PORTUGAL | BY ANDY SYMINGTON
SOURCE: BBC NEWS
SOURCE: BBC NEWS
Best for: photographers, ramblers, families
The south coast of the Algarve has several beaches with photogenic limestone rock stacks produced by erosion. Their orangey-brown colours make them perfect for morning or evening photography.
Our favourite is Marinha, 8km southeast of Lagoa, where the cliffs have been chopped and changed into a series of pinnacles, crevasses and caves.
No surprise that it’s the postergirl of Algarve beaches, and regularly ranked among the best in Europe. To get here, try the picturesque 5.6km walk along the clifftops from Praia Vale Centianes.
Best for: runners, painters, botanists
This long strip 10km east of Albufeira offers one of the region’s most impressive first glimpses of coast as you descend from the clifftop car park. It’s backed by stunning cliffs in white and ochre.
The areas near the car parks get packed in summer (especially as high tides cover much of the beach), but the strip is more than 3km long so it’s easy enough to find plenty of breathing space.
It’s a good beach for strolling, as the cliffscape constantly changes colours and shapes, and there’s a surprising range of hardy seaside plants in the cracks and crevices.
Best for: families, geologists, hikers
Crossing into the Algarve from the north, the first beach is one of the region’s best. Praia de Odeceixe is a tongue of sand at a river mouth flanked by imposing dark and jagged schist cliffs.
This is a good option for families, as smaller children can paddle on the peaceful river side, while older kids tackle the waves on the ocean side. The beach has a surf school and eating options.
The Rota Vicentina, a long-distance walking path that leads right to the southwestern tip of Portugal, passes through here and there are great day walks in the vicinity.
Best for: campers, birdwatchers, toddlers
The eastern coast of the Algarve is characterised by the estuaries and sand islands making up the Parque Natural Ria de Formosa, an important habitat for bird and marine life.
A series of spectacular island beaches sit offshore: Ilha de Tavira, easily reached by boat, has lots of sand to explore (it’s 11km long), offering wide, lonely stretches of beach.
It also has an anchor cemetery, a nudist zone, birdlife, bars and lagoon-side paddling for small children. There’s a campsite here and some holiday rentals, so you can even stay over.
Best for: party-lovers, families, seafood-lovers
Stretching for 4km alongside the lively surfer party town of Lagos, this is a fun, social beach that fills up with families, locals, backpackers and more, but always has plenty of spare sand.
There are several good bars and restaurants on the beach itself, so you can make a day of it here before heading back into town to hit the bars and do it all over again.
Best for: skinny-dippers, philosophers, romantics
Lonely and lovely, this bow-shaped beach is divided from the mainland by an estuary. Get there by walking from the beach at Manta Rota, or by hiring a boat across the estuary from Fábrica.
It’s perhaps the least crowded of all the Algarve beaches and is good spot to swim, as a shallow gradient makes it reliably warm. There’s a low-key LGBT scene here in summer.
Best for: surfers, divers, fisherfolk
Arrifana is a seductive cove embraced by cliffs, 10km southwest of the town of Aljezur. Just to add to the picturesqueness, it also sports a tiny traditional fishing harbour.
The beach is popular with surfers and there are several surf schools in the area. The beach break is reliable, and there's a right-hand reef break that can offer some of the Algarve’s best surfing.
There’s a small, very popular beachside restaurant and clifftop eateries near the ruined fortress up above, which offers breathtaking vistas. Good diving is also possible here.
Best for: self-caterers, body-boarders, wildlife-watchers
The handsomest beach in the Aljezur area, this sits on the northern side of the very photo-worthy river mouth of the Ribeira de Aljezur and is backed by wild dunes.
It’s a beachgoer’s beach, the sort of place that presents a different aspect every day. It gets decent waves and there are bar-restaurants at the northern and southern ends but no other facilities.
The beach is 9km northwest of Aljezur and it’s also accessible from the southern end if you don't mind getting wet wading across the river. The riverbank is good for paddling and watching birdlife.
Best for: surfers, lovers, loners
One of the remoter west coast Algarve beaches, this is a long and wide stretch of whitish sand with an ethereal beauty, backed by cliffs hazy in the ocean spray.
It lies 15km northwest of Carrapateira and is reached by a rough, partly paved road at the end of which you will find no facilities. The beach faces due west and has pretty reliable surf.
It’s one of those lonely, romantic beaches that’s even great to stroll on when the weather’s nasty.
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