Portugal’s southernmost region, the Algarve, needs little in the way of introduction. Blessed with idyllic scenery, and intoxicating and alluring in equal measure, the Algarve has put itself firmly on the map as Portugal’s flagship tourist destination. 

This is part of the world best explored behind the wheel, we think, with winding roads revealing vista upon vista which will take your breath away. That said, make a couple of wrong entries in the satnav and you’ll be fighting off elbow-to-elbow tourists and developed destinations which could be anywhere in the world. Plan wisely though, and the promise of sunshine, rugged landscapes and delicious seafood can be fulfilled. Here are 5 IDEAL stops on your Algarve road trip, Portugal.

EXPLORE THE REGION’S CAPITAL, FARO

The Algarve’s capital city, Faro, is a bustling place to spend time. It’s also where you’ll likely fly into; direct flights from London will set you back around £65 and three hours of your life. 

As such, make a trip into town your first stop of the trip. Firstly, rent a car at Faro airport then drive the 4km into the centre. It’s a port town with a focus on the work which those ships bring in, and although it has beaches, there are more beautiful ones later on your journey. That said, Faro is certainly worth a look, with the Cathedral of Faro standing tall since the 13th century. Scale the tower and enjoy views of  the Atlantic meeting the Mediterrenean sea below.

SURF IN SAGRES

Portugal’s surfing scene is held in the highest regard by the pros. If you’ve got any skills on the board (or if you fancy a thrilling spectacle from the shore), then Sagres, on the western tip of Portugal, is your best bet. 

This historic town is the perfect, peaceful place for a little stroll, with its old port particularly striking, and the most powerful lighthouse in Europe found here. The city’s beloved cafe A Fonte does a splendid cup of local coffee and the pastries are made fresh each morning. And we all know what pastries in Portugal mean.

The coastline and waves of Sagres are much livelier, which has seen it become a highly popular destination for surfers. Praia do Tonel, Praia da Mareta, Praia da Baleeira and Praia do Martinhal are wonderful beaches within a walking distance from central Sagres with glorious sand and waves.

ROLL THE HILLS OF ALCOUTIM 

A great way to take in the Algarve’s stunning, serene countryside is to take a drive up to Alcoutim, where hill rolls by and vistas reveal themselves as you descend. Rather than taking the A22 road from Faro, which takes around an hour, instead follow the road that clings the Guadiana River (and the border with Spain). It’s a far more beautiful drive, and that’s what you’re here for, right?

ALGARVIANA NIRVANA

Though we’re in the car, consider checking out the The Grande Rota do Guadiana part of the famous Algarviana path, which is a walking or cycling route which stretches over 65km through mountains and coastal areas, giving you a stunning landscape for an afternoon of hiking. 

If taking it in on two wheels sounds like your kind of thing, remember to plan your route carefully and bring enough water and food with you; it gets seriously hot here. Oh, and do take your time; it’s a quaint, rural part of the world best enjoyed, we think, at a canter. You can resume the comfort of your road trip guilt free and feeling like you’ve got some much needed exercise.

TAVIRA

Tavira is a small town in the Algarve which packs a big punch in terms of beauty. It’s very picturesque indeed, some say the prettiest in the region, and lies just 18km from the Spanish border if you’d like to continue your road trip onwards into Spain. 

But don’t cast your mind to The Bull Skin just yet. If you want to know what the Algarve looked like before the influx of tourist developments, Tavira will provide a pretty good insight. Sitting on either side of the river Gilao, the fishing town boasts beaches, the chance for great scuba diving, a historic hilltop castle and Roman bridge. We couldn’t think of anywhere better to end our road trip of Southern Portugal.

Should you be starting or finishing your road trip in the country’s capital Lisbon, then you’re in for a foodie treat. Check out our article on 7 IDEAL things to eat in Lisbon, Portugal to really whet your appetite.