Portugal’s southernmost region is an ideal holiday location that perhaps doesn’t get as much of a spotlight. It comes with not only dramatic coastal scenery and perfectly formed sandy coves, but it also offers some history and culture that is worth skipping the beach for. Whether you sit outside al fresco and enjoy a strong coffee or leave your iced drink in the sand while you catch some time in the green room, Algarve is a region that is perfect for families who want more than just a place to put a beach towel.
If it’s deep-sea and reef fishing you’re after, then Algarve Seafaris is the place you want to visit. If it’s your loved one who’s passionate about fishing, but you don’t quite share their enthusiasm, then you can take a cruise which explores the caves and pretty coves dotted along this stunning piece of coastline. You can hop on a catamaran (or a small yacht if you’re feeling flush) which all leave from Vilamoura Marina. You will find opportunities to swim, as well as some shimmering caves to visit.
Alternatively, Praia da Rocha has more dramatic, rocky scenery which is paired with powdery sand and tumbling waves. As well as stunning geological formations, the waves are perfect for surfers who are choosey about their sea conditions. Algarve Holidays are best spent enjoying the sun and relaxing at a villa at the end of the day, and finding the perfect holiday home isn’t hard in this idyllic part of the world.
Faro is the capital city of Algarve, and it has an airport nearby, which is handy for holidaymakers who are planning on basing themselves here. The old town is the place for tourists to wander and soak up the culture. Its historic walls are from Roman and Moorish periods, and after the earthquake of 1755, the town was mostly rebuilt. It means that most of the city’s beautiful architecture dates back from the 18th and 19th centuries. You’ll have your fill of cobblestone streets, open parks and a cathedral to provide some ancient culture. There are also plenty of cafes and restaurants to enjoy a coffee or two as well as some local food.
Vila Real de Santo António
What might surprise you about this place is that you’re likely to notice a mixture of Spanish and Portuguese being spoken here, thanks to its proximity to the border. The culture here is blended slightly, thanks to the influx of Spanish tourists, which you will notice in the markets and shopping districts. The prominence of Spanish culture also means that there will be plenty of paellas to be enjoyed, too! The main Square, the Praça Marques de Pombal, features a mosaic pattern which depicts sun rays illuminating from an obelisk surrounded by orange trees. There is a ferry which takes around 20 minutes to cross the River Guadiana.
Silves is encompassed by valleys of orange groves, which makes for a picturesque sight in its own right. A red sandstone castle can also be spotted in this postcard-perfect municipality. This was once the arts district, home to plenty of poets until the Knights of Santiago annexed the city in 1242. On top of cobbled streets and open-air cafes, you will get to enjoy a relaxed pace of life.
Cliffs at Ponta da Piedade
These sea stacks are formed out of limestone, although you wouldn’t guess that from the red stripes that run through them. The undulating arches and caves that run through these cliffs are worth visiting for photo opportunities alone. If you visited with the promise of some shoreline, then you can work your way down to the sea, which has a striking green colour.
Navigating through Spain, Portugal and the Balearic islands via Jeep seems to be an emerging trend, and Algarve has jumped on board with this brilliant holiday pastime. You’ll find yourself travelling in a Jeep convoy which will take you through the traditional Portuguese villages, lemon orchards, and even eucalyptus groves. You’ll learn about the history of the area, sample locally-made honey and see where the local beverage Medronho is made. There’s even a sunset dinner package for those who are looking to watch the sun go down at the highest point in the area.
If you were planning a holiday in Portugal this summer, then Algarve might not have been the first idea that sprung to mind. Not only does Algarve have its own wealth of dramatic scenery and European culture, but it’s also just a hop, skip and a jump away from local towns that wouldn’t be discovered if you were to take a big city break elsewhere.