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The Algarve Travel Guide

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  • Photo: inacio pires / Shutterstock

Plan Your Algarve Vacation

The Algarve is deservedly popular, with millions of annual vacationers thronging here to enjoy sandy beaches, superb golf, and all the other enticements of seaside resorts. A mere 40 km (25 miles) from top to bottom, Portugal’s southernmost province is bordered by the Atlantic to the south and west, the Serra de Monchique (Monchique Mountains) and the Serra de Caldeirão (Caldeirão Mountains)

to the north, and the Rio Guadiana (Guadiana River) to the east. Its coast is cooled by sea breezes in summer, and the province as a whole is much warmer than the rest of the country in winter. The vegetation is far more luxuriant, too; originally irrigated by the Moors, the land supports a profusion of fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Proximity to the ocean, meanwhile, has allowed the fishing industry to flourish. And the region's 300 days of sunshine per year helps lure in tourists year-round.

During the past two decades, tourism has flourished, and parts of the once pristine, 240-km (149-mile) coastline are now traffic-clogged and overbuilt. Even where development is heaviest, construction generally takes the form of landscaped villas and apartment complexes, which are often made of local materials and blend well with the scenery. And there are still small, undeveloped fishing villages and secluded beaches, particularly in the west. The west is also home to extraordinary rock formations and idyllic grottoes. In the east, a series of isolated sandbar islands and sweeping beaches balances the crowded excesses of the middle.

To see the Algarve at its best, though, you may have to abandon the shore for a drive inland. Here, rural Portugal still survives in tradition-steeped hill villages, market towns, and agricultural landscapes, which, although only a few miles from the coast, seem a world away in attitude.

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. Fun in the sun. One of Europe's sunniest places, the Algarve guarantees great weather pretty much year-round, but avoid August as temperatures can hit the high 90s Fahrenheit and traffic will test the steeliest of nerves.
  2. Fun in the shade. Adrenaline junkies are now flocking to the region in winter when comfortable temperatures and bright skies make it an ideal destination for active pursuits like of sky-diving.
  3. Glitz and glamour. During peak season, the Algarve rivals Europe’s glitziest hot spots. Jet-setters travel from far and wide to attend what are fast becoming world-renowned events.
  4. Green tee. Golf is a four-season game here. Its 37 acclaimed courses—designed by the likes of Henry Cotton, Frank Pennink, and Rocky Roquemore—include some of the continent’s best.
  5. Festivals galore. From city-size festas to the hundreds of smaller, rural village affairs, you can be sure that somewhere, at some point, there will be something going on to suit your tastes.
  6. Fantastic food and drink. Rapidly making a name for itself on the international gastronomy scene, the Algarve is home to award-winning restaurants and up-and-coming vineyards.

When To Go

When to Go

Algarvean springs, with their rolling carpets of wildflowers and characteristic almond and orange blossoms, are delightful. Late in the season...

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