About the Algarve
The Algarve, Portugal’s southernmost region, is known for its Atlantic beaches and golf resorts. Whitewashed fishing villages on low cliffs overlooking sandy coves were transformed in the 1960s, and now its central coast between Lagos and Faro is lined with villas, hotels, bars and restaurants. The region's western Atlantic coast and rugged interior are less developed.
Below we have endeavored to prepare an area guide of the Algarve broken down into three regions Western, Central and Eastern Algarve.
Faro is the capital of southern Portugal’s Algarve region. The city’s neoclassical Arco da Vila is on the site of a gate that was part of the original Moorish wall. The monumental archway leads to the old town, with its cobbled streets. Nearby is Faro Cathedral, built in the 13th century. The Municipal Museum, in a 16th-century convent, displays prehistoric and medieval artifacts, plus religious art.
Vale do Lobo & Quinta do Lago
Almancil, Vale do Lobo and Quinta do Lago form the Golden Triangle, so named due to the triangular region formed by the three localities, which combines unique climatic conditions and stunning natural beauty.
Quinta do Lago, a quiet and secluded resort often chosen by many celebrities for their vacations, is world-renowned for its fantastic golf courses which are built close to the beach or lagoons, allowing golfers to enjoy the sea between blows and breathe the marvellous morning sea breeze. Quinta do Lago is also visited by several tourists who wish to stroll around the Ria Formosa Natural Reserve and by those who wish to do birdwatching.
Vale do Lobo is the largest luxury golf and beach resort in the Algarve and one of the most prestigious in Europe. With golf courses built on top of cliffs, on the edge of the beach, magnificent villas and beaches with warm and transparent waters, Vale do Lobo is a pearl amongst the Algarve paradise.
Vilamoura is a resort in the Algarve region of southern Portugal. It’s known for its large marina, golf courses and casino, and for sandy Vilamoura Beach. Cerro da Vila archaeological museum has a ruined Roman villa with bathhouses and mosaics. Red cliffs line Falésia Beach, which stretches west to the fishing village Olhos de Água. Vilamoura merges with the town of Quarteira, to the southeast, with more beaches.
Albufeira is a coastal city in the southern Algarve region of Portugal. It’s a former fishing village that has become a major holiday destination, with sandy beaches and a busy nightlife strip. Local fishermen now use the modern marina, also a base for diving, dolphin-watching and boat trips. It's surrounded by candy-colored apartments, with a waterfront promenade.
Armaçao de Pêra
Further west is Armação de Pêra, with a pleasant promenade and one of Algarve's finest beaches that stretches for miles, offering plenty of fun activities to keep you busy. Two kilometres (about 1 mile) along the coast is Senhora da Rocha, a beautiful picture-postcard beach.
Formerly a fishing village, Carvoeiro is flanked on either side by the sandstone sea cliffs characteristic of southern Portugal. The town's horsehoe-shaped bay is hailed as one of the Algarve's best beaches, with golden sand backed by whitewashed Mediterranean houses.
Silves is a historic and delightful town, which was originally the ancient capital of the Algarve. Today it's a peaceful and unhurried town with an imposing castle standing above the surrounding orange and almond groves. Just outside the castle is a 13th-century cathedral, largely Gothic and containing the tombs of the crusaders who helped conquer the town, and an archaeological museum, with a large Arab cistern.
Vila Real de Santo António
Vila Real de Santo Antonio is a delightful Portuguese town, which is situated on the mighty Rio Guadiana, at the very eastern edge of the Algarve. The town is a major border crossing point(a short ferry ride from Ayamonte in Spain).The town has a unhurried ambience but has a truly unique appearance, with a grand central plaza and decorative Pombaline architecture
Castro Marim is situated between two hilltops One the one hill is a castle on the other a star shaped fort.Between them the houses of Castro Marim, with their white walls with brightly-painted borders, their flat roofs and their ornate chimneys sculpted into lace-like patterns. From the castle you get the views of the river, salt pans and the sea.
Tavira is perhaps one of the prettiest towns in the Algarve and remains remarkably unspoiled. Split in half by the river Gilao, crossed over by a Roman bridge, either side is flanked by beautiful, fine 18th century mansions. One of Tavira's pleasures is wandering around the cobbled streets, admiring the architecture and boutique shops, cafe's and restaurants. A ferry connects the town to a marvelous sand dune island, Ilha de Tavira, a glorious island beach with warm water, excellent for swimming in.
Olhão is a 17th centruy town built in the Moorish style and remains Algarve's major fishing port with daily markets to tempt the locals and tourists. In the pedestrian centre are restaurants offering the freshest fish caught the same morning. Off shore are numerous sandy islands including Ilha da Culatra and Ilha da Armona easily reachable by ferries that run every hour.
Portimão is a port city in the Algarve region of southern Portugal. It’s known for its old quarter, busy marina and proximity to many beaches. Museu de Portimão is housed in a restored 19th-century cannery, with displays on local history. The Gothic-style Nossa Senhora da Conceição church has azulejo tiles. To the south are Rocha Beach, backed by ochre cliffs, and the medieval Fort of Santa Catarina de Ribamar.
Alvor is one of the finest resort towns of the Algarve, and is the ideal destination if you are seeking a relaxed, beach-based holiday. Historically, Alvor was a fortified town and fishing port, which today has developed into a charming and mature holiday destination.There is a choice of a long open sandy beach or a number of small coves tucked under the cliffs.
Rising up between the Algarve and neighbouring Alentejo region is the Serra de Monchique, a range of rolling mountains clad in heavy forest. Here you will find the highest point on the Algarve; standing at 902m (2,959ft) is the peak of Fóia with its all encompassing views which span the Algarve's south and west coasts all the way to Cabo de São Vicente.
Lagos is a town in southern Portugal's Algarve region. It’s known for its walled old town, cliffs and Atlantic beaches. Steep wooden steps lead to the sandy cove of Praia do Camilo. The nearby cliffs of Ponta de Piedade offer sweeping headland views and a lighthouse. Igreja de Santo António, an ornate 18th-century church, sits across from the Castelo dos Governadores, a castle with a baroque facade and watchtowers.
Overlooking some of the Algarve’s most dramatic scenery, the small, elongated village of Sagres has an end-of-the-world feel, with its sea-carved cliffs high above the frothing ocean strung with wind-whipped fortresses that connect it to Portugal’s rich nautical past. It's the only place in the world where white storks are known to nest on cliff faces.The Cabo de Sao Vicente is the south-westerly tip of mainland Europe.
The beautiful West Coast of the Algarve with its dramatic cliffs and rock formations is still unspoilt and there are some fantastic beaches - famous for surfing, fishing and bird-watching and usually un-signposted and hidden from the road by high sand dunes. Aljezur itself is a little visited, but quaint old town, founded by the Arabs in the 10th Century. If you climb up to the ruins of the old Castle, you can enjoy spectacular views over the surrounding countryside and Aljezur makes a good central point for a scenic drive through the West Algarve.