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KNOW BEFORE YOU GO - STAY SAFE & HEALTHY ABROAD (foreign office travel advice)

Algarve

A guide to the best beaches in the Algarve

You'll be hard pressed to find a beach in the Algarve that doesn't make your jaw drop. Their soft sands, clear waters and lines of sandstone rock formations are simply gorgeous. So picturesque, clean and accommodating that there are 88 Blue Flag award-winning shores in this part of Portugal alone, one of which is renowned for being one of the most magnificent beaches in the entire world.

Praia da Marinha, Carvoeiro
Praia da Marinha, Carvoeiro

Ask anyone, and the answer is bound to be the same. Praia da Marinha is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, so stated by the Michelin Guide and essentially all who lay eyes on it. Somehow, it isn't overrun with sunbathers and beach shacks, so visits here are always something special.

What makes Praia da Marinha so stunning are the iconic orange-yellow sandstone cliffs towering over the sand, many of which have been naturally eroded into archways over the years. The beach is accessible via a trek down a steep staircase, but the plush sand and explorable caves below are well worth it.

Praia da Rocha, Portimao
Praia da Rocha, Portimao

This vibrant beach matches the big time personality of its eponymous resort. It's the longest and largest beach on this slice of Portugal's coast, clad with golden sands and speckled with the coast's famous rock formations.

This means there are plenty of sunloungers and parasols to go around, along with restaurants, bars and space for beach games. This makes sense, as Praia da Rocha has been the site for an international beach soccer tournament for the last 10 years. If your Algarve holiday plans feature more secluded vibes, you can head west for a parade of small coves.

Praia do Ancao, extends to Tavira
Praia do Ancao, extends to Tavira

Praia do Ancao beach is located within the large expanse of protected land designated as the Ria Formosa Natural Park. The beach itself is bordered by sand dunes criss-crossed with wooden boardwalks and pine trees, but don't let that mislead you. It's very well-serviced with upscale restaurants and fresh fish spots, along with watersport rental facilities.

Praia da Amoreira, Aljezur
Praia da Amoreira, Aljezur

Praia do Amoreira is a stunner to look at. It's sandwiched by sand dunes at the mouth of the River Aljezur, and is home to a flurry of natural rock pools filled with sea urchins and starfish.

Though the strong undertow here makes it unsuitable for little swimmers, the waves are well suited for surfing and bodyboarding if your holidays to the Algarve are destined for some action. However, the wide stretch of sand makes for prime playtime, and when the tide goes out it often leaves a shallow lagoon that works well as a splash pool for kids.

Praia do Camilo, Lagos
Praia do Camilo, Lagos

A flight of 200 steps takes you down to this gorgeous mini-beach, found along Portugal's golden coast and flanked by cliffs towering some 70 feet high. When the tide is high, the space on the sand can get pretty limited, so it's best to visit when there's low tide or make sure you get a spot at the back of the beach. The beach itself doesn't have any facilities available – though there's a restaurant by the top of the stairs – but the water is clear and primed for snorkelling expeditions.

Praia Sao Rafael, Albufeira
Praia Sao Rafael, Albufeira

Found just a few miles from downtown Albufeira, Praia Sao Rafael is a Blue Flag award-winning beach lined with more of the Algarve's iconic rock formations. Some are so oddly shaped they've even been given their own names, such as 'Swallow's Nest'. Lifeguards are on duty here in the summer as the beach is very popular with holidaymakers, and there are also sunbeds and pedalos available to rent.