Algarve beaches, Portugal: Albufeira, Portimao, Lagos

Portugal, Albufeira beach, Algarve

Albufeira’s main beach, Praia dos Pescadores, Algarve beaches. Photo José A

Algarve beaches: Albufeira

Big, soft and spectacular surrounds, but what lies behind Albufeira’s pretty face?
This town is dedicated to supplying the downmarket punter with everything he might desire, from eggs and bacon for breakfast (gotta be an improvement on the traditional roll and jam, that! ) to big-screen football with fish and chips for dinner. This is a Portugal’s version of Spain’s Torremolinos, pile ’em high, sell ’em cheap, Albufeira is a place to party hard at the right price and stuff the foreign ways, though at least the cramped pedestrian streets do have some local architecture and charm, which is more than can be said for rival Portimao.

Tunel beach, Albufeira, Portugal

Another slightly smaller beach in Albufeira is Praia do Tunel, accessed by a tunnel through the headland visible in the photo at top, mid-ground left. Photo by José A

Albufeira town, Algarve, Portugal

Cultural? No. Educational? No. Interesting? No. Lively and good value? Yes. Good beaches? Yes. Oh well. . . .

And if you’re willing to drive or jump a bus, there are some magnificent Algarve beaches along the coast from Albufeira, Siesmarias for example.

Praia da Rocha Baixinha (lower) Albufeira. Photo by Stavros1.

Praia da Rocha Baixinha (lower) Albufeira. Photo by Stavros1.

Praia dos Arrifes, Sesmarias, near Albufeira, Portugal

Praia dos Arrifes, Sesmarias village, near Albufeira. Photo by Beeston

Algarve beaches: Portimao

Praia da Rocha beach in midsummer, Portimao, Algarve, Portugal

Part of Portimao’s massive, striking, Praia da Rocha beach. Pity about the high-rise dominated hinterland. Photo by amaianos.

In previous lives this port town was fought over by Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Christians and Moors. Then in 1755 the monster quake that flattened Lisbon did the same for this area, encouraging its next incarnation as a major fishing port, before evolving into a beach resort and one of the most popular Algarve beaches.

Praia da Rocha beach and Portimao shoreside buildings, Algarve, Portugal

The beach/accommodation interface has lost its mojo in Portimao. No points for style.

Until very recently it remained so – until the developers invaded and established a hundred high-rise hotels all at once onto the coastal strip. Now it’s solid gold, pack-man land, an upmarket Albufeira but with even less traditional Portugal style; like, er, zero.


Portimao beaches are terrific but package hotel territory these days.

The next door beach, name unknown, is the best known surfer’s beach on the Algarve’s south coast (which is not saying much as Atlantic coast surf is markedly superior).

Algarve beaches: Lagos

Dona Ana beach, Lagos, Portugal

A couple of kilometres from Lagos, Dona Ana beach is a secluded favourite though its default transport mode is fishing boat.

Praia da Solaria, next to Forte da Ponta da Bandeira, Lagos, Algarve, Portugal

Praia da Solaria, next to the ancient defences of Forte da Ponta da Bandeira. In the distance is lengthy Meia Praia beach, the biggest beach in the area.

A pretty square in Lagos, Algarve, Portugal

A pretty square in Lagos

Lagos is the most interesting town on the Algarve offering not only great beaches nearby but also a real history and a pretty town with varied and sophisticated bars and restaurants.

Lagos’ convenient and well-protected river port was fought over by Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans and Moors – who left their usual mark in the shape of massive town walls. Later Lagos became a base for the country’s dramatic ‘Age of Discoveries’ naval world power era. Photo by Martin Robson.

One of many interestingly tiled pedestrian streets in Lagos, Algarve, Portugal

One of many interestingly tiled pedestrian streets in Lagos. Photo by Martin Robson.

In 1444 Lagos was the site of the first sale of black slaves to Europeans and soon developed into a major slave trading port, growing in power and stature until the big quake of 1755 inflicted a crushing and permanent defeat on their military pretensions and barbaric trade.

Huge Meia Praia beach, Lagos, Algarve, Portugal

Meia Praia is the largest stretch of sand near Lagos, lacking character but pleasantly backed by low, grassy dunes. Photo by Martin Robson.

Just east of the town is the beach of Meia Praia, loaded with everything a beach bum might need, while to the south are a cluster of cute coves backed by ochre cliffs pocked with caves and grottos, such as Dona Ana.

Ponta da Piedade rock formations, Lagos, Algarve, Portugal

Either a boat ride or a drive/walk (see the steps on the left? ), this is the rocky delights of gorgeous Ponta da Piedade, one of the best remote Algarve beaches. Photo by Patrice78500