The Algarve coast in the very South of Portugal is a popular beach destination and Albufeira is near the center of it, close to the main airport in Faro and with plenty of sun, sand and see for a beach getaway. The little town on the cliff above the beach offers plenty of accommodation, bars and restaurants, making it a convenient one-stop vacation. Read my Snapshot: Albufeira to find out if it is worth the trip!
Why you should go: Millions of people come to the Algarve every year to soak up the sun, many from the colder United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe. Many are lured by low cost airlines offering flights for a few bucks and tour operators have cheap hotels and apartments on offer. It’s so popular in fact that some people accuse the Algarve of having sold its soul to the devil of mass tourism, similar to the Costa del Sol in neighboring Spain. And there is some truth to it.
Albufeira is a small town of only 15,000 residents, but it swells to 300,000 in peak season, filling the endless rows of condominium buildings stretching miles inland from the beach. You will see stag parties drinking beer at 10:00 in the morning and hen parties roaming the streets in hilarious outfits at night. But there is a lot to like about Albufeira, too. The old town clings to the hill over the beach, with little cobblestone streets winding its way up the hill and outdoor bars, restaurants and stores lining the public squares. It makes for a pleasant stroll around town and for a nice dinner with lots of people watching, even if you are not looking to party.
And the beaches that brought people here in the first place still have soft sand and warm water to offer. If you don’t like the crowds packed onto the beach in town, just walk along the shore and it gets emptier by the minute. After a 15 minute stroll along the wide beach, I shared the beach with only a handful of people and hardly a reminder of the mass tourism that shaped today’s Albufeira!
Travel Tips: If you like the beach without the crowds, avoid the peak season in the summer and around New Years. I visited at the beginning of June, the weather was gorgeous and it was a lot less busy. In the shoulder season of May/June and September, the temperatures are high and the rainfall is low – and so are the visitor numbers!
Getting to Albufeira is easy – plenty of low-cost carriers offer bargain tickets from all around Europe to Faro, about 40km away. Public transport is not very convenient and involves a bus to Faro, a train or bus to Albufeira stations and another bus or taxi into town. Taxis are available at the airport, but very expensive. Arranging private transport ahead of time is faster than the bus and at approx. $70 round-trip about half price of an airport taxi.
The best option to get to Albufeira and around the Algarve is renting a car, especially during the shoulder season. Rates during that time were under $20/day, making it a much better deal and more fun. A rental car will give you the flexibility to explore other parts of the Algarve, like the old town of Faro or quieter beaches or the beautiful coastline!
There are plenty of places to stay, many are available to book early through the big tour operators at discounted prices. A rental car will give you the option to stay at an apartment further out of town. For hotel options in Albufeira and current prices, check here!