The best beaches in Europe? The award goes to…the Algarve, on the sunny south coast of Portugal. This is the seventh time (six years in a row) that the World Travel Awards has recognised the quality and variety of the region’s beautiful beaches.  

If you are thinking Albufeira, you might not entirely agree; the more touristy mid-coast area of the Algarve tends to be associated with golf courses, high-rise hotels and wall-to-wall Brits on holiday. But there’s 155 kms of coast to choose from, stretching from Sagres at the south-west tip of Portugal to Vila Real de Santo Antonio, right on the border with Spain. Both have splendid beaches, but you don’t have to travel that far: Praia da Faro’s 5kms of sandy beach is only five minutes from the airport (a beauty, despite a background of noisy jet engines). Olhoa is only 15 minutes from the airport (from here you can get a ferry to the gorgeous beaches on the Ilha da Culatra). In less than an hour, you can be in Cacela Velha (surfing, fishing, history and Instagram perfection in the Ria Formosa National Park). Even in the most crowded areas of the Algarve, the beaches themselves are first class: the rocky end of Praia de Rocha, for example, is worth a visit. 

Most of our photos were taken during off-season visits. We were there this time last year. Happy days. Sigh.  

Photos: From the fort at Cacela Velha (top left), the beach at Vila Real de Santo Antonio (top middle), Praia da Faro (top right), Praia de Rocha (above – with Dave) and Ilha da Faro (main pic – courtesy of Visit Algarve Portugal. visitalgarve.pt

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