About the Algarve
Are you still wondering why you should visit this hedonic place?
Well, let’s start by giving you an overview of some of the most important wonders that the Algarve has to offer. The Algarve possesses a beauty that usually exceeds the expectations of visitors. Its amazing views are garnished by the relaxing light blue sky, the Atlantic Ocean and by the smell of salty waters and traditional sweets.
History and culture
If you are a history enthusiast, the Algarve has something for you! Most of the towns and cities developed from settlements that already existed when the Romans occupied the territory, over 2000 years ago. The origin of the name Algarve dates back to the early Middle Ages, when the Muslims occupied the region and called it ‘Al-Gharb’, meaning ‘the west’ in Arabic. Many places in the Algarve present a quite peculiar architecture, thanks to Arabian and medieval influences. You definitely have to visit Silves! Silves was the capital of Al-Gharb during the Moorish reign; therefore it possesses numerous examples of the Moorish architecture, as for instance its famous castle. Silves hosts a Medieval Festival every year, attracting thousands of visitors.
You can visit the fortress of Sagres and imagine Henry the Navigator, a Portuguese prince from the 15th century, sitting on the cliffs and wondering if there was any land beyond the vast ocean. In fact, Henry the Navigator, known as the initiator of the European Age of Discoveries, was the founder of Sagres. For the history enthusiasts, we have a dedicated article about the history of the Algarve.
Beaches in the Algarve
The Algarve is known for having perhaps some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe. Here you can find long sandy beaches along the coast from the Spanish border to Albufeira, as well as sheltered lagoons and sandy islands from Tavira to Faro. But there also hundreds of beaches protected by sandstone cliffs between Albufeira and Sagres. Traditionally, these two completely different parts of the south coast of the Algarve are known as Sotavento (which corresponds to the sandy Algarve) and Barlavento (which corresponds to the rocky Algarve). Besides that, there is a strong environmentally protected west coast called Costa Vicentina, which is a paradise for lovers of nature and tranquility. In fact, the west coast is a natural park and no hotels or others buildings have been allowed there.
If you prefer a more cosmopolitan atmosphere, there are cities like Portimão and Albufeira, where the nightlife lasts till morning. Nightlife in Portimão is mainly concentrated mainly in Praia da Rocha, with lots of bars and busy discos like Kathedral. In Albufeira you can walk around the busy center and you can find lots of bars and clubs with their own performances, live music and entertainment. Also famous for its night scene is the so-called Strip area with all sorts of discos, pubs and bars. If you like dancing this is perhaps a good tip.
If you appreciate nature combined with culture, visit Faro and the Natural Park of Ria Formosa to enjoy its warm waters, long stretching beaches, diverse bird life, interesting museums and the fascinating old town. If you want, you can even grab a ‘boat taxi’ and sunbath on the desert islands of the Ria! On the other side, the west coast of the Algarve concentrates amazing natural landscapes with deserted beaches, wonderful rock formations and a variety of wild life in an environmentally protected area which has remained unchanged and unaffected by tourism. This is the ideal place to get away from busy environments and to immerse into a quiet, fascinating natural environment. This is one of our strongest recommendations.
The Algarve also owns an amazing countryside, ornated with endless orangeries. You can visit the Serra de Monchique mountains and spend some time relaxing under the tree shadows and enjoy some massages on the Villa Termal. Caldas de Monchique’s hot springs are famous for their curative properties related to respiratory problems. And besides all of that, you can visit monuments and numerous hotspots! But one cannot forget the mountain ranges of Serra do Caldeirão, in the northern side of the Algarve, the least developed part of the region. Here you can find quiet and tiny villages which seem not to have changed for centuries and also a lovely landscapes. If you like, you can read more about the geography of the Algarve.
Instead of renting a house/apartment or staying in a hotel, there are some tourists who prefer camping in one of the camping parks of the Algarve! In this case you can find good camping sites in Monte Gordo, the Island of Tavira, Olhão, Albufeira and Lagos.
The Algarve is also the home of several large water parks, like Slide & Splash, Aquashow and Aqualand. Here you can experience adventure in one of the many water attractions and enjoy extreme feelings of rising adrenaline.
Why not take your family to Zoomarine? Besides being a water park, situated in Guia, just about 6 kilometres from Albufeira, Zoomarine offers a complete marina experience for adults and children of all ages. Here you can watch aquatic shows with various marine beings, like dolphins, seals, and sea lions, and even swim with them!
If you enjoy animals, you can also visit the Zoo of Lagos, which is home to various friendly animals (most of them). It has a small monkey village, which can be quietly observed from one of the many benches in the area. You can walk among kangaroos and pet ponies, and even visit the cave of the lords of the night… bats!
Food enthusiasts can also spend a great time in the Algarve. The Algarve has a great variety of food specialties, starting from grilled sardines to the famous cataplana or grilled piri-piri chicken. In case you prefer to cook by yourself, you can find fresh fish, sea food, all kinds of meat and delicious fruits and vegetables in one of the local markets. If you prefer to eat the dishes already prepared, you have plenty of restaurants to choose from, on the countryside or at the seashore, economical or luxurious. If you are in the middle of a walk and feel a bit hungry or thirsty and desiring for something refreshing, you can visit one of the many ice cream parlours and taste some of the flavours from some of the best handmade ice-creams of the country.
Are you a fan of desserts and sweets in general? Head to one of the many pastelarias (cafes offering a great variety of cakes and sweets) and taste some of the various traditional pastries of the area. You can start by delighting yourself with a famous Dom Rodrigo, a sweet made of gems and almonds wrapped in colourful aluminium foil. There are also the traditional Bolinhos de Amêndoa (almond cakes) that come in all shapes, from fruits to little fishes! And if you seek for something typically Portuguese, you can try the pastéis de nata, which are delicious custard cakes. Although they have their origins in Belém, a quarter of Lisbon, you can find them all over the country. This is perhaps the most typical Portuguese pastry. If you would like to learn more about Portuguese food, we have a separate article for you.
The people of the Algarve are known to be open and friendly. The ambient is really relaxing, and most natives are quite easy-going! And if you fear having problems because you don’t speak Portuguese… don’t worry about it! Since a long time, English is a mandatory language in the Portuguese school system. As a consequence, you will not have difficulties in communicating with local people, especially younger people. Also, you will find a big amount of foreigners living in the Algarve, most of them British. That is why most of the public places have information in, at least, Portuguese and English.
AlgarveTips.com is a non-commercial tourist information project that has spontaneously arisen out of love for the Algarve region, where we were born. The website has the following aims:
- To provide objective information for tourists with special interests visiting the Algarve. In most cases we aim at providing more information than currently available websites.
- To give the right advice for visitors wishing to discover the Algarve and help tourists get the most out of their trip in this region.
- Revealing secrets about places in the Algarve and providing you with unique, unforgettable experiences, not currently available for the ordinary tourist. These secrets are based on our deep knowledge of the region, its people and its culture.