Places to visit in the Algarve.
Albufeira is the destination of choice for many Algarve holidaymakers. Its central location on the coast of southern Portugal makes it one of the region's most accessible resorts, and it's a favorite with tourists from across Europe and beyond.
Set on sandstone cliffs above a wide sandy bay, the Albufeira of old was once a quiet fishing village, nothing more than a cluster of whitewashed cottages, a chapel, and a church. Step back further, and it was the Romans who built a castle here, strengthened later by the Moors.
Little remains of their presence, but what Albufeira lacks in historical interest it more than makes up for with its animated spirit and vacation-time atmosphere. The resort's neon-lit streets illuminate a plethora of hotels, cafés, restaurants, and entertainment venues. Top-notch leisure facilities exude an all-round appeal, and Albufeira is often the preferred choice of families.
But the destination's biggest crowd-puller is its beaches. This is why Albufeira is the tourist capital of the Algarve.
It is the Old Town, defensive walls, Faro's Cidade Velha sits on Roman and Moorish foundations. The town was badly damaged by the great earthquake of 1755, and what you see today dates mostly from the 18th and 19th centuries.
The nearby esplanade harbors a small marina, beyond which lies an expanse of lagoons and wetlands . This beautiful natural park is also composed of numerous isllands and enormous sandbars with their own fabulous beaches, including Ilha de Faro.
Near the coast in the eastern Algarve, Tavira is one of the region's prettiest towns. Sited on both sides of the broad River Gilão, this is a destination celebrated for its historical legacy, a past shaped by the Romans and later by the Moors, whose settlement by the river was topped by a castle, still visible today.
The hipped roofs that define much of Tavira's architecture are unique to this part of the Algarve. So, too, is the number of churches – 21 in all – that embellish the old town. Straddling the river is an elegant bridge, built in the 17th century on Roman foundations.
Ferries depart from the quay to the Ilha de Tavira, a favorite destination for sun seekers and one of the few islands in the area where camping is permitted. Alternatively, you can join a sightseeing cruise along the Ria Formosa, a beautiful and unspoiled waterway and part of a protected natural park.
Far from the coast, Loulé is a busy market town of singular character and a fascinating past. The town is best known for its covered fruit and vegetable market, one of the busiest and most entertaining in the Algarve (saturday).
The Moors built on Roman foundations to create a thriving center of commerce and constructed a castle here in the 12th century to protect their interests. You can walk the ramparts for fine views over the old town, and there's a small museum set within the grounds.
About 25 kilometers northwest of Loulé, Alte is a picturesque village snuggled in the foothills of a mountain range and dotted with flower-filled gardens. To absorb the town's quaint local color, sightseers can stroll along the narrow cobbled streets with their charming white-washed houses or relax at one of the many cafés.
Vilamoura is also synonymous with Portugal's largest marina facility, which offers 825 berths and can accommodate vessels up to 60 meters in length.
Lying across a hill overlooking a fertile valley embroidered with orange groves, olive trees, and vineyards, Silves is one of the most scenic towns in the Algarve. The landscape, however, is dominated by the town's splendid castle – the grandest monument to Islamic rule in the region. Built by the Moors in the 11 century on Roman foundations, teh castle's dramatic profile is enhanced by its copper-re walls.
Historically associated with the Algarve's once thriving cannery industry, Portimão has successfully reinvented itself as a destination for tourists who prefer to stay in an urban setting yet remain within shouting distance of a beach resort environment.
The region's second largest city, Portimão enjoys an enviable location overlooking the banks of the River Arade. Endowed with an award-winning museum and a noted theater complex, the city is basking in its reputation as one of the region's liveliest cultural hubs. It's also an international port of call for luxury cruise ships en route to the Mediterranean.
The award-winning Museu de Portimão is one of the region's most engaging visitor attractions.
Offshore, a fabulous artificial reef – the first in Portugal – attracts diving enthusiasts from around the world. Inland meanwhile, a Formula 1-standard racetrack hosts sports car championships and other high-profile competitions.
A modern marina set at the mouth of the estuary is within walking distance of one of the Algarve's most famous beaches, Praia da Rocha.
Lagos is the western Algarve's liveliest resort town. It's also of great historical significance. Prince Henry the Navigator launched Portugal's Age of Discovery from Lagos in the 15th century, and the nobleman later became governor of the Algarve. His extraordinary vision, and the bravery of the intrepid explorers who set sail for uncharted waters, helped place Portugal on the world map, and Lagos is proud of its seafaring heritage.
The town's medieval collection of castle walls, graceful churches, and stout sea defenses always captures the imagination of visitors, but it's the coastline that lures holidaymakers. A stunning run of cliffs, caves, and grottoes provide the backdrop to some of the most scenic beaches in the Algarve (Praia D. Ana, Ponta Piedade, Praia Camilo).
SAGRES e VILA DO BISPO
Sagres, continental Europe's southwesternmost community, basks in glorious isolation and is the Algarve's least developed coastal resort. It was here that Prince Henry the Navigator (1394-1460) is believed to have established a school of navigation on a windswept promontory near the town, thus heralding Portugal's remarkable period of maritime exploration.
The chunky walled Fortaleza seen today dates from the 17th-century, but inside the walls, you'll see a giant pebble wind compass, the Rosa dos Ventos, said to have been used by Henry. The adjacent 15th-century chapel of Nossa Senhora da Graça was certainly built on his orders.
Ancient Greek chroniclers described nearby Cabo de São Vicente as "the end of the inhabited earth," such is the austerity of this stark, windblown cape.
Sagres is Europe's surfing capital, and the destination hosts legs of the World Surfing Championships (Praia do Amado, Praia da Bordeira, Arrifana). And dream for scubadiving lovers.