The paradisaical beaches of the Algarve, the warm water of the sea and the tranquillity that prevails throughout the region offer a dream vacation. In addition, the Algarve also has countryside and historical monuments including beautiful churches and castles.
In this article we suggest a 3-day itinerary for couples that covers the diversity of activities that exist in the centre and eastern part of the Algarve (note there is lots to do in the western Algarve also, but there is only so much you can do in 3 days and we didn’t want you to lose too much time travelling).
Because the Algarve has so much to see and do, it can be a bit daunting to decide what to do in only 3 days, however we believe we have selected the very best of what the Algarve has to offer for you to be able to fully enjoy your visit.
Day 1: Morning – Visiting Vilamoura
Day 1: Afternoon – Jeep Safari or Boat trip with beach barbecue
Day 2: Morning – Visiting the cultural city of Faro
Day 2: Afternoon – Enjoying the beaches of Tavira
Day 3: Cruise through Guadiana River
Day 1 (Vilamoura):
Morning: Start off by spending the day in Vilamoura. This tourist resort, just 25 minutes from Faro Airport, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Algarve. Start your tour in the Algarve in the best possible way by enjoying the magnificent beaches of the Algarve, the walks by the sea and the hotels or luxury apartments that exist in this area of the Algarve.
Vilamoura is one of the most popular and largest single tourist complexes in Europe and is home to six different Golf Courses, including the Old Course (where the Portugal Masters is held) a Lawn Bowling Club with two grass greens, a Tennis Centre, a Sports Club, a Shooting Club, 5 and 4 star hotels, tourist apartments, self-catering villas, night clubs, an international casino with glamorous shows which hosts the PokerStars Solverde Poker Season, an excellent Riding School and plenty of other leisure facilities.
Afternoon: In the afternoon, take a boat trip through the mysterious caves of the Algarve. See the formidable Benagil Cave, a true piece of paradise, swim in the translucent waters of the Algarve, explore beaches which can only be accessed by boat, and, at the end of the day, at sunset, have a barbecue on the beach to end the day in the best possible way.
Inside Benagil Cave
If you do not feel like taking the boat trip, we recommend a Jeep Safari. The Jeep Safari is a fantastic trip that combines beautiful landscapes, traditional gastronomy and regional architecture through visits to the ravishing and secluded villages of the Algarve. The Jeep Safari includes stops at natural viewpoints to take pictures and a visit to an old firewater distillery.
Evening: The best romantic nights in Vilamoura can be found on a stroll through Vilamoura’s Marina or with a drink at one of the following bars: Atlantic Piano Bar, Julius Restaurant Wine Bar, Puro Beach Vilamoura or Old Navy.
Day 2 (Faro & Tavira):
Morning: We recommend that you take the morning of the second day to explore the city of Faro. This picturesque city is rich with history and tradition and is a shame that is so often ignored by tourists who prefer the entertainment present at resorts like Vilamoura and Albufeira. Ossónoba, the city’s original name, was founded in the 8th century b.c. during the Phoenician occupation of the western Mediterranean. Later it would be conquered by the Romans, Byzantines, Visigoths and Moors. Only in 1239 under the reign of king Dom Afonso III was Faro conquered by the Portuguese. Faro would become a prosperous and preeminent city during the Portuguese Discoveries.
Places and buildings to visit:
Cidade Velha – Cidade Velha (meaning Old Town in English) represents the historical centre of the city. Guarded by imperial walls dating back to the 9th century, during the Moorish occupation, the access to Vila Adentro – another name by which Cidade Velha is known – is through the arch standing in front of the garden Jardim Manuel Bivar where a statue of the city’s saint, Saint Thomas Aquinas, can be seen.
Cathedral of Faro – Faro’s Cathedral is probably the most famous religious monument in the Algarve. The first ones to build a religious monument there were the Romans, after which the Arabs decided to build a mosque over the ruins of the temple, somethings copied by the Portuguese after the forces of king Dom Afonso III took the region and decided to turn the mosque into a Christian church. The high points of this Cathedral are the image of the Blessed Mother and the breath-taking red organ embellished with representations of the Chinese culture.
Igreja Matriz São Pedro – In 1577, the Order of Santiago, which then occupied the Church of St. Maria until they were forced to abandon it, built a new church where there was a small chapel originally built by fishermen in 1518. This church was the Igreja Matriz São Pedro. With its golden interiors and artistically crafted details, this is one of the oldest churches in Faro. Its main attraction are the 17th century altar pieces.
Igreja do Carmo – Built by the Third Order of Nossa Senhora do Monte do Carmo between 1713 and 1719, the church is an excellent example of the Baroque architecture, with a symmetrical façade with the style Dom João V. Its interior is decorated according to the Baroque style which is particularly evident in the richly crafted altar. The famous (and some would say spooky) Bone Chapel of Faro is also located here in the Igreja do Carmo.
Faro’s Bone Chapel – Dare yourself to visit this astonishingly terrifying Bone Chapel. Inaugurated in 1816, the 1250 monks’ bones come from the adjacent cemetery, having been exhumed because of overcrowding.
Note: Please bear in mind that Faro is a relatively small city and all of these attractions are within a 15-minute walk radius giving you plenty of time to set your own pace and enjoy a coffee or cold drink as you explore.
Afternoon: During the afternoon we suggest that you head to Tavira and spend the afternoon with your partner in the quietness of Praia da Ilha de Tavira or Praia do Barril. Tavira is lies on the eastern part of Portugal’s south coast and is one of the most beautiful cities in the Algarve. The whole city exhales a fresh vibe that comes from its traditional white washed houses, its narrow cobble streets and River Gilão, the city’s river. Tavira’s ravishing beaches have been enchanting tourists for many years, who travel thousands of miles to step foot on its white clear sands and take a dive in its warm sea. Tavira is also a city rich in history, being particularly famous for its churches which seem to have popped up in every corner.
Praia da Ilha de Tavira – To reach the most popular beach in Tavira you have to take a ferry through River Gilão and Ria Formosa Natural Reserve as it is located on an island. The ferry ride is very pleasant and will take you across some of the bluest waters you have ever seen. There is camping park located right next to this beach, which can sometimes give the impression that the beach is too crowded, but don’t worry as the beach is enormous and all you have to do is walk a little further to one side to find a quieter area with plenty of space.
Praia do Barril – Praia do Barril is also situated in the middle of Tavira’s Island and to get there you have to cross a small bridge and then you can either walk the last one kilometre of the track or if you prefer you take a train. This last kilometre is incredibly pretty, being covered in the traditional regional flora and fauna.
Evening: At the end of the day head to the Nomad Lounge Terrace Bar, Arcada Cocktail & Wine Bar or Hello A&D to enjoy the best of Tavira’s romantic nights.
Day 3 (Guadiana River Cruise):
For the last day of your Algarve 3-day trip we recommend a boat trip along the Guadiana River. This cruise will take you up the river, through a rustic and extremely charming countryside. The beauty of the landscape and the absence of civilization make this one of the most romantic cruises in Europe, ideal for the culmination of a trip for two. The cruise departs at 10am from Vila Real de Santo António’s harbour (25 minutes away from Tavira) and returns at 5pm. The tour includes lunch and a stop.