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Algarve Sightseeing, activities and things to see and do
The Algarve is the beautiful region that extends along the southern coastline of Portugal, which boasts traditional towns, idyllic beaches and a glorious climate. The Algarve will appeal to a wide range of visitors; with the culture and heritage of Tavira through to the wild party nights of “the Strip” in Albufeira. The activities of the Algarve are as equally varied; from bird watching in the Ria Formasa through to racing along the coast in a Jet boat or experiencing gravity defying flumes at one of the insane water parks!
The variety of the Algarve means that it is an ideal holiday destination for families (with both young and older children), couples and the more mature visitor, but to get the most from the Algarve it is essential to choose a destination which reflects your style of holiday. For a comprehensive introduction to the major towns of the Algarve please see this guide.
The previous years (2015-2016) have reversed the fortunes of southern Portugal and the region is brimming with confidence, belief and most importantly investment; hotels are being refurbished, new business are opening and facilities are being dramatically improved. 2017 will be a stellar year for the Algarve, just book early as it will sell out… The reminder of the article will provide a high-level overview of some of the best activities and sights of the Algarve.
The Algarve has one of the finest coastlines of Europe with an almost unbroken continuation of glorious sands from east to west. The beaches to the west tend to be surrounded by steep sandstone cliffs and offer picturesque settings while to east the beaches are more expansive with dunes and sand bars that edge the lagoons and waterways.
The beach front cafes in Praia de Rocha
The waters of the Algarve are crystal clear and all of the major beaches are family friendly, being supervised by life guards. Whichever resort town you are based within, there will always be a wonderful beach within walking distance. There are so many great beaches but some of our personal favourites include the Praia don Anna (Lagos), the Praia do Alvor (Alvor), Praia de Rocha (Portimão), all of Albufeira’s beaches, the Praia de Faro, the Praia do Barril (Tavira) and the vast beach of Monte Gordo.
Heritage of Tavira
Tavira is the quintessential Portuguese fishing town that many tourists envisage when they consider the Algarve. Pretty cobbled streets and traditional painted houses line the banks of the slow flowing Gilao river, in a town that has barely altered with the advent of mass tourism.
The pretty river front of Tavira
Throughout the town are remnants that reflect the once importance of Tavira, with sections of the impregnatable city walls, ruins of the castle and the thirty different churches. There is a lot to love about Tavira as a holiday destination, there wonderful beaches only a short ferry ride away, while at night the old town comes alive with open air restaurants and the smell of freshly cooked fish.
The waterparks of the Algarve
The Algarve has three outstanding water parks, which are crammed with adrenaline inducing flumes, near vertical slides and massive wave pools. These water parks will enthral children and teenagers, and are modern, safe and well managed. The three parks water parks are within the west-central region between Quarteira and Lagoa (there are no water parks in the eastern Algarve) and there is transport from the main resort towns. Links to the water parks are:
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There are great water parks in the Algarve
The Ponta da Piedade Cliffs
There are many beautiful natural features contained within the Algarve but the most visually stunning are the highly weathered cliffs of the Ponta da Piedade, near Lagos. These sandstone cliffs have been eroded by winter storms to form caves, grottos and sea arches, all of which are set amidst the turquoise sea waters that are teeming with aquatic life. The rock formations are best explored by small fishing boats, which can be charted from Lagos harbour.
The Ponte da Piedade is best explored by boat
History of Silves
Silves was the ancient capital of the Algarve during the Moorish occupation (8-12th century) and the town is dominated by the huge redbrick castle, which once defended the entire region. Today, Silves is a very peaceful and scenic town, with open air cafes filling the streets that wide the way up from the Arade River up to the castle. Historic monuments include the massive fortified town walls and gates, the gothic Se cathedral and the 15th century Cruz de Portugal. Silves is makes for a great day trip and is easily accessible as there are direct buses from Albufeira and Portimão or train services from Lagos and Faro.
Silves is a very pretty town
Boat Cruises and Tours
Departing from the harbours of the major resort towns are a range of enjoyable boat trips and tours. These boat trips vary from informative guided tours through to exhilarating jet boat rides. Popular boat trips include, coastal tours, jet boats, deep sea fishing, dolphin watching and from Albufeira party boat tours.
Boat cruises along the Algarve coastline
Market of Loule
Loule is another charming Algarve town that has a daily market and a series of interesting historical monuments. The covered market sells locally grown produce, fresh fish and regional gifts, and is a great location to experience Portuguese daily life.
The town hall of Loule
One of the main allures of the Algarve is the glorious climate, which boasts 3,000 hours of sunshine a year (compared to 1,500 of London, 1,200 of Glasgow). Rain is unheard of during the summer and is warm enough to lounge on the beach from April through to the end of September. The cooler weather of early spring and late autumn are a great time to explore the region. Algarve winters are mild but there is always the chance of rain, if visiting in the winter always stick to the larger resort towns.
The weather of the Algarve (Vilamoura) Portugal
Nightlife of Albufeira, Praia da Rocha, Lagos and Vilamoura
The four large resort towns all have excellent facilities and extensive amenities, which include a vast selection of restaurants, cafes and bars, able to cater for all tastes, cuisines and preferences. Within the extended vicinity of Albufeira there are over 500 different food establishments and “The Stripe” has the wildest nightlife of the Algarve great for groups, Stag or hen Do’s. Thankfully, the Strip is a distance from the Old Town, which is much more family and couple orientated.
A Sagres beer is a great way to start a long night in the Algarve
Vilamoura has a much more stylish and fashionable atmosphere than Albufeira, and is focused around the exclusive marina. Lagos is a large historic city and it’s nightlife caters for a mixture of Portuguese and foreign tourists. Praia da Rocha is a smaller version of Albufeira, with a combination of trendy, tacky and family friendly bars and restaurants. Overall, if you are after great night life then the central and western Algarve will not disappoint!
Golf in the Algarve
The Algarve is famed for it’s championship grade golf courses and the standards are exceptional high. Many golfing holidays are based in Vilamoura as there are four courses within the town but there are numerous great courses all along the coastline. The Algarve is perfectly designed for golf holiday and there are specialist agencies that can rent clubs, provide transport and information about the green fees.
Vilamoura has five wonderful golf courses and is ideal for a golfing holiday
Dining out and Portuguese Food
Portuguese food is tasty, wholesome and often based around freshly caught fish and shellfish. Dining out in the Algarve is significantly cheaper than back at home and there are always lunch time specials. Wherever you are based in the Algarve there will be an extensive selection of restaurants serving local dishes and foreign cuisines.
Delicious Portuguese food
Surfing at Sagres
The western edge of the Algarve faces the might of the Atlantic Ocean and certain beaches are pounded by huge waves, making them ideal for surfing. Some of the best surfing beaches are close to Sagres (at the very western tip of the Algarve), a town that has an outback and unkempt appearance but a trendy vibe that is often associated with surfing destinations. The far western Algarve is ideal for visitors who appreciate nature’s raw power and beauty.