6 of The Prettiest Towns on the Algarve

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Written by: | Last updated on November 13, 2023 | Est. Reading Time: 5 minutes
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The Algarve, with its golden beaches, sun-kissed coastline, and deep-rooted traditions, has long been a magnet for sun-seekers and adventurers alike. Over the years, certain parts of this alluring region have witnessed significant development, with modern high-rise buildings and sprawling resorts now dotting the landscape, catering to the ever-growing influx of tourists.

Yet, amidst this transformation, there are towns that have tenaciously held onto their original allure. These hidden gems, untouched by the march of rapid urbanisation, serve as pristine reminders of the Algarve’s authentic charm, offering visitors a delightful fusion of historical architecture, cobbled streets, and traditional Portuguese culture.

Silves

Ponte Romana, Silves
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Silves, once the capital of the Algarve during the Moorish rule, exudes an undeniable historical charm. With its iconic red sandstone castle standing sentinel over a tapestry of terracotta roofs, narrow cobbled streets, and ancient architecture, the town feels like a step back into medieval Portugal.

The winding alleys lead visitors past well-preserved buildings and through shaded squares, where they can pause and soak in the ambience of a bygone era. The Silves Castle, with its robust battlements and panoramic views of the surrounding orange groves and countryside, is an epitome of the town’s storied past. The town’s Gothic cathedral, the Sé, also stands as a testament to the architectural prowess and aesthetic sensibilities of the time. .

Tavira

tavira bridge
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Tavira, sometimes referred to as the ‘Venice of the Algarve,’ is a captivating town that seamlessly blends traditional charm with natural beauty. Straddling the Gilão River, Tavira boasts an array of ancient bridges, including the picturesque Roman bridge that connects the two halves of the town. Its skyline is punctuated by elegant church spires, whitewashed buildings with terracotta roofs, and remnants of its Moorish past. The labyrinthine streets are adorned with azulejos (traditional Portuguese tiles) and lead to hidden plazas where locals gather under the shade of age-old trees.

A testament to Tavira’s allure is its collection of churches, with the Renaissance-style Misericórdia Church and the medieval Santa Maria do Castelo standing out for their architectural splendour. Beyond the town’s historic core, the nearby Ria Formosa lagoon and the pristine beaches of Ilha de Tavira offer natural escapades, making Tavira a delightful blend of culture, history, and nature’s wonders.

Ferragudo

Ferragudo as viewed from across the water
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Nestled on the banks of the Arade River, Ferragudo is a picturesque gem that has managed to retain its authentic Algarvian charm amidst the region’s growing development. The town unfolds like a postcard, with narrow cobbled streets winding their way past quaint whitewashed houses adorned with vibrant bougainvillaea and geraniums. The village square, a hub of local activity, is often serenaded by the soft rhythms of traditional Portuguese music.

Nearby is the impressive Fort of São João de Arade, which stands as a sentinel to its rich history. But it’s the town’s proximity to pristine beaches, like Praia Grande and Caneiros, framed by dramatic cliffs, that further accentuates Ferragudo’s appeal as one of the prettiest spots on the Algarve.

Alte

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Alte, tucked away in the Algarve’s hinterland, is often regarded as the most quintessential and picturesque village in the region. Unlike the coastal towns, Alte’s allure lies in its unchanged traditional essence and serene inland setting. The village is dotted with charming whitewashed houses bearing intricately patterned chimneys, a hallmark of Algarvian architecture. These homes spill onto narrow cobbled lanes, which wind around the village, occasionally leading to delightful little squares where locals gather.

But the crowning jewels of Alte are its natural freshwater springs, Fonte Pequena and Fonte Grande. These springs, set amid lush greenery, provide tranquil spots where crystal-clear waters fill age-old pools, offering a refreshing respite during the warmer months. With its blend of cultural authenticity and natural beauty, Alte stands as a serene counterpoint to the bustling beach resorts, making it a must-visit for those seeking the Algarve’s unspoiled charm.

Salema

salema
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Salema, situated on the Algarve’s western coastline, is a bewitching blend of traditional charm and natural beauty. A far cry from the bustling resorts, this quaint fishing village still carries echoes of its humble past. Wandering the village streets, one encounters whitewashed cottages, fishermen’s homes, and narrow alleys leading directly to the golden sands of Salema Beach.

The beach itself is a dreamy stretch, with soft sands cradling the azure Atlantic waters, making it an idyllic spot to relax and soak in the tranquil ambiance. Dramatic cliffs form a protective crescent around the bay, occasionally revealing ancient fossils and remnants of the region’s distant past.

Furthermore, dining by the seafront, with freshly caught fish on the menu, encapsulates Salema’s authentic, unspoilt essence, making it one of the Algarve’s prettiest and most genuine seaside retreats.

Cabanas de Tavira

Cabanas de Tavira, lying to the east of the Algarve, is a captivating blend of serene landscapes and traditional charm. Originally a small fishing village, Cabanas has maintained its laid-back, authentic vibe despite its growing popularity. Its shoreline is adorned with old, wooden fishing boats which rest on the golden sands, while the broad, tranquil Ria Formosa lagoon acts as a beautiful buffer between the town and the open sea. The town’s boardwalk is fringed with palm trees and offers delightful views of the lagoon, making it an ideal spot for leisurely strolls.

On the other side of the water lies the pristine Cabanas Beach, accessible by a short boat ride, where endless stretches of powdery sands and azure waters provide a stunning contrast to the region’s verdant pine forests. This juxtaposition of beach, lagoon, and traditional structures, all bathed in a warm Algarvian glow, gives Cabanas de Tavira its unique, enchanting charm.

Written by

James Cave is the founder of Portugalist and the author of the bestselling book, Moving to Portugal Made Simple. He has visited just about every part of Portugal, including Madeira and all nine islands of the Azores, and lived in several parts of Portugal including Lisbon, the Algarve, and Northern Portugal.