The Algarve in Southern Portugal is a region renowned for its mild and sunny climate and its miles of glorious sandy beaches sheltered by stunning redstone cliffs and sculpted rock formations along the warm and inviting Atlantic seas. The countryside is dotted with white Moorish villages, orange groves, and wild flowers. February sees the start of spring and it is still warm into October, making it a good year-round destination.
The central stretch of the Algarve coast is very built up, but head east of Faro and you will find deserted lagoons. To the west lie the coasts of Cabo de Sao Vicenta and Vicentina, almost untouched by the hand of tourism. This beautiful, rugged and wild area has been declared a National Park. According to Greek legend, this is where the Gods used to come at night to relax from their work and travels! Inland, the countryside is also largely unspoilt, with traditional villages, and green and fertile plains dotted with orange groves and fig and almond orchards.
There are many picturesque towns and villages to discover in the Algarve. The area is a good base for exploring the best of the picturesque villages. The town of Tavira, just east of Faro, has an atmosphere of faded elegance and palm trees, and straddles the River Gilao. It has charming old-fashioned coffee houses and a wonderful mixture of grand and crumbling mansions located along its maze of old streets. A visit to the castle on the hillside to enjoy the view is recommended.
Faro is the capital of the Algarve and is an attractive town with many interesting ruins from the Roman and Moorish periods as well as some beautiful 18th century buildings. The city has a wealth of restaurants, cafés, bars, and clubs, as well as excellent shopping, and the islands in the lagoon are reached by an enjoyable ferry trip.
Albufeira is further west and the drive here from Faro passes many wonderful beaches and plenty of family-oriented activities such as waterparks. Most of the popular beaches offer facilities for water sports such as windsurfing, sailing and diving, to name just a few.
One of the great draws of the Algarve is its fabulous golf courses, and there are over 20 of them along the south coast. A visit to the Algarve provides the best of both worlds, quiet and peaceful remote areas, as well as the more developed regions with excellent tourist facilities.
A drive to the Vicentina Coast offers a stunning array of beautiful wide and sandy beaches, and even in high season it is possible to find some deserted ones. This area was declared a National Park two years ago, and is home to some endangered species such as lynx, herons, and ospreys. The most westerly point in Europe, the Cabo de Sao Vicenta, with the promontory of Sagres, is an interesting place to visit as it was the site of Prince Henry's School of Navigation. From here the Portuguese explorers sailed on their epic voyages of discovery.
Along the Atlantic coast there are also many lovely beaches, some of which are quiet and uncrowded. The beaches are very accessible as the motorway runs all along the coast from the Spanish border to Lagos in the west. Just west of Tavira is the beach of Praia do Baril, considered to be the best beach in the Algarve.
© Algarve Tourism