The Algarve, Portugal's southernmost region, is also the country's premier area for tourism, and there's little wonder why. It offers an irresistible combination of thriving resort towns with wide, sandy beaches and vivacious nightlife, and, if you venture inland, tranquil countryside dotted with olive groves and small, quaint villages. Don't forget about the golf – the Algarve is a staple on lists of Europe's best golfing destinations, offering some 40 world-class courses. If you're at a loss for lodging, consider renting a villa in Portugal Algarve. Many holiday lettings come with private pools, multiple bedrooms and fabulous sea views.
You wouldn't want to bid farewell to Albufeira
Once a sleepy fishing village, Albufeira has transformed into the Algarve's hippest, most happening resort town. Visit the bustling marina and you'll find holidaymakers piling into boats and setting out for dolphin-watching trips or diving excursions, while local fishermen mend their nets or haul their catch of the day to shore. Laze away the afternoons on the beaches – which are unsurprisingly busiest in the summer months – then check out the exuberant party scene when the sun goes down. If you're looking for both scenery and serenity, early morning walks along the seaside promenade will treat you to fantastic views of Albufeira's coast, cliffs and cityscape; the candy-coloured buildings by the marina, in particular, provide a fun backdrop for enviable selfies. Away from the shore, you can wander along the old town's narrow cobbled streets and discover whitewashed houses that date from medieval times.
Make like a Portuguese explorer and set sail for Lagos
Its position at the mouth of the Bensafrim River has given the city of Lagos significant maritime roles throughout its long and colourful history. In the 15th century, it became the hub of Portugal's Age of Discoveries and the starting point for several expeditions. These days, the picturesque city is a launch pad for daytime adventures on its many beaches, rock formations and cobbled streets, as well as lively nighttime jaunts in its restaurants and bars. Make sure your itinerary includes a boat trip to Ponta da Piedade's extraordinary rock formations, which are among Portugal's top tourist attractions. The golden cliffs frame a stunning beach, and there's a lighthouse you can climb for even more spectacular views. With a charming coastline, a vibrant party scene and a historical appeal, Lagos is one of your best bets for a memorable holiday in the Algarve.
Tavira is a trove of Moorish buildings and sandy beaches
The town of Tavira sits where the Gilao River meets the Atlantic Ocean after flowing through the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa, a system of lagoons and barrier islands along the coast. Accessible from either Tavira or Faro, the Ria Formosa natural park features a number of sprawling beaches that offer sunny, sandy spots for getting the perfect tan while devouring that sizzling summer read. Tavira's beaches include Cabanas de Tavira, Cacela Velha and Tavira Island. For sweeping vistas of the city centre's bountiful Moorish architecture, head to the Tavira Castle, a ruined fortress standing guard at the highest point in town. You might also enjoy similar views from your Tavira villa rental – you'll find many holiday lettings situated on hills close to the heart of the town.
It's fair to say that Faro will charm your socks off
While often lower on travellers' radars than resort towns like Albufeira, Faro is actually the largest city in the Algarve, as well as the region's capital and southernmost point. If you're looking for villas to rent in Portugal Algarve, it's never a bad idea to start your search here, especially since Faro Airport is just a short drive away. Explore the city's historical buildings, shopping streets and ancient city walls, or join the locals leisurely milling about in the plazas. Fans of offbeat attractions should stop by the Capela dos Ossos, a chapel built with the skulls and bones of over a thousand monks, but if that's too macabre for you, stick to the Igreja do Carmo, the bigger baroque church with intricate gilded interiors; Capela dos Ossos – or the 'bone chapel' – stands behind the Igreja do Carmo. Rua do Prior is the place to be if you're itching to party, while the beaches of the Ria Formosa natural park offer a healthy dose of vitamin sea.