Oh the Algarve. Portugal’s south coast is often seen simply as a holiday destination for Europeans chasing sun. But for photographers, it’s one of the best places on the planet for landscape and seascape photography. There are so many photo locations in this region, in fact, that it’s almost impossible to narrow the list down to just eight. But in an effort to keep things simple, I’ll try. Here are the eight best photo locations in The Algarve.
Praia da Marinha
If there’s a “classic” photograph of the Algarve, it’s likely the of the arches at Praia da Marinha (Marinha Beach). In fact, many call them the “love arches” because if you photograph them from above at a clever angle you can use the foreground to make the scene look like a heart.
That said, most photographers head right down to the water to photograph the arches from the rocky shores. And, fun fact, this photo location isn’t actually Praia da Marinha, but Mosque Beach – which you access from the main beach.
It should be warned that the location where you can properly photograph the nice arches is only really accessible at low tide. To get there, you essentially head down to the beach and then walk to the end of the beach, scamper over some rocks – be careful, they are slippery – and then end up on patches of sand where you can photograph the arches.
Tips for Praia da Marinha
- Works for sunrise, sunset or astro.
- Might not be accessible except at low tide.
- Parking available
- Actual location is called Mosque Beach
- The rocks can be slippery, be careful.
- Snack bar available at the main beach.
Where to Stay
Carvoeiro is the nearest town. Lots of good hotels and guesthouses can be found here.
Castelejo Beach & Viewpoint
The west coast of the Atlantic is so full of amazing photo locations that sometimes there are a half dozen within a quick drive. One of our favourite places for photography in the Algarve is Castelejo Beach. And in reality there are actually two great locations for for photos here – one above the beach, and then the beach itself.
The beach is pretty beautiful location – not just for photography, but just to hang out in general. The thing to be wary of, though, is that in the summer the hot air of the Algarve colliding with the cold Atlantic can create some hazy skies. As such, it seems to work better as a sunrise location than sunset. Although either can work.
You can make photos on the beach at either high or low tide. However, at low tide there are better rocks to work with – if you’re the type of photographer who obsesses over the foreground of their photo.
Miradouro do Castelejo
Take note by the maps below that where you need to go for the viewpoint isn’t actually the same place as the beach. It’s about a 5 minute drive around the corner and up the hill from the beach. I should also note that this is a fantastic place to set up for the night in a camper van!
You can park right at the viewpoint, and there is basically no walk to get to the location where you can photograph the view. You’ll likely want a long lens here like a 70-200mm or 100-400mm to capture the details of this awesome locations.
Praia do Camilo
Honestly, it might be my favourite beach in the Algarve. But, I’m not alone in that feeling.
Praia do Camilo is so popular that in the summer months it can be packed by early morning. So, as a photographer if you’re wanting to get a photo of this spot without people, you also need to be an early bird.
The good news is that getting to this location really isn’t a challenge. If you’re staying in the old town of Lagos, you can walk to this photo spot in around 30 minutes. And, if you have wheels, you can drive here from town in 5-10 minutes depending where you’re based.
There are 2 fairly classic photos of Praia do Camilo. The first is basically from the parking lot looking down at the beach. The second is a wide angle photo from the boardwalk leading down to the beach below. If you’re a portrait photographer, there are also some beautiful images to be made from down on the beach itself.
Tips for Praia do Camilo
- Get here early. The beach fills mid-morning.
- Personally, I like mornings best. The rising sun lights up the beach beautifully.
- Bring a wide angle lens like a 16-35mm for wide shots like the one above.
- You might also want a 70-200mm telephoto to capture the details.
- There’s parking right at the top of the boardwalk. But, space is limited.
- For accommodation, Lagos has plenty of hotels, hostels and guesthouses.
- Don’t forget to swing by our cafe and gallery in Lagos for a coffee when you’re done!
This might be the most underrated photo location in the Algarve. It’s great! Despite the photo potential here I have never seen another photographer here. Sure, in the afternoon you’ll have the occasional tourist or local wandering up for a photo, but photographers just miss this spot for some reason – perhaps due to its proximity to the oft-neglected city of Portimao.
Ferragudo is a small town just outside the city built on the edge of the inlet. The waters in front of town – when calm enough – can lead to beautiful reflections. When they’re not calm, the scene is still pretty with the dozen, or so, fishing boats strung out in front.
Tips for Ferragudo
- Sunset is busier, but the light hits town. It seems to work better.
- Low or high tide can work.
- A mid length lens like a 24-70mm works best here.
- For accommodation, Portimao is right next door. But, you can find hotels and guesthouses in Ferragudo as well.
- The location is on a beach, there’s lots of room to work and lots of parking.
- You cannot park a camper van here. There are signs warning against it.
Igreja de Santa Maria de Lagos
You’re going to need to forgive me for never taking a great photo of the church in Lagos. But, despite living in Lagos, I just seem to always forget how beautiful a spot it is.
If you can get down low to the fountains in front of the cathedral you can get a really beautiful reflection photo. Personally, I think it’s best in the winter when the skies are much more impressive (side note: summer skies in the Algarve are almost always clear). Play with a long exposure on the reflection and I’m sure you’ll get a really beautiful image. The sunrise light hits the cathedral face in the morning and since it’s quieter that time of day, it’s likely the ideal time for a photo.
Join a Photo Walk in Lagos?
On demand, we offer afternoon photo walks in Lagos for visitors. Our tour starts in the old town of the city and then wanders out towards Praia do Camilo and Ponte de Piedade for sunset.
If you’d like to join us, give us a shout!
Igreja De Santa Maria De Lagos location
Praia da Arrifana
Back over on the west coast of the Algarve, this popular location is known for its surf. In fact, if you’re in the Algarve to learn how to surf, there’s a good chance you’re doing it here at Arrifana beach.
But photographers also thrive on this long narrow beach.
Obviously, if you’re into sport photography, there are some really cool images of surfers to be made here. There’s a beautiful sea stack that you can place in the background of your photos. Just take note that this is a bit of a beginner’s beach so many of the surfers you’ll see might not be perfect subjects.
If you’re a landscape photographer, there’s a lot to work with as well. I’d recommend you head down to the far side of the beach at low or mid tide. You’ll find some exposed rocks that you can use as a foreground for a photograph with the village in the background. If you wait until just after sunset, you’ll likely get the lights on town – unlike my image below.
Tips for Arrifana Beach
- Sunrise or Sunrise works.
- Check the surf ratings before going if you’re trying to photograph surfers.
- There is accommodation in Arrifana, but it can book up early. Check for prices here.
- Both Lagos and Sagres are about 40 minute drives.
- For surf photography, you’ll want 400mm. But, the surfers are close enough to the beach you can get good images with less lens.
- You cannot park down at the beach. You have to park up top and hike down.
- The hike down to the beach is fairly steep and takes 10 minutes; depending how far away you had to park.
This is my favourite photography location in the Algarve. There’s just something special about the Sao Vicente Lighthouse. The weather can be wild here. The cold air of the Atlantic smacks into the warm dry air of mainland Portugal and it can lead to chaos. You can get big swell hitting the shores, the winds can be gale force, and then literally 5 minutes to the east it’s calm and sunny. It’s absolutely wild.
The location itself is beautiful, but can be a bit of a challenge. Personally, I think there are 2 images taken from opposite cliff edges. If you’re looking at the lighthouse and head right, the cliffs to the side often have beautiful wild flowers that can make for nice foregrounds. Over to the left, the curve of the cliffs can make for beautiful leading lines.
Tips for Cabo sao Vicente Lighthouse
- Be careful! The cliffs are loose rock and a fall would be the end. Please, be careful.
- Sunset can be pretty heavily back lit – as the above image shows. It can also have wilder weather than sunrise. But either work.
- There is plenty of parking right at the lighthouse.
- The weather can be wild, and forecasting it is very tough. It can be beautiful in Sagres, and rainy and windy at the lighthouse.
- The city of Sagres is about a 10 minute drive. It’s turning into the hub of surfers in The Algarve. There’s plenty of accommodation. Check out some options here.
I said back when I talked about Praia da Marinha as the iconic photo spot in the Algarve, I somehow forgot about Benagil Cave. In fact, Benagil Cave is such an iconic location that it’s rare to find a tourism ad for the Algarve without seeing a picture from here. Even in the Algarve, you see billboard after billboard with the caves on them. Images from here are legitimately everywhere.
That said, getting here isn’t as easy as you might think. The first time I tried to visit the caves, I tossed the name in google maps and turned up. The map took me to a whole in the ground above the cave.
Of course, the only way to get to the caves is via the water. You can come on a boat tour, or you can head to Benagil beach and rent a kayak, stand up paddleboard, or even swim. As a photographer, I highly recommend the kayak option. And, bring a drybag for your camera gear in case you tip over.
Directions to Parking
Tips for Benagil Caves
- You can’t park right down at the beach anymore. You’ll have to park at the area linked in the map to the left and walk down.
- The caves are busy. Unless you go at exactly sunrise, you’ll almost definitely not be alone. I went at sunrise for the above image. Within 30 minutes of sunrise, there were 10 people heading into the cave.
- Astro is possible. But, try to time a receding tide for safety reasons.
- Only swim if you’re a very strong swimmer and have a life jacket.
- There is limited accommodation at Benegil. But, there are far more options in nearby Carvoeiro.
Can We Help?
We hope that this 2000+ word guide to the best photo spots in the Algarve has been helpful. But, if you’re looking for even more assistance please reach out. We offer both personalized and self-guided photography tours all over Portugal. Send us an email if we can help.