Looking for the best day trips from Faro? This destination in the heart of the Algarve is the perfect base to explore southern Portugal. You can reach the western coast of the Algarve within a 1,5-hour drive and the Spanish border to the east is only a 1-hour drive away. So the best attractions of the Algarve are all easy to explore during day trips from Faro and you might even cross the border with Spain to visit the stunning Andalusia region! We explored the Algarve and Andalusia for three months, so we know exactly where to go when staying in the area. To help you make the most out of your stay in Faro, we made this list of the best day trips from Faro. Most are even within 30 minutes from Faro!
Read more: visiting the Old Town of Faro.
How to get to Faro and how to get around
Faro is located on the southern coast of Portugal and in the heart of the Algarve. It is the capital of the region and it is equipped with the main international airport in southern Portugal. Faro is the perfect starting point for any Algarve trip, as it is easy to find a cheap flight to Faro.
Faro is centrally located in the Algarve. It is a 1,5-hour drive west to get to the westernmost point of the Algarve, where you’ll find the beautiful beaches and rocky coast of Sagres. And with a 1-hour drive to the east you to get to the Spanish border. This makes Faro the perfect destination to base yourself while exploring the region. There are plenty of things to do near Faro within a 30-minutes drive and you can even choose to visit some bucket list destinations in Andalusia in Spain on a day trip.
A rental car is the easiest way to get around on a day trip. Because of its international airport, Faro is one of the best places in the south to rent a car in the Algarve. If that is not in your budget, Faro is well connected by public transport as well. The Faro train station has direct connections to many other destinations in the Algarve and the Faro bus can bring you to most nearby attractions. If you go on a day trip from Faro with a long bus drive like to Seville in Spain, make sure to look into guided excursions as well, because they are often the same price or even cheaper.
The 10 best day trips from Faro
#1 The Ludo Trail in Ria Formosa Natural Park (15 minutes)
The Parque Natural da Ria Formosa is located between the coastal towns of Faro and Tavira in Portugal’s Algarve, which is one of the most beautiful places in Portugal. The west-coastal Algarve is home to orange cliff formations and charming bays with sandy beaches, while the east of Faro features a maze of waterways, islands, and peninsulas. This area is the beautiful Ria Formosa nature reserve.
You’ll find one of the most beautiful and frequented areas of the Ria Formosa just west of Faro, near the international airport and Praia da Faro. The Ludo Trail and the São Lourenço Trail are two popular hiking routes that pass through here. It’s odd to us that they are two distinct hiking routes rather than one continuous trail. The two are in perfect alignment, and they make a beautiful round trip together.
The trails wind throughout the lagoon, with the Ludo Trail concentrating on saltwater swamps and the São Lourenço Trail focusing more on wooded areas and golf courses. The most memorable part of the trip for us was the stretch along the Ludo trails. You may see a lot of water birds while trekking through this marshy and wetland environment. We observed several flamingos in different areas of this Ria Formosa section on each of our two visits. The trail passes a salt production region with salt flats, pink lakes, and huge white salt mountains. It’s a very beautiful and special place in the nature park where you see fewer people than at the swamps.
Read more: the 15 best hikes in the Algarve.
#2 Ilha da Barreta and Ilha de Culatra (15-60 minutes)
Though Faro is located on the Algarve coast, it doesn’t have its own beach. The nearest beach – the Praia da Faro – is on the Peninsula do Ancão, near the Ludo Trail in Ria Formosa. It takes 15 minutes to drive here from the Old Town of Faro, or 30 minutes by ferry. But if you’re looking for an even better beach option near Faro, take the boat to Ilha da Barreta or Ilha de Culatra!
The Ria Formosa lagoon south and east of Faro has many islands with beaches and visiting them is one of the fun things to do in Faro. There is a ferry connection to the island Ilha da Barreta from the Old Town of Faro. This island is also called Ilha Deserta because it is uninhabited and it’s mainly the beautiful beach that draws visitors. It is only a 15-minutes boat ride with the shuttle ferry, or you could take the slower ferry which takes about 45 minutes.
The island Ilha de Culatra is the only island near Faro with a small village. The expansive beach is the main reason to visit the island. A boardwalk of about one kilometer runs through the dunes along the beach. It’s a lovely stroll with views of the beautiful island and the beach. The island has a longer hiking trail as well, the 5.6-kilometer Ilha da Culatra Trail.
You can take the ferry directly from Faro Old Town to Ilha da Barreta, but the ferry to Ilha da Barreta departs from the nearby village Olhao. You could take a water taxi to any of these beach destinations, but they are a lot more expensive than the fairly cheap ferries. From Olhao, there are also boat tours to Culatra island exploring both the Ria Formosa nature and visiting the island and its beaches.
#3 A guided boat tour to Ria Formosa
The Ria Formosa is one of the most beautiful destinations in the Algarve to visit. You can explore it on foot on the Ludo Trail we already mentioned or enjoy the sandy beaches in the area. But this impressive lagoon is best explored from the water and there are many great tours from Faro to enjoy the Ria Formosa.
- Explore the Ria Formosa with a catamaran tour along the islands
- Book a sailing trip and sail for two hours on a private sailboat through the lagoon
- Go for an adventurous tour and make a kayak trip around the nature reserve
- Choose a birding tour on the segway to learn about the special birds in this area and to spot flamingos
- Learn more about the Ria Formosa nature during a guided bike tour
- Go for a boat trip to spot dolphins and maybe even whales and orcas
#4 The Pink Palace of Estoi (15 minutes)
The historic village of Estoi is located just north of Faro. As one of the most beautiful villages in the Algarve, it is well worth a visit when staying in Faro. Estoi has a direct bus connection with Faro and is only a 15-minute drive away.
Estoi is a picturesque village, known for its historic center with its medieval streets. In the heart of the Estoi Old Town is the historic and monumental Palácio do Visconde de Estoi. The beautiful palace is truelly remarkable, if only for its unique pink color. It was built at the end of the nineteenth century as a summer retreat for a wealthy Portuguese family. The family opted for a special combination of Neo-Baroque and the extravagant Rococo style, creating a palace that is unique in the Algarve and all of Portugal. Especially impressive are the extensive gardens and the panels with white-blue azulejos. The story goes that the Portuguese king was so impressed with the palace that he decided to give the owner a noble title.
You can’t visit the palace from inside, unless you are staying at the pousada it is nowadays. A pousada is a state-owned hotel in a unique and monumental building of historical significane, like this pink palace near Faro. You can only enjoy the extravagant rococo interior as a hotel guest, but the gardens are open to all visitors. So we highly recommend you to visit both the Old Town of Estoi and the lush gardens of its beautiful pink palace.
#5 The azulejos of the São Lourenço de Matos (15 minutes)
Portugal is famous for its white-blue azulejos tiles and close to Faro is one of the best azulejos buildings in southern Portugal. The Igreja de São Lourenço de Matos church is located just west of Faro, a short 15-minute drive from the Old Town.
The São Lourenço de Matos doesn’t look very special from the outside, though it is actually one of the most beautiful churches in the Algarve. If you wouldn’t know what’s inside, you would probably not make a stop to visit it. The white church is built on a hilltop in an otherwise insignificant village.
This apparently simple church is not that plain and normal on the inside. The seventeenth-century church is almost completely covered in azulejos, the blue-and-white tiles Portugal is famous for. The panels are dedicated to the life of Saint Laurentius – Sao Lawrence in Portuguese – the patron saint of this church. The Portuguese cover about every inch of the church, from walls to ceiling. The alter is one of the few parts of the church not covered in azulejos, but it isn’t modest or plain either. It is an extravagant golden artwork that will immedialely draw your attention when entering the church.
As few travelers know about this unique church in the Algarve, you usually get to enjoy this splender without any other visitors. The entrance costs a few euros. Unfortunately it is not allowed to take pictures.
#6 Tavira (30 minutes)
One of our favorite day trips from Faro is the castle town Tavira. This picturesque town is located between Faro and the Spanish border, so right in the middle of the Ria Formosa Nature Park. You can explore the old streets of Tavira and enjoy the beautiful beaches and nature in the area in one day, making this a great excursion from Faro.
The Old Town of Tavira is located on the west bank of the Rio Gilão that runs through the town. When strolling the old streets, you’ll pass historic monuments, charming squares and ancient excavations. Tavira dates back to Roman times and – even further back – the time of the Phoenicians from the present Middle East. You can still find the ancient traces of this history in the Old Town. The Ruínas Fenícias are located on an insignificant street, not far from the castle. The ruins date from the eighth century BC and will one day be turned into a museum, along with other Tavira ruins from Roman and Moorish times.
One of its most-visited sights is the castle, built high up on the hill. Or castle ruins actually. The oldest part of the castle that has been preserved dates from the eleventh century. Like almost all buildings in Portugal, the castle was badly damaged by the Lisbon earthquake in 1755. It fell into disrepair during the following decades but is now open for visitors. The old walls have been restored and give an idea of the size of the old castle. You can visit the castle for free and climb the castle walls for a beautiful view of the city.
As Tavira is located in the heart of the Ria Formosa, its islands, beaches and nature might be the most beautiful attraction of Tavira. Just in front of the coast is the island of Tavira – Ilha da Tavira – which is 11 kilometers long and has beautiful beaches. In high season, you can take the ferry from the Tavira Old Town. The rest of the year you can take the ferry from the harbor at the edge of town. The beach closest to the ferry at Tavira island is Praia de Tavira, one of the most popular beaches in the area.
There is one way to reach the island without using the ferry and it is one of the best ways to visit the Tavira island. The Barril Beach Trail is a short 1,5-kilometer walk from the parking lot and over the pedestrian bridge to the beach. You pass a beautiful part of the saltwater marshes and other landscapes, finishing at the sand dunes and a beautiful stretch of beach. Don’t miss the Cemitério das âncoras, the cemetery of anchors, which sits dramatically along the coastline here. It is a reminder of the fishing village that once lay here.
#7 Falésia Beach Trail (40 minutes)
The Falésia Beach Trail is one of the hidden gems of the Algarve. Only a few people know about this trail and it is hard to find any good information about it online. We discovered this 4-kilometer hike on Google Maps and it turned out to be one of our favorite hikes in the Algarve. It brings you to one of the best beaches of the area, Praia da Falésia, and leads you along one of the most beautiful stretches of the rocky Algarve coast.
As the Falésia Beach Trail runs along the coast along Praia da Falésia, it’s not really possible to get lost during this hike. It might be hard to find the exact starting and ending point though, so might want to check the hiking map before you start the walk. You walk from the starting point towards the coastal village of Vilamoura, while having the beach of Falésia on your right the whole time. At various places you can also descend from the rocks to the beach, so be sure to bring your swimsuit to take a dip in the sea.
The rocky coast of the Algarve is stunning, but it is mostly famous for its orange cliffs more the west than this trail. This Falésia Beach Trail is located in the area between those orange cliffs in the west and the Ria Formosa mudflat region in the east of the Algarve, so it shows you a different landscape than in other areas of the Algarve. You can see white and orange rock formations in beautiful shapes. It’s like some kind of beautiful moonscape. This trail is therefore definitely one that you do not want to miss on your Algarve trip.
#8 Carvoeiro and the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail (50 minutes)
Carvoeiro is home to some of the most beautiful rocky coast of the Algarve and is a popular beach destination in the south of Portugal. It is only a 50-minute drive away from Faro, so you can easily visit this beach town and enjoy one of the hikes in the area on a day trip.
The village of Carvoeiro is tiny and in our opinion not the most beautiful town in the Algarve – we prefer the picturesque and nearby village of Ferragudo much more. But Carvoeiro has the perfect location to explore the rocky coast and enjoy some beach time. The Trail of Headlands ends not far from Carvoeiro and the famous Seven Hanging Valleys Trail starts nearby as well. But Carvoeiro’s best attraction is the Carvoeiro Boardwalk. This mini walking path of only 600 meters is not about the wooden ‘boardwalks’ that run along the coast here, but about the spectacular vistas along the way. The wooden boardwalk leads along the most impressive cliffs of the Algarve. To get the best view of that coast, there are two places with stairs leading down the cliffs.
The second attraction of Carvoeiro is its secluded Praia de Carvoeiro beach, surrounded by rocky cliffs and restaurants. There are other great beaches close by as well like Praia do Paraisa and Praia de Vale dos Currais. Carvoeiro is also a great starting point for an excursion to the famous Benagil Caves, which can only be reached by water. A boat trip or canoe excursion is therefore the only way to see the caves, unless you are an extremely good swimmer and dare to swim from Praia de Benagil to the caves.
#9 Lagos (65 minutes)
Our favorite location in the Algarve is Lagos, which is our next recommendation for a great day trip from Faro. It was here that Portugal’s illustrious voyages of discovery began, launching the Golden Age of Portugal. The old town of Lagos, where you may wander through a maze of charming streets, reflects this rich history.
As Lagos is one of the oldest cities in the Algarve, it is full of historical monuments, old churches and the streets are paved with cobblestones. The Old Town is it most beautiful part of Lagos and one of the best places to visit in Lagos. Wandering the old streets should definitely be on your Lagos to-do list. A visit to the old town isn’t really about a specific monument or a well-known tourist attraction though. We just loved strolling down lively streets, admiring the beautiful street art and enjoying the picturesque architecture.
Lagos has a number of beaches within walking distance of the city center or a short drive away. The Praia da Batata is right in front of the city walls. Walk to Praia dos Estudantes, passing by a tunnel carved out of rock. The high bridge at this Praia dos Estudiantes beach is one of the most beautiful things to see in Lagos.
The famous icon of the Algarve is the Ponte da Piedade near Lagos. You simply can’t visit Lagos without seeing these rocks south of the city. This is a beautiful rock formation with golden yellow rocks that create lovely arches and pointed summits in an appealing blue sea. You may look down from the viewpoint, but going down the stairs gives you the best view of the Ponte da Piedade. One of the best hikes at Lagos is walking along the rocky coast from the village of Luz to the Ponte da Piedade and then on to the old town of Lagos.
#10 Seville in Spain (2 hours)
Seville is one of the best places to visit in Andalusia and it is only a 2-hour drive from Faro in Portugal. We can highly recommend you to cross the Spanish border and visit this bucket list destination in Spain. If you don’t have a rental car and want to travel by bus to Seville, a oneway trip will take about 3 hours. Bus tickets are usually quite expensive, so look into guided excursions as well, because they are often the same price or even cheaper.
Seville is a succession of alleys, city walls, flamenco theatres, arches, churches, squares, monuments, palaces and more churches. Where the sights of a city often concentrate around a cathedral, central square or castle, the splendor of Seville seems to never stop. The city has one of the largest historical centers in the world. From the Visigoths to the Romans to the Islamic Moors to the Christian monarchs, its long history is reflected in what you find here today. Especially the Islamic Moors have enriched Seville into the monumental city it still is today. The architecture of the Moors from North Africa was unprecedentedly refined, developed and large-scale.
One of the famous highlights of Seville is Real Alcázar de Sevilla, the royal palace with its lush gardens and stunning Moorish architecture. Right next to it is the Catedral de Santa María de la Sede. It is one of the largest churches in the world, as only St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Paul’s in London are bigger. The cathedral was once built as a mosque and the well-known Giralda Tower will probably remind you of an Islamic minaret.
Other Seville attractions you don’t want to miss on your day trip are the 160 meters wide Plaza de España with its stunning architecture and mosaics, the lively Jewish Quarter and the modern architecture of the Metropol Parasol with splendid views from the top. Make sure to start your day excursion as early as possible, because Seville can keep you entertained for many hours – or days.