Portugal’s southernmost region has everything from outdoor activity to stunning Atlantic beaches, eco-adventures, waterparks, charming cities, pretty towns and magnificent natural reserves. Less than three hours from the UK and sunny from April to September, it’s one of Europe’s most popular holiday destinations and works all angles with kids.
Year round direct flights from the UK to Faro take just under three hours.
Weather is warm and sunny from April to late September with temperatures in June, July and August between 25 and 30˚.
Algarve’s Atlantic beaches include several of Europe’s most photographed including dramatic Praia de Falésia with its rainbow coloured cliffs, and monumental Praia dos Três Irmãos.
Algarve is bordered by magnificent Parque Natural do Suoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina in the far west and Ria Formosa Natural Park in the east.
Eastern Algarve sits on the border of Andalusia, and Lisbon is two and half hours from Faro by car.
Algarve has over 40 golf courses ranging from the coastal resorts of Vilamoura to exclusive golf hotels in the Serra de Monchique.
Algarve walking and cycling routes cover hundreds of kilometres and include historic paths like 340km Rota Vicentina and 300km long Via Algarviana.
The rush to get down on the beach as quickly as possible means families sometimes miss out on Western Algarve because it’s a longer drive from Faro Airport. But this is where the region keeps some of its loveliest beaches, prettiest resorts, historic cities and ridiculously good seafood. It’s also where you’ll still find out of the way seaside towns and villages with almost deserted shores and some of Portugal’s greatest walking, hiking and sheer majesty on the far western Atlantic coast.
The fast out of Faro area with a bit of a party reputation round about Albufeira isn’t quite as hectic as it’s painted. In fact, some of the biggest and sandiest beaches in the region are here and it’s the heartland for waterparks, adventure parks, shopping malls, golf courses and family restaurants. You’ll find all-inclusive hotels and holiday apartments crowded along the coast and traditional charm isn’t much in evidence. But if you want activities, water sports and lots of activities for older kids and teens, Central Algarve is where to look.
For quaint seaside towns, peaceful beaches, spectacular nature reserves and more than a hint of pre-tourism Algarve, head east. There are fewer resort hotels and developments in this area, but the gentle easy-going pace works well for family holidays with younger kids.
The land where tourists seldom roam is definitely worth getting to know. Away from busy beaches and resorts, nothing much has changed for centuries. The unspoiled countryside is green and mountainous. Quaint towns and villages have colourful summer festivals and lively market days. Walking, hiking and cycling on well-marked routes and trails makes for fun days out and the Atlantic coast looks even more impressive viewed from above.
The 300km west to east route right across the Algarve is made for keen mountain bikers. It’s well marked, easy to divide up and there are plenty of easy cycles for younger kids too.
The lesser visited eastern Algarve is where to find one of Portugal’s Seven Wonders, Ria Formosa Natural Park. Kayaking and sailing the wetlands and salt marshes is thrilling with older kids and teens.
The colourful boat is almost as much fun as the dolphin spotting on this two hour cruise. Cetacean sightings are pretty much guaranteed along with spectacular views of the Algarve coastline.
Less than an hour’s drive inland from Albufeira, Silves is one of Portugal’s truly historic fortified towns. Often overlooked by visitors, it’s charming and the enormous 12th century castle is steeped in fascinating history. Great climb-worthy battlements and views too.
Waterpark pure and simple but no less fantastic for it, great value family day passes for this one, plenty of white-knuckle for older kids and safe splash zones for younger ones.
High rope treetop challenges for extremists, scaled down versions for younger kids, paintball and vast forest obstacle courses are what to expect from either Parque Aventura experience.
Gentle and fluffy brown Mirandesa donkeys are the stars at Burro Ville just outside Portimão. Definitely not a look-only experience, rides in the surrounding countryside are all part of the fun deal here for kids.
Sailing along the Algarve coast on a full-sailed pirate galleon isn’t likely to be something kids will forget in a hurry.
Tucked down on Portugal’s wild southern Atlantic coast, it’s easy to underestimate the size and complexity of the Algarve region. There are good train services between larger towns along the coast and local buses are efficient and fairly fast. But if you want to get to know a little of this remarkable area beyond its beaches, hiring a car’s essential.
It’s also the only way to get off the beaten track, tour around the captivating interior and discover those quaint little beach bars and cafés that still live at the end of remote roads that seem to lead nowhere and only locals know about: west of Lagos is particularly good for off-book road trips.