Beyond the lively resort towns dotted with picturesque beaches that the Algarve region of Portugal is renowned for, there lies a quieter, less-trodden part of this coastal destination. For travel photographers seeking to find locales off the typical tourist track, the Algarve offers a trove of potential. Peaceful mountain enclaves, sweeping coastal outlooks and architectural highlights that tell a story – this is the Algarve less travelled.
One of the top reasons travellers flock to the Algarve is to experience the region’s stunning collision of land and sea. Beyond the sandy beaches and brightly coloured fishing boats that Instagram is saturated with, remote coastal outlooks provide photogenic backdrops lacking crowds that are perfect for photographing.
First on the list of dramatic seaside spots is Praia do Beliche, hugging the western Algarve coast close to Sagres. Being off-the-beaten track, you’ll find less selfie sticks when photographing a beachscape framed by weathered cliffs stacked high overhead. Sunset is the perfect time to capture the sun dipping into the sea behind the uniquely shaped natural rock formations in shades of gold and crimson.
Equally jaw-dropping is Ponta de Piedade, a series of coral-hued rock cliffs concealing sea caves and arches etched out by the turbulent waves – low tide exposes tide pools and endlessly photogenic layers of stone. The variety of elevations and angles available here will have any travel photographer happily snapping away for hours as the lighting dances upon the ridged shoreline.
Culture and People
The Algarve’s rich culture is encapsulated in the everyday sights and sounds you experience in any photogenic part of Portugal. Taking pictures of locals as they go about daily routines and long-held traditions offers a candid insight into what makes the region so special through powerful imagery and cultural storytelling.
Beyond the sweeping landscapes and architectural marvels, the spirit and integrity of the Algarve shines through in its people. Photographing locals as they carry out jobs and traditions offers insight into the human elements profoundly shaping regional identity. More compelling than beaches and attractions, these scenes of fishermen, farmers and market sellers, and multi-generational interactions are visual windows into the culture that makes the Algarve so special.
Away from the shoreline, the Algarve contains enchanting villages tucked into the rolling hillsides that provide a window into traditional life. The laidback tempo, ornate tiles and ageing architectural details found here make for striking photographs if you’re planning a trip to Europe.
Positioned high among the mountains of Monchique, Alte is brimming with rustic visual appeal. Its houses are painted in sunny shades of yellow and pink, with patterned chimneys rising from their terracotta rooftops. Especially eye-catching is Alte’s church, with its blue and white ceramic tiled facade contrasting beautifully with the worn wooden double doors. Frame shots to include the church towers peeking between the ageing stone buildings for added depth.
For something more understated yet equally charming, the village of Salir do Porto near Loulé invites photographers to zoom in on sun-faded homes, verdant orchards and farmers tending to their animals and crops. These rustic scenes are all set before craggy hills rolling off into the distance. Showcasing cultural customs and timeless gems of rural life, Salir provides access to a visually impactful side of the Algarve often missed along its tourist-heavy coastline.
Beyond the coast, the interior of the Algarve boasts lush mountain ranges and undulating hills blanketed in lush vegetation, delivering huge rewards for landscape photographers. In the mountain village of Monchique, shoot the stunning vistas its height provides of the surrounding slopes thick with oak, pine and eucalyptus trees.
Capture panoramas of the peaks and valleys or find an interesting foreground like mossy boulders or a gnarled tree to frame the ridges rolling off along the horizon. For a unique perspective, head out before dawn to lens the clouds awash in colour as day breaks over the Serra de Monchique range.
Equally epic overhead sightlines can be captured from Cerro do Cabeço, the highest point in the Vicentine Coast Natural Park. Requiring a healthy uphill hike, photographers who make the effort will be greeted by a stone cross marking the summit where 360-degree rural views unfold. Set up to snap the rippling hills blanketed in yellow wildflowers come springtime, or the vibrant patches of green vegetation and red cliffs contrasting with the azure waters along shoreline in the distance.
Offering commanding vistas perfect for dramatic landscape shots, Monchique and Cerro de Cabeço encapsulate the inland portion of Algarve that visitors aiming only for the beaches would miss out on. The lush fields rolling to meet an unspoiled horizon convey through imagery and composition what words struggle to describe – the majestic beauty of Portugal’s southernmost region.
Far from the countryside, remnants of the Algarve’s complex history await to be photographed for their intricate details and imposing presence conveying stories through imagery. In Faro, capital of the Algarve region, photographers can snap the ornate Gothic exterior of its impressive 13th century cathedral overlooking the quaint downtown – shoot upward while marvelling at the imposing stone bell towers and buttresses.
For photographs depicting relics echoing the Algarve’s interesting past, head to Faro Cathedral with its stunning details. A visit here is sure to impress architectural buffs and historians alike as well as Castro Marim’s Fortress by the riverside. Sunset is the time to capture the sun dipping into the sea behind the uniquely shaped natural rock formations in shades of gold and crimson. Instead, arrive first thing for a chance to experience this area without the crowds.
Beyond the lively resort towns and sun-soaked beaches the Algarve is so renowned for, a bounty of photogenic places awaits off the beaten tourist track. It’s an area that begs to be explored by photographers seeking to capture Portugal’s southernmost region from new perspectives. With so many photogenic spots waiting to be discovered, a photographer could spend weeks here and still only scratch the surface of all this region has to offer through the camera lens.