10 Things You Have to Try While in the Algarve (Southern Portugal)

1. Visit a Nude Beach

Whether you’re a seasoned nudist or have never been naked in public, visiting the Algarve is a great opportunity to get sun all over. Portugal in general is pretty easy going when it goes to topless tanning on the beaches (as they should be! #freethenipple), but also has a great collection of nude beaches.

Some noteworthy nude beaches in the Algarve include:

Praia do Carnavial

Praia do Carnavial

  • Praia do Canavial: this is my favourite nudie beach on the planet. The blue striped water is just divine, and the landscape is surreal. The beach is located between the Lagos lighthouse and Praia de Porto de Mós. You can access the beach from either side, along a trail that runs along the coast— note that this is a dirt trail, not the boardwalk! The waters are calm, although note that the tide rolls in quickly! Take a spot as far back as possible.

Praia Adegas

Praia Adegas

Ilha Deserta

Ilha Deserta

  • Praia de Faro: head left from the mainland bridge, and walk about 30 minutes; this area is the nudist portion of this massive beach located about 5 km from Faro.

  • Praia do Homem Nu: translates to Beach of the Nude Man, this nudie beach is located near Tavira and the sand is the whitest of the Algarve region.

  • Praia do Barril: is Algarve’s first official nudist beach, located about 5 km from Tavira. The ‘official’ nude part of the beach is 2 km’s past the beache’s entrance.

  • Praia das Adegas: located in the West coast of the Algarve near Aljezur, this beach is backed by beautiful rocky cliffs. The water here can get pretty rough.

  • Praia do Traval: backed by red sandstone cliffs and a stunning pine tree forest. It’s located between Vale do Lobo and the old town of Quarteira, in central Algarve.

  • Ilha Deserta: this remote beach island near Faro is essentially deserted year round. The beach runs about 7 km and the West coast of the island, about 30 minutes walk from where the ferry arrives.

If it’s your first time at a nude beach, realise that it’s clothing optional— do what makes you feel comfortable! But trust me, once you gift yourself the experience of being naked at a nude beach: your life will change. Swimming naked is also one of life’s greatest pleasures (throwback to the womb!). Click the button below to read an article I wrote about the benefits of spending more time in your birthday suit.

2. Try the Local Cuisine

Whether you take a cooking class or visit an authentic Portuguese restaurant/ bakery, Portuguese has some killer local dishes you must try while in the Algarve region.

  • Fresh grilled seafood: especially Sardinhas assadas (grilled sardines). Seafood is abundant in the Algarve, and you can’t go wrong with the catch of the day. You can also opt to hit up the fish markets and grill up your own feast.

  • Cataplana: is a seafood stew cooked in a copper double pan and is served with rice or chips. These big portioned dishes generally serve two.

  • Cozido à portuguesa: is a delicious platter of slowly boiled meats, enchidos (sausages), and vegetables. The combination of meat and veggies varies from region to region but in the Algarve it often contains sweet potato and mint.

  • Açorda: is a dish made of bread, poached eggs, and served in a herby broth.

  • Sopa da pedra: is hearty soup that contains beans, potatoes, and various cuts of meat.

  • Alheira de Mirandela: is a traditional fowl sausage

  • Portuguese tart/ pastries: classic Portugese custard egg tart in a flaky puffed pastry.

  • Canned seafood: Portugal is a hub for canned seafood, and shops can be found all over that hand-pack the local seafood.

  • Frango assado piri piri (aka charcoal grilled chicken): found at ‘chicken shacks’ across Portugal, this traditional Portuguese grilled chicken is not to be missed.

3. Go to a Pizza Party rave in the forest

Located in Monchique, about 40 minutes from Lagos, this bush-party is one of a kind. 10 Euro entrance fee will get you all you can eat handmade pizza (it disappears in about 5 minutes, so… as much as you can eat in that time), followed by 2 stages of rave music that starts a bit later on. This bus party is organized by local hippies (the Fridayhappiness Associacao) and happens every Friday and the party continues basically until morning. You can free camp in the surrounding areas (if you decide to sleep), and head back to Lagos the following day.

4. Experience Live Portuguese music

Fado show, an authentically Portuguese experience.

Fado show, an authentically Portuguese experience.

Fado is Portugal’s traditional folk music, and although it’s more popular in the mid/ north of Portugal (Lisbon/ Porto), you will still find live shows in the Algarve region of the South. Fado is typically melancholic, with guitars and mandolin, and a ‘Fadista’ singing poetic lyrics about love, death, and general sadness, in Portuguese. Fado shows are common in the North, and are generally accompanied by an (overpriced) dinner— but if you have an in with locals you’ll be able to find a more authentic show. I suggest asking your hotel for tips on where to find the best Fado show around, as it does depend what time of year you’re visiting.

5. Visit the organic markets in Lagos

Wednesday evening from 5pm-9pm, the Lagos bus station turns into an organic haven. There are a few food trucks, and occasionally live music and crafts as well. The vendors are lovely and if you’re into organics (guilty!!!) this will be a genuine highlight. There is also a daily seafood market located about 5 minute walk from the fruit/ veggie market you can visit daily for fresh seafood.

6. Hike the Coastline

There are many coastal hikes you can do while down in the Algarve. One of my favourites is Ponta da Piedade Caves in Lagos. You start at Praia do Pinhão and go along the coastline trail past Praia Dona Ana, Praia do Camilo, Praia dos Pinheiros, and to the lighthouse. After that you can continue on to Praia do Barranco do Martinho, to Praia do Canavial (my favourite beach!) and to Praia de Porto do Mós. Continue on to Praia da Luz if you’re feeling superhuman!

7. Go Beach Hopping

One of the magical parts of the Algarve is that it is littered with incredible beaches and coves. The aforementioned hike that takes you along the cliff tops of all those beaches can also serve as a map for a beach-hop. Pack your swimmers and a towel and you can take a dip in between hikes.

8. Visit the Natural Park (on bicycle)

Cycling paths through Ria Formosa.

Cycling paths through Ria Formosa.

The Ria Formosa lagoon is a system of barrier islands with the sea that basically makes for a beautiful swampy nature reserve. It stretches throughout a few towns, mainly between Faro and Tavira, and the paths that run through this park is a cyclists dream. You can rent a bicycle in Faro and ride for miles, stopping to check out birds (over 30,000 birds annually!). You can also take boat tours if cycling isn’t your thing!

Aerial view of Ria Formosa  (Image: Lonely Planet)

Aerial view of Ria Formosa (Image: Lonely Planet)

9. Bathe in the muddy salt baths

Located in Castro Marim, SPA Salino is an ‘artisanal salt pond’ aka a muddy salty magic pool of healing goodness. Cover yourself in mud, bask in the sun, rinse off, and consider timing your visit with one of their yoga classes.

Spa salino

10. Water sports! Kayaking / surfing

Sometimes these activities can seem like tourist traps, but if you’re in Lagos: you need to experience kayaking through the coastal caves. Some people prefer to take a boat tour, but I’ll always opt to use my body instead of motor-powered devices, and get closer to nature! There are so many tour options, most will take about 2.5 hours and follow the same itinerary. You paddle in a kayak (two people) West following the guide, and then a boat will pull you back (no paddling experience necessary!). Make sure to book the earliest possible kayak tour, as it tends to get busy (boats, paddleboards, + other kayaks) as the day goes on. You can also do a paddleboard tour of the Lagos coastline caves, where you paddle solo on your own board, guided by a local. You don’t need any experience and it’s a killer workout.

The Algarve is a well-known hot spot for surfers of all levels. Lagos is the go-to area for surf, and the town is full of rental spots, surfing instructors, and surfboard shops. Surfing lessons are easily booked online before you arrive, and they have all the gear you need! Plus the whole town has the ultimate laid-back surfer vibe.

Views from the Caves you explore while kayaking along the Lagos coastline.

Views from the Caves you explore while kayaking along the Lagos coastline.