The Algarve had been on my mind for quite some time and when we decided to travel to Lisbon, I couldn’t miss the chance to explore the southern coast of Portugal. Let me take you on a journey through the Algarve in this post – see how we explored the region and find out what’s vegan in Algarve!
The charming coastline is dotted with beaches and coves surrounded by cliffs; I consider it one of the best in mainland Europe! Also, who doesn’t like 300 days of sunshine and a Mediterranean climate? Our favourite experience on this trip was kayaking to explore caves and the coast. We mainly cover Lagos and Faro, but also briefly cover some towns in between. Read about our itinerary below and find places to stay and eat at along the way!
|Things to do in Lagos|
|Where to eat in Lagos|
|Where to stay in Lagos|
|Carvoeiro and Albufeira|
|Things to do in Faro|
|Where to eat in Faro|
|Where to stay in Faro|
Table of Contents.
The weather in the Algarve was quite warm when we visited in October, right after the peak tourist season. Most businesses were open, it was still busy with tourists in some areas and there were a couple of 25 degrees days. It was perfect beach weather!
For us, the early autumn was the best season to visit, as I imagine it’s too hot and crowded during the summer. Euros is the currency used in Portugal and card payments are widely accepted. English is widely understood.
You only need a few days to explore this southern coast of Portugal. It’s ideal to stay over at a few different spots – we chose Lagos and Faro. Both towns have a completely different vibe, and we loved it.
2 days are enough in one place and at least 4-5 days overall are needed to explore the coast. Towns and places of interest (from west to east) are:
Sagres, Lagos, Portimão, Carvoeiro, Carvalho, Benagil, Albufeira, Faro
How to get from Lisbon to the Algarve
If like us, you arrived in Portugal at the capital of Lisbon, then you can continue your journey to the Algarve either by bus or by train. We chose bus as it was convenient to find and book online via FlixBus. Trains don’t go as often, may require a transfer and are a tad bit more expensive. The bus route takes about 3 hours 45 minutes (Lisbon Oriente to Lagos bus station) and cost about 22 euros roundtrip per person. The journey was long but smooth and you can enjoy Portugal countryside views with vineyards and valleys.
Exploring the coast is convenient if you rent a car. We picked ours from Marina Rent-a-Car, near the bus station in Lagos. They have good reviews on google maps. We had no issues with the service, booking the car in advance is very straightforward – you contact them via email and they reserve a car for your dates. Payment is done upon pickup – very affordable prices (it cost us 70 euros for 3 days without full insurance).
The main highways have tolls, so to avoid extra costs, use navigation to notify you if a route has tolls. Select the alternative coastal route which might be a tad bit slower, but still a nice route (especially if you want to explore the beaches).
Vegan in the Algarve – is the Algarve vegan friendly?
The Algarve is extremely vegan friendly, considering how many veggie restaurants there are and how many places have marked vegan options. We really didn’t expect finding all this food in touristy quaint beach towns, but we ate really well! Lagos, our starting point, was a huge surprise, as you’ll see.
Exploring Lagos, Algarve
Lagos is a beautiful sunny beach town in the western part of Algarve and I’m happy to have discovered this place! It’s very much a tourist-oriented town, so I would say there isn’t a big local vibe to it, but it was still a fun place to explore. Old Lagos is the main area of interest and Lagos isn’t really a huge town outside of that. It’s very walkable too. Good Times Lagos free map is very useful as it marks all the sightseeing spots, beaches and best restaurants (marks ones with vegan options) so we didn’t really need Google! You may find it at your hotel or a tourist info point. Or just save this blog post for your travels ; )
Things to do in Lagos
1- Lagos Old Town
The main sightseeing area in Lagos is the Old Town, and you should most definitely also stay here! Quaint, relaxed and romantic vibes, historic churches, cobblestone streets, cafes and shops – is what the old town is about. There’s also dance and music happening in the town square on most nights!
2- Beaches – Praia do Camilo, Dona Ana
Some of the most beautiful beaches of Europe are only a stone’s throw away from Lagos old town. Praia do Pinhão is nearest to town. You can walk or drive up to Praia do Camilo and Dona Ana – the prettiest ones! Ponta da Piedade beach is a bit more of a hike and a steep path down to a hidden beach. Duna/ Meia Praia is a long sandy strip of beach that can be found on the other side of Lagos Marina.
3- Kayaking Cave Tour
On our first full day in Lagos, it was sunny and warm, perfect for a sea adventure. We found Days of Adventure kiosk by the marina and the guide talked us into taking the next kayak trip, which we were very much happy about in the end.
The tour lasts about 2 hours and costs 35€ per person. It was smooth and enjoyable for all ages. The guides were enthusiastic, friendly and explained to us details of the caves and coast. Board a boat with the kayaks that takes you towards Ponta da Piedade, where we begin kayaking to explore the ‘grottos’ (the sea caves of the region) with a guided group. After, there’s time to relax, swim and dive from the boat. All in all, a very fun activity!
They also have a grottos boat tour, SUP tour, speedboat to Benagil cave (I suggest you do this from someplace nearer to Benagil). The kayak tour is most popular and you can book it online here: daysofadventure
4- Boat and Adventure Tours
Consider boat tours or even dolphin watching tours, scuba diving, snorkelling or surfing.. whatever adventure floats your boat! The beautiful Lagos coast has the opportunity for it all. Just make sure it’s an ethical tour that respects the sea life around. It’s a great way to also view the coast and beaches – we saw most popular caves and beaches on our kayak tour. Some reputable tours to check out are as follows:
- Bom Dia Boat Trips offers several boating experiences;
- Sealife Dolphin Watching tours with a marine biologist;
- Blue Fleet boat trips & tours
5- Fortress and hike to Ponta da Piedade
Visit the landmark of Lagos Fortress (Ponta da Bandeira Fort) on the seafront. It was built in the 17th century to protect the town from pirates and is still well-preserved. From here, it’s a 3 kilometre hike via boardwalks and small cliff trail to a viewpoint over Ponta da Piedade. We visited it during our kayaking tour but it’s a great hike to do, especially for sunset!
6- Sagres day trip
For more adventures, you can extend your travels to the tip of the mainland – at Sagres and Lighthouse of Cabo de São Vicente. We so wanted to, but couldn’t fit it all in this time. You can easily drive down, it only takes about 40 minutes from Lagos. Or take a guided tour like these via GetYouGuide*
Where to eat in Lagos
Below I mention all the spots we came across that have good vegan food in Lagos. Although there were no fully vegan restaurants, you’ll be surprised to find many places with vegan options! You can find touristy spots serving up ‘paelha de legumes’ (vegetable paella) for 16,50 euros. Lagos is also literal heaven for breakfast and brunch options. A lot of restaurants have the siesta hours and close off season, so please check their opening times on their pages before you visit.
Breakfast & Brunch:
Mercearia Bio Café – this shop & café near the bus station quickly became our go-to spot in Lagos. It was the first place we walked into when we arrived and saw ‘vegan cake’ on the display board (who can resist?).
The organic shop and bakery sells desserts and snacks with different vegan choices everyday and also veggies, fruit and some vegan wines. The vegan empanadas are a must! I lost count of how many we had, also to take away sometimes. Note: you can also find vegan empanadas at Empanadas & Co. in Lagos.
Sweet Home – we came across this little café on a morning walk and decided to drop in for breakfast. There’s marked vegan options on the menu and the woman running it speaks English. We just got oatmeal and a sandwich for breakfast, even though the vegan treats were tempting.
Coffee & Waves – this was a trendy expensive ‘surf’ themed café that had brunch options, like avo toast and peanut butter banana toast. They mainly use fresh, organic and local ingredients, which is why it’s pricey. The PB toast wasn’t filling enough so I ordered a smoothie as well which was delicious. They do have good coffee and natural wines served here.
All Things Dough – small bakery with vegan pastries and coffee.
Sunrays Kitchen – this place looks trendy as well and has lots of vegan food, worth a try!
Goji Lounge Café – several vegan options incl. pancakes!
Abigail’s Café – a veggie spot where you can find smoothies, avo toast and falafel for brunch!
Artesão – another place with vegan options incl. pancakes, near Lagos train station.
O Ninho – a café for families with kids play area, offers vegan options.
London Tiger Coffee – spot for great coffee and small vegan bites!
Lunch & Dinner:
Estudio Vegeteriano – For our first dinner, we checked out a vegetarian restaurant in the old town of Lagos. It’s a happening space with a lovely menu (almost all dishes vegan). The shakshuka was a great choice – it included fried tempeh, rice and was topped with ‘vegan egg’! The prices are above average. We felt it was worth it – the food and service was excellent. Open on weekday evenings and accept only cash.
Beats & Burritos – Mexican food with build-your-own burritos, tacos or bowls menu! They accept only cash, and the service was slow. It gets kind of expensive with all the add-on options. For our tacos, we added vegan mozzarella and meatless meat which cost 1.5 and 3 euros respectively. The vegan halloumi sticks (6€) we ordered for starters were a bit soggy and underwhelming. Plus points for having a huge vegan choice.. they also have vegan baileys.
Illicit Burgers – an evening dining spot that changes to ‘Pom Pom Bagels‘ in the morning (there’s vegan bagels). The sad part about this place is that there’s a possibility to convert every burger to a ‘vegetarian’ one by replacing the patty but the brioche bun they use isn’t vegan. So after all, there’s just 1 vegan burger ‘The Halo’, for which they use a bagel bun. However, it’s a pretty great burger. We ordered the ‘My Girlfriend’s Not Hungry’ combo of large fries and onion rings (so J didn’t complain about me stealing all the fries he orders).
The Curry Leaf – Indian restaurant with a vegan section on menu, with stuff like tofu tikka masala, aloo palak, chole etc. If you love Indian food, it might be worth a visit!
Dragon Restaurant – They have a few vegan options if you’re looking for sushi in Lagos.
Where to stay in Lagos
We stayed 2 nights at Lagosmar, a basic 2-star hotel in Old Lagos. Standard Double room (without breakfast) – I would only recommend this if you’re looking to save some $ while wanting a private hotel room in Lagos. I felt the room was neat but a bit small and dated. There were no problems and the reception staff was friendly. Plus they have a nice rooftop balcony guests can access at any time. We paid upon check-in.
Budget – Lagosmar Hotel (7.9 on booking.com)
3 star – Lagos Uptown – a bed & breakfast with lovely sea view rooms (9.4)
4 star – Lagos Avenida Hotel – rooftop pool and view to the marina, central location (9.0)
Apartments – NAU Salema Beach Village – if you don’t mind staying a bit outside town, this is a lovely beach resort with holiday villas in Salema! (9.1)
Retreat – Casa Vale da Lama Eco Resort – countryside eco friendly resort with veggie dinning!
Exploring Carvoeiro and Albufeira
We started our drive from Lagos to Faro early in the morning which gave us plenty of time to make some stops in between. Portimão is a small town a short drive away from Lagos, we just passed by without stopping here but if you’re looking for a bite, Balance Cafe serves some vegan food! There’s also a vegetarian Indian restaurant in town, Cozinha de Sónia.
Our main aim was to explore some of the best beaches along the coast, so here I mention the important sights and where to eat between Carvoeiro and Albufeira – the main coastal towns in central Algarve.
Things to Do
Beaches: You must make your first stop the scenic beach Praia de Carvoeiro, surrounded by cliffs and town. Praia do Carvalho is a another beautiful cove and beach with tunnels and through a cliff to access beach. In Carvoeiro, you can hike along cliff trails and there are several scenic viewpoints on the way. Algar Seco is one such spot with good views.
Wine tour: I may not have mentioned it before, but Portugal and Algarve is the land that produces some fine wines, a ton of them naturally vegan, so do look out for a vineyard tour. I’d suggest Adega do Contor vineyards near Albufeira, you can book a guided tour including wine tasting!
Benagil Cave: probably the most popular sightseeing spot in the entire Algarve is this large sea cave with a sandy beach inside! Our epic fail was that we were unsure how to get there and later found that a boat or SUP tour was the only way to get in. We ended up at the beach that goes by the same name and Benagil cave is actually just around the corner. We hiked up to view the top opening of the cave.
I suggest not missing visiting Benagil cave (many tours give you time to spend inside), although do feel it’s over-hyped by instagrammers. Go early morning to avoid crowds. Swimming to the cave is not recommended due the amount of boat traffic, and danger of rocky surfaces. You can rent kayaks/SUP or book a boat tour at any of the kiosks nearby. It typically costs about 20-30€ per person.
- Benagil Sea Cave Sunrise or Sunset Kayak tour* – check out this 1-hour guided kayak tour option!
Where to Eat
Earth Shop & Café in Carvoeiro – a perfect spot for some vegan cake and wines. We made a stop near by to check out the beach but dropped in here for a coffee and found that they had vegan chocolate cake! You get a big slice for just 4€. It was heavenly and the view was beautiful. They also had vegan berry crumble and a pistachio praline.
Mani’s Pizza & Café – we were really looking forward to stopping by this Nepalese restaurant in Albufeira for lunch, after reading good reviews and vegan choices. But siesta time forced us to go look for food elsewhere and we dined at ‘Made in India’ restaurant instead (there are many Indian restaurants in this area but sadly none very vegan-friendly).
Veggie Momi – a little homely café offering simple vegan food and desserts!
Veggie Café – a vegan café serving up whole food bowls type food!
Alfarroba Café – a vegan restaurant in Albufeira offering organic, local and seasonal ingredients.
We did not stay over at Carvoeiro or Albufeira, as we went ahead to Faro, but I mention a couple of places here in case you’d like to know:
- OXALA Algarve Wellness Retreat – provides mindfulness, yoga and surf retreats in boutique accommodation with vegan catering option in Guia, Albufeira.
- Tivoli Carvoeiro* – 5 star hotel in Carvoeiro, cliffside, overlooking Vale Covo
- Find and book accommodation in Albufeira: Algarve Hotels & Retreats on Booking.com*
Exploring Faro, Algarve
Faro is a major town on the eastern part of the Algarve. It has the only international airport of the region. As we drove in, we were surprised to see that’s it’s a full blown city! Yes, Faro turned out to be a party city, with an old town, surrounded by nature and beautiful sandy beaches. It was thus a great end point to our Algarve trip. Don’t forget to spot the majestic white stork nesting atop the churches – read about them: The White Storks.
Things to do in Faro
1- Ludo Hiking Trail
Nature lovers, start your day here! This is a fairly easy hike along a straight path through a natural reserve. Ludo trail comes under Ria Formosa natural park, which spans over the marshlands and birdwatching zone up to Ilha Deserta. The trail starts at this point right near where the airport runway ends and you can find a free car parking adjacent to it. The hike is about 3 kilometres straight up to the bird observation point (in pic).
It does get pretty hot in October, so take shade and lots of drinking water with you! You will see plenty of birds around and salt marshes. The only sad part about all this was how close the airport was to this nature reserve – I was worried about how disturbing this is to the birds – there were planes flying constantly, right over head and low. This is why I don’t suggest arriving to Faro by plane.
Faro is known for it’s tidal lagoons, islands and marshes, that are areas of ecological importance. Over hundreds of bird species are found here including spoonbills, flamingos, the white stork, waders, great crested grebe, kingfisher, common coots etc.
2- Faro beach (Praia de Faro)
This long white sand beach is accessible from Faro by road and here we spent half a day in the sun and dipping in the warm ocean. There are restaurants and beach bars and you need to pay to use sunbeds.
3- Ilha Deserta ‘Desert beach’
A must do adventure when in Faro! Visit the romantic ‘Desert Beach’ and lagoon island – this spot is accessible only by boat. Ferries leave from Faro marina every half hour or so during the day and return the same way – it takes about 20 minutes to get there. We took the boat at 2 PM and spent a couple of hours on the island (enough for a short hike on the duckboards and relaxing on the beach). It cost 10€ return per person.
Seahorses can be seen in these waters, but they are very rare; unfortunately 90% of their population reduced due to fishing and habitat destruction. If you’re lucky, you may spot the chameleon of Algarve! Once on the island ‘Ilha da Barreta’, you can hike either direction on the duckboards towards the beach.
This long sandy beach counts as the southernmost beach in Portugal! It’s beautiful – clear blue waters and warm clean sand! Short clip of our experience here.
4- Old Town of Faro
Again, as in Lagos, the ‘old town’ area is the main centre of the city and the place to sightsee. You can find all the restaurants mentioned below here and also lovely places to stay. Faro old town comprises of narrow stone alleys, old churches, and also is a hotspot for nightlife! There was a party atmosphere every night with youngsters coming into the old town to party.
Where to eat in Faro
Breakfast & Brunch:
Vegan Box – this was our favourite spot in Faro! It’s a small cute family run café in one street corner of Faro old town. The best part – they offer local Portuguese baked goods, veganized! Our first Pastel de Nata, and it was scrumptious. They also had lunch bowls and burgers for about 8-9€.
Papaya – health salads and smoothies, with a couple of vegan choices. Come here for a light meal. We got the fruit salad and a hummus sandwich, which was tasty but too pricey for a simple dish.
Starbucks and Pans & co Forum Algarve – after some shopping at this nice mall in Faro city, we looked about for some food. At first we found a vegan sandwich along with coffee at Starbucks, which was pretty good! Later, we luckily spotted a vegan menu section at Pans & co. The Heura sub with guac was simply superb. We went back to eat here on another occasion.
Lunch & Dinner:
Outro Lado – a fancy plant based restaurant serving up local veganised delicacies! This place is a must when in Faro. They have a selection of wines from different regions of Portugal. It’s an intimate yet bright and lively space in Faro, perfect for date night. They don’t mention vegan around but they are in fact, fully vegan! We saw a couple come in and upon realising the menu is fully vegan, they decided to leave. Their loss, we say! Imagine missing all this lovely food just because you can’t have one meal without an animal product.
As you can see, we had the Algarve ‘fish’ stew, which was wholesome and the Portuguese dish ‘Francesinha’, which is like a layered bread in soup – this dish created in the 1950s, is unfortunately full of animal products but here we can try a vegan one.
True Food – located in a quiet alleyway with outdoor seating, this restaurant focuses on healthy and gluten-free dishes. It was thus a tad bit expensive. Mainly vegan food on menu but a few non vegan options. We ordered the pizza and ravioli, which was delicious. The dessert acai was recommended by staff. All this plus a local beer cost us about 30€.
daTerra Faro – vegan buffet style restaurant with affordable food and also vegan desserts.
Vida Leve Vegetariano – another veg restaurant with homely meals and buffet style food.
Alcachofra Cafe – a lunch spot just outside old town centre with amazing wholesome vegan food.
Where to stay in Faro
We stayed 3 nights in Faro and choose a budget twin room type accommodation (170 euros total for 2 persons). We found a stay called ‘1977’. Good reviews, clean and neat place with a friendly host named Claudia. It turned out just like in the photos and it was incredibly clean while we were there. The private room with minimal Ikea furnishings was spacious, with necessary facilities. There’s a shared kitchen area and bathroom on the same floor.
- A Casa D’Amelie – bright lovely chic apartments in centre of Old Faro. (9.7)
- 3HB Faro – luxury hotel with rooftop pool also located in Old Faro. (9.5)
- Hotel Faro & Beach Club – typical mid-range contemporary hotel, located by the marina. (8.3)
Vegan in the Algarve
I hope I covered a lot of the travel related topics in this blog. I’ve also created a map/list of all the sightseeing and food spots mentioned in this post + more recommendations!
Are you planning on visiting the Algarve? Let me know in comments! We absolutely loved this trip and would definitely go again.
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Last updated on October 2nd, 2023