Three active adventures in Portimão, Portugal's sun-drenched coastal city

Golden sands and year-round sunshine bless the Portuguese city of Portimão, where adventure awaits around every corner.

The picture-perfect city of Portimão combines metropolitan vibrancy with laid-back coastal serenity.

Photograph by Getty Images
By Audrey Gillan
Published 31 May 2022, 12:00 BST

With five miles of some of the Algarve’s most beautiful beaches on its doorstep and 300 days of sunshine a year, the picture-perfect city of Portimão combines metropolitan vibrancy –fabulous shopping, cafes, restaurants and nightlife – with laid-back coastal serenity. Along its palm-fringed waterfront promenade, historical sites bathe in the smell of sizzling sardines, skins bubbled and crusty with salt, served up at one of the many seafront restaurants. Head further out of town and you’ll find four 18-hole golf courses, whose lush greens and spectacular views have led Portimão to be coined the home of Portuguese golf.

Portimão has carved out a position as one of Europe’s most reliable summer destinations, but there’s much more to this city than world-class beaches and sprawling golf courses. Thrilling adventures on land, in the air and under the sea await visitors to its golden shores. 

Take in spectacular views of the area as you soar from 15,000ft at Portimão's skydive drop zone.

Photograph by Visit Portimão

Go skydiving

Experience Portimão from a whole new perspective, taking in the city, the coastline and the spectacular natural landscapes as you soar from 15,000ft in one of the most spectacular skydive drop zones in Europe. Fly solo or in tandem (harnessed to an instructor) in a seriously breathtaking experience. It’s an adrenaline rush like no other as you free fall at terminal velocity for around 60 seconds, before releasing your parachute and soaking up the views as you float gently down to land on a sandy beach.

Alternatively: With a reliable north wind and a breeze that drifts across the estuary, the Portimão area is a kitesurfing haven. Alvor in particular — with its sweeping beach and flatwater lagoon — was Portugal’s first kitesurfing playground and regularly hosts the kitesurf world championships. Protected from offshore winds, its warm, clear waters provide the perfect place to dip a toe into the sport.

The Ocean Revival Underwater Park is one of the best wreck diving spots in Europe, giving divers a unique view of Portimão's nautical past.

Photograph by Visit Portimão

Go wreck diving

Four Portuguese Navy warships await you at the Ocean Revival Underwater Park, one of Europe’s best wreck diving spots. The ships — Zambeze, Oliveira e Carmo, Hermenegildo Capelo and Almeida Carvalho, together representing an armada — were sunk back in 2012, sent one by one to the ocean floor at a depth of 15 metres. They now form part of the world’s largest single artificial reef structure, created to ensure ideal conditions for the proliferation of marine life as well as fantastic diving. The site is free to access for those with a diving qualification and the ships have been cleared of any environmentally hazardous materials and potential diving dangers. The result is a fantastic introduction to wreck diving for divers of all abilities. Well-defined routes across the park range from simple swims to more technical challenges for those with greater experience. With largely calm conditions and a water temperature between 14 and 24 degrees Celsius year-round, there’s no better place to experience Portimão beneath the waves.

Alternatively: Exposed to the Atlantic Ocean on both the south and west coasts, the Algarve enjoys a highly reliable surfing scene, with decent waves practically guaranteed all year long and plenty of top-quality surfing schools to help newbies find their feet.

With the capacity to seat 80,000 spectators, the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve promises high adrenaline at every turn.

Photograph by Alamy

Hit the racetrack

The Autódromo Internacional do Algarve — more commonly known as the Portimão circuit — is one of the best racetracks in the world, with the capacity to seat a staggering 80,000 spectators. Described by seven-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton as “massively challenging”, the track offers an exhilarating journey through blind corners, high-speed straights and incredible undulations. Thrills are a given here, with the circuit having hosted both the Portuguese Grand Prix and the Moto GP in recent years. It's not purely the playground of professional drivers though – visitors to Portimão can also experience the circuit for themselves thanks to specially designed track days. With 32 different track configurations, drivers can choose between faster, more challenging routes or slower, technical drives in sports cars such as the Porsche Cayman S, Audi RS3 or Audi TTS.

The Algarve Motor Park also features the biggest go-karting track in Portugal (5,000ft long and 26ft wide), the Kartódromo Internacional do Algarve (KIA). The track hosts top level Karting and Supermoto races, and, with more than 50 go-karts in a range of categories available to hire, it’s also a must-visit spot for thrill-seekers with a need for speed.

Alternatively: Leave the planning to the pros on a jeep safari with Portitours. These unique excursions head off the beaten track, combining adventure with history, nature and gastronomy.

Plan your trip

Fly to Faro International Airport, just 45 minutes from Portimão, or arrive by boat to the Marina de Portimão.

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