The Ultimate Algarve 5 Day Itinerary: Beaches And Towns

Algarve 5 day itinerary
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If you’re on the hunt for an ultimate Algarve 5 day itinerary then stop right here. We’ve got just the thing: Our curated quintet of days in this most glorious of regions. Its aim? To showcase the highlights and the hidden gems of this stunning corner of Portugal, where there’s virtually endless sun, charming towns you won’t want to leave, and more gold-sand beaches than you can shake a surfboard at.

Our itinerary goes from east to west. It ranges from the edge of the Spanish-Portuguese border where the enchanting Roman settlement come modern fishing town of Tavira makes its home on the side of a flamingo-filled lagoon, all the way out to the wave-lashed beaches of the Atlantic Algarve, where you can surf and witness wonderful sunsets.

Going this way is best if you’re flying into Faro Airport (also known as the Algarve Airport and the main gateway to the region). That’s around 30-40 minutes from the starting point of the trip. However, you can also flip our Algarve 5 day itinerary and do it in the other direction if you’ll be driving down from Lisbon or Porto. It’s totally up to you.

Day 1 – Tavira

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Start by driving a little eastward from Faro Airport down the A-22 roadway to the town of Tavira. Welcome to one of the most enchanting places in the Algarve. An old Roman settlement, the city straddles the Gilao River close to the Spanish border. For breakfast, be sure to hit the riverside walking paths, where lovely cafés like Almas or TERRAZE spill onto the cobblestones close to the nearly-1,000-year-old Ponte Romana de Tavira (yep, it’s actually not Roman, despite the name!).

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After your coffee, dive into the old town area. It’s a maze of streets that twist and turn in on each other. The center is the sunny Praca da Republica, which sprouts palm trees and babbling fountains. From there, you can do a guided walking tour to seek out the Renaissance façade of the Igreja da Misericordia church and the Moorish-era Castle of Tavira.

But get the sightseeing done ASAP – beaches await. A boat from the downtown of Tavira can whisk you all the way out to the Praia do Barril. It’s a bit of a trek, involving a ride through the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa before a 45-minute walk over the sand hills and oat fields that hem in the shoreline. It’s all worth it, though, as you might just get glimpses of rare flamingos and waterfowl along the way. Once you arrive, you’ll have a beachfront that spans almost six miles from end to end to enjoy, complete with some of the calmest waters in the Algarve.

Return to Tavira for the evening and enjoy the vibes of the old town promenades again as the sun falls. There are some fantastic Portuguese taverns selling excellent seafood there, along with intriguing boutique hotels like Pousada Convento de Tavira, an historic stay in a centuries-old convent that’s a top place to bed down on the first night of our Algarve 5 day itinerary.

Day 2 – Faro

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Day 2 of our ultimate Algarve 5 day itinerary takes you back down the A-22 to the airport town of Faro. This time, though, you’re not heading for the terminals. You’re heading straight for the historic core of the city. Before you arrive, you could consider a detour up to the Roman Ruins of Milreu. It’s only another minute or so in the car but offers a glimpse of a two-millennia-old villa complex that was built by Roman nobles.

Onto Faro itself…dive straight into the Cidade Velha. It’s the ancient heart of the town; a hodgepodge of cobbled streets and small piazzas that are always buzzing with life. Getting lost is half the fun in this part of town, as you’ll turn corners and happen upon the grand Jardim Manuel Bivar and the curious Casa do Arco do Repouso, an historic home built into the weathered fortification walls of the town.

It’s a good idea to take some time to see the Municipal Museum of Faro. It’s one of the oldest museums in the whole of the Algarve and a great rainy-day activity (though rainy days are noticeably rare in these parts!). Inside, you’ll be wowed by an extremely well-preserved Roman mosaic depicting Oceanus the god of the sea, along with all manner of other ancient archaeological dig finds.

If there’s time left in the afternoon and the boat schedules allow, hop on a connection from the Faro Marina to Ilha do Farol. There’s plenty to do there, whether you come to laze on the powdery white sands of the Praia da Ilha do Farol or take photos of the bobbing fishing boats at the golden hour.

For accommodation, we can recommend the highly rated Casa Apollo Guesthouse. It’s a charming boutique lodging wedged just onto the north side of the old center of Faro, offering a garden pool and a series of quirky rooms that channel the local Algarvian style. Very nice indeed.

Day 3 – Albufeira

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Cruising westward down the coast roads of the Algarve on Day 3 will bring you to the whitewashed resort of Albufeira. Once a lazy fishing settlement, it’s now the beating heart of the region’s nightlife scene (but more on that later!). First…beaches…

Yep, Albufeira sits in the midst of some of the most stunning beaches that south Portugal can muster. There are two ways to do this. You can either choose one and settle in for the whole day or plan a tour of the region by car or boat to see multiple beaches. Whichever you go for, the sands that we think are the best around include:

  • Praia dos Alemaes – There’s a noticeably red tint to the sands here, and they’re within convenient walking distance of Albufeira’s downtown.
  • Praia Santa Eulalia – A pretty stretch of white sand sat just below some lush hills topped by palm trees. Some say Santa Eulalia has a sub-tropical microclimate.
  • Praia do Ninho das Andorinhas – Pure drama. The sandstone cliffs rise like cathedrals around the turquoise waters of this incredible cove.
  • Praia da Coelha – Gleaming golden sands below high cliffs make Praia da Coelha pure Algarve stuff.

Once you’re done touring the coastline that stretches to the west and east, it’s time to head back and ready up for the night. When the evening begins, things usually start in the Albufeira Old Town, a district of narrow roadways and pedestrianized streets that’s rammed with everything from karaoke bars to Portuguese food taverns. Later on, you can hop in a taxi and hit The Strip. It’s just to the east of the center but offers the most pumping nightlife around.

We especially like Hotel Sol e Mar Albufeira in this town, mainly because it sits plum on the cliffs above the main beach. Told you you’d be close to the beach on our Algarve 5 day itinerary!

Day 4 – Sagres

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You can make a pitstop in Lagos on your way to Sagres if you like. It’s the biggest city in the Algarve as a whole and a great place for breakfast on the marina. The cute little eatery of Little Break Fast is lovely, but health-food buffs might prefer Goji Lounge Café. After that, continue driving west along the N125 and then turn onto the N268 – it will be about 30 minutes before you get to your destination.

Cue Sagres. The most southwesterly town in the Algarve and the whole of mainland Portugal for that matter, it perches on a high plinth above the Atlantic Ocean. The location has made it a mecca for surfers because there are two coastlines to enjoy, offering two different types of waves.

(If you’re a seasoned wave rider and want some hardcore wedges, get down to Praia do Tonel on the west side of town. For more mellow, beginner waves, there’s always Praia do Martinhal. You’ll now find stacks of surf schools and rental spots in Sagres itself, so lessons and board hire should be a cinch to organize.)

Later on, we’d recommend making the walk down the short path to the Farol de Sagres and the mighty Fortaleza de Sagres. Together, these mark land’s end in a symphony of dramatic architecture, especially the fort, which was built way back in the 15th century!

If you have some time left in the day then a cruise up the deserted coast road to Praia do Beliche is a great way to appreciate the more rugged style of western Algarvian beaches that will dominate the rest of this trip. For hotels, check out the lovely Pousada de Sagres, a four-star hotel with an onsite spa on the eastern side of town.

Day 5 – Aljezur

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The final day in our Algarve 5 day itinerary is all about exploring the stunning west coast of the Algarve. It’s not a long one. It ranges just 29 miles from Sagres to Odeceixe in the north. But you’ll need a whole day – or 10! – to see everything that needs seeing. So, let’s begin…

Start by leaving Sagres early and peeling west and then north up the dusty coast roads to the carpark for Ponta Ruiva Beach. The road in isn’t the easiest on the rental car, but the bay is known as a rugged and wild opening in the shoreline where there’s often no one else around. After that, keep heading north to little Vila do Bispo, a charming whitewashed town with loads of surf shops and surf rentals, along with a smattering of cafés for a breakfast on the road (Zig Zag is one of our top picks).

Then comes the soaring cliffs of Praia da Cordoama. You can get down to the beach there but the real drama of it all is from the lookout points on the high coast hills above – think visions of lashing Atlantic waves to the north and south. Next is Carrapateira, another little surf community that spills onto a river mouth beach known as Praia da Bordeira. This one has a gnarly left-hand reef break and loads of beach breaks for those with the board in tow.

From there, you can cruise north, skirting the edge of the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina. It’s a gorgeous reserve that encompasses heather fields, sand dunes, and deep river valleys filled with pine woods.

The final pitstop on our itinerary is lovely Aljezur, an uber-romantic town with tiny cottages warmed by woodfire stoves. You can stay there just one night or for weeks on end, enjoying the proximity of nearby Praia da Arrifana, one of the best learner surf beaches in the whole region.

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Joe has been a freelance travel writer for over nine years. His writing and roaming have taken him from the colonial towns of Mexico to the chowks of Mumbai to the Southern Alps of New Zealand. When he's not putting together the next epic blog on the best Greek islands or ski fields in France, you can usually find him surfing or hiking – his two top hobbies.