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Algarve Itinerary for First Trip (3-5-7 Days) +Map & Insider Tips

Algarve Itinerary for First Trip (3-5-7 Days) +Map & Insider Tips

Visiting the Algarve region in southern Portugal for the first time and wondering how to plan your trip so that you can see most of the top places in Algarve?

What are the ‘must-sees’? How many days do you need? And where to stay so that you can minimize driving times and make the most of your time?

In this guide, we share a recommended Algarve itinerary for 5 days. Why 5? Because this is about the minimum amount of time you need if you want to see most of the top places in Algarve and keep it somewhat relaxed and enjoyable. This itinerary is described below in detail, including the map indicating all the top spots, and accommodation suggestions.

In addition, at the bottom of this post, you can also find our suggestions on how to plan your time if you have 3 or 7 days in Algarve. So if your trip is shorter or longer, you can find some inspiration in those itineraries. And if your trip is even longer than a week – lucky you! In that case, visit the same places mentioned in our itineraries, but spend more time in each area.

Good to know: We travel to Algarve several times a year and have tons of articles to help you plan a trip to the region. You can find an overview of them all on our Portugal travel page. If you are visiting with a family, be sure to also check our guide to the best things to do in Algarve with kids.

READ ALSO: Algarve Travel Tips

Algarve itinerary

Algarve 5-Day Itinerary Overview & Map

This is our recommended Algarve itinerary for first trip:

Below, you can find a detailed day-by-day itinerary with more info, tips, and photos. It will give you a better idea of what to expect and how to plan your time so that you can see the very best of Algarve in 5 days.

How to use this map: Use your computer mouse (or fingers) to zoom in or out. Click on the icons to get more information about each place. Click the arrow on the top left corner for the index. Click the star next to the map’s title to add it to your Google Maps account. To view the saved map on your smartphone or PC, open Google Maps, click the menu and go to ‘Your Places’/’Maps’. If you want to print the map or see it in a bigger window, click on ‘View larger map’ in the top right corner.


Getting around: By far the best way to explore Algarve is by renting a car. We use this website for car hire and have always been able to find amazing deals in Portugal. When traveling to Algarve, we usually fly to Faro Airport and rent a car there, but you can also fly to Lisbon – it’s just over 2 hours drive.

Where to stay: While the Algarve region is quite big, most of the top places are concentrated along the southwestern coast. If you base yourself somewhat centrally, e.g. in Albufeira and/or in Lagos, you can simply stay in one or two locations the entire time and make day trips along the coast. That way, you don’t have to pack and unpack all the time and can also adjust your plans on the go.

Alternatively, you can also do a mini road trip in Algarve, staying in different locations (almost) every night. Our itinerary below includes recommendations on where to stay in order to minimize driving, but if you prefer a more relaxed approach, you can easily stay in Albufeira on days 1 and 2 and in Lagos on days 3, 4, and 5.

LEARN MORE: Where to Stay in Algarve

Praia da Prainha - Algarve itinerary
Algarve Coastline at Praia da Prainha in Alvor.

Here is our recommended Algarve road trip itinerary:

DAY 1: East Algarve

On your first day in Algarve, we suggest visiting the eastern part of the region.

There are a few reasons why we recommend starting here. First, this is where the airport is located, so if you are arriving in Algarve by plane, you will start in Faro. And second, while the coastlines here are very nice, the western part of the region has a much bigger WOW effect. So you will appreciate Eastern Algarve better if you start here.

There is a lot to see in the Eastern Algarve, but with just a day, you will probably want to concentrate on the main sights. Those include the towns of Tavira, Olhão, and Faro. In addition, you could take a boat trip to Ria Formosa Natural Park.

Faro - a must in any Algarve itinerary
Tavira old town - Algarve itinerary
Olhao market in Algarve Portugal

There are numerous ways how you can plan this day, depending on your interests and how much you want to squeeze in a day. It also depends a bit on the time of the year. In the warmest summer months, you may want to spend less time in towns and visit Ria Formosa islands/beaches. Whereas if you are traveling outside the summer season, it’s better to spend more time exploring the towns.

Here are a few recommendations on what to see if you have just one day in Eastern Algarve:

  • (Best in summer) Start your day in Tavira and explore the old town. Next, head to Olhão, have lunch at the market, visit the old town, and take a boat trip to the Ria Formosa Islands. There are several boat tour options, most take about 3-4 hours. Simply pick a tour that suits your itinerary best timing-wise. In the late afternoon/evening, explore Faro.
  • (Best overall) Visit Tavira in the morning, stop in Olhão for lunch (or skip it altogether), and explore Faro in the afternoon. In the evening, take a 1-hour sunset cruise to Ria Formosa. You won’t visit any of the Ria Formosa islands this way, but it will be more relaxing and you’ll have more time to explore the towns. Plus, the sunset cruise near Faro is an amazing experience at any time of the year. We did this sunset tour recently and loved it.

Where to stay: Stay in Faro town, just make sure that your accommodation has parking (or that there’s public parking nearby). Parking is cheap in Faro, but not always next door. Here are some hotel recommendations:

LEARN MORE: Best Things to Do in Tavira & Best Things to Do in Faro

Bone Chapel in Faro Algarve
Bone Chapel in Faro.
Anchor Graveyard at Praia do Barril in Tavira Portugal
Anchor Graveyard at Praia do Barril in Tavira.
Ria Formosa sunset boat tour from Faro Algarve
Ria Formosa sunset boat tour near Faro.

DAY 2: Central Algarve

On the second day, we recommend exploring the central Algarve. We also suggest that you take a boat trip to Benagil Cave on this day. There are a few reasons for this – doing it on day 2 of this itinerary will make the next day more relaxing. Furthermore, if the weather is bad or the ocean is too wild, you can still reschedule for the next day.

Here is what your day could look like:

Start with a quick stop at the Church of São Lourenço, which is located just 10-15 minutes drive from Faro. This little church has some remarkable azulejo tiles and is the most impressive church in the Algarve region.

However, its opening hours are somewhat peculiar and in the low season, it’s usually closed. But it’s not a big detour, so see if it’s open when passing by.

Igreja de Sao Lourenco in Algarve
Igreja de São Lourenço.
Azulejo tiles interior of Igreja de Sao Lourenco church in Algarve Portugal
Igreja de São Lourenço.

Next, stop for a short walk on Praia da Falésia. This is one of the most beautiful beaches in Algarve – the red cliffs are simply stunning and unique!

Keep in mind that the beach is very long (about 6km – 4 miles). The most impressive part is in the far west, closer to Albufeira than to Vilamoura.

On our map, we indicated the nicest part of the beach that is easiest to reach by car, but parking can be an issue here.

Falesia Beach - top places to see in any Algarve itinerary
Falesia Beach.
White and red sandstone cliffs on Falesia Beach in Algarve
Falesia Beach.
Praia da Falesia - Algarve trip itinerary
Falesia Beach.

Next, head to Albufeira Marina which looks somewhat like a colorful LEGO town. It’s nice to see and there are lots of attractions here for families, but the main reason to come here is because this is the departure location for all kinds of boat tours.

The most popular boat tours go to Benagil Cave. On the way, you see some of the nicest coastlines of Algarve. Ocean conditions permitting, the boats also go inside several sea caves. They also do their best to spot dolphins. In the summer, most tours will also include a short stop for swimming if there is demand.

Good to know: Boat tours from Albufeira usually last about 1.5-2 hours We recommend booking in advance – it’s the best way to be able to plan your itinerary and not waste any time. In the high season, the tours usually sell out and in the lower season, there are fewer options, so you can adjust your itinerary as needed. We recently did this highly-rated tour and saw lots of dolphins as well.

READ ALSO: How to Visit Benagil Cave

Benagil Cave boat tour - Algarve itinerary
Benagil Cave.
Dolphin watching tour - Algarve trip itinerary
Dolphins are easier to see than to photograph.
Sea caves along Algarve coast
Sea caves along the coast.

For lunch, you will find many restaurants in Albufeira Marina, or you can head to one of the little beaches nearby. In the high season, there are restaurants open at pretty much every beach.

In any case, we highly recommend that you visit several beaches west of Albufeira. Some of our favorites include Praia dos Arrifes, Praia de São Rafael, and Praia do Castelo. These are all among the most beautiful beaches in Albufeira and are easy to get to by car, but the parking situation depends on the season and the time of day when you are there.

Depending on where you decide to stay, you could also first visit Albufeira’sp old town and come visit these beaches at sunset.

Albufeira Marina - Algarve itinerary
Albufeira Marina.
Castelo Beach in Albufeira
Castelo Beach.
Sao Rafael Beach in Albufeira, Algarve
Sao Rafael Beach.

In the late afternoon/evening, visit Albufeira’s old town. There are also several nice beaches here and lots of bars, and restaurants for dinner. Albufeira is also known for its lively nightlife.

Where to stay: Depending on your interests, you could stay in Albufeira’s old town (right in the middle of all the action). But on a road trip and with a car, it would be much easier to stay outside of town (ideally west of Albufeira – close to the beaches mentioned above). And if you want to go out in the evening, you can take a taxi/Uber for a few euros.

Here are some recommended hotels in/near Albufeira (with parking):

LEARN MORE: Best Things to Do in Albufeira & Best Restaurants in Albufeira

Fishermen's Beach in Albufeira Algarve
Fishermen’s Beach in Albufeira.
Albufeira sculpture of a mother taking a picture of her kids at the main beach - Algarve Portugal
Cocktail bar in Albufeira Portugal
You’ll find lots of good bars and restaurants in Albufeira.

DAY 3: Most Impressive Coastlines of Algarve

The third day of this itinerary takes you to the most impressive coastline in Algarve. When you see pictures of the Algarve in the travel brochures, most of them are taken in this area – more or less between Albufeira and Lagos.

TIP: We highly recommend that you start this day early, especially if visiting in the high season. Parking at Praia da Marinha usually fills up very fast. Plus, if you want to do the Seven Hanging Valleys trail (or part of it), it’s best to start before it gets too hot.

First, stop for a photo at the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Rocha. It’s located in Porches, about 20 minutes drive west of Albufeira. This little chapel is built on a steep rock which is surrounded by the ocean – a beautiful sight!

TIP: If you start early and have time, go down to the beach. There are actually two beaches – one on each side of the rock – and they are interconnected by a tunnel. It’s not something to try if you are claustrophobic, but otherwise, a fun experience. At the side of Praia de Nossa Senhora da Rocha, the tunnel is rather wide and high, but at the side of Praia Nova, you can’t even stand straight.

Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Rocha - Algarve itinerary
Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Rocha.
Tunnel at the beach near Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Rocha in Algarve
The tunnel connects the two beaches near the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Rocha.
Praia de Nossa Senhora da Rocha beach and tunnel - Algarve Portugal
Tunnel entrance at Praia de Nossa Senhora da Rocha Beach.

Next stop – Marinha Beach, one of the most photographed beaches/coastal scenery in Algarve. This is also the start of the famous Seven Hanging Valleys Trail.

If you want to do this hike, count at least 2-3 hours for it. You can leave your car at Praia da Marinha and then take a taxi/Uber back.

LEARN MORE: Seven Hanging Valleys Trail

Alternatively, you can also just do a part of this trail. In that case, walk the first 200-300 meters, explore the nicest viewpoints above Marinha Beach, and visit the other places along the coast by car. You can drive to most of the top spots of the Seven Hanging Valleys Hike, so that’s an option too, just beware that driving takes longer than it looks on the maps and parking is limited at some places too.

One of the places you can see along this hike (or drive to) is Benagil Cave. This time, you can see it from above (you will have seen it from the inside on the boat tour the day before). If you don’t want to do a boat tour from Albufeira, there are also kayak tours that run from Benagil Beach itself. Also here, it’s best to book in advance.

Other stops along this stretch of the coast include Carvalho Beach, Alfanzina Lighthouse, and Vale de Centeanes Beach (where the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail ends). Whether you hike or drive, you could have lunch at this beach. There is a very nice seasonal restaurant here. In the summer season, it’s best to reserve in advance or arrive around noon.

Praia da Marinha - Algarve itinerary
The scenery near Praia da Marinha.
Praia da Marinha Beach - Algarve road trip
Praia da Marinha.
Algarve coast scenery from Seven Hanging Valleys Trail near Benagil
The scenery along the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail near Benagil.

In the afternoon, visit the Algar Seco rock formations in Carvoeiro.

This coastal area is stunning and can be explored via a series of boardwalks, pathways, and staircases (some carved in the rocks). You could easily spend an hour here.

If you have more time, explore Carvoeiro Beach and the town as well. There are also many restaurants/cafes here so this could be a nice alternative spot for lunch.

Natural window in the rocks at Algar Seco in Algarve
Algar Seco.
Algar Seco rock formations in Carvoeiro Algarve
Algar Seco.
Algar Seco coast in Algarve Portugal
Algar Seco.
Carvoeiro Beach in Algarve Portugal
Carvoeiro Beach.

Next, you could visit either Ferragudo and/or Portimão.

In Ferragudo, the nicest place to see is the Castle. It’s a private property and can’t be visited inside, but you can get nice views from one of the beaches nearby – either Praia da Angrinha or Praia Grande.

Portimão is a big city (and frankly, not our favorite). But there is a very nice beach here – Praia da Rocha – that’s considered as one of the must-sees in Algarve. So if you want to make the absolute most of your day, you could stop here as well. Otherwise, just head straight to the next stop on our itinerary and spend more time there.

Ferragudo Castle Algarve Portugal
Ferragudo Castle.
Natural Arch on Praia Grande in Ferragudo with the view of Portimao in the distance - Algarve road trip itinerary
Natural Arch on Praia Grande in Ferragudo with a view of Portimao.
Portimao town and Praia da Rocha Beach Algarve Portugal
Praia da Rocha and Portimao.

Finally, head to Praia dos Três Irmãos in Alvor. The scenery at this beach and the adjacent Praia da Prainha is absolutely spectacular. Whatever you do, don’t miss this!

Our favorite time to visit is about an hour before sunset. Depending on the time of the year when you visit, you could also arrange to be here at sunset. Or arrive earlier, enjoy the beach, and stay longer.

TIP: Make sure to walk all the way to the end of Praia dos Três Irmãos. Via tunnels and passages, and sometimes also with your feet in the water, you can get to the smaller beaches further east. The rock formations here will take your breath away!

Where to stay: Stay either in Alvor or in Lagos, which is about half an hour’s drive further west. Lagos is more convenient because you could just stay at the same hotel for 2 or even 3 nights (depending on where you plan to go at the end of this trip). It’s also a nice town and is not deserted in the low season.

Here are some recommended hotels in Lagos:

  • Luxury: Lagos Avenida Hotel (the best hotel in the old town and if there’s no parking at the hotel, you can also park at the Marina, which is just a few minutes walk).
  • Mid-range: Marina Club Lagos Resort (at the Marina, with a big free parking nearby).
  • Lower budget: Hotel Mar Azul (parking might be difficult here).

READ ALSO: Where to Stay in Lagos: Best Areas & Hotels

Praia des Tres Irmaos and Praia da Prainha beaches in Algarve
Coastal scenery at Praia des Tres Irmaos and Praia da Prainha.
Praia dos Tres Irmaos - Algarve itinerary
Praia dos Três Irmãos.
Alvor beaches are among best places to visit on any trip in Algarve
The scenery at Praia da Prainha.

DAY 4: Lagos & Ponta da Piedade

Start your day with an early morning boat tour to Ponta da Piedade. We highly recommend kayaking, but boat tours are also very good. Kayaking takes about 2 hours, boat tours – about 1 hour.

There are many different options for both – for boat trips as well as kayaking – and you can find them all here. Having done several of these tours on different occasions, I can tell you that they are all just as good. So pick one that suits your itinerary best.

Of all the boat trips we did in Lagos, we enjoyed this kayak tour the most. In my opinion, this is also a much nicer area to explore by kayak than Benagil Cave which is better visited by boat. Recently, kayaks are also not allowed inside Benagil, only in the area, whereas boats can enter the cave.

LEARN MORE: Kayaking to Ponta da Piedade in Lagos

Lagos kayak tour to Ponta da Piedade - Algarve itinerary
Kayaking at Ponta da Piedade.
Ponta da Piedade sea caves as seen on a boat tour from Lagos
Ponta da Piedade sea caves.
Ponta da Piedade boat tour - Algarve vacation
Ponta da Piedade boat tour.

After the boat tour, explore Lagos.

Visit the market, walk around the old town, visit one or two museums, do some shopping, etc. There are many nice restaurants and cafes here too. You can also spend a few hours at one of the beaches.

TIP: If you want to experience as much as possible and fill your day to the fullest, you can also consider a winery tour or a traditional food tour.

LEARN MORE: Best Things to Do in Lagos

Old town of Lagos Algarve Portugal
Igreja de Santo Antonio in Lagos
Igreja de Santo Antonio in Lagos.
Lagos - Algarve road trip

In the late afternoon, head to the most scenic beaches of Lagos – Praia Donna Ana and Praia do Camilo.

Next, explore the Ponta da Piedade area on foot. This is the same place that you’ll visit in the morning by boat, but it’s well worth seeing the coastal scenery from the top as well. This area is also one of the best places for sunset in Lagos!

TIP: Camilo Restaurant is an amazing place for dinner (or lunch). Reserve in advance!

Where to stay: Stay in Lagos, the same hotel as last night.

LEARN MORE: How to Visit Ponta da Piedade (includes more info on all the top spots nearby)

Ponta da Piedade - Algarve itinerary
Ponta da Piedade as seen from one of the many viewpoints in the area.
Praia do Camilo Lagos Algarve
Praia do Camilo.
Dinner at Camilo Restaurant in Lagos Portugal
Camilo Restaurant in Lagos.

DAY 5: Sagres & Vicentina Coast

The last day of this Algarve itinerary brings you to the west of the region – the wild rough coast of Algarve. The main place to visit here is Sagres which is the southwesternmost point of Portugal and the European mainland. Before the Age of Discoveries, Europeans believed that this was the end of the world.

There is enough to see and do in and near Sagres to fill an entire (relaxing) day. The musts are the Cape of St Vincent and Sagres Fortress.

In addition, there are several stunning beaches in Sagres. If you visit just one of them, we recommend Praia do Beliche. It’s very popular with surfers, but if you take the time to walk down and walk westwards, you will discover some stunning coastal scenery.

Cape St Vincent Sagres - Algarve road trip
Cape St Vincent.
Praia do Beliche in Sagres Algarve
Praia do Beliche in Sagres.
Sagres Lighthouse Algarve Portugal
Sagres Lighthouse.

In the afternoon, explore the less-visited part of the Algarve – Vicentina Coast. The scenery here is completely different from what you’ll see in the rest of the region, but it’s so beautiful!

Some of our favorite beaches here include Praia da Cordoama and Praia do Castelejo. When the ocean is not too rough, you can walk between these two beaches as well. Cordoama Viewpoint is not to be missed as well!

Further north, don’t miss Praia da Bordeira. If you are interested, you could also go horseback riding here; in that case, check availability and book in advance!

There are more nice beaches to see along the coast, so a lot depends on how much time you have. But also on your overall itinerary and where you are planning to stay. See our detailed guide to the Sagres area for more information.

LEARN MORE: Best Things to Do in Sagres

Where to stay: This will highly depend on your overall travel plans and where you are going after visiting the Algarve. The easiest option would be to stay in Lagos, at the same hotel as the previous two nights. If, however, you want to enjoy a sunset at Cape St Vincent and take it easy in the evening, you may want to stay in Sagres.

Here are some hotel recommendations in Sagres:

Bordeira Beach on Vicentina Coast in west Algarve
Bordeira Beach.
Cordoama viewpoint - Algarve road trip
Cordoama Viewpoint.
Praia do Castelejo beach on west coast of Algarve Portugal
Praia do Castelejo.

Above is our recommended itinerary for the first time in Algarve.

If, however, your trip is longer or shorter than 5 days, here are two recommended itineraries for 3 days or 7 days in Algarve:

3 Days Algarve itinerary

  • DAY 1 EAST: Tavira and/or Faro, Falésia Beach, evening and stay in Albufeira.
  • DAY 2 CENTER: Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Rocha, Praia da Marinha, Benagil Cave by boat, Algar Seco, Praia da Rocha, sunset at Praia dos Tres Irmaos in Alvor. Evening and stay in Lagos.
  • DAY 3 WEST: Kayak or boat tour to Ponta da Piedade, Lagos old town, the main highlights in Sagres. Stay in Lagos or Sagres.
Natural Arches at Marinha Beach - Algarve Portugal
Natural Arches near Praia da Marinha.

7 Days Algarve itinerary

  • DAY 1: Olhão + Ria Formosa boat trip and Tavira. Stay in Tavira or in Faro.
  • DAY 2: Faro, cork factory tour, and/or winery visit. Stay in Faro.
  • DAY 3: Falésia Beach, dolphin & Benagil Caves boat tour, Albufeira. Stay in Albufeira for 2 nights.
  • DAY 4: Algarve interior (Alte, Silves, Monchique) OR a day at one of the best water parks in Algarve.
  • DAY 5: Seven Hanging Valleys Trail, Algar Seco in Carvoeiro, Praia dos Tres Irmaos in Alvor. Stay in Lagos for 2-3 nights.
  • DAY 6: Ponta da Piedade kayak or boat trip and Lagos.
  • DAY 7: Sagres and the beaches along the west coast. Stay in Sagres or in Lagos.

READ ALSO: Best Towns to Visit in Algarve

Alte village - Algarve itinerary
Alte village in rural Algarve.
Algarve vineyards
Vineyard in Algarve.

So, this is our recommended Algarve itinerary for first-timers. I hope that our description and pictures give you a better idea of what there is to see and do in Algarve and how to plan a trip.

Good to know: You can make this trip at any time of the year. Yes, weather permitting, even the boat trips run year-round. Of course, the experience will not be the same in the summer or in the winter, but there are advantages and disadvantages to each season.

In the summer, everything is open, but it’s also much warmer and busier everywhere. Whereas in the winter, beach restaurants will be closed and the weather is less predictable, but accommodation prices are much lower and you won’t have to waste time looking for parking even at the most popular spots.

Some of our favorite times to visit Algarve are the months of April – May and October – early November. Pretty much everything is open, the weather is perfect for sightseeing, and it’s nice and lively without being too busy. Here you can read more about what it’s like to visit Algarve in April or in November.

Just recently, we spent a few weeks in Algarve in December and we loved it too. The weather is perfect for exploring and you don’t have to worry about parking even at the most popular beaches.

More travel inspiration for Portugal:

Some travel inspiration for southern Spain:

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Road trip itinerary for first visit to Algarve Portugal
Algarve itinerary for 5 days road trip

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