Portugal’s southernmost region boasts wonderfully eye-catching scenery and stunning beaches that are undoubtedly amongst the best in Europe. From the natural border with Spain formed by the River Guadiana to the east, to the stunning cliffs at Cape St Vincent in the west, the southern Algarve coastline is blessed with soft sandy beaches interspersed with craggy coves, vibrant, colourful marinas and the sights and sounds of bustling coastal resorts and world class golf courses. From the Algarve’s capital, Faro, small ferry boats chug across the protected lagoons of the Ria Formosa Natural Park to idyllic beaches on the offshore islands. Heading north from Sagres, the Algarve’s western coastline remains largely undisturbed, featuring the Costa Vicentina Natural Park and dramatic, wild beaches, where the Atlantic rollers have created popular surfing hotspots. Amidst the eucalyptus clad Monchique Mountains and the low mountains of the Serra de Caldeirão, north of the market towns of Loulé and São Brás, the Algarve’s interior offers an altogether different pace of life, with tiny rural villages and inland lakes, as well as the splendour of the Moorish capital, Silves, with its medieval castle. Once explored, this sleepy part of the Algarve is surely never forgotten. Our Portugal Breakaways choice of Algarve holiday apartments and villas will help you discover just how special this delightful region of southern Portugal really is.
With its vibrant shopping mall, pavement cafés, typical restaurants, and remnants of the historic old city that survived the infamous 1755 earthquake, the Algarve’s capital, Faro, is a natural starting point for a meandering journey eastwards towards the Spanish border. At Estoi, a small town near Faro, the Roman archaeological site at Milreu is a much visited national monument. At picturesque Olhão, the region’s main port town, you’ll find a bustling fish market and popular restaurants serving the day’s deliciously grilled catch beside the palm-lined promenade, from where you can take a leisurely ferry ride to the unspoilt and seldom crowded beaches of the offshore islands. Tavira, one of the Algarve’s prettiest towns, is an historical treasure trove with a glorious beach too, and heading inland, delightful, unspoilt villages sit peacefully beside the Guadiana River. River cruises and walking trails offer alternatives to the gorgeous beaches and there are several splendid golf courses in this beautiful corner of south east Portugal too.
Between Faro, the capital, and Portimão, the second biggest city, the central Algarve coastline offers a multitude of visual delights with so much to enjoy from the simple pleasures of a beachside stroll beside the gently lapping waves to the challenge of world renowned, coast-hugging golf courses and the designer stores and sleek yachts of a colourful marina. The deluxe resorts of Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo are famed for their exquisite villas, superb restaurants and outstanding sporting facilities. Vilamoura, too, is a golfer’s paradise and has the Algarve’s best known marina, with dozens of excellent bars, eating places and nightspots. With lovely beaches either side of the town, cosmopolitan Albufeira remains as popular as ever, blending well-priced local restaurants with street cafés and a vibrant night scene. Five kilometres west of Albufeira, the countryside area of Vale de Parra is peppered with attractive holiday homes, a few hotels, loads of restaurants and a whole cluster of beautiful beaches including the award-winning São Rafael, Arrifa, Castelo, Evaristo and the long stretch of dune-backed sands running from Praia de Galé to Salgados, where a splendid boardwalk presents a delightful stroll past the protected natural lagoon. West of the resort of Armação de Pera, the coastal scene changes, with craggy coves, amazing rock formations and small sandy bays heading towards Carvoeiro.
The bustling town of Portimão is the gateway to the western Algarve and is famous for its port-side restaurants beneath the old bridge, where freshly caught sardines sizzle on the grills, to be enjoyed with a chilled glass of Portugual’s unique vinho verde. Portimão, and what is now the seaside resort of Praia da Rocha, was the Algarve’s first popular beach resort amongst Portuguese citizens. Today, Rocha’s wonderful broad, sandy beach basks beneath the long, flat promenade with dozens of small shops, local and international restaurants and trendy bars which trigger a lively evening scene. Across the River Arade is the charming fishing village of Ferragudo, with several of its own picturesque beaches and a pretty town square. North of Portimão, the tranquil hills of the spa town Monchique seem far removed from the busy world below. This is an area of glorious unspoilt countryside, perfect for a leisurely drive towards to north western limits of the Algarve region, where the Atlantic coast is sprinkled with peaceful surfing villages beside dramatic and impressive beaches all within the Costa Vicentina Natural Park, a protected area. Heading back towards the southern coast, the historic town of Lagos is a cosmopolitan resort with a lovely, traffic-free town centre with a great choice of bars, eateries and stores.
With a long and proud history as one of the area’s traditional fishing communities, Albufeira can today boast over forty years as the Algarve’s most popular resort. The square is the focal point of Albufeira’s charming old town, where a variety of restaurants offer tempting dishes from delicious Portuguese specialities to modern cuisine styles from all over the world including Asian-fusion, Japanese, Mexican, Brazilian, Israeli and Dutch. Recent modernisation means the streets flowing away from the square are almost completely traffic free, creating a warm, friendly atmosphere by day and by night, with street performers and buzzing music bars featuring live bands and late night cutting edge sounds. Albufeira’s lovely town beach, Praia dos Pescadores, is easily accessed from street level, and the golden sands stretch eastwards to Praia da Oura, with beach bars providing welcome refreshments along the way! Amidst this happy, cosmopolitan atmosphere, local stores, sloping streets and tiny old houses ensure that Albufeira maintains its warm, traditional charm.
Vale de Parra
Located five kilometres west of Albufeira, Vale de Parra has become an enormously popular family holiday destination, within easy reach of the town and all it has to offer, whilst remaining essentially a peaceful, residential area featuring Algarve holiday villas, a few hotels, an excellent variety of restaurants and cafés, the considerable challenge of Salgados Golf Course and a marvellous selection of quite delightful beaches. The pretty little rock-enclosed beach coves at Arrifa, Coelha, Evaristo and Manuel Lourenço give way to the splendid ribbon of sands between Praia de Galé and Salgados. Every beach features its own beach bar and restaurant with menus offering mouth watering choices from simple snacks to lobster and delicious seafood specialities! Albufeira’s developing Marina is nearby, offering the chance to join sea cruises and diving tours and there are waterside bars, restaurants and cafés.
Six kilometres inland from Albufeira, Guia has grown to be one of the most popular villages in this part of the Algarve for an unlikely number of reasons. Once upon a time Guia was famous for its impressive quota of simple, popular and very noisy chicken piri-piri restaurants. This spicy chicken dish is served up with chips and salad and goes down equally well with a cold beer or vinho verde! Don’t even think of visiting this part of the Algarve without trying it! Guia has several other fine restaurants with a wide variety of dishes, and the pavement terrace of the Guia F. C. bar is an astonishingly popular evening watering-hole! Two kilometres west of the village is Zoomarine, featuring dolphin shows and other wonderful entertainment. Also nearby is Algarve Shopping, with a hypermarket, shops, boutiques, a fabulous food hall and a cinema complex. And perhaps the feather in Guia’s cap is Sir Cliff Richards’ fantastic vineyard and winery where you can take a wine tasting tour!
With its coastal location amidst a natural pine forest and marshlands, Vilamoura has earned a reputation as Portugal’s flagship leisure destination over a period of several decades. On the fringes of the resort centre, neat, palm-lined avenues are flanked by lush green vegetation, not least within six superb golf courses, making this one of Europe’s leading golf destinations. The sports and leisure facilities do not end there either, with a sports centre, tennis, shooting, horse-riding and lawn bowls all well represented, along with superb spa facilities in a number of the leading hotels. Vilamoura’s beautifully developed marina takes centre stage, with an impressive collection of eating places, bars, waterside cafés and chic stores. It’s a great place to stroll and browse, or to people-watch over a towering ice-cream! Within the Marina is Vilamoura Casino with gaming rooms, fabulous evening shows and a nightclub. Either side of the marina are glorious sandy beaches, Marina beach to the east and the magnificent Falésia beach to the west.
Located mid way between Albufeira and Vilamoura amidst pine filled, coastal countryside, Açoteias is a peaceful village close to the marvellous Falesia beach, one of the longest stretches of beach on the Algarve, six kilometres of soft golden sands backed by a towering cliff. There are lovely walking or cycling trails to be enjoyed in the area, and there is a wonderfully scenic 9 hole golf course at the Sheraton Pine Cliffs Hotel and Country Club. The village is dotted with a variety of Portuguese and international restaurants, cafés and family friendly bars, with several supermarkets, a bank and a pharmacy. The nearby resort of Olhos d’Agua, two kilometres away, has further shops, bars, restaurants and other local amenities, whilst the buzzing nightlife of Praia da Oura and Albufeira can be found around six kilometres west.