Overview

Introduction

Think of the Algarve... mile upon mile of golden sands interrupted only by craggy outcrops of rock. But the Algarve, although well known as one of the sunniest areas of Europe, is much more than just a beach lover’s paradise.

For five centuries this was the land of the Moors and their intriguing legacy is evident in local architecture, music and language. The region’s character is strongly influenced by the sea and, perhaps surprisingly, almost every coastal village still devotes itself mainly to fishing.

Stretching across the whole of southern Portugal, the region, over recent years has attracted a great deal of tourist development, especially along the coastline between Faro and Albufeira. At the outer fringes of the region, including Sagres, Olhao and Tavira, the development has been minimal and the towns and villages have retained their original charm and character – This is the area that we feature, THE REAL ALGARVE!

Located 6km from Capo de Sao Vicente, the most southwestern point of continental Europe Sagres is famed for its maritime past and for its links with Prince Henry the Navigator.  It is in Sagres that the school of Navigation was established in the 15th century and from where Prince Henry, alongside cartographers and navigators, pushed forward the borders of the new world. The Portuguese explorers Pedro Alvares Cabral and Vasco da Gama both studied in Sagres. Around Sagres the coastline is dotted with more than 20 beaches – some small coves hidden at the foot of cliffs, others broad expanses of sand. There is also a breeding ground for Common dolphins just off the coast of Capo de Sao Vicente and the mammals are frequently visible in the waters.

To the east of the Algarve, the Natural Park of Ria Formosa is a haven for bird and fish life. Covering an area of 18,400 hectares and stretching for 60km from Ancao, near Quinta do Lago, to Manta Routa, this coast has some of the regions most spectacular beaches – many only accessible by boat. Traditional fishing villages are scattered along the eastern coastline, of which the sardine and tuna fishing port of Olhao and the charming whitewashed town of Tavira are worthy of a visit.         

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Highlights of the Algarve

Beaches
The sunshine region of Portugal has 200km of coastline, ranging from vast expanses of golden sand to small coves and rocky beaches. Almost 50 beaches have been awarded the EU Blue Flag for quality, safety and cleanliness

Aldeia da Pedralva
Lovingly brought back to life by Antonio Ferreira, this once almost abandoned village offers 24 houses for guests. Activities galore are offered locally including dolphin watching, seabird watching, fishing, jeep safaris, hiking, diving, surfing and paddle boarding

Rota Vicentina
The marked trails of the Rota Vicentina conclude at Cabo de São Vicente on the southwestern tip of the Algarve and of Europe. A 14km trail links ‘The Cape’ with Vila do Bispo – a route particularly spectacular in autumn when migratory birds flock to the area

Monchique
Surrounded by the wooded hills of the Serra de Monchique, this whitewashed hilltop market town features excellent views, narrow cobbled streets and an excellent terrain for hiking, horse riding and cycling. Monchique is also famous for the locally produced honey

Foia
From Foia, the highest point in the Algarve at 902m, the views stretch from Cabo de São Vicente in the west all of the way to Faro in the east. It is also possible, on a clear day, to see the Serra da Arrabida near Lisbon

Visit a fish market
Olhão, on the eastern side of the Algarve, has been synonymous with fishing since the Middle Ages and its fish market is impressive. Sea bream, sea bass, octopus, squid, clams and lobster are all on sale. Local cafés sell the seafood delights

Sagres
Intrinsically linked to the Portuguese explorers who pushed forward the frontiers of the known world, the town of Sagres, its maritime history, picturesque harbour and coves are a delight to discover. For a fine ocean view visit the town’s 15th century fortress

Ria Formosa Natural Park
Off the coast of Tavira, Ria Formosa is a unique lagoon system with a beautiful sandy beach. This internationally recognised wetland is also an invaluable habitat for birdlife including seahorses, flamingos, buzzards, woodcocks, kingfishers and swamp hen

Souvenirs
Local pottery makes an attractive souvenir to take home. The best choice and most beautiful workmanship can be found at Porches Pottery, on the main N125 near Lagoa. Ceramics, in all shapes and sizes, are hand painted with flowers, fish, dragonflies and more

Rural Algarve

There is more to the Algarve than sun and sea. Inland are great rivers, lush valleys and age old remains from the Neolithic, Phoenician and Roman periods. Here, you will also find regional delicacies chouriça (smoked sausage), bran bread and ‘filhós’ fried pastries

Faro

Many visitors to the Algarve overlook Faro and this, in our opinion, is a shame. The medieval walls of the town enclose a picturesque Cidade Velha, 18th century churches, cobbled squares, numerous cafés and restaurants and an interesting Archaeological Museum

Almond blossom
Almond blossom colours the countryside in white and pink throughout January and February and is one of the first flowers to bloom in the region. An 11km Almond Path in Castro Marim has been developed to provide visitors access to this beautiful scene

Ponte da Piedade
The cliffs, caves and grottoes of Ponte da Piedade (2km from Lagos) - one of the most photographed spots of the Algarve coastline, are best explored by boat. From sea level, the idyllic setting of the rock formations contrast with the azure waters

Loulé
The 13th century church of São Clemente and the battlements of the medieval castle are the focal point of the town but, it is the weekly gypsy market (Saturdays) and the smaller market on Praça da República (daily except Sunday) that attract most visitors

Golf
We cannot mention the Algarve without mentioning the 35 golf clubs that line the southern coastline of the region, none more than 15km from the coast. Forty two 9-hole or 18-hole courses are available for visitors to play and tee-times can be arranged locally

Festivals of the Algarve

Festivals of the Algarve

 January-February

  • ·       Almond blossom season – View the spectacular sight of white petals adorning the area between Loule and Castro Marim.
  • ·       Loulé Carnival (February) – bright floats and performing dancers parade through the streets to the sound of lively music.

March

  • ·       Monchique’s Sausage Fair – Taste the exquisite flavours of Portugal’s famous sausages from artisan-made chorizo to smoked ham, as well as regional sweets and pastries.

April-May

  • ·       Tavira’s ‘Gastronomy of the Sea’ festival - Octopus and tuna fish are regulars in the making of delicious dishes which can be tasted at a number of the city’s restaurants.

June

  • ·       Loulé’s MED festival – Music brings this historical town alive and includes a variety of handicraft stalls, dance and theatre performances and gastronomic delights.

July

  • ·       Lagoa Wine Show takes place in the height of summer, with wine tasting, tapas and music.
  • ·       Loulé International Jazz Festival - Casa da Cultura invites acclaimed musicians to perform at the lovely Cerca do Convento, which includes a variety of free-jazz, blues, classic jazz and funk concerts.
  • ·       World music festival (Festival de Musicas do Mundo) in Silves.
  • ·       Tavira has a programme of summer evening entertainment in the Praça de República.

August

  • ·       Portimão Sardine festival - enjoy the region’s famous grilled sardines with live entertainment every night.       
  • ·       Silves Medieval Fair - the city of Silves hosts a magnificent medieval fair in its historic centre with jugglers, music, colourful market stalls and various activities re-enacting the spirit of the Middle Ages.
  • ·       Medieval Days in Castro Marim - Jousting tournaments (on foot and on horseback), street theatre performances, banquets accompanied by medieval music and a handicraft and merchandise fair.
  • ·       Olhão’s Seafood Festival – Taste the local clams, oysters, shrimp, crayfish and lobster whilst being entertained by folk music and dancers.
  • ·       Tavira has a programme of summer evening entertainment in the Praça de República.
  • ·       Loulé’s ‘White Nights’ (end of August) – Enjoy a trendy party where everyone must wear white.  The evening unravels with street music, extravagant painters and fire-eaters.
  • ·       FATACIL – A handicraft, tourism, agriculture, trade and Industry fair takes place in Lagoa.

October

  • ·       Birdwatching Festival – birding activities held in different points of Sagres.

November

  • ·       Sweet potato festival in Aljezur.

Note: Dates subject to change.

 

Note: Dates subject to change.

Cultural Attractions of the Algarve

Walks - Rota Vicentina - These popular walking and cycling routes are protected within Sw Alentejo and Vicentina Coast Natural Park.  Stretching from Cabo de Sao Vincente in the most western point of the Algarve region right up to Santiago Cacem in the Alentejo region, they offer peace and tranquillity, and are a lovely way to explore the region.

Fortaleza de Sagres - This 15th Century Fortress is a short walk from the village of Sagres with views overlooking both Praia do Tonel and Praia de Mareta.  The views from the single walled fort are absolutely breathtaking and exploring this can take a couple of hours. It’s approx. 3 euros to enter, and well worth it for the picture moments.

Cape St Vincent, Sagres - The lighthouse of Cabo de Sao Vincente marks the end point to the municipality of Sagres.  Standing since 1520, it was built on the site of a convent.  It was eventually changed to a visitor centre and museum and is open to the public on Wednesday afternoons.  Just watch out for the strong winds in the summer months.

Faro Old Town & Walls - There is a stark/welcome difference between this and the new town.  The pace is slower, exploring each lane you will see history in the buildings and intriguing doorways.  The narrow streets are dotted with cafes so you can sit and people watch too.  If you look up, you’ll see that high points are largely inhabited by Pelicans with giant nests.

Fuseta - East of Olhao, this small fishing village is Algarves least discovered resort.  Its not the most beautiful town, but has a certain traditional charm, as daily, the fishermen line up their brightly coloured boats along the town’s river with their daily catch.  Various beaches can be reached from here, including Ilha da Fuzeta beach, reached by catching a boat across the lagoon.

Fort of Cacela – view over Ria Formosa.  This is one of the most stunning of unspoilt natural coastal views.  The small village of Cacela Velha only allows residents to drive inside its tiny perimeters. So small, it has one daytime restaurant and one evening restaurant and that’s it. From the fort itself, you overlook the lagoon and the ocean, it’s picture perfect and so quiet.

The Algarve

365 Algarve Cultural Programme

“365 Algarve” is a cultural programme that is intended to complement the traditional range of tourist activities on offer in the region. The programme comprises over a thousand presentations of music, dance, theatre, exhibitions, activities involving the region’s heritage, and much more. The first edition will be taking place from October 2016 until May 2017, and the events will be staged all across the Algarve.

See the full programme

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The Algarve is an ideal destination to cover interests ranging from history, horse-riding, surfing, sampling fine food and lazing on sun kissed beaches to leisurely evening strolls in quaint villages. There were so many little towns to stop and explore that it could keep you intrigued for a lifetime. Around every corner there’s another beautiful bay to discover. The western Algarve has more of a rugged feel than the eastern Algarve yet, both are equally beautiful. There are still many hidden places in both, undiscovered by mass tourism and untouched by time.

Yasmin Zaidi
Yasmin Zaidi
Best time to go
  • JAN
  • FEB
  • MAR
  • APR
  • MAY
  • JUN
  • JUL
  • AUG
  • SEP
  • OCT
  • NOV
  • DEC
Time Difference

GMT + 0

Currency

Euro

Language

Portuguese

Average flight times

2 hours 35 minutes

  • Average temperature

    Average rainfall

Note: Map is for guidance purposes only.

Talk to our The Algarve expert

Yasmin Zaidi
Yasmin Zaidi

The Algarve is an ideal destination to cover interests ranging from history, horse-riding, surfing, sampling fine food and lazing on sun kissed beaches to leisurely evening strolls in quaint villages. There were so many little towns to stop and explore that it could keep you intrigued for a lifetime. Around every corner there’s another beautiful bay to discover. The western Algarve has more of a rugged feel than the eastern Algarve yet, both are equally beautiful. There are still many hidden places in both, undiscovered by mass tourism and untouched by time.

Call one of our experts to discuss your next holiday with Sunvil on

020 8758 4722

We're open tomorrow at 9:00 AM

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The Algarve

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We promise that a member of our specialist reservation teams will reply personally to your holiday enquiry before 5.30pm if received before 12.00pm (Monday to Friday). Enquiries received after 12.00pm will be replied to within 24-hours (excluding Sundays).

If your enquiry is of an urgent nature, please telephone our dedicated reservation teams on the numbers listed below.

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