As one of the most popular vacation destinations in Europe, Algarve is blessed with a superb coastline and some of the country's loveliest beaches, and some of Portugal’s best golf courses. East, a string of sandbar islands and lagoons form part of a beautiful and protected natural park, and a distinctly Spanish atmosphere pervades the border towns and villages. Wilder and more remote, the west is the place to escape the crowds and where surfers seek communion with a restless Atlantic Ocean.
TOP 8 PLACES TO VISIT
As the largest city and capital of the Algarve, its international airport is the gateway for many tourists arriving in southern Portugal. Enclosed by sturdy defensive walls, Faro's Cidade Velha sits on Roman and Moorish foundations. During the 1755 earthquake the town was badly damaged, and the remains you see today is mostly from the 18th and 19th centuries. Warren cobblestone streets and leafy squares surround the landmark cathedral. At the museum you can see excellent exhibits of treasures unearthed in the area and further afield. At the small marina nearby the esplanade lies an expanse of lagoons and wetlands teeming with marine life. This beautiful natural park is also composed of numerous islets and enormous sandbars with their own fabulous beaches, including one named after the city.
Europe’s southwestern most continental community basks in glorious isolation. It is believe that in this least developed coastal resort, Prince Henry the Navigator (1394-1460) have established a school of navigation on a windswept promontory near the town, thus heralding Portugal's remarkable period of maritime exploration. Inside the 17th century walled Fortaleza, you'll see a giant pebble wind compass, the Rosa dos Ventos, said to have been used by Henry. You cn also visit the 15th century chapel of Nossa Senhora da Graca was build on Henry’s orders. The lighthouse serves as a navigational beacon not only for shipping but also for thousands of migrating birds. As Europe’s surfing capital it hosts legs of the World Surfing Championships.
As the liveliest resort and great historical significance, Prince Henry also launched Portugal's Age of Discovery from Lagos in the 15th century here. The medieval collection of castle walls, graceful churches, and stout sea defenses always captures the imagination of visitors, but it's the coastline that lures holidaymakers. Stunning run of cliffs, caves, grottoes, scenic beaches, spectacular ochre-splashed rock formations, sparkling azure waters, dolphin safaris, sightseeing cruises and extensive leisure amenities makes Lagos a must see!
The city enjoys an enviable location overlooking the banks of the River Arade. With an award-winning museum and a noted theater complex, the city is basking in its reputation as one of the region's liveliest cultural hubs. The fabulous artificial reef - the first in Portugal - is attracting diving enthusiasts from around the world. A modern marina set at the mouth of the estuary is within walking distance of one of the Algarve's most famous beaches, Praia da Rocha - a beautiful and alluring stretch of golden sand that fronts the lively tourist resort of the same name.
Silves is one of the most scenic towns in the Algarve, laying across a hill overlooking a fertile valley embroidered with orange groves, olive trees, and vineyards. The 11th century castle with its copper-red walls, sections of which extend into the town below was built by the Moors on Roman foundations is the grandest monument to Islamic rule in the region. You can visit the Museu Arqueológico, where the star exhibit is an impressive Arab water cistern with an 18-meter-deep well. Visitors can also visit the Se fortress built between 1242 and 1577 on the side of the Xelb’s Grand Mosque. Cruise boats from Portimão tie up here near the old bridge.
It is not only the most accessible resorts in the region but also the favorite. Set on sandstone cliffs above a wide sandy bay, the town of old was once a quiet fishing village with a cluster of whitewashed cottages, a chapel, and a church. The towns biggest crowd-puller is its beaches. Some of the best stretches of sand within walking distance of the resort, spectacular cliff-backed coves lapped by warm, shallow water.
With five championship golf courses, the town is a favorite with those who want to practice their swing or improve their handicap. The town is also synonymous with Portugal's largest marina facility, which offers 825 berths and can accommodate vessels up to 60 meters in length. This is a family-friendly destination with plenty of activities for kids.There is many water sport activities on offer as well as a18-hole mini-golf park with a Romanian theme. You can also visit the ruins of the 2nd century villa complex, Museu Cerro da Vila, complete with sunken baths, salt tanks, and striking mosaics.
The town is best known for its covered fruit and vegetable market, one of the busiest and most entertaining in the Algarve. The 19th century red-domed building has a sprawling collection of stalls, cabins and kiosks. In the 12th century the Moors built a thriving center of commerce and a castle on Roman foundations. Visitor can walk the ramparts for fine views over the old town, and there's a small museum set within the grounds. Arab influence is everywhere. You can also visit the ruins of an Islamic bathhouse, the hammam de Al-‘Ulya, the 16th century Capela Nossa Senhora da Conceicao, decorated with stunning azulejos tiles, and part of the floor reveals the foundations of a 12th-century Moorish house, and the Igreja Matriz de São Clemente, the church's lofty bell tower originally served as a minaret.
OTHER PLACES TO VISIT
The best way to get around in the Algarve is by car, other transport available is mountain bike hire, moped hire, scooter hire and motorcycle hire. You can also travel by taxi, bus and train.
July and August can be a bit of a nightmare what with the heat but if you’re based at a country farmhouse, complete with pool and shaded woodland, then long, hot summer days are yours to treasure. April - June is the best time to visit the Algarve if you’re planning on walking or cycling, whilst September and October still find temperatures at 18-20°C.