The Algarve coast of Portugal is littered with goldmines of stunning beaches and scenery. I spent a week traveling to Portugal’s southern coast so I spent plenty of time looking for beaches far and wide. The beaches here are characterized by their soft white sand, azure waters, and dramatic red rock cliffs that remind me more of my time hiking through Bryce canyon than a Mediterranean getaway. While not as in your face stunning as say the beaches in Lefkada, Greece, the Algarve more than holds its own compared to any other region in Europe.
Nevertheless, not all beaches are created equal and among the 100 or so beaches on this 200km coastline, some are clearly better than others. I went to over a dozen beaches during my week in the Algarve and the best beach of all of them was without a doubt in my mind Praia Das Furnas.
I will spend time in this post to write why this is the best beach and hopefully you will choose to visit this beach as well. Of course, everything is my opinion and what I value might not be what you value in beaches after all.
What do I value you ask? I’ve been to many amazing beaches worldwide and I really value the following things:
- Natural beauty (water color, sand, general views)
- Crowds: I don’t like to be with hundreds of other people on a small little beach no matter how beautiful it is. I just find it to be not relaxing when I hear kids shouting and the like.
I don’t care about amenities on a beach. I don’t care if they have umbrella chairs set out and don’t care if there are ample beach bars to get my fist bump on. I like a beach for its natural beauty and anything man-made is completely irrelevant. I’m perfectly find pitching up a towel and laying my head down on another towel while enjoying the views.
Best time to visit the Algarve Beaches?
The Algarve is a big tourism draw for Europeans looking for better weather (aka Brits, Dutch, and German). For such a small coastline, there is a huge plethora of beaches and accommodation options since the economy of the area is mainly tourism.
The summer months will see the most tourists particularly between June and September. These are the peak months with temperatures reaching 30-35+ and the sun shining all day. Water temperatures in the Algarve are colder than the rest of the Mediterranean given its proximity to the Atlantic ocean. It’s still plenty warm enough to swim in during these months but don’t expect water temperatures like in Greece.
During the peak months, expect to see big crowds at the top beaches. Sun umbrellas, bars, little kids, and the like will be everywhere you go. That is why this article focuses on the one beach I found during my visit in Mid September that didn’t have any of these things.
If I went back to the Algarve, I would probably choose to visit in the shoulder months of Apr/May, and October. The problem with these months is that the weather can be unpredictable. Nevertheless, this region of Europe sees sun year round so I would not worry about things you can’t control.
Praia Das Furnas: Best Beach in the Algarve
After spending so much time at numerous beaches being slightly let down due to the sheet quantity of people at the beaches, I found my Algarve paradise at the Praia Das Furnas.
Located half way between Lagos and Sagres on the western side of the Algarve, this beach is literally everything I could want and more. The name Praia das Furnas refers to various caves in the cliffs here, which are also called furnas. These cliffs are created by erosion and can be found on the eastern side of the beach. These caves are the only place where you have natural shade on the beach. In general, the beach lies in a valley between two impressive cliffs.
Upon arrival, you can see that the beach is completely devoid of sun umbrellas and crowds. Because of its hard to reach location, people just tend to avoid this beach in favor of the beaches nearer to the big towns. From the parking lot, you’ll walk through a huge field of the softest white sand in the Algarve.
As you approach the sea, you’ll be greeted with calm and immensely blue waters. The water here is great as it is calm and warm at the same time. The water is quite shallow as well which makes for great swimming.
The beach is huge at over 300 meters long and 100 meters wide. There is plenty of space for everyone as well as shaded space for those that don’t want to be in the sun the entire time. I came here twice during my road trip through the Algarve and both times there was not more than a handful of people. I picked a spot by the rocks on the right side of the beach and heard nothing but the sounds of the waves splashing the entire time.
Getting to Praia Das Furnas
The only way to get to Praia Das Furnas is by car. It is roughly 25 minutes from Lagos along the main highway with the last few kilometers via a dirt road. You know it’s promising when you have to rough it out to get to the beach.
Any car will do for these roads. I had a Mercedes A180D but anything like a Fiat Panda will do. I was driving in 2nd gear the entire way which should tell you that the roads aren’t so crazy.
Praia Das Furnas is a nude beach
All good things come with a catch, if you can call this that. Praia Das Furnas is a nude beach which means you will see naked people sunbathing. If you’ve never been to a nude beach before and are scared at the prospect, don’t worry, it’s not that bad here. This is not a big naked party like when I was visiting the Mazunte Beach in Mexico.
You’ll see some couples sunbathing naked and others with their clothes on. I think because of how spread out the beach is, you don’t really feel like you’re at a nude beach. It’s a small price to pay I think for one of the best beaches in all of Europe in my opinion.
Praia Da Albandeira
My next favorite beach in the Algarve is the Praia Da Albandeira. It is located near to Albufeira and is home to the famous Arco Naturele (Arch). The beach is less developed than others but still draws a sizeable crowd throughout the day. It’s divided into two halves by a rocky ledge.
The sand is soft like I’ve become accustomed to in the Algarve and the water is calm and warm (for Algarve standards). There are rocky cliffs surrounding the beach but they are not so high which means you can climb up and take wonderful aerial shots of the beach.
A few meters away from the beach is the famous Arch. Kayaks, boat trips, and even swimmers love crossing through this Arch. You can also take wonderful photos from up above.
Praia Da Marinha
Praia Da Marinha is another very famous beach in the Algarve. It’s consistently ranked as one of the top beaches in Europe and it’s not hard to see why. Like the other beaches in the area, it’s surrounded by towering red cliffs which makes for a wonderful backdrop against the white sand.
Praia Da Marinha is located next to the world famous Benagil Caves so it’s a perfect place to stop by after visiting. There are stairs leading down to the beach which makes for a fantastic photo. The beach gets very busy during the summer months however so be prepared to be sitting side by side with other people.
Near to the beach is another arch that is equally, if not more stunning than the one at Praia Da Albandeira. This arch features not one, but two arches side by side! It’s absolutely stunning to say the least
Praia Da Carvalho
Praia do Carvalho is quite a small beach, surrounded by steep cliffs. The combination of size and scenery gives the beach a magical and romantic feel. The beach is kind of shaped in a V. According to locals, this beach has been named after a captain called Carvalho, who supposedly owned this beach back in the days.
This beach is located next to the other beaches on the list and is well worth the visit as well.
Praia Da Camilo
Praia Do Camilo is located right next to the town of Lagos. This is the perfect beach to go if you are staying in Lagos and do not have a car. It is within walking distance from the city center (about 20 minutes or so).
This beach is one of the most famous beaches in the Algarve as the stairs that descend onto the beach make for a wonderful photo. The beach itself is small and can get very packed during the summer months given its proximity to Lagos.
There is also a restaurant at the top of the beach serving great food and drinks.
Praia Do Barril
Located on the east side of the Algarve, Praia Do Barril is entirely different than the other beaches on this list. For starters, the landscape on the eastern Algarve is characterized by long and flat stretches of white sand beaches surrounded by various fauna. This is compared to the rocky cliff backdrop of the western Algarve which is completely different.
The beaches in the east remind me of beaches in the US east coast which can also be quite beautiful.
Praia Do Barril is famous as it was once a thriving tuna fishing community. The houses on the beach were once residences for fisherman but have since been turned into tourist facilities like restaurants and bars. No cars are allowed near to the beach however. You’ll have to park your car about 1.5km away from the beach and either walk to the distance or take the cute old school locomotive train for €1.3.
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