The most southerly province of Portugal
Mother Nature has really done her best when it comes to the Algarve. Every year millions of holidaymakers are fascinated by the dreamy bays, breath-taking, steep cliffs and the varied landscape here. The most southerly province of Portugal stretches for 155 kilometres along the southern Atlantic coast of the Iberian peninsula and boasts an impressive 300 days of sunshine a year.
The Algarve is a great holiday destination all year round, as the temperatures are mild even in winter and at the height of summer the fresh wind coming in from the wild Atlantic Ocean prevents it from getting too hot. The approximately 3,000 hours of sunshine a year make the Algarve the place with the most sunshine hours in Europe.
This Portuguese province however, has much more to offer than just beach and sun. Even today you can still see the influences of the various dynasties at the “Al-Gharb”, as it was called by the Moors. Five centuries of Arab occupation and the Roman presence here have greatly influenced the region and traces of this can still be found in its architecture. The Age of Discovery was also very important for the history of the Algarve, as it was the starting point for journeys of discovery to the African continent.
A major disaster for the Algarvios, as the inhabitants of the Algarve call themselves, was the earthquake of 1755 which destroyed a large part of the Algarve, including some of its important monuments. However, the Algarve was rebuilt and turned into what it is today, a popular holiday region in the south of Portugal.
As the proud descendants of those who started from the Algarve to discover the oceans, the 450.000 inhabitants of the Algarve today have discovered tourism as the most important source of income in this region. However, the number of people to be found here can easily treble in the summer months when the holidaymakers flock to this region in the main season.
Faro - Culture and nature
Their Algarve holiday starts for most travellers in Faro which has the only international airport in the region. The capital of the Algarve is at the same time one of the largest holiday resorts in the south of Portugal. The former Roman settlement is especially popular with nature lovers and those interested in culture, as the town has many historic sights and other things to see and explore. There are museums, gardens and monuments and also not far from Faro is the nature park of Ria Formosa which is one of the most beautiful natural areas of this region. It stretches for over 60km and you can explore the lagoons, natural dunes and breath-taking beaches here.
Albufeira - Partying at the Algarve
For those wanting to spend their holidays partying Albufeira is the place to go to. In the former fishing village you will find a combination of the modern world and tradition. While in the upper part of the town the locals live in their typical white houses in small romantic alleyways, the lower part of the town is where all the action is. This part of Albufeira belongs to the tourists and is known for its long party nights. Those who prefer a quieter life can relax during the day at one of the many beaches here, or visit the small bars in the old town at night.
Lagos - small coastal town with a lot of history
The geographical location of Lagos is the reason why this has always been a popular meeting point for people of different nationalities as well as a maritime hub. Many discoverers started their journeys here to discover new lands and treasures. The returning ships brought wealth and prosperity to the region and helped turn Lagos into a trading centre. This enchanting coastal town kept its traditional atmosphere, but at the same time developed into a popular holiday destination. You can go for romantic walks through the narrow alleyways of the old town and discover more about the eventful history of Lagos while visiting the former governor’s palace and the impregnable fortress of Ponta da Bandeira.
The diverse coastal areas of the Algarve
The coast of the Algarve is famous for its numerous fine sandy beaches and the gigantic, and in places bizarre rock formations. The eastern part of the Algarve is dominated by vast sandbanks, shallow lagoons and rolling dunes and is therefore known as the Sandy Algarve. From Faro to Cabo de São Vicente stretches the rocky part of the Algarve with its rugged coastline. The romantic Costa Vincentina begins at. the most south-westerly point of Europe, which used to be known as the “End of the World”. The western part of the Algarve with its fascinating beach landscape and steep cliffs of up to 120 metres is protected by its status as a conservation area. The whole region is very popular with golfers because of its many courses, some of them directly at the coast. It is therefore not surprising that the Algarve was voted as “Europe’s Golf Destination 2014”.
The beautiful sandy beaches are inviting for long walks at the sea and the bays surrounded by cliffs are ideal for some undisturbed sun-bathing. Here you can watch the Portuguese anglers on the cliffs and in the evening you can enjoy the freshly caught fish in one of the restaurants. Whether you are a culture fan, a nature-lover, a beach-enthusiast or a party-goer, there is something for everyone at the Algarve.
About the beaches
With its fine sandy beaches and enormous and, in places bizarre, rock formations and cliffs, you could spend several weeks at the Algarve and still discover a new beach every day. There are so many dream beaches at the sunny Algarve stretching from Odeceixe in the west over to the Spanish boarder in the east. Even in the main season many of these are not overcrowded, meaning that sun-lovers will always find a space here. Furthermore, nearly all of the beaches at the Algarve have been awarded the Blue Flag for their excellent quality of water. The beaches at the Algarve are as diverse as the landscape along the coast itself, including the unspoilt, natural beaches of Costa Vincentina at the western Algarve, the picturesque swimming bays of the rocky part of the Algarve and the seemingly endless long beaches of the sandy section.
The Western Algarve
Costa Vicentina The beaches of the western Algarve are to the north of Sagres and stretch to Odeceixe. The coastal area is also known as Costa Vincentina and this protected natural area has spectacular landscapes to offer. The western Algarve is part of the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano Costa Vicentina nature park and is the largest protected area of the Portuguese coast. Amongst the steep cliffs here you will find small, hidden bays as well as large, spacious, sandy beaches.One of the most breath-taking beaches is Praia de Odeceixe which is at the north-western end of the Algarve. It is situated at a river mouth surrounded by unspoilt cliffs and has an extensive sandy area. While families can settle down at the river and enjoy the warm water, surfers and windsurfers prefer the waves of the colder Atlantic Sea. The wind is often very strong at the foot of the cliffs and the waves can be impressively high. Many beaches therefore have perfect conditions for water-sports and are very popular with both surfers and windsurfers. One of the most well-known spots in the south of Portugal is Praia da Arrifana which attracts many surfers looking for the perfect wave. Praia do Amado and Praia do Castelejo are also ideal surfing beaches, thanks to the high waves there.
The Rocky Algarve
The golden sandy beaches of the rocky part of the Algarve stretch from Sagres to Vale de Lobo, west of Faro. This coast with its steep cliffs up to 70 metres in height is very impressive with its numerous grottos and picturesque rock formations. The limestone and sandstone cliffs are a shimmering red colour and are divided by small swimming bays and fine sandy beaches, some of which can only be reached by boat. The rocky part of the Algarve is also known as Barlavento, which means windward coast, but most of the bays are sheltered from the wind and waves by the high cliffs, meaning that they are ideal for swimming and snorkelling .If you are the romantic type, then you should definitely head for Praia de São Rafael. This flat, sandy beach is completely surrounded by insurmountable cliffs and can only be reached by boat. From the beach narrow steps lead to a small hidden lagoon. Easier to reach, but just as stunning, are the beaches of Praia de Arrifes and Praia da Coelha with their bizarre rock formations. If you want to spend a relaxed day at the beach, then Praia Dona Ana is just right for you. It is surrounded by breath-taking cliffs and is quite rightly seen by many as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. At the rocky Algarve you will find many romantic bays which are very inviting for sun-bathing and daydreaming.
The Sandy Algarve
The beaches of the sandy part of the Algarve are between Vale de Lobo and the river Rio
Guadiana, which forms the border between the Algarve and Andalusia. This coastline is known as Sotavento (meaning wind blowing away from the coast) and is ideal for walking, sun-bathing and relaxing. This part of the Algarve is known for its extensive dune landscape and long sandy beaches stretching for kilometres. Some of these beaches are on off-shore islands where you can enjoy the unspoilt natural surroundings.
These islands are part of the conservation area of Ria Formosa, which stretches along the coast for 60 kilometres from Faro to Manta Rota. The idyllic beaches of the islands of Armona, Culatra, Farol, Cabanas, Tavira and Barreta can be reached by ferry, and some of them also via a small bridge. The islands are well worth a visit, as here you can experience close up the natural beauty of the lagoons of the nature reserve of Ria Formosa.
"A beach with two sides - bustling and unspoiled"
"The wide open spaces of a dream island"
"Popular sandy beach with mild water temperatures"
"Fun-filled floating obstacle course at the marina"
"A small strip of sand in an impressive conservation area"
"Completely carefree beach with a fantastic sunset"
"Popular diving and windsurfing spot in the south-west of Portugal"
"Activities in a kilometre of dune landscape"
"Fun, action, relaxation and pure nature"
"Fine sand and warm water"
"Surf on the long sandy beach of Lagos"
"Beautiful, spacious urban beach with all the trimmings"
"Long sandy beach in front of an impressive rocky gorge"
"A real highlight for energetic holidaymakers!"
"Bathing on the border between Portugal and Spain"
"Beach hubbub in a large, but intimate holiday resort"
"Ideal for beach walkers, families and anyone in search of tranquillity"
"Exclusive beach with relaxed flair!"
"Peace and quiet on a beautiful Algarve island!"
"Relaxed island beach for independent tourists"