For the lovers of the traditional Algarve, Monte Gordo might not be for you. It’s concrete apartments and hotels rise seemingly out of nowhere on the route between the slow-paced towns of Tavira and Vila Real de Santo Antonio. However, wonder through the tightly packed streets and you’ll be faced with the real reason it exists. One of the biggest and best stretches of sand in the east Algarve. For at least a kilometre in either direction you’re faced with row upon row of sun beds and parasols. Every 25m is a beach facing restaurant or bar on a raised boardwalk. Monte Gordo is the east Algarve’s most popular resort and people are here for one thing only – it’s beach. Before visiting Monte Gordo, you need to decide what kind of beach experience you’re looking for, and if this is it! Hopefully this guide can help you decide.
How to get to Monte Gordo
Monte Gordo is located around 60km to the east of Faro. If you’re arriving into Portugal at Faro Airport then you have multiple options to get there. The main options being, a private transfer, public transport, or even a rental car. A private transfer from Faro will cost you around €60-75 for a standard vehicle. The regional line in the Algarve operates between Faro, and Monte Gordo railway station and this can be a cheap and scenic route. It costs €5.10 each way. You just need to know the railway station is around 1.5km from Monte Gordo itself.
A hire car can be a good option if you plan on exploring the wider region too. If you’re driving a rental car you have two routes. The faster and smoother toll route, the A22. Or the slower and free route on the N125. Your time, budget, and potential stress levels should help you decide, during the peak months the N125 is often slow going and clogged up with lots of tourists.
Monte Gordo Today
The small resort town today is almost entirely made up of hotels, apartments, shops and services dedicated to tourism. Among its streets you’ll find all of the services necessary for a holiday, including mini markets, souvenirs, ATMs, and pharmacies. Towards the beach you’ll find plenty of shops selling your usual beach wares and everything you could need for a day on the beach. Multiple streets are lined with bars and restaurants serving a variety of international cuisine, as well as fresh local seafood.
Praia de Monte Gordo – Monte Gordo’s Beach
Surrounded by tall pine trees and backed by sand dunes. Praia de Monte Gordo is a supreme beach. Unlike many other beaches in the Algarve, Praia de Monte Gordo is gently sloping and is backed by low sand dunes. The red and ochre cliffs of the famous Algarve can be found much further west. It’s an exceptional stretch of fine, golden sand. With a gentle curving bay, there is literally beach as far as the eyes can see! Wonder far enough to the east and you’ll meet Praia de Santo António, head to the west and you’ll find Praia do Cabeço (and then Praia Verde). Unfortunately, you will not be the only person to appreciate this stretch of sand. This is an exceptionally busy stretch of sand with thousands of visitors every day of the summer season. If you’re not a fan of busy beaches, Praia de Monte Gordo might not be for you.
Praia de Monte Gordo Boardwalk
For nearly 2km, segments of the beach are separated between concessioned and free areas. The entire stretch is life guarded and there is very easy access with a well-maintained boardwalk along the top of the sand dunes. The board walk is wide, and along its length is a variety of restaurants and bars. This gives the boardwalk and beach and almost busier ‘beach strip’ feel. The beach is busy, the bars and restaurants are busy, and this creates an impressive – or overwhelming – resort atmosphere that isn’t found anywhere else in the east Algarve. That said, for the beach visitors you don’t need to travel far to get any refreshments or meals!
The Warmest Waters in Portugal
Monte Gordo not only boasts one of the best beaches in the Algarve, but also claims the warmest waters. It’s situated on a large bay where it’s somewhat less exposed to the Atlantic currents, waves and wind, that cool the west Algarve. Despite being warmer than the rest of the Algarve, and the Mediterranean climate, these waters still shouldn’t be considered Mediterranean though. The warmest temperatures between July and August still only reach around 22-23 °C. Which depending on where you are arriving from can still be quite chilly! With its easy access, full services, soft sand, and clean waters, Praia de Monte Gordo is yearly designated a Blue Flag beach.
Activities on Praia de Monte Gordo
As the largest beach resort in the area, you will find a full range of beach activities available catering for all family members. Unfortunately, the large bay and gentle waves make this area of the Algarve unsuitable for surfers and more extreme activity. It’s a fantastic place to learn how to stand up paddle board, kayak, or hire a pedal boat. Many of the hotels also provide wellness activities like sunrise yoga, and fitness classes right on the beach too!
Mata Nacional da Dunas Litorais de Vila Real de Santo António
With more than enough words spent on the beach, perhaps it’s best to describe what else there is to do in and around Monte Gordo for visitors. Surrounding Monte Gordo is a surprising amount of pine forest, that is a natural park of sorts. It’s formed of a unique combination of pine trees and scrub, that merge with the sand dunes along the sea front. A path stretches from Monte Gordo to Vila Real de Santo Antonio, alternatively you can also take a path to Praia de Santo António. It’s a great place for shaded walks, cool breezes, and if you’re lucky you might even spot the native Algarve chameleon that calls this unique habitat home. Bicycle rental is available at various rental shops in Monte Gordo and this forest is a great, and safe place away from traffic for family adventures.
Things to do around Monte Gordo
As a resort town, it’s easy to think that Monte Gordo is lacking in traditional Algarve culture, and even nature. Luckily for people that want to experience a different side to the Algarve than resorts, you have plenty of opportunity to explore nearby.
For the Culture Lovers
Discover Tavira: Tavira is a picturesque riverside town boasting lots of history and culture. The slow and wide River Gilão sets the pace of life in Tavira, and it’s a wonderful town to explore. Ferries, and boats set sail for the islands of the Ria Formosa so it’s a great spot for exploring!
Discover Vila Real de Santo Antonio (VRSA): VRSA is the Algarve’s most eastern town on the Spanish border alongside Guadiana River. This is the place to get to know traditional life, shops, and the only town built in Pombaline style in the Algarve. There is also the opportunity for river cruises up the Guadiana river from here too!
For the History Lovers:
Discover Castro Marim: Famous for its twin fortress and castle that overlook the town. It’s surrounded by wetland so it’s great for wildlife spotting or to experience some of the local salt industry too.
Discover Cacela Velha: A historic fortress village, known for its scenery and stunning beaches.
For the Nature Lovers:
Reserva Natural do Sapal de Castro Marim can get you up and close to a wonderful amount of marine and bird life. For the first time this year, it’s also home to nesting flamingos. The natural park has a small visitor centre and signposted walk introducing you to the wildlife!
For the Beach Lovers:
Previously mentioned Cacela Velha sits on the edge of the Ria Formosa, and has one of our favourite beaches in Portugal. With no services, sun beds, or bars, it’s an entirely different experience to Monte Gordo.
The Best Restaurants in Monte Gordo
Monte Gordo has a wide selection of restaurants catering to multiple cuisines. The beach boardwalk alone has over 15! There are also some gems hidden a few streets away, so don’t only consider the restaurants in the best locations! Here’s our favourite restaurants:
- Vale do Douro. First up is this wonderful Portuguese restaurant. It should be a given that one of your first meals in the Algarve should be some of the local seafood and this is a simple, inelegant option at reasonable prices.
- Maharaja Patiala Tandoori Restaurant. Hidden in one of the simple side streets is this gem of an Indian restaurant. We love Indian food, and this was one of our favourites.
- Wow Sushi Bar. At the more premium end is Wow Sushi Bar. Easily taking the place of the best sushi in the eastern Algarve. The quality was excellent, and everything made to order. Great sangria too!
- Dona Bela. For sheer atmosphere Dona Bela makes this list, beach front with panoramic views of the ocean. Luckily the food also matches the impressive scenery. That said it is at the pricier end of the scale.
Somewhere to Stay in Monte Gordo?
As a resort town, Monte Gordo has a wide range of accommodation to fit most budgets. At the premium end is the health focused Prime Energise, it’s a modern four star hotel that even has a roof top pool should you get bored of the beach! It also offers a wide range of sports and wellness activities. A little lower on the budget scale is Hotel Alba, it’s a more traditional hotel that has been recently renovated and is in a prime location. With indoor and outdoor pool, it also offers multiple services to complete your resort experience! You can find the full list here that has a wide range of options for all budgets.
Should you Visit Monte Gordo?
For an all-out resort experience, Monte Gordo is worth a visit. It’s the East Algarve’s most popular resort and during the summer it is filled to the brim with a mix of internal and local visitors. However, this experience is not for everyone. Personally, we much prefer the much more empty beaches nearby and tend to avoid the overly touristy experience. The beach, microclimate, and array of restaurants are excellent. If you’re looking for a more rounded experience, perhaps combining traditional towns, food, and the beach, then consider Vila Real Santo Antonio or Tavira for a longer stay in the east Algarve.
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