Occupying the extreme south-western point of the European mainland, the Algarve is a rugged outcrop of Portugal that’s popular for sun, sea and fun. In this guide to Algarve adventure holidays we summarise what’s on offer and ask; is it the best multi-activity destination?
With a varied landscape, beautiful coastline and enviable climate, Algarve adventure holidays have it all. With everyone from sailors to surfers, hikers to bikers, scuba divers to skydivers and kitesurfers to kayakers flocking to Portugal’s most southern region every year.
More than most holiday destinations, the Algarve has its share of resorts, developments and golf courses. But there is still plenty of unspoilt coastline and countryside, just waiting to be discovered.
To avoid the crowds, head to the Western Algarve. Home to the Cape St Vincent Natural Park, the hills, cliffs and secluded beaches of this region are perfect for walkers, cyclists and water sports enthusiasts. Or visit the more developed southern coast where the range of activities on offer is huge.
The long distance Rota Vicentina walking path, is perfect for those wishing to explore the coastline. Trekkers and cyclists can navigate the entire 240km, or for those wanting to travel at a gentler pace, the route can be broken up into 13 sections, any one of which makes a great day’s walk.
Further inland, the Monchique mountain range is another haven for hikers and perfect for Algarve adventure holidays. With miles of footpaths connecting traditional villages in a stunning setting, this region is truly a hidden gem of the Algarve.
For those wanting a little more adrenaline on their day out, mountain bike paths criss-cross the Monchique hills, many incorporating purpose built downhill tracks. And with the highest peak in the mountains reaching 902m, there is a lot of downhill on offer.
As you would expect from a region with over 200km of coastline, water sports are an important part of the Algarve’s tourist industry. So no guide to Algarve adventure holidays would be complete without a guide to getting wet.
In most towns and resorts along the coast, you’ll be able to have a go at kayaking, waterskiing, wakeboarding, surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing. So it’s easy to get out for a day on the water during your stay in the Algarve.
If you want a more dedicated watersports holiday, companies throughout the region organise packages including the accommodation, gear and tuition or guiding. They’ll teach you the basics or help you to improve your technique, as well as sharing local knowledge – crucial for finding the best wind and waves.
If you fancy a spot of surfing in Algarve, Lagos is a great option as it is a fun town with nearby waves suitable for all levels. Or take a road trip up the less densely populated west coast, here you’ll find small towns and fishing villages set around pristine coves and beaches. While the predominant north-westerly swell ensures great waves all year round.
For centuries this region has been a prime destination for sailors, and today is no different. Whether you’ve got your own vessel or are joining an organised trip, regular winds and sunny skies make the Algarve ideal for getting out onto the deep blue sea.
If you want to look at the marine life, you’ll have to take a deep breath and head under the waves. There are plenty of diving schools along in the Algarve that offer anything from diving artificial reefs and natural rock formations to exploring wrecks from World War Two.
If you fancy trying something extreme, you can have a go at skydiving from the Algarve dropzone at Portimão near Lagos. If it is your first time you can try a tandem jump, or if already qualified jump on your own. If you want to learn to skydive they also run the AFF course.
Along the coast and up in the hills there are a range of good launches for paragliding such as Porto de Mós, Rocha da Pena, Monchique and Benafátima. Tandem flights are possible, but you may be best to bring your own gear if already qualified.
A little less extreme how about a spot of astronomical observation? Perched on the very edge of Europe, the Algarve suffers less from light pollution than other areas, making it perfect for star-gazing. There are observatories scattered throughout the region where you can book a telescope.
If star spotting isn’t enough of a challenge for you, how about bird spotting? Boasting miles of parkland and wetland, the Algarve is home to hundreds of native species, plus host to migrating birds heading to and from Africa.
The famous Parque Natural da Ria Formosa covers 18,000 hectares of tidal marshes, protected by a 60km stretch of sand dunes. Over 200 different bird species are regular visitors to the park, including large numbers of spectacular Greater Flamingos.
One of the best ways to to get up close to the Algarve is to try a spot of rock climbing or coasteering. Although it is lacking world class climbing, there is plenty for a day or two of fun. Spots to check out include the limestone crags of Rocha da Pena, and the sea cliffs of Sagres where deep water soloing and coasteering are possible.
The waters around southern Portugal teaming with marine life. So on Algarve adventure holidays you could go dolphin spotting. Equally sport fishing is popular, catch of the day could include tuna, sea bass, octopus or even shark.
To be the best multi-activity destination you need to offer a lot of options for all sorts of people. So how about trying your hand at quad biking, jet skiing, parasailing, paint balling, horse riding, go karting, tennis and of course even golf.
To conclude this guide to Algarve adventure holidays, I will ask the question I started with; Is the Algarve the best multi-activity destination?
Well, it is clear Algarve adventure holidays offer a huge range of activities, that would appeal to very different people. Coupled with cheap package holidays, budget flights to and from a range of airports, a good infrastructure, stunning scenery and a great climate, it’s certainly hard to beat.