The Algarve region is an extensive and pleasing one, distinct in the smell of the sea and the scent of wild flowers, with a Mediterranean climate
A walk through the its narrow streets and steps is to be found away from the coast. But you can also easily lose yourself in the immensity of the coastal strip.
After the charm of the landscape, you can discover the aromas and flavours of the traditional Algarve cuisine. Recommended is the wide range of choices of the famous regional delicacies, such as figs, almonds, carobs and the brandy made from the locally grown medronho (arbutus-berry), distilled up in the hills.
Among the hills and plains you will find places of enormous ecological interest, rich in biodiversity and ecosystems, and you will feel as though you are passing through an area full of different traditions, unaffected for many centuries. The handicraft is skilfully manufactured by the local craftsmen, who make use of old, ancestral techniques and produce an exceptional range of pottery, woven baskets, copper and brass articles, or other pieces made of linen and jute.
Not far away from the relaxing peace of the inland region is the enthusiasm of the Algarve nightlife, offered by bars, discos, marinas and casinos.
The region's heritage is also a must see, the architecture of the whitewashed houses, with their brightly-coloured mouldings and gorgeous chimneys, the churches and the museums.
The wide range of outdoor sports that are available is highly recommended, whether you're playing golf on lush green courses or benefiting from some physical exercise, whether you're on the coast or in the hills, where before the first signs of spring, the land is covered in a pinkish white blanket, produced by the blossom of the almond-trees.
From traces of the Roman presence to evidence of the long legacy of Muslim times, from the Christian reconquest to the epic period of the Portuguese discoveries, you will find all kinds of reasons for rediscovering the signs of a quite distinctive historical past.
More than five centuries of Moorish influences left their indelible imprint upon the region, beginning with its actual name: Al-Gharb, meaning The West. The long Moorish occupation of the territory, which lasted from the 8th to the 13th century, is still to be noted in the names of the towns and villages, in the region's agriculture, in the architecture of the monuments, the lacework patterns of the balconies, roof terraces and chimneys, or the whitewashed houses still to be seen in many Algarve villages.
In the mid-13th century, the Algarve was the last part of Portugal to be reconquered from Muslim rule. After a long period of forward pushes and backward retreats, the Christian reconquest enjoyed the valuable collaboration of the Knights of the Order of St. James, led by Dom Paio Peres Correia. The result was that, in the reign of Dom Afonso III, the Arab presence in the Algarve was brought to an end and the region was joined to the kingdom of Portugal. This marked the foundation of the Kingdom of Portugal and the Algarves.
Later, in the early 15th century, the beginning of the Portuguese maritime expansion brought a new lease of life to the Algarve and its people. Since then, Lagos and Sagres have remained forever linked to Prince Henry the Navigator and the Portuguese Discoveries. Even today, at the headland known as the Ponta de Sagres, a giant stone finger can be seen pointing towards the Atlantic Ocean in a clear allusion to the courage of the Algarve navigators, such as Gil Eanes, who set sail across the seas in search of new worlds to give to the world.
With an area of 4,995Km2 and a resident population of 395,218 inhabitants, spread throughout 16 municipalities, the Algarve is located at Europe's westernmost tip, in the south of Portugal. It has an average population density of roughly 80 inhabitants per Km2 and an entirely Atlantic coastline that measures roughly 150Km in length.
It is subdivided into three main areas:
- The coastal area is where most of the region's economic activity is concentrated. In terms of landscape, it varies between abrupt coastlines, extensive sandy beaches, inlets formed by lagoons, marshland areas and various formations of sand dunes. The predominant rocks are essentially of the sedimentary type
- The "Barrocal" area marks the transition between the coast and the mountains, consisting of limestone and schist. This area is also known as the "beira-serra" and is where most of the agricultural produce of the Algarve originates from;
- The hills occupy 50% of the territory and are essentially formed from schist and some granitic rocks. The main ranges of hills are the Serra de Espinhaço de Cão, Serra de Monchique (and the Serra do Caldeirão or the Serra do Mú.
Although situated by the Atlantic Ocean, it has a temperate climate with Mediterranean characteristics, more than 3,000 hours of sunlight per year and a low annual average rainfall.
The most important sector of activity is the tertiary sector (retail and services), resulting from the region's main economic activity - tourism.
Some of the best and most beautiful beaches in the entire world are to be found in the Algarve. Along its 200-kilometre coastline, the Algarve features all types of coves, cliffs and caves, its rocky beaches contrasting with broad expanses of sand. The beaches of the Algarve thus represent the ideal choice for some truly invigorating holidays!
One of Europe's top golfing destinations, the Algarve has firmly established its reputation as a quality resort among all enthusiasts. The quality layout of the courses, many of them designed by the very best international architects, coupled with the sheer beauty of the surrounding landscapes, meets the demands of golfers of all levels.
The pleasant climate, with over three hundred days of sunshine, ensures that golf can be comfortably played all year round.
Be it on the seashore, on the low-lying 'Barrocal' clay pasturelands or up in the picturesque hills, the Algarve benefits from the ideal geographical conditions for a huge range of water, land or air-based activities, ranging from the most adventurous to the simply pleasurable.
Business and Leisure
Benefiting from good air links and overland means of access, in addition to an impressive range of four and five-star hotels, the region has taken over as the main centre for business tourism in the south of Portugal.
From the coast up to the hills, there is a wide range of landscapes to explore, each of them special in their own way.
The coastline is home to an ecological system of amazing biodiversity perfect for some close-up observation over the course of a long stroll.
From the open sandy beaches leading up to sudden cliffs, the vivid greens contrast with the deep browns of the Barrocal plains, opening up the doors onto another kind of Algarve, covered in orange, fig, carob and almond trees.
If you want a fun-filled holiday, you will find the latest musical trends in the Algarve night- life and its hot spots. The clubs, marinas, casinos, bars and restaurants, many with open air seating, all offer a pleasant atmosphere to satisfy the most varied of tastes. During the day, there is also plenty to do: theme parks, shopping centres and various cultural events, all guaranteed to leave you with unforgettable memories. If you are looking for a calm holiday, you can choose thalassotherapy centres and SPAs, or healthy breaks at thermal water centres.