Algarve

The Algarve

  • About The Algarve

    The Algarve offers all year round sun, amazing beaches and low prices. It's no surprise then that it has been the major tourist destination in Portugal since the 1960s. While many areas are highly developed there are still plenty of quiet beaches to investigate. Increasingly the area offers eco tourist options and plenty of upmarket resorts too, often with golf courses and private marinas attached. Inland there are also forested slopes of the Serra de Monchique and various hilltop retreats to explore.

  • Geography

    The Algarve includes five regions:

    The leeward coast or Barlavento

    Includes the sandy wildlife park Natural de Ria Formosa.

    The central coast

    From Faro to Portimao, includes the main beach, golf and clubbing resorts.

    The windward coast or Sotavento

    From Lagos to Sagres.

    The Costa Vicentina

    Facing west towards the Atlantic.

    The interior

    Hilly and green, including the 902m high Foija.

  • History

    The Algarve was populated by the Phoenicians and Romans and later Muslim settlers from North Africa. Nowadays it's a haven for sun seekers and surfers from all over the world.

  • Safety

    Swimmers should be aware of the dangerous currents around the west coast. Beaches are marked by coloured flags. Red means swimming is prohibited. Yellow allows wading only. Green means swimming is fine.

  • Did You Know?

    The Algarve's honeycomb chimneys, dating from Moorish times, are one of its unique architectural features.

  • Things To Do

    The Algarve offers great coastal and inland walks. Cycling is also popular with mountain bikes especially recommended. Sailing and deep sea fishing are available, especially off the central coast. Scuba diving and waterskiing equally can be arranged. Meanwhile inland river cruises across the Rio Arade or the Rio Guadiana are a pleasant option. The Algarve has more than a dozen equestrian centres usually found between Faro and Albufera. There are also many seaside golf courses in this area. The more luxury end hotels provide tennis courts.

  • Travel

    Getting There

    Most flights go to Faro, the capital of the region. Bus services depart from all Portugal's major towns to the Algarve. A tourist pass is available if you are planning to see the region via bus. From Lisbon there are several fast trains to Lagos and Faro. By car it is about five hours drive from Lisbon. Car rental is very competitive in the region and provides a good opportunity to explore the many picturesque inland areas. Mountain bikes and motorbikes can be rented out almost everywhere. Consider organised trips of the hilly regions inland, including jeep tours and off road excursions.

  • Places

    Faro

    Capital and main commercial and transport centre. It's also a very pleasant destination in its own right with plenty of sights in the historic centre. Includes a fine 13th Century cathedral and 16th Century Convento de Nossa Senhora da Assuncoa, now home to the town's archaeological museum. Other attractions include the interesting maritime museum in the harbour and the old Jewish cemetery. The main attraction for many though is the town's long beach, Praia de Faro.

    Olhia

    Algarve's biggest fishing port with a number of docks and canning factories. The town is well preserved and interesting with plenty of street life, fine and affordable fish restaurants and atmospheric waterfront views. As well as a market and a park the town offers some interesting architecture, including the Fishermen's district of uniquely shaped cubical houses set amidst cobbled lanes. In August there is a major seafood festival.

    Lagos

    Popular summer destination with a multitude of bustling bars, clubs and restaurants crammed into its narrow winding streets. This is also the place to be to visit some of the Algarve's most spectacular beaches. This major historic port of the Algarve was also the setting for Portugal's colonial expeditions. Most historic attractions are in the southern end including a quaint small church and the town museum. There is a popular gypsy market held on the morning of the first Saturday of every month.

    Parque Natural da Ria Formosa

    Lagoon system stretching for 60km along the Algarve coastline from west of Faro to Cacala Velha. The dunes and sandbars, marshland and small islands and streams are home to an amazing variety of migrating and nesting birds. There are also some amazing, quiet and picturesque beaches to unwind on. The park's headquarters are a few km from Olhia.

    Tavira

    Picturesque town 30km east of Faro resting on the Rio Gilao. Once a major trading and fishing port now its majestic houses and mansions, castle ruins and dozens of churches create a splendid vista and old worldly charm, enjoyed by tourists and the retired. Also includes a nice beach. There is a decent choice of bars and clubs although the emphasis is more on relaxation than partying.

    Loule

    One of the Algarve's biggest inland ports the main attractions here are its charming old town and Roman ruins. Only 16km west of Faro it's a popular destination due to its old world feel and weekly gypsy market on a Saturday. The restored castle ruins include a Traditional Algarve Kitchen display and a small archaeological museum featuring bronze and Roman age finds. A good time to visit is in February - March for the carnival season. Very lively with lots of parades, music and dance.

    Albufeira

    Pretty fishing village Albufeira now developed into a thriving party and beach resort with a wide variety of beaches, hotels, bars, clubs and restaurants. Popular beaches include Praia do Peneco (The Fishermen's Beach) where you will see the locals mending their boats and nets. A gypsy market selling clothes and shoes is held the first and third Tuesday of the month.

  • Key Facts

    • Place - Algarve, Portugal
    • Language - Portuguese
    • Currency - Euro
    • Time Zone - GMT
    • Religion - Roman Catholic