Populated since time immemorial, Portugal’s history is almost nine centuries old, developed over a territory that was in time home to the Celts, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans and Arabs, leaving behind indelible traces that were incorporated into the country’s culture.
From North to South the past is always there, whether in the form of a castle, from where one can see the lace patterned stonework; of cathedrals where you can see the sumptuousness of gilded objects; the classic elegance of palaces or in the form of a trip back in time within a medieval walled town.
Portugal is a delightful country to discover with its mountains towering over the ocean, pine forests, beautiful beaches and endless plains. City life contrasts with the peaceful atmosphere of the countryside, where the warm and genuine hospitality of the Portuguese make them famous hosts.
Tavira is the oldest and also one of the most picturesque towns in the Algarve and is only touched rather than engulfed by tourism. It used to be a very busy fishing port, but with a plague in 1645 wiping out a lot of the population and an earthquake in 1755 destroying much of the town, this industry declined rapidly.
The river Gilao divides the town and because of the silting up of the harbour, Tavira is separated from the sea by a long sandbar, the Ilha de Tavira. This off shore tiny island is one long beach of fine white sand which stretches for 11km. A ferry will take you from the quay to the island.
There are over 20 churches in Tavira and also the remains of a Moorish castle. Lining the riverside are the bars and restaurants offering superb cuisine.
Faro is the provincial capital of the Algarve. The inhabitants of the town in Moorish times lived within the fortified city walls, an area today known as the “Old City” and is still clearly distinguished from the new.
The “Old City” itself was only accessible through the gates in the walls. Most of these have been preserved and can still be seen. This arched entrance known as “Arco de Villa” is the most well known of Faro’s monuments and gives way to picturesque narrow cobbled streets. The most beautiful part of Faro is the “Largo de Se” which with its famous church and magnificent buildings is one of the Algarve’s architectural masterpieces.
Today Faro is a thriving commercial centre by day. The main shopping street is the “Rua do Santo Antonio” where the shops occupy the ground floors of beautiful 18th century buildings. By night Faro has varied nightlife where many young people from the University spend their weekends. The pleasant atmosphere of Faro is harmonised by tree-lined squares and roads, gardens and a peaceful, serene harbour.
A busy country town which comes alive on a Saturday when the streets around the market place are filled with country people selling their produce. Wander through the narrow streets around the castle or watch the artisans at work in their craft shops. For spectacular views, visit the chapel set high on a hill just outside the town. For the more active, Loule boasts some of the best sporting facilities in the Algarve, including tennis courts, jogging track and a superb, modern swimming pool complex.
Vilamoura is undoubtedly the most luxurious and most ambitious holiday development with the best golf courses in the world, an exclusive marina and the largest casino in the Algarve. The atmosphere of Vilamoura is international, and you can find an excellent selection of local and international cuisine around the exclusive marina.
Originally Albuferia was a tiny fishing village at the mouth of a small river, protected by a Moorish castle. Its cliff-top position and labyrinthine street lay out of the original town and had a military significance in the 13th century when the Moors were able to hold out against the efforts by King Alfonso III to expel them from Portugal. Albuferia was one of the last towns to fall.
Albuferia’s history has not been totally drenched by tourism, and amongst the tourism is the most photographed landmark, the fisherman’s beach. Crammed with beautifully coloured boats, the fishermen will often grill their morning’s catch for you on the sand! Albuferia’s nightlife is excellent with many international bars around the main square.
Vale De Parra
The area of the Vale de Parra is situated just 8km west of Albuferia and is renowned for its countryside and some of the finest beaches in the Algarve. The area borders on the districts of Sao Rafael and Castello to the east and the tiny villages of Pera to the west and Guia to the north. The Castello area is marked by a region know as Torre Velhas or “old towers”. One tower still remains; they were used centuries ago by local villagers as a vantage point to warn of imminent invasion by pirate fleets.
The individual beaches in the area are spread west beginning with Castello, Everista, Coelha, Lorenzo and Gale beach which stretches all the way to Armação de Pêra. Vale de Parra is relatively unspoilt although the area is gradually being developed by locals who have designed some of the finest villas, homes to may famous personalities from England!
Montechoro/Praia Da Oura
Praia Da Oura, which means “Beach of Gold” is one of the most popular tourist resorts, combined with the area Montechoro, “the Crying Mountain”, which is at the top of Praia Da Oura. Running from Montechoro to Praia Da Oura is “the Strip” which has an abundance of shops, bars and restaurants lining each side of the road. At the bottom of the road, at Praia Da Oura, is one of the most popular beaches in the area, offering various water sports including water skiing and paragliding.
A small fishing centre during the centuries of Arab rule. The 1755 earthquake destroyed a large part of Portimão, and with it the vestiges of its past. With the coming of the 19th century and the fish canning industry, the town flourished and became one of the main Portuguese fishing ports and was raised to the level of a city in 1924. Today it is a commercial and industrial centre of great importance. It is home to superb fish restaurants and a visit to the many small restaurants under the bridge is a must during your stay here. Portimão is also the second largest town for shopping.
Praia Da Rocha
The very lively resort of Praia Da Rocha is situated between Lagos and Albuferia on the Algarve’s southern coast. Flanked by 60m cliffs, this is another one of the most photographed beaches in Europe.
This is definitely the place for anyone who is not looking for a quiet holiday, boasting undoubtedly the busiest nightlife in the western Algarve. There is also a large bowling alley. For a more relaxing time, try a stroll along the beautiful cliff tops to Praia do Vau. Praia Da Rocha is in close proximity to Portimão, Algarve’s second largest shopping town.
Alvor was originally a small, friendly fishing village. Its narrow streets are lined with a multitude of bars and restaurants alongside the old traditional fisherman’s cottages and it can be quite easy to get lost in the maze of winding streets.
Much history surrounds the village and it is rumoured to be one of the oldest places in the Algarve, starting its life as a Roman settlement. Alvor is much less commercialised and tends to attract people seeking a quieter and away from it all atmosphere.
The most breathtaking mountain range of the Algarve. So green with views of the far away turquoise sea. White washed housed arranged in heaps. A spring with crystal clear water, from which good health flows in abundance.
Get to know an unexpected different Algarve of forests of chestnuts, cork, pine and eucalyptus trees. Monchique also has many flowers – Mimosas, Rosemary, Heather and Orange Blossoms.
Caldas De Monchique
The Romas used its waters for the treatment of illnesses. Streams with crystal clear, gurgling waters which are meant to make you feel 10 years younger.
A picturesque village among the trees and mountains with an interesting Parish church. A large factory in this village is the main distribution of the local drink “Medronho” known as firewater.
With statuesque walls recalling history, monuments that express the past and picturesque and lively streets. Beaches surrounded by rocks of obscure shapes provide some of the most beautiful sweeping beaches.
Lagos is very traditional, yet has the facilities of a modern town, home to many excellent restaurants, bars and sophisticated boutiques. Lagos is the last stop on the train line across Europe, therefore in the height of summer, you will find many back-packers and buskers fill the streets. The atmosphere in this town is very laid back and most afternoons are spent sitting at a pavement cafe watching the afternoon go by. A walk along the newly built exclusive marina is a must, if only to boat and window shop.
Praia Da Luz
Praia Da Luz is situated between Burgau to the west and Lagos to the east. It is one of the most westerly resorts in the Algarve, bordered by the Monchique Mountains which form a natural border between the Algarve and the province of Alentejo. The beach is backed by stunning cliffs which stretch all the way to Sagres in the far west of the Algarve.
There are a wide range of water sports such as windsurfing, waterskiing, scuba diving and also horse riding and tennis. The village is typically Portuguese style with whitewashed buildings and cobbled streets. Nightlife is quiet with few bars, a disco and a small selection of restaurants offering excellent seafood.