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The Algarve: Portugal’s Crown Jewel
Beautiful beaches, picturesque scenery and friendly locals make the Algarve a standout destination when it comes to tourism in Portugal. Millions of visitors make their way to this part of the world each year, many looking to enjoy a slice of the easy life. Whether it’s lazing on a sandy beach, surveying the rugged coastline, exploring historic sites or taking on the challenge of 18 holes of championship golf, unwinding in the Algarve is not a problem. Not a problem at all.
The City of Faro
The city of Faro generally serves as a gateway for travellers making their way to the Algarve. Most arrive via the international airport and either book into a hotel in the city or hire a car and head out to an alternative destination. Visitors staying in Faro are treated to sandy beaches, good restaurants and a friendly atmosphere. The city also offers a number of interesting attractions. The Old Town area of the city is recommended for those travellers that like to glimpse back into the past. Its narrow, winding streets lead to the Governor’s Palace and the Cathedral of Faro, two of the most photo-friendly sites in the city. The esplanade and marina are ideal for those looking to enjoy the typical trappings of a coastal vacation, offering bars, restaurants, cafés and more. Both are close to most of the cities hotels, including the resort hotels found along the beachfront. Travellers staying in Faro will find the city well-positioned for further exploration around the Algarve, with many destinations in day-trip territory.
Few could argue that the beaches found in the Algarve are amongst the best in Portugal, if not the whole of Europe. With more than 80 Blue Flag-approved beaches, there’s no shortage of choice. Many travellers opt to stick to the resort-style beaches close to their hotel, which is just fine. However, those that dare to be adventurous are often rewarded with some scenic, tranquil choices. Recommended beaches off the beaten path include Praia de Albandeira and Prai da Marinha, both in the central part of the Algarve, as well as Praia do Odeceixe towards the west of the region. As well as beaches with soft, white sands, you’ll also find postcard-ready beaches featuring rocky features and colourful shells. Some beaches are suitable for swimming and surfing, whilst other aren’t quite safe, so be sure to check before you enter the water.
Savvy golfers know that the Algarve is a veritable treasure trove when it comes to top-quality golf courses. There are said to be as many as 35 different golf clubs in the region, offering either nine, 18 or 36 holes of world-class golf. Popular choices with visiting golfers include the Oceanico courses at Vilamoura (designed by Arnold Palmer) and the Monta Rei courses at Vila Nova de Cacela (designed by Jack Nicklaus). Vale do Lobo’s Royal Course, popular with PGA golfers and amateurs alike, is said to feature one of the most scenic holes you’re likely to see this side of the 19th hole at Legend Resort in South Africa. Here, the 16th stretches out adjacent to the Atlantic waters and features rocky cliffs between the tee box and the green. In general, many of the golf clubs in the Algarve allow non-members to tee off. However, some courses, including the San Lorenzo Golf Club, have exclusive deals with hotels, meaning that if you don’t stay in the right hotel you won’t be able to book a slot.
Families visiting the Algarve will find a number of water-based attractions to enjoy during their trip. The region is known for its many water parks, where you can enjoy large pool, water slides, and various water-based rides. The three main water parks in the region are Aqualand in Alcantarilha, Aquashow Park in Quarteira, and Slide & Splash in Estombar. The Aquashow Park also features its own hotel, which can make life easier for those families expecting to spend a lot of time splashing around. Another water park, but one with a difference, Zoomarine is also popular with tourists and locals. In addition to its pools and slides, the park also features sea lion, seal and dolphin shows, and offers visitors the chance to swim with dolphins. The park champions conservation, providing lectures and learning experiences, as well as rehabilitation programmes for injured marine life.
The Algarve at Large
Past visitors, particularly those that make a habit of returning to the region, all have their own favourite little corner of the Algarve. In the west of the region, popular destinations include Sagres and Portimão. The former is a quiet and picturesque port town, where you’ll find fishing boats and lighthouses. The latter is a livelier resort town, complete with expansive hotels, quality restaurants and white sandy beaches. A visit to the castle comes heartily recommended too. To the east of the Algarve, the town of Loulé has become a regular site of pilgrimage for those of the Catholic faith, who visit the Church of Our Lady of Piety. It’s also home to a 13th century castle and the Festival of White Light. A border town at the Portuguese-Spanish frontier, Vila Real de Santo António has a real charm about it. It features an historic fortress and a pleasant town square.
Price rangefrom €10to €5,000
- Hotels Faro 192 Hotels from €20
- Hotels Albufeira 1619 Hotels from €17
- Hotels Vilamoura 597 Hotels from €15
- Hotels Quinta do Lago 52 Hotels from €50
- Hotels Olhão 161 Hotels from €25
- Hotels Quarteira 286 Hotels from €24
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