7 delightfully secluded beaches in the Algarve
The whole of the Algarve's southern Atlantic fringe is alive with sweeping stretches of sand. A flurry of them grace those lists of the best beaches in the world and are, subsequently, no secret.
So I'm here with some of the region's less well-known beaches, the sort of oases your local pal would take you to. They are all still superb, with a range arching from little hideaways, through to well-equipped beaches 'hidden' in plain sight.
If you like sand easing across the horizon over empty islands, stick east of the airport at Faro towards the Spanish border. Meanwhile, if you want those sands backed by cliffs, caves and grottos, break west.
Turn north when you get way out west and there are even more beaches in a much less touristy corner of the Algarve*. Grab your towel now as we head off in search of our very own Algarve beach hideaways.
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Ilha de Tavira
Starting in the far east, this dream of a beach is an expansive white sand island stretching out for over 10km.
You can either putter downriver in a boat from the historic town of Tavira*, or push closer down to the salt pans to make the quick ferry hop. Make a day of it by walking further west to Praia do Barril, where a cute wee train spirits you across to the mainland.
From here you can walk to Santa Luzia to enjoy freshly-caught seafood along the waterfront. Then just catch a train back to Tavira.
Ilha de Tavira's beaches are low on facilities, but big on space and unspoilt sand. This is a binary world of starched white sand and cobalt blue ocean - bliss.
Percurso dos Sete Vales Suspensos
Stick with me here: I know that Praia da Marinha frequently bothers best beaches lists for both Europe and the world. Deservedly so. It's quite a steep descent from the rugged orange limestone cliffs that give it a postcard-pretty setting, but worth it.
My point is that a gorgeous coastal walk, the Percurso dos Sete Vales Suspensos, sweeps along the cliffs to other beaches in both directions.
Algarvian supermarkets burst with fresh produce so bring your own picnic and make a day of it. You'll seriously struggle to park around the main beach in summer unless you arrive very early, but it's easier east and west where our quieter stretches await.
Praia de Albandeira
Close to Marinha, this is a quieter hideaway that suits couples. The spectacular rock arch here is worth coming to see alone but you'll want to linger for a dip. It is a real star up there with its more famous rivals, despite its diminutive size, not even 100m across.
A rocky promontory pushes out from the cliffs, dividing the beach further in two, making it feel even more exclusive. After high tide, a number of pools are filled with water, which is great for kids to ramble around if you do take them to this relatively remote spot. Note, it doesn't score on facilities, so again bring a picnic.
The resort of Lagos is surrounded by small, busy beaches that get absolutely jam-packed.
Push east a little, though, and this swathe offers plenty of space for everyone with over three miles of sand that soars all the way from Lagos to the Odiaxere River estuary.
Take the train east a few stops along from Lagos before spending the day strolling back, taking dips in the ocean and sunbathing as you go.
There are some excellent bars and restaurants tucked in the dunes behind the beach to keep you going too. This is where the locals go in Lagos and it's easy to see why.
Calling Robinson Crusoe wannabees! Catch a boat trip, preferably with the love of your life or a very close friend, and you're bound for an island as deserted as it sounds.
Deserted, that is, bar the eco-friendly, sensitively constructed restaurant, Estaminé, which sits on stilts above the sands. Here, you can dine on freshly grilled local seafood and quaff a cooling glass of slightly fizzy vinho verde.
The island lies in the remarkable natural oasis of the Rio Formosa National Park, which you can appreciate as you bounce back across a scene of big skies and sandy islets that look like the Caribbean. You'll see more seabirds than people escaping out here away from the world.
Praia do Tonel
Forget lazing on a resort beach. Portugal* is famous for its world-class surfing. Many people head further north in search of the best breaks, but out west, there are some great conditions in the Algarve too.
That leaves savvy surfers to enjoy this rock and sand wonder, which is home to some seriously good surf action. Eek down the cliffs and you're soon immersed in a frothy Atlantic where the next landfall is the Americas.
The surrounding resort of Sagres is the Algarve's most westerly town and is really well set up for the needs of surfers; some of the local bars celebrate the surf connection too. Sagres has a real end-of-the-world vibe to savour.
Praia do Amado
Swing around the southwestern corner of the Algarve near Sagres and the land (and beaches) track north towards the wild Alentejo region.
This is the Costa Vicentina, a windswept, out-there escape that could scarcely feel any more different to the busy resorts of the southern Algarve.
Despite the lack of hotels and resort trappings, this wide beach has plenty of parking and you can learn to surf or bodyboard. You won't be doing much swimming with such powerful waves, but there is plenty of space, there are some simple cafés and it just looks so cinematic.
Handily, the famous Rota Costa Vicentina long-distance walk sweeps right up this part of the Algarve so you can enjoy a section of that too.
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