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10 of the best places for family holidays in the Algarve

Ah, the Algarve. Easily accessible from Faro, this beautiful stretch of Portuguese coastline is blessed with gorgeous beaches and sublime light. July and August offer the highest temperatures, but book for May, June, September or October if you want to avoid the biggest crowds but still enjoy the sunshine – even in September temperatures can still reach highs of 27°C. Search for flights to Faro

1. Portimão

Portimão’s big draw is Praia da Rocha (‘beach of the rocks’), which is a great place to hang out if you want to avoid the crowds of the Algarve – even at peak times you should be able to find a good spot on this huge expanse of sand. A rocky headland divides the beach in two, and there are plenty of small caves to explore along the cliffs. It’s also fairly sheltered, so it makes an ideal place for sunbathing and swimming. But if you get bored of beautiful beaches, the Castle of Silves near Portimão (entry fee approximately €3) was built between the eighth and thirteenth centuries, and is one of the most well preserved Moorish fortifications in the area. Discover more of Portugal’s best beaches, including one made famous by James Bond.

Where to stay

Hotel Apartamentos Mirachoro II is a cheap and cheerful apartment complex just 15 minutes’ walk from Praia da Rocha. But if you’re after something a bit fancier, the Penina Hotel & Golf Resort to the west of Portimão offers tennis, archery, billiards and an in-house gym as well as its own golf course. Bonus point: their kids club means that the wee ones will have plenty to occupy them while the adults get some golfing in.

Praia da Rocha

2. Lagos

With its sixteenth-century walls, cobbled streets and attractive churches, Lagos is a thoroughly pleasant place to take a family stroll. The Museu Municipal (open 10am to 12.30pm and 2pm to 5.30pm Tuesday to Sunday, entry €3) has all sorts of interesting trinkets on display, from Roman mosaics to swords and pistols, while the Igreja de Santo António next door is an incredibly ornate baroque church dating from the early eighteenth century. Head out to Ponta da Piedade on the coast for some stunning cliff-top views, but if it’s beaches you’re looking for, the four-kilometre-long Meia Praia offers plenty of room to stretch out your beach towel.

Where to stay

Vila Valverde is a refurbished nineteenth-century country house that’s surrounded by orange trees. It offers plenty of activities, too, from horse riding to sailing.

Lagos, Portugal

3. Albufeira

Albufeira is the number one destination for cheap package tours to the Algarve, and as such it’s home to plenty of neon bars packed with Brits and Germans. But it also has loads of family activities, not least the Zoomarine Algarve water park (tickets from £27.30). There’s no shortage of things for the kids to do, including pirate shows and all sorts of exotic animals to coo at, as well as pools suitable for all ages. Albufeira also has a great range of fantastic beaches nearby: two of the best are Praia da Falesia, with its impressive orange cliffs, and the secluded Praia do Castelo near the village of Sesmarias.

Where to stay

If you want to stay in style, the five-star Grande Real Santa Eulalia Resort & Hotel Spa has an on-site health club and a whopping seven bars and lounges and four restaurants. The all-inclusive Clube Humbria, on the other hand, offers great value for money and has a children’s club that’ll keep the little ones happy all holiday.

Albufeira

4. Faro

The capital of the Algarve offers plenty of distractions, such as a metal fish market designed by Gustav Eiffel (of tower fame) and the free Trem Gallery of Municipal Art (open Tuesday to Friday 10am to 6pm and Saturday to Sunday 10.30am to 5pm). You can peruse our guide to Faro for more ideas on what to do in the town. In terms of nearby beaches, Ilha de Faro is just out of town near the airport, but it can get very busy – Praia da Falésia further west tends to be quieter and offers a long stretch of sand and some wind shelter thanks to its high cliffs. East from Faro is the enormous Parque Natural da Ria Formosa. This protected area is home to a string of sandbank islands that can only be reached by boat, hence these golden sands remain relatively quiet compared to the rest of the Algarve. Armona island is around 20 minutes by ferry from the coastal town of Olhão (check the ferry timetable here) and hosts miles of unspoiled sandy beaches.

Where to stay

Pousada Palacio de Estoi is a small luxury hotel to the north of Faro that has some beautiful gardens and large rooms with balconies – perfect for a tranquil getaway.

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Faro

5. Tavira

Situated on the eastern side of the Algarve, Tavira is a quiet, charming town of cobbled streets and storied buildings. The ruined castle that sits on a hill above the town dates from the seventeenth century, but the first fortifications on the site may have been built as far back as 2000 BC. The castle offers great views across the town, but keep the kids close as there is a distinct lack of railings. Torre da Tavira, meanwhile, is a converted water tower that also provides great views thanks to its funky camera obscura, and the Núcleo Islâmico museum provides fascinating insights into the history of Tavira during the Islamic era (entry €2).

Where to stay

Pensão Agricola is a wonderfully quiet six-room guesthouse situated ten minutes to the east of Tavira, and surrounded by fields and olive groves. Meanwhile, nearby Quinta dos Perfumes is a beautifully converted farm that provides home-made breakfasts and offers babysitting services.

Tavira

6. Sagres

If you want to really get away from it all, the isolated village of Sagres is ideal. Perched on a dramatic cliff-top in the far west of the Algarve and blessed with a fine selection of quiet cafés and bars, Sagres is as far from the razzmatazz of Albufeira as you can get. The nearby beaches are also superb, including Praia da Baleeira next to the fishing harbour and the huge, unspoilt Praia do Beliche, which is often practically deserted in the off season. Atlantic winds often mean that beaches in Sagres can be a little chillier than those to the east, but it’s a price worth paying to have them all to yourself.

Where to stay

Martinhal Sagres Beach Family Resort Hotel is close to Praia da Baleeira and offers three outdoor swimming pools along with a health club. Or you could try nearby Memmo Baleeira, which has a kids club and can arrange bicycle tours and jeep tours of the region, as well as surfing lessons.

Sagres

7. Luz

Luz, situated six kilometres to the west of Lagos, is hugely popular with British tourists, but is far more compact than the package-holiday haven of Albufeira, and is much more relaxed as a result. The main draw is Praia da Luz, a huge sweep of sand peppered with excellent cafés and restaurants. Beach Hut Watersports operates from Praia da Luz and provides boat trips to see dolphins and the local caves, as well as renting jet skis, inflatables and kayaks. You can even drop off the kids with them from 10am to 5pm, and they’ll be treated to a whole day of sailing, water skiing, kayaking and beach games.

Where to stay

Luz Ocean Club offers four-star apartments in easy reach of the beach, and has several swimming pools, including a kids’ pool. Estrela Da Luz is another family-friendly apartment complex near the beach, with entertainment laid on for the kids and spa treatments for adults.

Praia da Luz

8. Carvoeiro

Carvoeiro is a tiny, idyllic town of cliff-top, whitewashed buildings surrounding a small but perfectly formed beach. A boardwalk along the top of the cliffs gives amazing views of the coastline and is easily navigated with a pushchair. The small size of the town’s beach means that it can get absolutely rammed in high summer, but fortunately there are several beaches further along the coast that are ripe for exploration: Praia da Marinha just east of Carvoeiro is undoubtedly the highlight, and has plenty of underwater crevices for snorkellers to explore.

Where to stay

Agua Hotels Vale Da Lapa is close to the beach and boasts a poolside bar and a spa, as well as a children’s club. All of the apartments offer kitchen facilities, and there’s even a playground for the kids.

Carvoeiro

9. Olhos de Agua

Olhos de Agua is a small fishing village around seven kilometres east of Albufeira that derives its name (‘eyes of water’) from the freshwater springs that supply it. It makes an ideal, relatively quiet base for exploring the roman ruins at the Museu Cerra da Vila in Vilamoura to the east, and for shopping trips to happening Albufeira to the west. The local beach is fairly small but is easy to access with a pushchair and has plenty of rock pools to explore, while the impressive cliffs of Praia da Falesia are just a short journey to the east.

Where to stay

Club Hotel RIU Guarana is a highly-rated, all-inclusive resort with three restaurants and two swimming pools located minutes from the beach.

Olhos de Aqua

10. Almancil

Situated around 13 kilometres northwest of Faro, Almancil might not be an obvious spot for an Algarve beach holiday due to its location inland. But it boasts some of the best resorts in the region along with some stunning architecture, and several top-notch beaches are just a short trip away. Igreja de São Lourenço de Matos is a seventeenth-century baroque church in Almancil that has some simply stunning interior decoration – prepare to be blown away by the intricately painted blue tiles. And the beaches of Ilha Deserta (Deserted Island) and Praia de Garrao are within easy reach, the latter being host to the famous Julia’s Restaurant, which has been serving seafront cuisine for more than 50 years.

Where to stay

Vale do Lobo Resort is located close to the beach and offers an astonishing 15 restaurants, along with a golf course. Vilar do Golf, as the name implies, also offers golfing, and has comfortable two-bedroom villas surrounded by pine trees.

Ilha Deserta, near Faro

Looking for a break with the wee ones? Here are a few more ideas for finding the perfect family holiday:

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It’s raining and the kids are bored. Swap the weekly supermarket shop for a family weekend away, be it a sunny short break or a weekend in a new city, and forget having to wash smelly sports kit or cook dinners for fussy teens.

*Published March 2017. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.

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