As soon as the Portuguese border with Spain opened, I started planning a weekend trip to the Algarve. Portugal is an easy drive from Andalusia and the perfect place to spend three days. Whether you are flying into Faro, adding on to a larger road trip or visiting for a bank holiday weekend, I’ve got the perfect three-day itinerary for you. In this guide, I’ll share the top things to do in the Algarve, the best beaches, where to eat and where to stay.
*This post contains affiliate links, which means I could make a commission at no cost to you. Thank you for your support and help running this site! I was a guest at Vila Monte. Thank you Vila Monte and Sauce Communications for a wonderful stay!*
How to get to the Algarve
Faro Airport is the main airport in the Algarve with flights arriving daily from continental Europe and the UK. Renting a car is the best way to get around and see the most of the region on your own time. The main highway in the Algarve is the A22 and it uses electronic tolls. Be sure to talk to your rental car company about how to pay for the tolls or use the smaller, toll-free back roads that take longer. I’ve always had a good experience renting a car from rentalcars.com and they have a helpful chat feature.
I drove from Spain in my own vehicle and enrolled in EasyToll as I crossed the border, but this process will differ if you rent a car in Portugal.
The Algarve is about two and a half hours by car from Lisbon making this itinerary an easy addition to a longer trip. From Lisbon, you could also take a three hour train ride to Faro, and then rent a car or Uber from there.
Where to Stay
Whenever I am visiting a new area, I like to divide my time between a hotel in town and a countryside stay. This strategy always worked well for me in Tuscany and Puglia where there are multiple types of hotels to experience. For example, I would stay in a secluded country villa for a few nights and then a spot walking distance to restaurants in town.
So, for my three days in the Algarve, I chose to stay two nights in the city of Lagos and then one night at the country resort of Vila Monte Farm House. Both offer different benefits depending on your style of vacation. Many of the things to do in the Algarve are just a short drive from each other, so it is also absolutely feasible to see all the beaches in the area without changing hotels if you prefer.
If you stay at the luxurious resort Vila Monte Farm House with its stylish suites, incredible food and beautifully designed dining spaces, you might not want to leave. The hotel hosted us in a deluxe suite complete with an ocean view in the distance from the outdoor patio, a spacious lounge area, a coffee maker, mini bar and anything you could want for a relaxing stay. Vila Monte even provided a luxurious experience for my dog Alfie with a water bowl, towel, dog bone and a nice bed that she promptly settled into. You’ll also want to check out my Portugal highlight on Instagram to see the breakfast dining areas!
In addition to the property’s facilities such as family and adult pools open 24 hours a day, bicycles, tennis courts, a spa and a fitness center, Vila Monte also provides a number of experiences. There is a dedicated Experience Creator available that can organize unique activities like a private picnic on a deserted island. You will also find daily events on the calendar such as yoga, liquor tasting or a visit to the local market in nearby Olhão.
For a stay in Lagos, check into the upscale Casa Mãe. You can choose between boho chic, cozy minimalist or refined vintage themes in separate buildings. The trendy hotel is more than just a place to sleep. They also have a small boutique and environmentally friendly restaurant on site.
Casa Mãe also aims to be sustainable by offering natural wine, homemade almond milk and even feeding their 200 chickens the leftover scraps from the restaurant. Although, I’m not sure how many people aren’t finishing their meals at their wonderful restaurant, Orta (more on that later).
For a more budget friendly stay, the Tivoli Lagos resort offers recently updated rooms, free parking, a pool and a buffet breakfast. They also have a free shuttle that will transport you over to their private Duna Beach Club. Lagos is known for its cliffside beaches in the southern part of the city, but you’ll find a pristine sandy beach across from the river.
Day 1: Lagos
Start the day off with coffee and breakfast at Black and White Coffee Shop. The minimalist coffee shop just opened in their new, upgraded location in May 2021. We ordered the breakfast tacos with avocado and Eton mess pancakes with berry compote and cream.
Spend the morning perusing the local shops. Since the weather wasn’t exactly cooperating, we took advantage and waited for the clouds to pass. Casa Mãe has a nice shop with a curated collection of clothing, small leather goods, adorable baby items, books and more. Mar d’Estórias was also on my list of shops to visit, but it was unexpectedly closed. Keep wandering the main pedestrian streets for linens, baskets and pottery.
Head to the beaches of Praia do Camilo for the afternoon. If you decided to drive, there is a small parking lot near the beach and more spaces along the road heading south towards Ponta da Piedade. Alternatively, you can also take an Uber or the tourist trolley that leaves from Lagos center for 3.50 euro per person.
At the top of the staircase that leads to Praia do Camilo, you can’t miss O Camilo. Enjoy the best ocean view from an outdoor table and order their specialty grilled fish paired with local white wine. Be sure to make a reservation as this restaurant is quite popular. We were lucky they squeezed us in for an early lunch.
From here, it is an easy walk over to Ponta da Piedade. You can also hire a boat or rent a kayak from this area as well.
After a day at the beach, have a memorable meal at Orta. Even if you aren’t staying at Casa Mãe, you can still make a reservation for a meal at their restaurant or have a drink on their outdoor patio. We had delicious food and exceptional service from the very charismatic servers.
Day 2: Praia Marinha, Benagil Caves and Winery
Start the day early at the Benagil Cave and Praia da Marinha. You can’t leave the Algarve without seeing these two sites. There are parking lots at both locations and it is a nice walk between the two.
The Benagil Cave is only accessible by kayak or boat tour. I guess the very skilled could also swim. The weather was not exactly prime for the beach and the water was way too choppy to take kayaks into the cave (at least for my skill level). If you aren’t able to go inside of the cave or don’t have the time, you can still see the top of the cave from above.
Continue over to the Praia da Marinha for stunning views of the iconic cliffs. Climb down to the beaches for a swim if you’re lucky to be there on a sunny day.
After you are properly sun drenched, head to Quinta dos Santos. Not only is this gorgeous property a brewery and a winery, they also serve delicious food at the restaurant A Esquina. The family owned and operated winery produces Portuguese varietals with production facilities and a cellar on site. Everything we had was wonderful, but the mushrooms with white wine, lemon and olive oil particularly stood out. Beer, wine and gin is also available to take with you.
On the way back to your hotel, stop at Porches Pottery. This family business has been making hand painted pottery since 1968. You can also grab a coffee or meal at their Bar Bacchus.
Have dinner at Casa do Prego. This is one of the more popular and crowded restaurants in Lagos. I was initially hesitant when we had to speak with 4 different people about getting a table. However, they seated us at their rooftop for drinks while we waited for a table on the patio dining area. After a short wait, we had a delicious meal and excellent service so I was glad we stuck it out through the initial confusion on a busy night.
Day 3: Vila Monte and Tavira
After two full days of shopping, hitting the beach and sightseeing, check into Vila Monte for a relaxing resort stay. There are countless things to do at the resort itself and they can also organize a variety of experiences, but make sure you reserve in advance because they need a day’s notice for most of them. We opted to walk around the property and spend some time poolside.
Pull yourself from the resort and go into the nearby town of Tavira in the afternoon. Tavira is a small and charming town with boutique shops, museums and an 11th century castle.
You will find several boutiques along the narrow alleyways. Stop into Armazém Português for local pottery and Kozii for clothing, bags and bedding made from hand-printed fabrics.
Back at Vila Monte, have dinner at À Terra. Order one of the fresh fish specials on the chalkboard and have the knowledgeable staff choose a wine to pair it with. Dinner on a chilly night is served in the beautifully designed dining room, but outdoor dining under string lights among the olive trees is also available. Save room for dessert; even the classic Neapolitan ice cream trio was amazing.