likely they will feature Praia da Marinha.
Similarly close to Vilamoura lies Praia da Falesia, with more than six kilometres one of the longest beaches along the Algarve coastline. The nearby small residential town still boasts a lot of historic local lifestyle and close to the beach you will find a good number of restaurants and bars.
Explore old town Faro
Faro, home to the Algarve’s only airport, for most travellers is merely a gateway to this beautiful stretch of land. However, the town is well worth spending some time and explore especially the old part.
Marking the entrance to Faro’s old town is Arco da Vila, built in 1812. It also contains a statue of St. Thomas of Aquinas. The building actually sits on top of a historic Arab entrance part of the old Muslim walls which you can still spot.
The Roman Catholic Sé Cathedral, dating back to the 13th century, spots a mixture of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque features. Today, only the bell tower and two of its chapels are still original. The rest of the complex was destroyed by an earthquake in 1755 and later reconstructed.
Through the cathedral, you can access a museum that among other relics includes a shrine build entirely of bones dating back to the 18th century.
Located outside of the old town, the stunning Carmelite church Igreja do Carmo with its baroque facade and twin bell towers is a stunning piece dating back to the 18th century. It is indeed regarded to be one of the most beautiful churches on the Algarve.
The church is home to a large bone chapel at the back end of the church. Here, the walls are covered with the skulls and bones of more than one thousand Carmelite monks.
Both inside and around the old town, a number of small shaded streets lined with shops and cafes invite for a leisurely stroll. Make sure you sit down at one of the cafes and have one (or two) of the famous Pastais de Nata.
Head over to Loule
This small town some 20 kilometres away from the coastline is a favourite spot for locals and tourists alike, offering a lovely small historic core.
The most prominent building no question is the huge covered market building, boasting a distinctive Arabic influence. Inside, you will find lots of stalls selling local produce and the market is extended outside on Saturdays.
Other interesting sites in town are the cute town hall, the castle of Loule with nearby chapel of Our Lady of Conception ( Nossa Senhora da Conceição) and the church of St. Clemente (Igreja Matriz de São Clemente).
Stop by Igreja de Sao Lourenco de Almancil
This beautiful little church is located right between Faro and the village of Vilamoura. Dating back to the 17th century, the cute little church spots some interesting characteristics such as the outside staircase leading to the bell tower.
However, the most stunning part is the interior, entirely clad in the characteristic blue azulejo tiles of Portugal. It’s a really stunning view – unfortunately no photos are allowed inside, and there is also a €2 entrance fee.
And here are some final information about best times to visit and how to best get around Algarve.
How to get to the Algarve / Vilamoura
Your best choice getting to Algarve will be to fly into Faro airport.
The airport is just a few kilometres from the centre of Faro whilst you will reach the various villages along the coast between 30 minutes (Vilamoura) to just under two hours (Lagos) by car.
There is also a train running along the Algarve, connecting most of the major towns. However, travelling by public transport along the coast is not really convenient. Your best choice really is to have your own rental car.
What is the best time to visit the Algarve
Apart from the winter months, which can be unpredictable with a relatively high number of rainy days, the Algarve is a region that is suitable for beach holidays from around May until September.
The area enjoys more than 3,000 hours of sun each year. Temperatures are relatively contained in summer (the average is 28°C) thanks to the winds blowing from the Atlantic and usually warm and sunny during Spring and Autumn.
During winter, the average temperature is a mild 16°C but as said before, there is a high chance it might rain.
July and August is peak season when the area is packed and prices are the highest.
Have you been to the Algarve yet? Let me know about your experiences.