The eastern Algarve is typically associated with a more unspoiled and rural Algarve than the central and most visited region. Many of the towns retain their original features and they haven’t all been converted into resorts with high rise apartments. With the Ria Formosa stretching along 60km of the coastline it offers some pristine nature and untouched beaches. Much of its history and the small towns along it directly relate to the resources and shelter the lagoon offered. The east Algarve normally refers to everywhere east of Faro right up to the Spanish border. Within this are traditional working towns like Olhão, fishing villages like Fuseta and unique border towns like Alcoutim. They all offer something very different to the typical resort towns associated with the Algarve!
The Places to Visit in the Eastern Algarve
This is a complete list of the most visited and typical destinations in the east Algarve. It does not necessarily suggest that these are the best places to go, as individual tastes definitely vary. You should of course read guides to the towns below to get a feel for them and if they’re right for you! We’ve linked a few of our own guides, and a few others below!
Alcoutim – A hidden hill town on the upper stretches of the Guadiana river. With plenty of nature it’s the rural quieter Algarve experience.
Cacela Velha – A historic fortress village, known for its scenery and stunning beaches.
Castro Marim – Famous for its fortress and castle that overlook the town. Although the nearby town of Monte Gordo has the beaches. It’s surrounded by wetland so it’s great for wildlife spotting or to experience some of the local salt industry.
Estoi – Part of the municipality of Faro and famous for it’s palace – which is now an upmarket hotel – and the region’s Roman history.
Fuseta – Fuseta is a relatively unspoilt fishing town that’s just beginning to experience more than local tourism. It’s great for a day on the beach or to experience a working fishing town.
Monte Gordo – Monte Gordo has the finest stretch of beach in the eastern Algarve. It’s more of your typical holiday resort than any of the other towns listed here and has all the services holidaymakers could look for.
Olhão – A typical working town, famous for its market and as a stepping off point to explore the rest Ria Formosa. With a long history of fishing industry, you’re never far from fresh grilled fish.
Tavira – Tavira is a picturesque riverside town boasting lots of history and culture. With the beaches just 2km away it’s also great for a beach holiday too.
Vila Real de Santo António – A riverside town that borders the wide opening of the Guadiana River. You’ll find peaceful cruises upriver and Spain on your doorstep.
Transport in the East Algarve
Despite Faro being considered in the ‘Central Algarve’, Faro airport is also the only international airport in the region. It makes sense to discuss the transport options in East Algarve, by discussing the airport first! The main thing to consider is that Faro airport is around 10 minutes outside of Faro itself. Faro’s bus station and train station are located within the city. To get there it’s a short ride on a local bus (the no.14 or the no.16). The bus costs €2.35 for single ticket and is operated by Proximo. A taxi will cost approximately €10 or it will be a €5-6 uber ride. You will need to make this journey to connect to anywhere else by public transport from Faro.
Trains and Train Stations in the East Algarve
The major towns of east Algarve are serviced by a convenient trainline that runs almost along the coast. It starts at Faro and stops at the last town at the border Vila Real S. Antonio, and even a few of the smaller towns have train stations. The journey from one end to the other takes approximately an hour. In Faro you can connect to the trainline that will take you through central Algarve and west to Portimão and Lagos. Although trains are seen as the scenic route and perhaps not the most convenient, they are a cost-effective way of travelling through the east of the Algarve. The longest return journey is €10.60. To get the best prices you will need to book in advance though. Unlike the central Algarve, the train stations are located much closer to the towns they serve, usually within easy walking distance.
Coaches and Buses
Buses and coaches also serve the coast of eastern Algarve. They service all the major towns. While smaller locally operated buses can get you a little bit further from the coast. Unfortunately finding the timetables for all these buses can be tricky (as often they’re run by the local municipalities). The main operator is EVA and in general they depart Faro and head east along the coast to Vila Real S. Antonio. You can check their services here. EVA also offer an unlimited tourist pass for 3 or 7 days on their website. If you’re planning on lots of journeys, then one of these passes may be a good idea for your trip. A 3-day pass is €30 and a 7-day pass is €38. With return trips costing between €7-9 the cost can add up quickly if you’re planning on stopping at multiple towns.
Car Rental in the Eastern Algarve
Car rental is widely available across the whole Algarve, with rental offices at Faro airport and even the larger towns in the eastern Algarve like Tavira. If you want the freedom and flexibility of renting a car then you should read our guide to car rental. It explains everything you need to know before renting. The main takeaways are that as long as you book in advance and watch out for the extra costs car rental can be an affordable option.
Visiting Spain from the East Algarve
The eastern Algarve’s proximity to Spain, means that daytrips or overnight stays are a real and valid possibility. On a longer trip to the Algarve, then visiting Seville (two hours), or Cordoba (three hours) could be a great option for you! Andalucía is a beautiful and historic region of Spain and we can’t recommend it enough, if your budget or time allows. Buses are available direct from Faro to Seville for around €20 but can be found as low as €5 if you book in advance. With return trips costing around €30 depending when you book them. If you opt to take a rental car, just make sure they include the ability to leave Portugal, or you may face some unwelcome charges!
Should You Visit the Eastern Algarve?
If you’re looking for a great holiday destination that combines some freat resorts with a good deal of nature and culture than the east Algarve is for you. This is a great introduction to the east Algarve, but if you want more in-depth information then we recommend you take a look at a few of the guides we’ve linked. If there’s a place or a town you think would make a good addition to this guide let us know in the comments!