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Algarve, southern Portugal
Algarve is the tourist region located in the south of Portugal, with a coastline bathed by the Atlantic Ocean to the south and west. Recognized as the best national beach destination, golf courses recognized worldwide, and one of the best holiday destinations in Europe, the region stands out for its great natural beauty, its appealing climate and the vast number of locations whose religious, historical heritage and cultural is manifest. The Algarve is often divided into two parts, the Barlavento and the Eastern Algarve. Barlavento corresponds to the western zone, integrating locations such as Albufeira, Portimão, Lagos, Sagres, Aljezur and others, which stands out for a coastal region full of cliffs and cliffs that surround the white sand beaches. Sotavento is the most eastern part of the Algarve, which is part of the Triângulo Dourado investment zone (the resorts of Quinta do Lago, Vale do Lobo and Vilamoura) and locations such as Quarteira, Loulé, Faro (capital of Algarve), Olhão, Tavira and Vila Real de Santo António, including the Ria Formosa Natural Park and some of the region’s most acclaimed golf courses. The Algarve is also divided by the Serra do Caldeirão, the largest mountain range in the region that separates the coastal region and the Algarve barrocal, accentuating the landscape differences of the Algarve and taking us from the long clear sands, bounded by cliffs of the coast, to the natural green of the Sierra Algarvia, in a scenario with endemic vegetation and places of great geological, historical and cultural interest. For the more adventurous, traveling the Great Pedestrian Route known as Via Algarviana will also be imperative, as it extends over 300 kilometers, segmented into smaller parcels that connect, in its extension, Alcoutim and Cabo de S. Vicente. Via Algarviana passes through the main points of interest of several Algarve counties, allowing an overview of the Algarve. Alongside this, the Ecovia Litoral allows moments of walking or cycling along cycle paths and dirt roads, connecting, through a coastal route of great natural beauty with a privileged view over the cliffs, escarpments and the sea , from Vila Real de Santo António to Sagres.
What to do in the Algarve
The Algarve stands out as a tourist destination of reference, with a great diversity of activities suitable for all types of visitors. Among the most appealing points in the region, we find the white sand beaches, bathed by the Atlantic Ocean with sceneries cut by red cliffs, the clear waters and the dunes. Many of these beaches are internationally sought by surfers, and the west coast, the Sagres area is an international reference for surfing. golf is another of the reference sports in the Algarve, with numerous golf courses where we can take advantage of some of the best European golf infrastructure. Alongside these green fields, the idyllic landscapes of the local nature highlight the Algarve as natural destination, where nature walks will allow you to get in touch with incredible landscapes and experiences of observing animal life, including Bird Watching. Finally, the main municipalities in the Algarve will allow contact with culture, local tradition and history, through their festivities, museums with a rich and diverse collection, and the vast built heritage. And local cuisine, with fresh fish dishes throughout the year, traditional recipes from the flavors of the mountains, to the freshness of the sea, including almond, fig and carob sweets.
Municipalities in the Algarve
There are 16 municipalities in the Algarve, namely Loulé, São Brás d’Álportel, Faro, Olhão, Tavira, Castro Marim, Vila Real de Santo António, Alcoutim, Albufeira, Portimão, Lagoa, Silves, Monchique, Lagos, Vila da Luz, Sagres ( Vila do Bispo), and Aljezur. All of these include parishes of interest, and in the case of Loulé, it encompasses the 3 resorts known as the Golden Triangle of Portugal.
The Triângulo Dourado in the Algarve is a name attributed to the 3 resorts of Vilamoura, Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo. A tourist destination of reference in the Algarve region due to the quality differential they provide to visitors and residents. These are luxury resorts that extend along the Atlantic coast, gaining international renown as high standing tourist developments: Quinta do Lago, Vale do Lobo and Vilamoura. Sought by investors and tourists from all over the world, these modern spaces have countless foreign communities from the most diverse origins, creating a multicultural, multilingual space where the plurality coexists with luxury, leisure and the permanently festive atmosphere. The Golden Triangle is highly sought after as golf destination, sailing destination, equestrian center, and bathing destination, being a high standard tourist destination, where we can find beaches cut by dunes and colorful cliffs, a marina with capacity for boats up to 30 meters, and 14 exclusive golf courses that host international tournaments of the modality.
Loulé is a locality in the interior of the Algarve, which stands out for its historic center, built heritage and traditional atmosphere. Points of interest include the white-fronted churches, with examples such as Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora da Piedade of the 16th century, the largest place of worship for the Virgin south of the city of Fátima and which is part of a green surroundings, standing out for the imposing white facade with two bell towers and the interior of which we can see a rich image of the 16th century, crowned in gold, known as Mãe Soberana. The Castelo de Loulé is another point of interest, with a medieval military architecture, presenting original Islamic traces from the 8th century, standing out with the Albarran towers and the integrated archaeological museum, whose collection includes artifacts found in the region of Moorish, Roman and Lusitanian origins. In addition to this museum, we also highlight other cultural sites, such as the Casa da Cultura de Loulé, located in the Duarte Pacheco Building that promotes some of the most emblematic artistic events in the region and the Municipal Museum of Loulé, with its several museums, which focuses on regional history from prehistoric times to modernity, without forgetting the gastronomic and architectural characteristics.
Walking through the old city of Loulé, from the castle to the historic center, we find parts of the defensive wall, and in Largo D. Pedro I we find Chafariz das Bicas Velhas. Nearby, the Hermitage of Nossa Senhora da Conceição is a point of reference, and despite its simple façade, it houses valuable 19th century panels inside. The Mercado Municipal de Loulé appears as a space of great cultural and commercial value in the region, standing out for its rich architecture, with neo-Arab influence with nouveau art, the white and red facade, with dome and Moorish windows, with traditional stalls of colorful regional products, such as fruits and vegetables, cheeses, chorizo, bread, regional sweets, and fresh fish stalls. Still in Loulé we find the Statue of António Aleixo, a life-size statue of the popular poet, sitting on a bench with a table on which we can read some of his inscribed verses. Among the religious spaces in Loulé, we highlight the Antigo Convento do Espírito Santo, an 18th century monument that houses the Galeria de Arte Municipal, and the Convento de Santo António built in the late 20th century. XVII, whose simple capucha architecture accuses the permanence of the religious order of San Francisco, where it is currently used to hold various cultural events. Among the religious heritage, we refer to the Gothic Igreja Matriz de Loulé (or Igreja de São Clemente), built on top of a mosque, with emphasis on the baroque steeple, adapted from the previous Muslim minaret. The natural beauty of the region can be seen at Fonte do Cadoiço, an idyllic place in the urban environment, with a small waterfall over a lagoon and surrounded by vegetation.
Other places of interest in Loulé
In the municipality of Loulé there are several places of natural and cultural interest that are part of the tourist itinerary of the region. Places like Rocha da Pena, a rocky outcrop where we find a rich biodiversity, landscapes of forest and a rocky slope. Nearby, in Salir we find a village with agricultural surroundings and surmounted by the ruins of an old castle, where traditionality prevails in legends and festivities. In this region, the Fonte Benémola, crossed by the Menalva stream, appears as a natural protected landscape area, whose aquifer abundance enriches the diversity of flora and fauna in a setting dotted with mills, daisies, weirs and levadas that we can get to know through walks through its pedestrian circuit, and the wild Ribeira de Algibre, which we find nearby, also deserves mention. In this region, culture and nature coexist in Quinta da Tôr, a vineyard and cellar that carries the wine tradition and the flavor of the wines of the region that extend to the parish of Ameixial, located in mountainous and rural territory in Serra do Caldeirão, which stands out for its hospitality, customs and local handicrafts. Nearby we find Fonte da Seiceira, a fountain built in the 19th century, an ancient place of great importance for the supply of iron-rich water, to which healing properties are attributed, near which we find picnic tables. Equally inviting for sports activities we find the Loulé Pools, with several indoor and outdoor lanes for swimming.
Advancing to the Eastern Algarve, we find the location of São Brás de Alportel, a traditional village of the agricultural culture of cork, which extends through the valley, with views of the mountains and even close to the ocean. Here, we highlight the Costume Museum of São Brás de Alportel, incorporated in a building of bourgeois architecture, where the collection shows us the typical costumes of the Algarve region. In the same location, the Igreja Matriz de São Brás de Alportel, from the 15th century, rebuilt in the 16th century and recovered after the 1755 earthquake, presents us the rare marble baptistery, an unusual material in the monuments of the region , and 17th century painted canvases of great value, arranged in the chancel.
Vilamoura is a resort belonging to the parish of Quarteira, a seaside resort in the region of Loulé particularly sought after for the healthy lifestyle of outdoor living, golf enthusiasts and sailing enthusiasts. In Vilamoura we find several tourist spaces exclusively dedicated to golf, all of which are internationally renowned for the quality of their courses. The Laguna course exemplifies this, being an 18-hole course, integrated in a relatively flat coastal land with few trees, dotted with obstacles such as lakes and bunkers. Dom Pedro Millennium is another option, standing out for its eclectic design, with open spaces and dotted with pine trees, which is considered one of the best European courses for the practice of the sport, along with the Old Course, the oldest course in Vilamoura known locally as “Grande Dama do Algarve”, which stands out for its sophisticated resources, environmental protection practices and the care of its fairways, integrated in an environment of stone pines. We can also enjoy the Dom Pedro Pinhal course, an award-winning golf course that is especially known for its 4th hole, which represents an extra challenge for requiring a shot over a lake and a rolling green. Finally, we highlight the Pestana Vila Sol, one of the most famous courses in the region, where fauna and flora are widely respected, giving it a beautiful and Mediterranean environment, cut by narrow fairways, with 27 holes that extend for three game courses.
Vilamoura is a tourist complex of reference in Portugal, with several points of interest, namely the Marina de Vilamoura, located between the ocean and an open space flanked by gardens with palm trees, it stands out for being the first Portuguese marina , most awarded for the best national marina. This marina is visible from Rocha Baixinha Nascente beach, a place suitable for summer practice and where the cliffs start to give way to the dunes and the wide sand. Here near the marina we find the famous Casino Vilamoura, owned by the Solverde Group, where we can have fun and watch shows in a luxurious and avant-garde decor, or participate in the main games rooms. Vilamoura is very popular with families, due to housing infrastructures of great academic interest, namely the Colégio Internacional de Vilamoura, one of the most prestigious educational institutions in the southern region of Portugal, which presents the Portuguese national curriculum, and the Cambridge curriculum, with a focus on bilingual learning and teaching excellence. Alongside this, we also highlight the Centro Hípico De Vilamoura, recently distinguished by “Horse Republic” with the “Award Excellence”. In addition to the familial tendency conferred by the educational and sport structures, leisure for the whole family is guaranteed in spaces such as the mini golf of the Family Golf Park, the Bird Observatory of Caniçal de Vilamoura and the Cerro da Vila Archaeological Station, which invites us to moments of contact with nature and the ancient history of the locality. Added to this range is the Vilamoura beach, where we can enjoy a peaceful ocean and golden sands, or cross the Passeio das Dunas, which connects Vilamoura to Quarteira, a city with a pedestrian connection. fishing origin known for the beaches, the coastal promenade, and apartment buildings with sea views, located 20 meters from the beach.
In Quarteira, the interesting Mercado do Peixe, located by the sea is easily identified by the white and blue façade that bears its name, it is a place where local traditions are perpetuated with the sale of fresh fish. From here, following the coastal avenue of Quarteira a boardwalk along the acclaimed beaches of Quarteira, which include several beaches limited by stone jetties, the semi-urban beach of Forte Novo (where it is actually possible to see traces of the 16th century Forte Novo); the Lagoa do Almargem beach, surrounded by the red cliffs characteristic of the Algarve, which stands out for forming a small lagoon between Ribeira do Almargem and the sea; the Loulé Velho beach, with its rural surroundings and wide sand; the beaches of Quarteira have the sand to the island of Faro, passing the beaches of the resorts Vale do Lobo, the beach of Ancão and the beach of Quinta do Lago, taking us to Ria Formosa Natural Park, at the entrance to Faro, on the edge of the airport.
Faro is the administrative capital of the Algarve, presenting itself as an ancient city, full of history, tradition and culture. It has a vast natural and built heritage, with emphasis on the beaches and landscapes of the Ria Formosa. The arrival to the south of Portugal can be done by the Faro Airport, a structure that serves the city and the rest of the south of Portugal. In Faro we have the opportunity to walk through streets with a more commercial flair, such as Rua de Santo António, known as the street of Faro’s shops, and immerse ourselves in history, strolling through the historic center to get to know the old city walled, with a mandatory stop next to the imposing Arco da Vila, the historic and legendary Arco do Repouso and the Arab Gate, which constitutes the only horseshoe arch in the Algarve that is located in its place of origin. In this old area, within the walls reinforced by the two albarrãs towers, we find the Igreja de Santa Maria (or Sé de Faro), in a square ornamented by the Monument of Bishop Francisco Gomes de Avelar, a prominent regional figure for his contribution to the development of the locality. The Sé de Faro stands out for its Gothic, Baroque and Mannerist architecture, dating back to the 13th century and bringing eighteenth and nineteenth-century features in the valuable details of its interior, with emphasis on the details in gilded wood, the chapel panels, the tiles and reliquaries. Of equal interest, in front of the statue of D. Afonso III, we find the Convent of Nossa Senhora da Assunção, a Manueline-style church that stands out for its Renaissance portico and baroque dome, as well as for the gargoyles that decorate the upper floor. This convent currently houses the Museu Municipal de Faro, within which we find a collection focused on the history of the region.
Faro also offers us other places of interest, such as the Manuel Bivar wooded garden, corresponding to the city center, and where various cultural events take place. The culture in the city is also manifested in the exhibitions of the Centro Ciência Viva do Algarve, focusing mainly on science and the Ria Formosa ecosystem. Visiting this space, it is worthwhile to proceed to Marina de Faro (or Doca de Faro), the place where land and sea come together, allowing pleasure boats to dock. Here, we find the Museu Marítimo Almirante Ramalho Ortigão, with three rooms dedicated to fishing, instruments and utensils, as well as the Ginásio Clube Naval, which includes a sailing and recreational nautical school. At Cais das Portas do Mar (Cais da Porta Nova) we can embark on sea voyages through the Ria Formosa, even to access some of the most beautiful places in the region, such as the Ilha Deserta with its Barreta beach. In the area bordering the city we can enjoy the Parque Ribeirinho de Faro, divided into three green areas, where we find a pedestrian zone, a place where the culture and tradition of the Algarve are perpetuated through the fishermen’s houses facing the river.
Faro’s cultural, religious and historical heritage
Immersion in the traditional tradition of Faro implies visiting the Mercado Municipal de Faro, located next to the Cathedral and whose white building stands out for its central square tower. This market allows the purchase of innumerable fresh local products, introducing us to the customs of the village. Religiosity is one of the fundamental points of this tradition, which extends the invitation to visit the local churches and chapels. In Largo do Carmo we find the Igreja do Carmo of the 18th century, a Baroque style temple where the interior decorations in tile and gilded wood stand out, as well as the attached Capela dos Ossos, erected in the 19th century . The Igreja da Misericórdia, a Manueline and 17th century church; the Igreja de São Pedro, with a simple façade and an interior where the Capela do Santíssimo and its rich Baroque altarpiece stand out; the Chapel of Santo António do Alto, a 16th century chapel that mixes Gothic, Manueline, Baroque and Rococo architectural features; the Church of Nossa Senhora do Pé da Cruz, whose façade is a reflection of the architecture of different times and with an interior decoration from the 17th century; and the Convent of Santo António dos Capuchos, built in the 17th century, with a simple facade and ornamentation, which served for some years as a museum of archeology. Faro is a place of tradition and many football fans, where we find the São Luís Stadium, located near the church with the same name; the remains of the Roman passage through the region, in the Roman Ruins of Milreu and the Roman Bridge in Estói and the Palácio de Estói, a complex of high historical value and dating from the 17th century, where an inn currently operates.
Natural heritage of Faro
The Ria Formosa Natural Park, whose headquarters are located in Quinta de Marim, is considered one of the 7 Natural Wonders of Portugal, corresponds to one of the most important wetlands in the country, allowing the encounter with a great diversity of habitats conducive to the development of an equally diverse fauna and flora, with an integrated environment in the part of the Eastern Algarve between the area of Ancão and Manta Rota, consisting of a harmonious lagoon system with a connection between land and ocean. To get to know the entrance to Ria Formosa, between Quinta do Lago and Faro Island, we can walk the Ludo Trail, a 7-kilometer trail where we have contact with the lagoons, marshes and animal life in its natural habitat. Taking advantage of the footbridge that crosses the Ria Formosa, we arrive at Ilha de Faro, one of the beaches of the Natural Park and the first of the barrier islands that separate the estuary from the ocean. Ilha da Armona and Ilha da Culatra are also prominent places for bird watching. Here there are villages with small communities of local inhabitants, which are evident by their fishing traditions, by the sandy beaches, clear waters, by the offer of bathing and catering infrastructures. Next to Ilha da Culatra there is a small town with the name of Hangares, which got its name due to the existence of infrastructure left from the time of the 2nd world war. Of the barrier islands, the Ilha do Farol is another of the natural riches of Faro, owing its name to the Lighthouse of Cabo de Santa Maria visible from long miles, and presenting itself as a place of great natural beauty. The small Ilha do Coco, Ilha das Alturas and islet of the Koran deserve mention, where we can see shellfish harvesters throughout the year, the primary activity of many of the inhabitants of Olhão and the islands of Culatra, Armona, Farol and Hangares. Traveling through the populated region of Ria Formosa we can see small boats that serve the local population, allowing fishing in the estuary.
Olhão is a city born from a fishing village, located opposite the Ria Formosa, it is an interesting urban, social and tourist center in the Algarve. Known as the “cubist city”, it stands out for presenting an architecture of Arab origin unique in Portugal, with the cubes of its whitewashed houses, with blue or gray edges. Among the striking spaces of the city we highlight the Mercados de Olhão, red buildings of industrial architecture of the 20th century, located in the riverside area, where the traditional sale of products allows the encounter with some of the traces of the local culture. A few meters to the city center we find the Municipal Museum of Olhão, where we can visit a collection of archaeological and regional inclination, located directly behind the chapel of Nossa Senhora da Soledade. In the heart of Olhão, the Igreja Matriz de Nossa Senhora do Rosário of the 18th century is an imposing highlight, with the historical peculiarity of its bells having accompanied the people’s revolt against the advances of the French invasion. Behind this church we find the Chapel of Nosso Senhor dos Aflitos, a place of worship historically sought by women in stormy days, when men went out to sea.
On the riverfront of Olhão we find green spaces, including the Jardim Pescador Olhanense, in which some benches with tile patterns with nautical motifs stand out. In the same region, in front of the Mercados de Olhão, there is the Caíque Bom Sucesso, a replica of the vessel that Olhanenses used to sail to Brazil, with the purpose of telling the king about the that had taken place in the revolt that expelled Napoleon from Portuguese territory. Still in the riverside area, we find the Olhão boarding pier, a place where we can embark to visit some of the barrier islands of Ria Formosa, including Ilha de Armona, Ilha da Culatra and Ilha do Farol.
Tavira is a coastal town in the eastern Algarve, with a landscape marked by Rio Gilão as it crosses the city and flows into the Ria Formosa Natural Park. Tavira is especially known for its religious heritage, which makes it known as the “City of Churches”, although the natural and archaeological heritage also deserves to be highlighted. In Tavira we have the opportunity to visit the old castle of Tavira, whose original construction dates from the 13th century, enjoying the panoramic views over the city and the ocean that we have from the towers. The local culture is very marked by the fishing activity and by the religiosity, with the existence of a vast number of churches. The Mercado Municipal de Tavira located on the west bank, opposite the Ponte dos Descobrimentos exit, facing the salt flats, on the way to the Águas Águas quay. Among the places of worship, it is worth visiting the Church of Santa Maria do Castelo, dating from the 13th century and with Gothic elements in which the original clock tower stands out, the presence of national tiles, the carved details and the tomb of the seven knights of the Order of Sant’Iago. We also highlight the baroque Church of Nossa Senhora do Carmo of the 18th century, with the magnificent painted dome, where the saint who names it is represented; the Igreja da Misericórdia of the 16th century, considered the most important Renaissance church in the region; the Church of the Old Convent of Santo António dos Capuchos, ornamented with tiles and gilded details; and also the Church and Convent of Nossa Senhora do Carmo, dating from the 18th century, integrates different elements of different aesthetics, with emphasis on the organ, the sacred baroque treasure, and the various Joanine and Rococo elements.
In addition to the high value of religiosity, the passage of peoples like the Arabs, the Romans and the Phoenicians through the region also marked Tavira. In this city we can find the Ruins of Phoenicians of Tavira, with a wall dating from the 8th century BC and the Roman Bridge of Tavira, a pedestrian bridge that is believed to have been rebuilt on a Roman bridge dating from the 3rd century , with connection between the banks of the Gilão River, in the historic center of Tavira. Over the Gilão River (which only takes this nomenclature here, since, from the source and up to the bridge, it is designated as River Séqua) it also passes the Ponte Ferroviária de Santa Maria, a bridge for railway use and that integrates the Line from the Algarve. The Núcleo Museológico da Pesca do Tuna, whose collection tells the fishing history of the region in catching tuna is currently located inside the Vila Galé Albacora hotel. Close to this nucleus, we find the Arraial Tavira beach, with calm and warm waters and bordering the Ilha de Tavira, an island that stretches along 12 km to the west until Fuseta. To access the island of Tavira we can take the “career boat” at the Águas Águas boarding pier. In the place where the estuary joins the ocean, we still have the possibility to see the Moinho dos Ilhéus, a tidal mill where there is currently a nursery of the most acclaimed Portuguese oysters. We also highlight the Salinas de Tavira, where we find the Ciclovia das Salinas and several trails suitable for walking through the complex, where we have the possibility to observe idyllic landscapes and observe countless species of resident and migratory birds, including flocks of flamingos.
Golf is one of the activities that we can practice in the Tavira region, with several luxury developments and large golf courses. In the vicinity of Cabanas de Tavira, Benamor Golf is a course with courses surrounded by a landscape of ocean and mountains, allowing the practice of golf in a serene and natural environment. At Quinta da Ria located between Cabanas de Tavira and Vila Nova de Cacela we find two more golf courses, the Quinta de Cima Golf, a challenging championship course, with long fairways and several water obstacles , dotted with trees; and Quinta da Ria Golf, an 18-hole course, integrated in the Ria Formosa Natural Park and with a beautiful natural environment. Another option, and also one of the most acclaimed in the region, is the Monte Rei Golf, located north of Vila Nova de Cancela, consisting of one of the few routes Jack Nicklaus Signature in Europe, considered the best Portuguese golf course. We can also enjoy the natural and challenging route of Quinta do Vale Golf and the Castro Marim Golf development, which stands out for its three nine-hole courses, its magnificent views. The Colina Verde Golf, located to the north of Fuseta is integrated in a natural country setting, with a 9-hole golf course, suitable for beginners in golf.
Natural heritage of Tavira
In the region of Tavira and its surroundings, we find numerous spaces of natural interest, among which, some beaches are worth mentioning. Praia da Terra Estreita is a beautiful sandy tongue, located at the source of Praia do Barril, the place where an old fishing community left a true graveyard of anchors from the old tuna fishing boats. In the locality, the practice of naturism is possible in the Santa Luzia area, where we find the Praia do Homem Nu, a very wild and desert beach, which invites us to contact skin-with-nature. Nearby, Barra da Fuseta beach offers the greatest tranquility and, connecting to it, at the east end of Ilha da Armona we find Ilha da Fuseta beach, bordering the homonymous fishing village. Going up the Serra de Monte Figo we find two favorable places to observe the best landscapes of the region: the Cerro de S. Miguel (or simply Monte Figo), with a viewpoint that covers much of the south Algarve coast , and Cerro de Cabeça, in the eastern part of the mountain, where we find karst formations of great geological value. Another incredible landscape that we can find is in the Dam of Odeleite, since the reservoir of this dam takes the form of a blue dragon, a symbol of luck and power of Chinese culture, which gives the region the name “Rio do Dragão Azul “. Finally, we have the opportunity to get to know other points of natural value in the locality by visiting the Mata da Conceição, in the Perimeter Forest of Conceição de Tavira, where we find a picnic park and we can observe resident and migratory birds in the harmonious and natural Cascade of Pego do Inferno, considered one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Algarve region.
Cacela Velha & Cabanas de Tavira
Leaving Tavira along the south coast towards Spain, we find Cancela Velha, an old village, with whitewashed houses, rich in traditionality and calmness. Here we are invited to visit emblematic places, such as the Fort of Cacela Velha (or Fortaleza de Cancela), with its outstanding position and natural surroundings; the Igreja Matriz de Cacela Velha of the 16th century and the beach of Cacela Velha, located to the south of the town. The Fábrica beach, located in the small village of the same name, is a mandatory crossing point, characterized by being in the middle of the ocean and the access, made through the purchase of a return ticket during the bathing season, on small local boats. In Cabanas de Tavira, where we find the Lacém Mar beach, a ria beach, located in a narrow, natural sand tongue, beyond which is the Ilha de Cabanas, a place that invites the observation of shorebirds. In the region, it is worth visiting the Avenida Ria Formosa, which takes us in the direction of the Fort of São João da Barra, located on a hill next to the Ria Formosa, east of Cabanas de Tavira. We also highlight other places of interest that we can visit, such as the Forte do Rato (or Forte de Santo António de Tavira), located at the mouth of the Gilão River, and also the Cabanas Beach and Praia da Forte da Barra, which are evidenced by the great natural beauty, integrated in the Ria Formosa Natural Park.
The Sapal de Castro Marim and Vila Real de Santo António Nature Reserve, created in 1975, corresponds to the first Portuguese nature reserve and one of the most important wetlands in Portugal. Its purpose is to conserve local ecosystems and the natural and landscape heritage, located near the mouth of the Guadiana, extending between Castro Marim and Vila Real de Santo António. In this space, the reserve is made up of marshes, salt pans and estuaries, where different landscapes are home to a great diversity of fauna and flora, and it is also a favorable place for bird watching. On its edge, the town of Castro Marim also offers some points of heritage interest, of which we highlight the Castelo de Castro Marim represents a fortification of great historical interest, located in a privileged position on the right bank of the Guadiana River. The Fort of São Sebastião was built here during the Restoration Wars for the defense of the region, due to the great strategic importance of the natural elevation of the land, in the place where the chapel with the same name was previously located. Also in Castro Marim, we can visit the Statue of the Medieval Knight, an interesting iron structure located close to the Igreja de Santiago.
Vila Real de Santo António
Vila Real de Santo António is a city built by Marques de Pombal. Along an extensive coastal avenue with historic buildings facing the Guadiana River, we find the marina of Vila Real de Santo António. In the center of the city we find the streets with shops and the Praça Marquês de Pombal, being the center of the city with a commercial and touristic nature, of Pombaline architecture. In the square, we find the Igreja Matriz, an obelisk crowned in honor of D. José I and four turrets that adorn its four corners. In addition to the built heritage, the location has emblematic natural spaces, such as the National Forest of the Dunes of Vila Real de Santo António, and takes us to know some of the most tourist beaches in the country. Here we also find the Farol Vila Real de Santo António, with its visitable circular tower and which continues to function today. From here, traveling along the banks of the Guadiana River, we are also invited to visit places of great cultural interest, such as the Municipal Historical Archive António Rosa Mendes, where we find a collection of historical documents about the region; the traditional Mercado Municipal and the emblematic Centro Cultural António Aleixo, which hosts numerous shows in the region. Finally, a few minutes away, we find the Adventure Park Vila Real de Santo António, ideal for radical activities in contact with nature.
As we head west towards the sunset, we find Monte Gordo, Altura and Vila Nova de Cancela, three acclaimed municipalities in southern Portugal, which stand out for their beaches and integration of elements of cultural interest and family, tourist beaches with warm waters and white sand, accessible and equipped with all the essential infrastructure for leisure, including bars and restaurants. In Monte Gordo we also find the Casino de Monte Gordo with several games rooms and an agenda with several shows. In addition to the Monte Gordo beach, we can opt for the natural Praia Verde, a maritime beach located in the shelter of stone pines, in the heart of the eastern Algarve. If we go west, we find Alagoa beach in Altura, Praia da Lota and Praia da Manta Rota, which extends to the peninsula of Cacela.
Albufeira (border of the western Algarve)
The city of Albufeira is a town on the Algarve coast, which was born from an old fishing village, still containing much of its ancient heritage and culture. Albufeira has a strong tourist characteristic, offered by the wealth of heritage in its historic center, by the numerous bars that guarantee nightlife (including the Old Town and The Strip Albufeira area) ), for the spaces of cultural interest, namely the exhibitions of Galeria Municipal de Albufeira, the eclectic Museu de Arte Sacra of Albufeira or the traditional Mercado Municipal dos Caliços. The perpetuation of religiosity in places such as the Church of Sant’Ana of the 18th century; the Igreja de São Sebastião, erected in the 13th century in Praça Miguel Bombarda, which has typical features of the region and elements of Manueline and Baroque aesthetics; and the Convent of Nossa Senhora da Orada, with typical Algarvian architecture, which, although dating from the 16th century, was completely reformed in the 18th century. Albufeira’s great historical and cultural interest coexists with local customs and natural beauty, as we can see at Marina de Albufeira and Miradouro Porto de Pesca, places where the region’s fishing tradition is perpetuated, from where we can glimpse the coastal beauty of the coastal coast.
Along the coast, we can take the coastal path that takes us from the Miradouro do Peneco to the Igreja de São Sebastião, passing on the tourist Praia do Peneco, next to which the streets of Drums and Admiral Gago Coutinho allow a glimpse of the coastal landscape. Traditionally, the Praia dos Pescadores is one of the best known in the city, for its clear sand and sparse marine undulation. Close to the square next to the beach, we find the Monumento aos Pescadores and at the top of the cliff we access Miradouro do Pau da Bandeira, from where we can have panoramic views over the town and the sea. As we move towards the East, we find less urban and more natural beaches, such as Praia dos Alemães, Leixão dos Alhos or Praia dos Aveiros, located in the shelter of the cliffs coastlines. More emblematic, the Praia da Oura and the Santa Eulália beach offer natural scenery, with dotted surroundings of green, golden sand and a sea conducive to the practice of sea sports. To the east, next to the Balaia beach, we can practice other types of sports, taking advantage of the nine-hole golf course of the Balaia Golf Course, suitable for players of all levels. Nearby, the Parque Aventura also deserves mention, being a place dedicated to the practice of tree climbing, much appreciated by children and adults.
Galé and Galé beaches
Galé is a coastal parish of Guia, located west of the city of Albufeira, known for the natural wealth of its beaches and cliffs, also integrating a tourist complex with all essential infrastructures. The beaches of Galé follow each other along the coastline from Praia da Galé (West) and up to Praia de Arrifes, presenting characteristics such as natural beauty, golden sand, steep cliffs, rocky outcrops and the fact that they are a anchorage destination and yachting tour for sailing and motor. These beaches are connected by a trail next to the cliff, which allows the encounter with the fullness of its natural beauty. Walking along the Galé trail in the West / East direction, we find São Lourenço beach, Manuel Lourenço beach, Balbina beach, Praia do Balbina Evaristo , Praia do Castelo , Praia da Coelha , Praia de Maré das Porcas , Praia das Salamitras , Praia da Ponta Grande and Small , Piratas Beach and São Rafael Beach **. These small beaches with very similar characteristics, protected from the wind by the rocks, with transparent waters, highly sought after by those who want moments of greater tranquility due to being away from the urban area.
Olhos d’Água village and beach
Olhos d’Água is a village in Albufeira, with a picturesque and traditional touch, whose beaches mark the border between the eastern Algarve (with a more sandy feature) and the Barlavento (with a rocky feature). One of the beautiful beaches that we can access from Olhos d’Água is the Maria Luísa beach, which stands out for the tones of its cliffs, which contrast with the navy blue and where we can enjoy various support infrastructures and sailing or windsurfing. The name of this locality comes from the freshwater springs on the beach (eyes of water) there, which we can glimpse during the low sea, also known as Olheiros de Água Doce, located between the beach of Olhos d’Água and the Barranco das Belharucas beach (a beach between the long cliff and the ocean) which is located at the western end of Falésia beach, a beach known for its 5 kilometers of sand, which stretches to Vilamoura, covered throughout the year by hiking lovers. Close to this beach, the Miradouro da Falésia is a place that invites us to stop to contemplate the natural beauty of the region. From the Barranco das Belharucas beach we have access to the Pine Cliffs Golf e Resort, a luxury tourist resort where we can enjoy a hotel, SPA services and the 9-hole golf course, especially known for the challenging sixth hole Par 3. On the cliff path, the village of Açoteias is another treasure of Albufeira, where we can enjoy the natural beauty of the cliff and the calmness of the Açoteias beach. Along the trail that connects Olhos d’Água and Vilamoura, by the beach and by paths on the top of the cliff, we can find two more beaches that deserve mention, the Praia dos Tomates, with its clay cliff and rubra, and the Praia da Rocha Baixinha, where the cliff begins to disappear to make way for the sandy dunes.
Paderne is a rural village belonging to the municipality of Albufeira, in which we find heritage elements of high value. Among these, we highlight the Igreja Matriz de Paderne or Igreja da Senhora da Esperança, from the 16th century, remodeled over the centuries, integrating architectural elements of Manueline and Renaissance style, being the visual elements that most stand out. the baroque style of the altarpieces of the chancel and the chapel of the Santíssimo are evident. In Paderne we can visit the Medieval Bridge, located on the Quarteira stream near the castle, rebuilt in the 18th century. Finally, we also highlight the ruins of the Castle of Paderne, whose first reference dates from the 12th century, and which is in a position overlooking the Ribeira de Quarteira, representing one of the castles that appear on the national flag, in the case of of a small fortification of Muslim origin that integrated the defensive line of the region. These attractions are highly sought after by lovers of nature walks.
Theme and water parks
The Algarve region is inviting for those looking for thematic equipment, with a natural and aquatic flair. One of the biggest theme parks in the Algarve region is the Zoomarine Algarve, a place where we can contemplate countless marine species, exotic birds and reptiles, interact with dolphins, watch shows and enjoy swimming pools, slides and some characteristic attractions of amusement parks. Between Quarteira and Loulé, we find the Aquashow Park, known for its wave pool, where we can enjoy attractions that include a roller coaster, gentle tracks, several slides and swimming pools suitable for all ages. Similar, the Aqualand Algarve in Alcantarilha offers activities that mix adrenaline, leisure and relaxation, adopting a familiar tendency in an environment where water is predominant. Finally, the famous Slide & Splash located between Lagoa and Portimão offers diversified water entertainments, as well as shows and SPA services, in an environment with thematic spaces, adapted to all ages and personal tastes.
Portimão is a city of fishing tradition, located in the Arade River Estuary, known for its beaches, customs, religious heritage and the preservation of local culture. When visiting the city of Portimão we find evident traces of its fishing soul, in spaces such as Marina de Portimão, Porto Comercial and Clube Naval, and a walk along the river by the Passeio Ribeirinho allows us to take advantage of traditional catering services, tasting the sea flavors of the region. The Mercado Municipal de Portimão is another place where we are invited to get to know this tradition a little better, with the sale of regional products, including fish. A visit to the Museu de Portimão, located in the building of the old canning factory, and still identified in this way on its facade, takes us to know better the fishing and industrial identity of the city, with a collection that focuses on the identity regional. From here, we advance to the city center in Praça da República, where we will find the garden with the same name, the Jesuit Igreja do Colégio (or São Francisco Xavier), which has already fulfilled the role of court of the city, and the 16th century Igreja Matriz de Portimão (or Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição), inside which stands out the baroque altar with gilded details. Although more distant, next to the shipyards, in the riverside area, the Capela de São José also deserves mention, not only for its simple and appealing facade, but for the history that refers to the cult of the people who worked at sea.
The passage of ancient peoples through this region is something we are also invited to visit in Portimão, at the Reception and Interpretation Center for the Megalithic Monuments of Alcalar or with a visit to the Ruins of the Convent of São Francisco de Portimão. And, since leisure is an important part of the essence of the city, it is worth looking at the programming of Parque de Feiras e Exposições de Portimão and Portimão Arena. In addition to these places, integrated in a natural environment, the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve is a major attraction in Portimão sought by the emotions of Formula 1 championships and GP motorcycles, sports that, alongside the golf, highlight the locality of Portimão on the world map. Here, the practice of golf is encouraged by the existence of internationally renowned courses, including the three courses at Penina Golf; the multipurpose courses of Morgado Golf, adapted to all levels of golfer; and Alamos Golf, which is short but challenging. Walking along Tomás Cabreira, we are also invited to visit the coastline of Portimão facing the sea and Praia da Rocha, the most emblematic beach in Portimão, considered among the most beautiful beaches in Portugal, with an extensive beach, protected by the cliffs and where we find clubs dedicated to water sports, such as surf or pleasure sailing. Going along the Molhe de Portimão, we are invited to walk to the striped Lighthouse of Praia da Rocha, at the end where it meets the ocean. At the beginning of the jetty, the Fortaleza de Santa Catarina is the place to visit, being a military monument from the 16th century that served for coastal defense.
On the opposite side of the beach, from the Miradouro dos Três Castelos we can observe the same coast from a different perfectiva, with a privileged view over Praia da Rocha, and Praia dos Três Castelos, this line being of beaches extends, taking us to several sandy beaches, with rocky structures and surrounded by cliffs, including Praia do Amado, Praia dos Careanos, Praia do Vau , Praia do Alemão, Praia do Boião and the secret and less populated Praia João de Arens, whose access can be somewhat challenging, but where we can find a stunning view of rock and sea. From Portimão we can walk down the cliff to Ponta João de Arens to see the Gruta das Baratas on a platform that allows us to walk on the void of a moat-shaped formation (algar), created by the penetration of rainwater on the limestone cliff. Continuing to walk in the direction of Alvor, we find the small beach of calm waters of Submarino, the romantic Praia da Prainha with small sands isolated by rocky structures, which create a more private environment under the cliffs; and the Praia da Torralta, known for its warm and clear waters. In the vicinity of the fishing village of Alvor, we highlight the richness of its religious heritage, the wetlands of the ria do Alvor estuary, the Alto Golf, a golf course with a course 18 holes, integrated in Vau da Rocha in a green environment, dotted with trees and lakes. In Alvor, we recommend visiting the wide and touristy Alvor beach and visiting the Ria de Alvor, an estuarine system in which an important national wetland is created, where biodiversity can be observed due to the existence of resident birds and migratory, in a typical fishing environment.
Ferragudo is a village on the east side of the Arade River, it is one of the parishes in the Algarve locality of Lagoa that we come across when we head from Portimão to Carvoeiro, being a route on which we find countless places of heritage and natural interest . We start by crossing the Portimão Railway Bridge up the Arade River, which is distinguished by its iron arches, and we find the fishing port and the Portimão Shipyards. The Sítio das Fontes Municipal Park, located on its bank, presents us with a small park of great natural, historical and cultural wealth, integrating several Mediterranean environments, a huge biodiversity and traces of the region’s medieval activities. Heading to Ferragudo walking along Rua Infante Santo, we go to the Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição, with a white and yellow facade, inside which houses a set of 16th, 18th and 19th century images. Near this location, Praia Grande and Praia da Angrinha represent the beaches of the estuary of the Rio Arade, with a sand surrounded by cliffs and vegetation. Having served for the defense of this river, we find here the 16th century Castelo de São João do Arade. Praia do Molhe demarcates the place where the river gives way to the ocean, and the neighboring Praia do Pintadinho. Following, we find the Lighthouse of Ponta do Altar located at 32 meters of altitude, built in 1893, from which we can observe the coastal coastal landscape and the city of Portimão with emphasis on the Praia do Torrado and the Caneiros beach. The Praia da Afurada, close to the Centro Hípico Casa Lusitana, also deserves mention, containing a cave and constituting a quiet beach, with an almost private inclination. From here, we proceed to Praia do Mato, passing Torre da Lapa, an old watchtower from the 16th century classified as a monument of public interest near Praia da Grilheria, a rocky beach of difficult to access and surrounded by cliffs. On the way to the Viewpoint of Arriba da Salgadeira, we passed the Vale da Lapa beach and Cama da Vaca beach, which take us to the most acclaimed Três Castelos beach. Carvoeiro, the rock formations of Praia dos Vale dos Currais and the small and virgin Praia do Paraíso, the latter being already integrated in the range of beaches in Carvoeiro.
Lagoa is a city in the Algarve with prehistoric heritage and an agricultural tradition marked by the production of wine, with a strong religious tradition. Bathing and sporting activities gave the region a more touristic flair, with the three local golf courses – the Vale da Pinta Golf, the Gramacho Golf and the Vale de Milho Golf – stand out for their natural ambience and the structures highlighted at European level. In addition to golf, the Sand City, and its International Sand Sculpture Festival are also one of the local highlights, presenting themselves respectively as the largest sand sculpture festival in the world.. From the modernity of the festival to the antiquity of traditions, Lagoa invites us to get to know the religious heritage, at the Convento de São José, an old secluded convent, built in the 18th century from which stands out the cloister and its cistern well and the exposed wheel, located at the entrance; and in the Igreja Matriz de Porches (or Church of Nossa Senhora da Encarnação), dating from the 16th century, with a simple facade, but an interior enriched by tiles and 19th century images that adorn it. Attached to this Church, we find the Chapel of the Bones of Alcantarilha, whose ornamentation is made with more than 1500 human bones.
Carvoeiro is a village in the western Algarve, known for its beaches and whose fishing and maritime practice marked the culture and tradition still visible today. The Largo da Praia do Carvoeiro is the center of the village where we find a wide promenade, surrounded by typical restaurants and small commercial spaces, next to Praia do Carvoeiro, where we have a yellowish cliff surrounding with vegetation and views of the white façades of the Algarve houses. This place is located just a few minutes from Praia do Paraíso, a small beach that we can reach by taking the road with the same name, which stretches along the west cliff. In the opposite direction and also a few minutes away, we find the Fort of Nossa Senhora da Encarnação of the 17th century, which served to protect the region from attacks by privateers and pirates, and with which we are invited to walk on footbridge of Carvoeiro to enjoy the ocean views from the Viewpoint of Falésia do Carvoeiro and visit the Algar Seco, a place known for its rocky caves, which we can visit on foot, by boat or even kayak or stand-up paddle boards. Here, Olhos da Boneca is the most well-known algarve and one of the most appreciated, due to its “natural windows” to the ocean.
The Coastal coast of Carvoeiro is an area that stands out for its scenic beauty, with numerous beaches located next to cliffs and which have rock formations of great interest and evident natural beauty, which makes them attractions for boat trips in the region. Difficult to access and small in size, the Vale Covo beach is the first we have listed, followed by the Vale de Centeanes beach, a bathing space sheltered by the surrounding escarpments, in a small cove, where the rock formations create caves of great visual interest and which is the starting point for the Route of the Seven Suspended Valleys, considered one of the best trails in Portugal and Europe due to its exciting position up the cliff with cliffs over the sea. This trail, with approximately 6 kilometers, takes us on a walk over the cliff from Praia Vale de Centeanes to Praia da Marinha, allowing us to be in contact with landscapes formed by collected beaches, an ocean with clear waters, colorful cliffs and interesting rock formations (including caves and algares), in a unique and natural setting.
On the way to the small and protected Praia do Vale Espinhaço, we find the Farol de Alfanzina, a centennial lighthouse, located on a rocky promontory that supports local navigation. The Praia do Carvalho located on the way to Benagil, a place of fishing tradition where we highlight the Algar de Benagil, one of the most famous caves of its type in the world and a one of the most photographed places in Portugal, highlighted by its structure with openings to the sea and the sky, which can be accessed by sea in small boats or paddle boards. The rocky structures follow one another along the coastline, taking us to the natural arches on the limestone cliff and to other beaches on which they create a unique setting, as exemplified by the Praia da Corredoura or Praia da Marinha known for its photography that combines two open rocks to form a heart shape. Praia da Marinha is, in fact, another of the highlights of the region, presenting itself as a white sandy beach and calm sea, classified as one of the hundred best beaches in the world, which offers a natural setting that is still quite wild , surrounded by a sculpted cliff and accessible from a long staircase. In addition to this beach, the natural beauty of the beaches and rock formations on the Carvoeiro coastline continues to Armação de Pêra, and on the way, we highlight the Praia do Pau, the Malhada do Baraço beach, the Barranquinho beach and the Estaquinha beach. Along with these, places like the Algar dos Capitães, the Algar da Albandeira and the Arco de Albandeira deserve to be highlighted because they are incredible natural rock formations. Before arriving in Armação de Pêra, we highlight the Praia de Albandeira, Praia das Fontainhas and Praia do Pontal, located in small coves that offer us a natural scenery of great beauty.
Armação de Pêra
Armação de Pêra is a parish of Silves, known especially for its natural characteristics and its beaches. Here, we can visit Fort of Santo António da Pedra da Galé (or Armação de Pêra Fortress) of the 16th century, before moving on to the valuable natural spaces of the locality. The biodiversity of the local flora and fauna can be observed in the wet area of Lagoa dos Salgados, a place connected to Praia dos Salgados suitable for bird watching culminating in the tourist resort of the homonymous homestead where the Salgados tourist village and the Nau Salgados hotel operates, where we find the Salgados Golf golf course. The Salgados beach is connected by the sand in an approximate extension of 4 km until the Praia Grande de Pêra , a more tranquil beach, of light sand that serves as shelter for several protected species of birds. More urban and populated, the Armação de Pêra beach is one of the busiest for being in front of the urban perimeter, as well as the Praia dos Pescadores which deserves to be highlighted due to the presence of fishing artefacts, including boats and nets. tidy on the sands, remembering the typical nature of this practice in the region During the practice of fishing, it is possible to observe a spectacular scene nowadays: fishermen transporting fishing boats across the beach to the sea, with the help of tractors. In this coastal line of bathing areas, the Vale do Olival beach , the Tremoços beach and the Beijinhos beach also stand out for their rugged and natural surroundings, a feature that extends even further Cova Redonda beach, Cavalos beach , Escaleiras beach and Senhora da Rocha beach . In the latter, we find the fishing port of the same name and the Church of Nossa Senhora da Rocha that dates back to the 15th or 16th century, overlooking the beach, built on the rock. Inside this coastal church we find a valuable 16th century image of the Virgin with Jesus . Continuing the path to the West, we find Praia Nova and Praia do Barranco , which connect us later, to Praia do Carvoeiro **.
Silves is a city located in the Algarve mountains known for its traditionality, natural surroundings, beach and built heritage. Silves was once the capital of al-Gharb al-Andalus (Algarve). Among its monuments, we highlight the Castelo de Silves, a defensive specimen of Arab origin that occupies a position overlooking the city, standing out for its square and battlements. At about 600 meters, we find the Mercado Municipal de Silves, located next to Rio Arade and whose architecture, known as “Estado Novo” or “Português Suave” architecture, is reflected in its roof and in the armillary sphere located next to the city’s coat of arms. Among the religious heritage, the Sé Catedral de Silves (cathedral erected on an old mosque) and the Igreja da Misericórdia de Silves of the 16th century, located a few steps away, are worth mentioning. The Municipal Museum of Archeology of Silves is also located near the churches, being the ideal place to discover a collection that refers to the antiquity of the region and the people who lived here. In Silves we find the golf courses Silves Golf, the Amendoeira Faldo Golf and the Amendoeira O’Connor Junior Golf, if golf were not one of the most acclaimed sports in the Algarve, these courses are visited by golfers from around the world. To the west of the city of Silves, the Cruz de Portugal dating from the beginning of the millennium is another place to visit, a carved limestone cross that exhibits Manueline and Gothic-flowery features. Close to Silves, the natural beauty of the reservoir of the Funcho dam and the reservoir of the Arade dam allows the encounter with water basins, in a green and idyllic environment.
Monchique is a picturesque village in the Algarve hills, especially known for its thermal waters to which healing powers are attributed, for its monuments and for the natural spaces of high value. In the locality, the Igreja Matriz de Monchique of the 16th century of Manueline architecture, with allusions to the local vegetation, allowing us to know a collection of valuable religious objects in its small museum. The Convent of Nossa Senhora do Desterro built in the 17th century, has a natural landscape with Manueline features. Moving on to Serra de Monchique, locally nicknamed “Jardim do Algarve”, we are invited to contemplate the region’s scenic wonder at Miradouro da Foia. The natural splendor of the region also integrates the Parque do Barranco dos Pisão, a green space with picnic tables crossed by a river, where we find a monumental centenary plane tree and an old water mill. In the locality, it is still worth visiting the waterfall of the Cascata do Barbelote, the Dam of the Odiáxere Dam (Barragem da Bravura) and the Dam of Odelouca, the latter being the main responsible for water supply in the Algarve region.
Lagos is a coastal town in the western Algarve, known for its impact on the history of the Portuguese Discoveries, the richness of its beaches and the vast historical and cultural heritage. One of the highlights of this region is the old town of Lagos, included within the walls, which we can only know by walking through the streets of natural stone, due to being an exclusively pedestrian area. The walls and turrets of Lagos, currently known as Castelo de Lagos, can be crossed by the Porta de São Gonçalo, located between two imposing towers. In Lagos we can still find in the Fishing Port near Marina de Lagos the traditional fishing art, and in the Municipal Market, where from the terrace we can access the Centro de Ciência Viva de Lagos, a cultural initiative promoted by the municipality, where science and technology mix with a playful-educational program of great interest for the youngest and also for the adults. The Avenida dos Descobrimentos, a pedestrian avenue next to the Bensafrim river, which stands out for its constant landscape of boats sailing through the canal to the marina and the fishing port.
Outside the walled area of Lagos, we can find places of historical and religious interest, namely the Igreja de Santo António, erected in the 13th century and recovered in the 18th century, within which we find the richest set of baroque carving from the Algarve, and the Museu Dr. José Formosinho. The Núcleo Museológico Rota da Escravatura or Mercado de Escravos, an attraction located in the center of the city portrays the 16th century tradition of selling slaves brought from Africa. We also highlight the Parish Church of Santa Maria de Lagos, from the 15th century in the Renaissance style, which includes a valuable set of religious images in Rococo style.
On the east side of the Bensafrim river we find emblematic beaches and monuments. The beach of São Roque, with white sands and transparent water, next to the famous Meia beach, whose sand stretches for 5 kilometers, from the piers of the starboard lighthouse of the city to the Ria de Alvor . On the dunes of Meia Praia beach we find the ruins of the imposing Forte da Meia Praia, a 17th century sea fort with a square plan created for defensive purposes. The offer of the beaches allows the practice of sand and sea sports, and other modalities, such as golf, can be practiced in the Palmares Golf, a 9-hole golf course in front of the Ria do Alvor and the sea.
From Lagos to Vila da Luz we find the Espiche Golf course, which offers us a beautiful natural setting and an 18-hole course. Towards Sagres, we come across some points of high recreational and cultural interest, namely the Gothic-Romanesque Igreja Nossa Senhora de Guadalupe, which stands out for the simplicity of the facade, integrated in a natural environment next to the N125 road a Vila do Bispo. Upon arriving at this village, we find the Igreja Matriz de Vila do Bispo, one of the most important Baroque constructions in the Algarve, from which the walls entirely covered by 18th century tiles stand out. On this road we find the entrance to Santo António – Parque da Floresta Golf, a golf course surrounded by villas that stretches across the hills next to the traditional village of Salema.
Traveling along the cliff trail from Lagos, in its circular conjecture, we leave Avenida dos Descobrimentos de Lagos, pass by the Belvedere of Praia da Batata to begin to glimpse an interesting set of beaches and spaces of heritage, natural and archaeological interest until we reach the Porto de Mós beach, one of the famous beaches in the municipality, which stands out for its high cliffs, the calm sea and the blue and green tones of its surroundings.
Along this path, we find the Clube de Vela de Lagos and the Praia dos Estudante, as well as the Roman Bridge of Lagos that overlaps the beach creating an arch in a natural landscape. Connected to this, we find the Praia do Pinhão and just after the Viewpoint of Praia do Canavial from where we can glimpse an extensive scenery over the coastal coast, cut by the cliff. Praia de Dona Ana, Praia do Camilo, Praia da Boneca, Praia dos Pinheiros and Praia da Balança follow this sandy line and bounded by the cliff, until we reach the end of Ponta da Piedade, at the southernmost point of this route. At the Ponta da Piedade cape we find the viewpoint and the Lighthouse of Ponta da Piedade of the 20th century, which supports coastal navigation. In this location, the Caves of Ponta de Piedade are also a mandatory stopping point. Finally, advancing to the beach of Porto de Mós we find the semicircular beach of Barranco do Martinho and the small sand of beach of Canavial, surrounded by cliffs of yellow tint.
Vila da Luz
Vila da Luz is an old traditional fishing village located a few kilometers west of Lagos, which in ancient times constituted a Roman complex. Vila da Luz is part of a coastal promenade next to the emblematic Praia da Luz, a beach of light sands, surrounded by rocks and the cliff, from which the Geodesic Landmark of Atalaia stands out, located more than 100 meters of altitude, and the Rocha Negra located on the cliff side towards the sea. In the vicinity we find the Fortaleza eighteenth century and the viewpoint of Praia da Luz. The historic center of the village deserves to be visited to visit the medieval Church of Nossa Senhora da Luz de Lagos, with Gothic, Manueline and Baroque architecture. Returning to the coast and advancing in the direction of Sagres we find the urban Praia do Burgau, which marks the limit of the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina to the west; the ruins of Forte de Almádena, also known as Forte da Boca do Rio; the traditional and fishing Salema beach; and the Praia do Zavial, which leaves us a few kilometers from Sagres.
Sagres is a historic village in the Algarve, built on the ruins left by the 1755 earthquake, known to be the extreme point of Southwest Europe. It is also the place where we find the Lighthouse of Cabo de São Vicente, visually highlighted by its masonry tower and the proximity to the cliff. Cabo de São Vicente is a landmark as a point of departure and arrival for one of the European Railroad Routes GR11-E9, which connects Cabo de São Vicente in Portugal, to Saint Petersburg in Russia, on a coastal route Western European. Advancing to the village of Sagres, we find the Lighthouse of Sagres, located next to the 16th century Fortaleza de Sagres, whose defensive structure, currently still visible, dates from the 18th century. This fortress is close to the Prainha das Poças, and a few hundred meters away, we can find the Renaissance Church of Nossa Senhora da Graça, with a white facade and simple outline, within which the altarpiece of gilded wood and the panel of Renaissance tiles are prominent elements. Here we can visit the Porto de Pesca da Baleeira and enjoy the traditional entrance of fishing boats, visit the Praia da Baleeira and Praia do Martinhal, surmounted by the well-known Martinhal Sagres Beach Family Resort Hotel. In Sagres there are some beaches that are part of the reason why Sagres is known as a world surfing destination, namely the urban Praia da Mareta, Praia do Tonel and Beliche beach.
The west coast of Sagres is recognized as a true world surfing destination due to the characteristics of oceanic waves, providing high quality waves, and a variety of beaches of different morphological types, with different types of sand and rock bottom, and geographical orientations creating waves for the practice of different levels of surfing. The Praia do Tonel and Praia do Beliche stand out for their tranquility and rock formations, and close to Praia do Beliche we can visit the Fortaleza do Beliche, whose first historical records date from century and that served to protect the region from attacks by pirates and corsairs. Still on the surfers’ route, we find the natural Praia do Telheiro; Ponta Ruiva beach, with its escarpments and islands with a red tint; the Castelejo beach and the Castelejo viewpoint; the Cordoama beach, Amado beach much sought after by surfer families, due to the easy parking, infrastructure and extensive sand, the Portinho do Forno beach, the beach Zimbreirinha and the Bordeira beach known for being the place where the Carrapateira stream empties, and for the long sand. In Carrapateira, considering the historical and current role of the ocean for the region, we recommend a brief visit to the Museum of the Sea and Land of Carrapateira, where the role of the sea in the customs, practices, economy and tradition of the region is portrayed .
Aljezur is an Algarve town, bordered by the sea and the mountains, which stands out for its natural landscapes and for its historical and cultural heritage. The natural heritage of Aljezur is represented by the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina, a national protected area that extends over more than 100 kilometers along the west coast of Portugal, between the Alentejo locality of Porto Covo and the Algarve village of Burgau, covering the Algarve municipalities of Aljezur and Vila do Bispo. This region has an enormous biodiversity, which includes animal and plant species that are unique in the world. The region stands out for the natural beauty of its landscapes, marked by the colorful rugged cliffs that are one of the symbols of this natural park. Along the natural park, countless beaches are integrated, with rocky surroundings, clear sands and mostly with a sea conducive to the practice of sea sports activities, including surfing. Among the beaches, we highlight small villages positioned in front of the sea, with beaches, lifestyles and very own environments, namely Porto Covo, Vila Nova de Milfontes, or Arrifana. The Natural Park of the Southwest Alentejo and Costa Vicentina also includes outstanding examples of the built heritage, including the Lighthouse of Cabo de São Vicente and other spaces that mark national history, such as the Ponta de Sagres.
Overlooking the village of Aljezur, the Castelo de Aljezur of Arab origin and military architecture conquered in the 13th century served to defend the territory, currently standing out for its magnificence at the highest point of the village. Among the built heritage spaces, we highlight the Igreja Matriz de Aljezur, a baroque and neoclassical 18th century temple that boasts a white facade with a bell tower, and where we find the image of Nossa Senhora da Alva, the local patron. Despite the rich heritage, the beaches are the hallmarks of the region. The Praia da Arrifana is a prominent example, a beach with a blue flag, located in an inlet and whose long sand is sheltered from the northern winds, and on this beach we can see the Pedra da Agulha, one of the visual landmarks of Costa Vicentina, and glimpse a privileged view from the Fortaleza da Arrifana. A few kilometers to the north, next to Medo da Fonte Santa beach, located north of Ponta da Atalaia, we can find a space of high archaeological value, with traces of an ancient Muslim Ribat . Advancing to the North, we will find the Monte Clérigo beach, integrated in a small summer village, which stands out for its extensive sand and for the unusual rocky platform that we observe at low tide. In this line of beaches, the Praia da Amoreira stands out, with a green surrounding of nature; the Carriagem beach and the rock formations that enter the ocean; the Vale dos Homens beach, of great natural beauty; the Samouqueira beach, where we can enjoy the warm waters of a small bay and an interesting cave that can be crossed during low tide; the naturist Praia das Adegas; and Odeceixe Beach, surrounded by coastal scrub and black cliffs.
The History of the Algarve
The Algarve has been populated since 1000 BC by various peoples, namely Celts, Iberians, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Suevi, Visigoths and Arabs. The period of Muslim occupation was the most lasting and of great importance for the Algarve, for five centuries (715-1249), reaching a high cultural and economic status, mainly in Silves, capital of al-Gharb al-Andalus of the time. The Muslim influence is still visible today in many aspects of the daily life of al Garb (in Arabic it means “to the west”), namely in the Algarve chimneys, in the formation of some words (almost all Portuguese words that start with ” al “have Arab origins), in the windmills, in the Portuguese caravel, in nautical instruments and some agricultural techniques.
The Algarve was conquered on March 29, 1249 by the Portuguese king D Afonso III, however it was during the time of the Portuguese discoveries that the Algarve had a great economic growth, namely in the towns of Sagres and Lagos, which reached a high importance due to the establishment of residence of Infante D Henrique, the great driver of the Discoveries.
The Algarve region experienced a time of impoverishment between the seventeenth and the twentieth century, with a focus on some events, namely the 1755 earthquake, which deeply affected the region;
- the foundation of Vila Real de Santo António in 1774 by the Marquis of Pombal;
- the creation of the General Company of the Royal Fisheries of the Kingdom of the Algarve in 1773;
- the revolt of Olhão, which consisted of the revolt of the people of Olhão against the French Invasions on April 14, 1808;
- the creation of maritime steam transport between Vila Real de Santo António and Lisbon on June 2, 1853;
- and the connection of the Faro-Barreiro train line on February 21, 1889.
Since the 1970s, the economy of the Algarve has grown with a strong focus on the tourism sector, initially with the creation of the tourist resorts of Vilamoura, Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo, and later since the 1990s with the promotion of all the region as a “destination for Sun and Golf”. The Algarve is currently the main tourist region in Portugal, offering quality in several tourist niches, namely: golf; beaches; resorts; marinas and nautical; bird watching; wine; gastronomy; equestrian and also with a strong component of real estate investment due to the strong valuation and security of investment.
Geography of the Algarve
Algarve borders in the north with Alentejo, in the west and in the south with Atlantic Ocean and in the east with Spain, separated by Guadiana river. It has approximately 451 thousand inhabitants in a geographical area of 5412 km2, an extension of 135 km in length and a maximum width of 40 km. With totally different characteristics throughout its territory, the Algarve is divided into:
- Barlavento Algarvio: it is the western part of the Algarve, includes the municipalities of Albufeira, Aljezur, Lagoa, Lagos, Monchique, Portimão, Silves and Vila do Bispo. The main natural highlights are the sandy beaches with cliffs, such as Carvoeiro beach, the Natural Park of Southwest Alentejo and Costa Vicentina, Benagil cave, the fishing villages;
- Sotavento Algarvio: the eastern part of the Algarve, with emphasis on the Ria Formosa Natural Park, a natural park that extends from Quinta do Lago to Cacela Velha, between the coastal parishes and the ocean, including the municipalities Alcoutim, Castro Marim, Faro, Loulé, Olhão, São Brás de Alportel, Tavira and Vila Real de Santo António;
- Central Algarve: is the meeting area between the Barlavento and the Eastern Algarve, where the Golden Triangle area is located, a triangulation between the three tourist resorts Quinta do Lago, Vale do Lobo and Vilamoura, the resorts most in demand by foreign investors in the Algarve, responsible for the great growth of international tourists since the 1970s. Around the Golden Triangle, the Algarve has developed an economy of services related to luxury investments, namely in more than 30 golf courses, 5 star hotels, Michelin star restaurants, architecture, engineering, interior architecture, landscaping, real estate agencies, luxury supermarkets (Apolónia and Baptista). The existence of the Golden Triangle in the municipality of Loulé gave rise to all the surrounding parishes to take advantage of this growth, creating a supply of jobs related to tourism and service. Currently the Quinta do Lago resort is responsible for real estate transactions, in a single property, which easily exceed 10 million euros, as well as the Vale do Lobo resort. Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo are resorts aimed exclusively at a large audience, while the Vilamoura resort offers a more family-friendly lifestyle, having grown up with a more varied market, with Portuguese and international residents, despite providing a style of high quality life, with a wider range of services for tourists and investors!
Litoral do Algarve:
The coast of the Algarve is the most populated area in the region. With approximately 200 km of coastline, the Algarve is divided into three territories:
- the Planalto Vicentino, located in the west of the Algarve with landscapes of fossil dune fields;
- a Sagres Peninsula, known as São Vicente promontory, being the Algarve’s place with nature in the purest and wildest state. The main highlights are the cliff beaches with strong waves that provide surfing, the Cabo de São Vicente, and the Fortaleza de Sagres, also known as Sagres Castle or Sagres Fort;
- south coast: a territory with limestone cliffs in the Barlavento, and extensive sandy beaches in the Sotavento
Barrocal do Algarve is the region located in the interior center of the Algarve, between the coast and the Algarve mountains, with an extension that starts at the Cape of São Vicente and extends to Castro Marim. It is the place where we find some of the typical products of the Algarve originating from native trees, namely almond, carob, olive and fig trees. In Barrocal we find several points of environmental, geological, landscape and cultural interest, such as the Pego do Inferno Cascade, Cerro da Cabeça, Cerro de São Miguel, Rocha da Pena, Fonte Benémola, Nave do Barão, Castelo de Paderne, and Castelo de Salir.
Serra Algarvia is a region located in the north of the Algarve, on the border with the Alentejo, and covers approximately 50% of the Algarve territory, characterized by mountainous reliefs, namely:
- the Serra de Monchique, designated by the Arabs as Munt Sàquir (sacred mountain), located in the west of the Algarve, with the highest point in Fóia, with 902 meters of altitude;
- the Serra do Caldeirão, located in the center and east of the Algarve, has the highest point in Pelados, with 589 meters of altitude;
- the Serra de Monte Figo, covers the municipalities of Faro, Olhão, Loulé and São Brás de Alportel, has the highest point in Cerro de São Miguel, with 411 meters of altitude;
- e Serra de Espinhaço de Cão, located in the west of the Algarve, has the highest point in the geodesic landmark of Poldra, with 248 meters of altitude.
Main shopping centers in the Algarve
- AlgarveShopping, located in the parish of Guia, near Albufeira;
- Algarve Outlet Olhão, located in the city of Olhão;
- Aqua Portimão, located in the city of Portimão;
- MAR Shopping, Outlet, and IKEA, located near exit 13 of the Via do Infante highway, between Loulé and Faro;
- Forum Algarve, located at the entrance to the city of Faro
- Quinta Shopping, located at the entrance to the Quinta do Lago resort
- Tavira Gran-Plaza, located in the city of Tavira
Faro International Airport
Faro International Airport is located four kilometers from the city of Faro. It is the gateway to the region with 36 golf courses, and more than 300 days of sunshine a year. From Faro we can fly in Portugal to Lisbon, Porto, Ponta Delgada in the Azores and Funchal on the island of Madeira. Outside Portugal, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland make up more than 80% of flights arriving at Faro International Airport. There are also air connections between Faro International Airport to: Vienna, Austria; Brussels (Charleroi and National Zavetem) in Belgium; Copenhagen in Denmark; Madrid (Barajas) in Spain; Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon, Marseille (Provence), Nantes, Paris (Beauvais-Tille, Charles de Gaulle and Orly) and Toulouse in France; Luxembourg City in Luxembourg; Oslo (Gardermoen) in Norway; Prague, in the Czech Republic; Stockholm (Arlanda) in Sweden; Basel, Geneva and Zurich in Switzerland; and outside Europe, Toronto (Pearson) in Canada.
Algarve Marinas and Shelter Ports
The Algarve is visited by sea by sailors and cruises from all over the world. It is one of the destinations of arrival for sailors who cross the Atlantic Ocean from the American continent, the Caribbean, northern Europe and the Mediterranean Sea.
- Vilamoura Marina: located in Vilamoura, it is the first marina in Portugal, opened in 1974. The Vilamoura marina has received several awards, namely Blue Flag of Europe, Best Marina in Portugal awarded by Publituris Portugal Trade Awards and the International Marina of Distinction 2015-2017. Vilamoura’s marina is approximately 160 miles from Lisbon, 140 miles from Gibraltar and 190 miles from Puerto Banus. It has 825 moorings for vessels up to 60 meters in length and 4 meters of draft. The Vilamoura marina is the training ground for international regattas with the Vilamoura Sailing project that attracts Olympic sailors and professionals from all over the world. Next to the marina is CIMAV, a sailing club founded in 1975 that trains young sailors, and organizes highly prestigious regattas, namely the International Sailing Tournament of Carnival.
- Marina de Albufeira: located west of the city center of Albufeira, it opened in 2004 and received several awards, namely Five Golden Anchors, awarded by “The Yacht Harbor Association”; Second Best Marina of 2015, and Blue Flag of Europe, the only marina in Portugal to receive this distinction for the tenth consecutive year. The Albufeira marina has 475 mooring places for vessels up to 32 meters in length and 4.5 meters of draft.
- Marina de Lagos: located on the east bank of the Bensafrin stream, close to the historic center of the city of Lagos, it was inaugurated in 1994, having received several awards, namely Euromarina Anchor Award, Blue Flag of Europe, Five Anchors Gold Anchor Award, and Five Star Blue Star Marina. The Lagos marina has 462 moorings for vessels up to 30 meters in length and 3 meters of draft.
- Marina de Portimão: it is a reference for yachts up to 50 meters in length, with 620 moorings for vessels up to 50 meters in length and 4.2 meters in draft. Portimão’s marina holds several awards, including the Global Anchor Awards given by The Yacht Harbor Association, the Jack Nichol Award and the Blue Flag of Europe award.
- Porto de Recreio de Olhão: located in the city of Olhão, in the heart of Ria Formosa, it has a capacity for 320 boats up to 15 meters in length and 2.5 meters in draft.
- Porto de Recreio de Tavira: recreational port located in Tavira, with capacity for 70 moorings for small boats.
- Porto do Recreio do Guadiana: located in Vila Real de Santo António, with capacity for 360 boats up to 20 meters in length and 3 meters of draft. The recreational port of Guadiana includes various services and infrastructures, namely the Sailing School of the Associação Naval do Guadiana.
Public hospitals in the Algarve
- Centro Hospitalar Universitário do Algarve – Hospital de Faro;
- Lagos District Hospital / Barlavento Algarvio Hospital Center;
- Centro Hospitalar Universitário do Algarve – Hospital de Portimão.
Private hospitals in the Algarve
- Hospital de Loulé (Open 24 hours)
- Grupo HPA SAUDE Hospital Particular do Algarve (Open 24 hours), with several centers in Alvor; Gambelas, Faro; São Camilo Hospital, Portimão; Hospital São Gonçalo de Lagos.
- Lusíadas Hospitals