The Algarve region of Portugal
has a mature tourist industry and has become one of the most popular holiday destinations in Europe. Many of the low cost UK airlines operate from Faro Airport, which has increased the number of visitors to the region.
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The Algarve region of southern Portugal enjoys a sub-tropical climate with over 300 days of sunshine every year. Winter temperatures typically reach 16-18 degrees Centigrade maximum, so the Algarve is a popular year-round destination. The summer months see temperatures peaking at around 27-32 degrees Centigrade maximum in the daytime. This article provides a visitor’s guide to some of the best known resorts in the Algarve region.
Albufeira is the best known resort in the Algarve, and is considered by many to be a young person’s destination. Albufeira is well known for its bars and nightclubs in the famous “Strip”. The town is effectively divided into 2 parts - the Strip containing shops, bars and nightclubs, and the old town with its cobbled streets, shops, bars, restaurants all based around a town square. Albufeira is also a good winter destination, with plenty of winter activities such as golf, fishing, boat trips and walking.
Alvor is a traditional Portuguese fishing village located on a sheltered natural lagoon which opens out into the sea. The town is a maze of narrow cobbled streets, with an old parish church at the centre. The quayside restaurants provide fresh sea produce at very reasonable prices. Fish stews and grilled sardines are local specialities. Deep sea fishing and boating trips are available at the harbour. Although this ancient coastal village is now a very popular holiday location the enclosed narrow streets have restricted the advances of developers, and much of the towns original charm is preserved. Many of these cobbled streets have bars with live music and different types of restaurants
Faro is often overlooked by visitors to the Algarve, but with its historic old town and a typical Portuguese marina surrounded by restaurants and cafes, the town is a popular winter break destination.
Lagos with its spectacular rock formations and golden beaches have made the town one of the most popular Algarve resorts. As you head west from Lagos, the scenery gradually becomes more rugged, with many of the beaches becoming a little less accessible. The water can be choppy, and may not be ideal for young children. Around 6km to the west of Lagos is the well-known "Praia da Luz" village.
Monte Gordo (translated as the "Fat Mountain") was formerly a fishing village, and was one of the first tourist destinations on the Algarve with the first hotels in the area built in the sixties. One of the most beautiful areas of the Algarve is Monte Gordo beach which has fantastic scenery. In the town there are a great number of bars and restaurants, where you can taste the best of the traditional Algarve cuisine. The Restaurant Marisqueira Monte Gordo is a favourite destination for tourists.
Portimao is one of the most densely populated cities in the Algarve. Portimao is the largest town on the Barlavento/Western area of Algarve. The city has a harbour and a small airfield. The coastline around Portimao consists of sandy beaches and stunning coloured rock formations. The Caves of Estombar are well worth a visit, as is the mosaic floor of the Roman villa at Figueira. Inland from Portimao the scenery and traditional villages are also not to be missed.
Sagres is a great destination for walkers, experienced surfers and visitors interested in natural beauty rather than the more developed resorts. Sagres is around a 2 hour drive from Faro at the far Western tip of the Algarve, and has a similarity to the West coast of Wales. The beaches here can be dangerous due to the huge waves, and a number of unsuspecting people have been swept away in recent years. Sagres Castle is set on cliff tops above the sea and is a great place to view the fantastic landscape.
Tavira has been developed significantly in recent years, but retains much of its original charm. A visit to the Old Town is recommended with its historic church and beautiful medieval houses with Gothic windows and doorways. There are plenty of shops, bars and restaurants to idle away the time. The best beaches require a short ferry ride out to Tavira Island, but there are smaller beaches around the town which are great for kids.
Vilamoura is one of the most developed of the Algarve resorts and is popular with golfers and boat-owners. Vilamoura is centred on a marina surrounded by restaurants and bars. Apartments and villas have been purpose built in the area surrounding the marina, and many are owned by British who use them as holiday homes. There are large sandy beaches to the east and west of the marina. To the east of Vilamoura is Quarteira which is a more typical Algarve town with a long sandy beach, and where prices are considerably lower. There are a multitude of bars, shops and restaurants along Quarteira beachfront.
Getting to the Algarve
Most of the major airlines such as Ryanair fly to Faro Airport. Flight prices are very reasonable if you avoid travelling from July to mid September. Always book early to get the best flight prices.
Getting Around the Algarve
There are plenty of rental car companies such as Blue Valley Car Hire operating at Faro Airport. Whichever company you choose, always remember to check the fuel options. If you are not considering doing a lot of driving, avoid the deals which require you to pick up the car with a full tank and return it empty. Also look out for companies who offer zero excess CDW insurance.