About the Algarve
The Algarve - miles of white sandy beaches
Some of Europe's, indeed the world's, most stunning beaches first made Portugal the popular tourist destination it has now become. This remains unchanged with a 100 miles of long golden sandy beaches, secluded coves and amazing outcrops of rock formations. Most of the beaches are supervised, with flags to indicate the quality of the water, and have been annually awarded the European Blue Flag for excellence.
Golfcourses, Fishing Villages & Rural Communities
Naturally, tourism has had its impact. However, upmarket internationally famous resorts, with their superb championship golf courses co-exist comfortably with picturesque fishing villages and traditional rural communities, steeped with Moorish history. The warm welcome extended by hospitable locals, for whom nothing is too much trouble, is a delightful introduction to the country for new visitors, whilst regular guests are greeted like old friends.
If you yearn for more than just beautiful beaches and the tranquillity of your own private villa and pool, then drive just a few miles inland and you will discover the real Portugal. The domed church at Sao Lourenco near Almancil has a stunning interior of 18th Century tiles depicting scenes from the bible, or take a walk around the ancient walled castle at Silves, once the capital of the Algarve, and enjoy a coffee in one of the many pavement cafes. A visit to Loule in the hills is a must, a traditional town of Moorish origin famous for its regional crafts of copper-work, painted clay and brassware and boasts one of the Algarve's best weekly markets. For a taste of the lifestyle of the rich and famous, go to Quinta do Lago with its beautiful beach, lake and estates of perfectly manicured gardens surrounding truly luxurious villas - home of the jet set. Vilamoura hosts the largest marina in the country with 1300 moorings, a fashionable place to soak up the atmosphere in one of the quayside bars or restaurants. Take time to drive inland to the Monchique mountains, where the clean fresh air is scented by a mixture of cork, chestnut, pine and eucalyptus trees. Just before reaching Monchique, you will pass through Caldas de Monchique, a Roman spa where the water is reputed to have healing qualities, and you can try it free - but be warned, it is smelly! Back down to the coast is Portimao, still a traditional sprawling town where there are some very good shops, but the mainstay of its life is still fishing, and who can resist joining the locals for a lunch of barbecued sardines, fresh off the boats that morning. A short drive further and you will come to Lagos, one of the prettiest towns along the coast with a new marina and walkway alongside the coastal road. Full of history, museums and historic statues, it was in Lagos that Henry the Navigator had his ships built and maintained.
Eating out in the Algarve
Eating out is the norm for everyone. It is not unusual to find yourself surrounded by families enjoying a leisurely and often noisy Sunday lunch of spicy chicken piri piri or freshly caught fish - and a general rule of thumb is "if the locals eat here, it must be good!" The choice of restaurants is vast, and at very reasonable prices. These are only a few suggestions; we simply do not have the space to include everything, but hope we have given you enough of a taste to whet your appetite.