Information

Algarve

Algarve

West Algarve 



In the western part of the Algarve coast you will find the towns of Sagres, Lagos, Luz, Portimao, Alvor, Moncique, Burgau, Salema, Vila do Bispo and Aljezur.

The quaint, small towns of the West Algarve are rich in historical and cultural heritage with vibrant local communities that are filled  with friendly people where visitors are always welcome. The beaches and the scenery in West Algarve are among the most beautiful and most spetacular in the world.

The areas around the cities are stunningly beautiful with its complex mixture of see sunny hills with olive trees in one direction and sandstone cliffs and golden beaches lining the beaches that reach out to the blue Atlantic Ocean. West Algarve and Algarve overall is ideal if you want to find unspoilt beaches and areas where you feel you have it for yourself. This secludeness and type of privacy is something you can still find  in Portugal which many people are slowly starting to find out. This makes the property market very interesting because you can avoid mass tourism in several places.

Along the western beaches from Sagres to Faro, there is an Atlantic wind blowing over the rugged cliffs. However the breeze in the summer months feels easy and comfortable which enables the heat to never feel unbearable in this area and this allows for a very comfortable climate. You will find picturesque coves that are hidden away among the rocks, throughout these beaches, which can actually be a little hard to find or get to in certain places. That is how secluded they are.

Landscapes as beautiful as if they were masterful pieces of Art is the reality here. Historical and cultural heritage with vibrant local communities have made the Western Algarve one of the most sought after places on the south coast of Portugal. This is combined with a friendly and welcoming local community that offers an extensive array of culinary offering. There is many options in regards to bars and restaurants, where you can enjoy delicious wines and great food at extremely reasonable prices.

 

Sagres

Sagres is the most westerly town of the Algarve and is a destination for visitors who appreciate nature’s raw beauty. The region is formed of massive cliffs and vast beaches, which are pounded by huge waves that roll in from the Atlantic Ocean. These powerful waves have drawn experienced surfers to Sagres, and this in turn has allowed the town to gain an unobtrusive, cool vibe.

Sagres is small enough that it can be easily explored within a day and the relative closeness to Lagos makes it a popular day trip. There are three main areas to visit in a day trip to Sagres; the Cabo Sao Vicente, the fishing harbour and town as well as the Fortaleza de Sagres fort.

The Cabo Sao Vicente is the south-westerly tip of mainland Europe and is a wind-blasted headland, with huge cliffs that fall away to raging seas. At the top of the 75m high cliffs is one of Portugal’s most powerful lighthouses, which can be seen up to 50 kilometers out to sea.

The fishing harbour of Sagres is situated on the sheltered eastern side of the headland and throughout the day fishing boats are returning to unload their cargos of fresh fish. Over the headland from the harbour is the glorious beach of Praia da Mareta, a popular surfing beach or place to bask under the glorious weather of southern Portugal. The small town centre of Sagres has a raw, aged and rickety appearance but is quite in keeping with the unique vibe of the region. Found in the centre are laid back cafes and traditional Portuguese restaurants, ideal for an inexpensive lunch.

The main tourist attraction of Sagres is the Fortaleza de Sagres (Sagres Fort). This fort is a unique defensive structure as there is only a single wall, with the other three sides protected by the sheer cliffs. The fort is vast but comparatively sparse, with a small chapel, a wind compass and spectacular views over the massive cliffs. It can be mentioned that like most places, Sagres and Cabo Sao Vicente is not a destination for all, certain visitors may consider the region barren and devoid of sights, while other tourists will be captivated by the stunning and dramatic scenery.

 

Portimão

Portimão is the largest city in the West Algarve region and is an old trading and fishing village that has traditionally been a centre for sardine fishing and processing. Portimão is still one of the places in Portugal, where you get the best grilled sardines. It is also a great city for its extensive shopping possibilities and is the most commercial of the cities in the area. Portimão is characterized by tourism, leisure and is a large residential city.


The beaches in the area are very beautiful, including Praia da Rocha and the little smaller beaches of Carvoeiro, Trés Irmãos, Prainha, Vau and João de Arens. 

 

Alvor

Algarve, has remained a favorite with golfing enthusiasts for a couple of decades even though the number of choices when it comes to European golf resorts increases each year. In fact Algarve as a golf resort is only getting more and more popular now considering more and more people are getting into golf. The Algarve is renown for its climate, offering almost year-round sunshine, and wonderful, long stretches of clean white sand beaches. However another reason for its popularity, albeit within a certain portion of tourist, is the fact that the Algarve is home to over thirty world class golf courses. In short in Algarve you'll find good courses at good prices and great weather. This also applies in the winter.

Between Portimã
o and Lagos lies Alvor which should be mentioned. It is a beautiful harbor town and although it has many visitors every year it feels very unexplored and with a nice old town. In addition, this area is brilliant for golf enthusiasts. A great example of what Algarve has to offer when it comes to Golf is the Penina Hotel & Golf Resort and its world-class amenities. The Penina Hotel & Golf Resort is widely renowned as the true home of Portuguese golf. This is the only resort in Portugal to offer three golf courses one of which is The Sir Henry Cotton Championship Course. This is the first 18 hole course to have been constructed in the Algarve - and is legendary for some of the finest and most challenging golf in the world.  

 

Monchique

Monchique is a paradise for nature lovers and like it is made for hiking. Monchique is the village placed highest above the sea level located 485 meters above sea level in the Algarve.The highest point in the Algarve is also in the Monchique mountain range located at the impressive 902 meters above sea level. Situated in the hills high above the coast (and thus a couple of refreshing degrees cooler), this charming city is perfectly placed to explore the many hiking, cycling and nature trails found in the surrounding mountain ranges of lush green leaflets. Further afield, the distant city of Aljezur feels a magical world away from the buzz of the coastal towns.

The rolling Monchique Hills are often called 'The Garden of the Algarve.' Here you'll find olives, grapes and strawberries grow plump and juicy in these sunny surroundings where tranquility and a traditional lifestyle prevail. In the spring and summer months, the air is thick with the scent of pine and eucalyptus trees. 

Outdoor breakfast and evening meals under a starlit sky can be the norm for anyone who is lucky enough to own a property in Monchique. You will find a mixture of traditional quintas and farmhouses nestled in the lush green hills with plenty of space for an outdoor table. Villas are becoming increasingly popular, and you can build your own if you find the perfect plot.

No matter what brings visitors first to the Western Algarve - be it nature, history, culture or otherwise - they remain and tend to re-visit the area for the appealing lifestyle and beautiful scenery that the area offers.

 

Caldas de Monchique

Caldas de Monchique is a wonderful village with a therapeutic tranquility, its pastel-colored buildings set over a lovely valley full of birdsong and eucalyptus, acacia and pine trees. It is located 6 km south of Monchique and is regarded by many as an absolutely amazing area that has developed into a popular health resort.

 

Aljezur

The municipality of Aljezur is located on the western coast of the Algarve, and features a total population of a bit over five thousand inhabitants. It gets its name from the Arabic word “Aljuzur” which is the plural for island, and is composed of four parishes. Being part of the larger Faro District it is quite possible that you may have contact with the region on your trip to the Algarve.

The aforementioned parishes, are more like very small towns, with very small populations, the parishes are Aljezur, Bordeira, Odoceixe and Rogil.

Due to the size of Aljezur city Portugal, this nice hillside town has not been tremendously affected by the mass tourism developments specific to most of the western coast of the Algarve.

The main economic activity of the town has been agriculture, for hundreds of years this has been, and still is, the main activity of the town, however Aljezur has started to benefit from the social and economic renewal that the region has seen in recent years.

The town was damaged in the 1755 earthquake and this meant that a new settlement was built across from old Aljezur, called Igreja Nova.

The main beach in the Aljezur area is the Praia da Arrifana. This is a long and white sandy beach sheltered by a cove on the west coast of the Parque Natural da Costa Vicentina.

 

Salema

This charming little seaside town has a great atmosphere. It is located on a wide bay 17 km west of Lagos, It is ideal for families and there are several small secluded beaches within a few kilometers - Praia da Salema at the village, Praia da Figueira to the west and Boca do Rio to the east.

 

Lagos

The city of Lagos is one of the most attractive in the Algarve because it balances old-world charm and an important cultural heritage with vibrant year-round living. Lagos’s history is linked to all of the Portuguese Discoveries, that was lead by Henry the Navigator.

It was from Lagos that many Portuguese famous explorers originated who discovered the new world, including Henry Navigator and the local explorer Gil Eanes. Today Lagos is seen as the perfect starting point to explore the dramatic West Algarve coastline - complete with coves, caves and rock piles - sprawls west out of the city, from the handful of beautiful beaches is no more than five minutes drive down to secluded Sagres where you can see out to the sea at the southwestmost point of continental Europe.
 
Several low-lying cities are dotted along this stunning coastline, home to small but close communities. 

Even if the city of Lagos Portugal is a small one, it is nonetheless one of the most popular of the Algarve resorts and is located at about an hour drive from Faro.

There are many things to see and do while in Lagos, however one of the main attractions is the ‘Old Town’. You’ll notice that pretty much every one of the Algarve cities, towns and resorts feature some type of ‘old town’ because this region has been inhabited for the longest of times, thanks to its wonderful characteristics having been kept relatively constant for the past two thousand years or so.

In 2012, the site of TripAdvisor was classified as number 1 travel destination, in a list of 15 destinations worldwide. It is located along the banks of the river Rio Bensafrim, with walls dating from the 16th century, enclosing the old city's beautiful cobblestone streets and picturesque piazzaes and churches. The town's extensive range of good restaurants and a large number of Europe's best beaches located in the area, makes this city very attractive to many. There a lot of watersport activities as well as many other sport activities such as tennis and golf. In short, all that an outdoor life offers and it is attractive for all age groups, is to be found in Lagos.

Portugal's history demonstrates that Lagos was the cultural heritage centre for their explorations around the world and a focal point at that time.

One should set aside an entire day just to roam around the fascinating old town thanks to the abundance of historical sites and intricate architecture. The old town is totally pedestrianized and this aids in this goal of actually walking it in detail. Also there are a plethora of outdoor restaurants and coffee shops to enjoy a great meal and a drink in, and of course there the boutique shops which can always eat up a solid chunk of the day by themselves. 

 

Luz

Six kilometers west of Lagos lies the little charming city of Luz. It has a lovely sandy beach that is ideal for families. Luz is a convenient side trip from Lagos. Praia de Luz has a friendly village feel that makes it popular among young families while in Burgau and Vila do Bispo, yogis, surfers and creative types live side by side with the local Portuguese population and brings a gentle bohemian atmosphere to these typically sleepy cities.

 

Central Algarve

The central Algarve from Faro to Lagos encompasses some of the region’s best beaches – but also its most intense tourist development. Despite this, Quinta do Lago, Vale do Lobo and Vilamoura are low density and upmarket: purpose-built resorts with great facilities including marinas, top golf courses and tennis centres. These resorts don’t have much traditional culture, though there’s a little more of that at neighbouring Quarteira, a high-rise resort with a fine town beach and a renowned fish market. The area of the central Algarve between Quinta do Lago, Almancil and Quarteira is often referred to as the Golden Triangle of the Algarve. It has an abundance of luxury accommodation in beautiful settings, some of the best golf courses in the Algarve, lovely beaches and is only about 20 minutes from Faro airport.

Many of the areas have been developed as luxury resorts, complete with a selection of restaurants, designer shops and excellent sports facilities for all the family to enjoy. Two of the best known are Vale do Lobo - home to the 'Royal' and 'Ocean' golf courses and Quinta do Lago with 'Pinheiros Altos', 'San Lorenzo' and the Quinta do Lago 'North' and 'South' courses.

 

Quinta do Lago 

Quinta do Lago, the exclusive Algarve resort with a difference, is one of the most exclusive developments in southern Europe, is situated on the edge of the Ria Formosa nature reserve, so as well as golf it is also a perfect place for walking and birdwatching. The villas and town houses are set amongst the pine trees and lakes along with a 5* hotel, restaurants and nightclubs. Water sports are available both at the beach and on the salt water lakes.

At the entrance to Quinta do Lago is the "Buganvilia" shopping plaza for all your daily needs. There is a large Ali-Super supermarket as well as a bank and an assortment of other shops, restaurants and cafes. At the other side of the car park is "Quinta Shopping" where you will find a tempting selection of designer boutiques, home furnishings, jewellery and even a dentist. Apart from the shops there is an array of restaurants and bars around the central square where everyone gathers after a round of golf or a strenuous day by the pool.
 

Vale do Lobo 

Vale do Lobo, the Algarve's equivalent to Monaco, is reputed to be 3 times the size of Monaco, so it's easy to see why it's known as the biggest and the best golf and beach resort in the Algarve. It certainly is a large resort and still growing with new areas under development. A network of roads (a lot of them one-way) weave their way around the resort past villas and apartments of all sizes. Like Quinta do Lago, once you are in the resort the rest of the Algarve seems a long way away and with, probably, everything you need is close to hand. Vale do Lobo has it's own medical centre and a supermarket and in the central Parque do Golfe complex - a bank, newsagents, wine shop, beauty centre and boutiques. Vale do Lobo also has a great selection of restaurants - many of them at the square by the beach - the popular place to be, particularly during the summer evenings.

It's not only popular for it's golf - tennis is a big draw too - it has a tennis academy which hosts a Masters Competition each year with some of the big name veterans from the tennis world and is home to Barringtons Club which offers all types of sports facilites and is often used for training sessions by cricket and rugby teams.

There are many other developments in the "Golden triangle" - Vale do Garrão, Quinta do Mar, Lakeside village, Quinta Verde, Dunas Douradas to name but a few and more, no doubt on the way!

There aren't many hotels in this area so most of the accommodation is privately owned apartments and villas of all sizes.

The resorts don't really give a flavour of the Algarve as once you are in amongst the landscaped gardens, pools and often amazing villas you could be anywhere in the world - but it is the perfect place to relax in the sunshine and enjoy a touch of luxury!

The nearest town, Almancil, is just a few minutes drive from Vale do Lobo or Quinta do Lago and has an abundance of all types of shops and businesses. Most of the shops stretch along the main road through the town with several banks, supermarkets, restaurants and cafes along the way. There are quite a few businesses serving the ex-pat community with an English butchers and a fish and chip shop amongst them.

A very popular supermarket, at the western end of the town, is "Apolónia" which has everything you could possibly want. They stock a range of vegan and vegetarian products including brands that you will be familiar with from the UK and it's one of the only places we have found with vegan cheese! (It tastes pretty good as well!). If you enjoy cooking they have ingredients for every type of cuisine as well as fresh meat, fish and deli counters, a bakery, good choice of fresh fruit and veg and a wide choice of alcoholic beverages!

The famous church of São Lourenço is in the village of the same name on the eastern outskirts of Almancil and is well worth a visit. It survived the 1755 earthquake intact (one of the very few churches in the Algarve to do so) and has all the interior walls and ceilings decorated in traditional blue and white azulejos (tiles).
 

Vilamoura

For a real taste of Algarve luxury, Vilamoura resort is a must-see place to visit or to holiday. It is one of the biggest private tourism resorts in Europe and is one of the most prestigious in Portugal. Although fairly far removed from the traditional Algarve, the purpose-built leisure resort of Vilamoura offers accommodation to suit all tastes - luxury hotels, privately owned villas and apartments on the golf course complexes, and a wide range of hotels and apartments near the marina.


Vilamoura marina is the main centre of activity with a huge range of restaurants, bars and shops (including many designer shops). Luis Figo's 'Bar Sete' (bar seven) is also on the marina front. During the day, although it can get quite busy, it's really a very peaceful area to stroll around. It gets more lively at night, with everyone coming to eat and try out some of the bars, but is still a very relaxed resort. 

Boasting a 1,000-berth marina, Vilamoura attracts the wealthy, yachtsmen, golfers, celebrities and in fact, anyone who just fancies enjoying a rather nice place in the sun. In short Vilamoura  is one of southern Portugal’s finest resort towns, offering so much more than just stunning beaches and glorious weather. Originally, Vilamoura was constructed in the 1980s as an elite golfing centre, and today the town has matured into a stylish and sophisticated resort, boasting world-class golf courses and outstanding tourist facilities.

Vilamoura has something for everyone to enjoy - there are boat trips (for those of us who don’t own a boat!), specially designed trails for walking and cycling and restaurants and bars to suit all tastes and budgets.

 

Faro

With its international airport, impressive shopping centre and ring of high-rise apartments, Faro has something of a big-city feel. However, the central area is a manageable size, boasting attractive mosaic-paved pedestrianized streets and marina-side gardens, while its university contributes to a nightlife scene, at its most animated during term-time. In summer, boats and buses run from the centre of town out to some excellent local beaches: the closest to town is the generous swathe of sand at Praia de Faro, while a ferry makes the short hop to the village of Farol on the Ilha de Culatra .


Originally a Roman settlement, the city was named by the Moors, under whom it was a thriving commercial port that supplied the regional capital at Silves.

It then became Christian, under Afonso III in 1249, but was largely destroyed by the Great Earthquake of 1755 – so it comes as no surprise that modern Faro has so few historic buildings left. What interest it does retain is centred within and around the pretty Cidade Velha (Old Town), which lies behind a series of defensive walls overlooking the mudflats.

The capital of the Algarve has a more pronounced Portuguese mood than most resorts. Many visitors only travel through this underrated city, which is a shame as it provides a pleasant stopover. It has an attractive marina, well-kept parks and places, and a historic old town full of pedestrian and outdoor cafes. Its student population of 8000 ensures a nightlife and its theater scene is strong. Wonderfully preserved medieval quarters end up with curious museums, churches and a bone chapel. The lagoons of Parque Natural da Ria Formosa and nearby beaches, including the islands of Ilha de Faro to the southwest and Ilha da Barreta (aka Ilha Deserta) to the south add to Faro's allure.

 

Estoi

Estoi is the location for one of the Algarve finest 19th century “Rococo” styled palaces. The Palácio de Estoi is painted a distinctive pink colour and is surrounded by beautiful and decorative gardens and azulejos (blue and white tiled ceramic). The palace was built in the late 19th century and is the finest example of this kind of architecture in the district of Faro. The palace, only a few years ago, was a semi-ruin but is now back to its former grandeur, having been converted into a luxury hotel. The exterior and gardens of the palace are the main attraction and non-hotel guest are free to explore the palace grounds.

Just west of this small town, in the vicinity of Estoi, is a ruined Roman villa of Milreu which provides a rare opportunity to see how Romans lived in the 1st-century-AD to the 4th-century-AD . The ruins reveal the characteristic form of a peristyle villa, with a gallery of columns around a courtyard. The excavations brought to light an extensive Roman villa with adjacent buildings. The villa ruins of Milreu show that area was already populated in Roman times. The final attraction of Estoi is the atmosphere of the town itself. Estoi is how the entire Algarve was before the advent of mass tourism.

 

Loulé

Loulé, 18km inland from Faro, has always been an important centre of commerce and is still best known for its markets. It has recently grown to a fair size, though its compact centre doesn’t take long to look around. The most interesting streets, a grid of whitewashed cobbled lanes, lie between the remains of its Moorish castle (now a museum) and the thirteenth-century Gothic Igreja Matriz, with its palm-lined gardens in front.

One of the Algarve's largest inland towns and only 16 km northwest of Faro, Loulé (lo-lay) is a reasonable base for exploring the Algarve inland. A busy trading center, it is a fast growing place where service workers live while working (or seeking work) in the Algarve. Loulé has an attractive old quarter and Moorish castle ruins, and its history dates back to the Romans. A few of Loulé's craft traditions still survive; slim people away away doing basket baskets, copperwork and embroidery in hollow-in-wall workshops about the city. Loulé's small university gives it a lot of pain, like the Wild Carnival and FestivalMed, an annual music festival.

 

Silves

Eighteen kilometres northeast of Portimão, with a superb castle whose dramatic ring of red walls gradually reveal themselves as you approach, Silves is well worth at least a half-day’s visit. While under Moorish occupation, the town was the capital of the Algarve – indeed it was the Moors who named the region al-Gharb (“the west”), and built Silves into a well-fortified and sophisticated place. The town’s golden age came to an end, however, in 1189 with the arrival of Sancho I and his large, unruly army of Crusaders, who laid siege to thirty thousand Moorish inhabitants in the citadel for three months.

When the Moors’ water and food supplies finally ran low they agreed to open the citadel gates in return for Sancho guaranteeing the safety of its inhabitants. The Crusaders, however, ignored Sancho’s pledge and killed some six thousand Moors as they gleefully took the fortress. Silves passed back into Moorish hands two years later, but by then the town had been irreparably weakened, and it finally fell to Christian forces for good in 1249.

 

Albufeira

Albufeira is famed for its beaches, for the countless shades and tones of its rocks and cliffs. This is a place where people live to the rhythm of the great holiday destinations, sunbathing during the day and at sunset flocking to enjoy the restaurants, bars and discos that enliven the night-time hours. Just a few miles inland and everything changes. The green of the countryside is dotted with almond, fig, orange and pine trees and decorated chimneys stand out against the ochre of tiled roofs.

Once a scenic fishing village, Albufeira has changed its character dramatically from those days and  is today very much a modern town where fishing boats are now exchanged with the ultra modern marina southwest of the downtown city centre. These days, the place is dedicated to mass market tourism; The Old Town - with its beautiful cobblestone streets and Moorish influences is very beautiful and is very much in contrast with all of todays  many restaurants, bars and busy nightlife.

Albufeira has good transport links to lovely beaches like Praia da Galé to the west where the sand is fine and the sea a turquoise blue sheltered by cliffs which are canvasses painted with a whimsical palette of natural hues. It is for its beaches that Albufeira is internationally renowned, because all of them are different... and they are all equally enchanting.  In addition to all of the lovely beaches there are plenty of activities to enjoy and there is a relaxed holiday atmosphere away from the British pubs. To explore the beautiful inland towns and the area's high quality and extensive range of quality restaurants.

The enchanting and lovely beaches nearby Albufeira worth mentioning are in no specific order; Gale - An expanse of sand that stretches for miles, between cliffs. It is equipped with a wide variety of tourist facilities. In the direction of Albufeira there are two small beaches that are quiet and little visited. Castelo - A cove c protected he ruck formations. Great natural beauty. Coelha - A small beach between colourful cliffs,.São Rafael and Vigia - Beaches of great beauty seperated by rocks and offers many tourist facilities. Nearby Ponte Pequena and Ninho das Andorinhas have fascinating rock formations. Baleeira - A broad crescent of sand opposite Albufeira. Albufeira - A long strip of sand with the city surrounding it like an amphitheatre, it is made up of three beaches: Peneco, Pescadores and Inatel .Oura, Balaia, Maria Luísa and Olhos d'Água - A series of beaches each sheltered by colourful cliffs. Tourist and sports facilities and Falesia - Endless miles of beaches fringed by the green pines and the many reddish colours Of the surrounding cliffs.

 

São Brás de Alportel

Seventy kilometers north of Faro, this tranquil country town is a welcome break from the coast. The area that is now the municipality of São Brás de Alportel, in common with the Algarve as a whole, was inhabited in prehistoric times and in the days of the Romans. Birthplace of the Moorish poet Ibne Ammar in the 12th century, São Brás de Alportel was by the 16th century a small village with a Hermitage. From the 17th century onwards it was the summer residence of the bishops of the Algarve, who were drawn to it by its agreeable climate, and in the 19th century it became the crossroad of the routes linking Loulé to Tavira and Faro to Almodôver. The area's extensive plantations of cork oak provided a spring board for commercial and industrial development and for years São Brás de Alportel was the biggest cork producing centre in Portugal and the world. Its increasing population and economic importance led to the creation of the municipality in 1914. The gradual transfer of the cork manufacturing industry to the centre and north of Portugal has prompted the municipality in recent decades to diversify its sources of economic prosperity.


This village still shows a tranquil and unhurried lifestyle by the friendly local population. The streets of white houses whose ranks are broken only by the lofty outline of the church and its bell tower, the ring of hills around the town that look out on the sea and the mountains are the simple charms of São Brás de Alportel, a typical Algarve town.

The tranquil, unhurried lifestyle of the friendly local population. Streets of white houses whose ranks are broken only by the lofty outline of the church and its bell tower. The ring of hills around, the town that look out on the sea and the mountains. It is located in a valley in the olive, carob, fig and almond forest-barrocal region, a lush limestone area between the mountains and the sea. Such are the simple charms of São Brás de Alportel, a typical Algarve town.
Historical Centre
Low, white houses typical of popular architecture stand alongside more substantial buildings, their facades decorated with tiles, ornate stonework and cast iron verandas, whose opulence harks back to São Brás de Alportel's prosperity, in the years when the cork industry was booming. The high and low points of the towns changing fortunes are thus written in the stones of its streets and squares; while such details as the baroque mortar decoration of the Passo da Paixão (Stations of the Cross) near the Episcopal Palace and the pretty flower pots in the windows add colour and interest to their story.

 

Eastern Algarve

Vila Real de Santo António 

Vila Real de Santo António is situated on the Rio Guadiana, which is the river that divides the Algarve from Spain. If you stand on the far eastern edge of Vila Real you can easily see the Spanish coast.

The town was designed that way by the Marquês de Pombal who was keen to apply the latest concept of town planning after the sea had eroded all of the original settlements in the area at the beginning of the 17th century. The Royal charter founding the town, was signed on December 30th 1773, the marking out of the street plan was started on March 2nd 1774 and by August 6th, the Town Hall, Customs House and barracks had already been completed. This is actually rather amazing when you think about it, that from The Royal charter founding the town to its completion, less than 8 months had passed.

At the end of the 19th century the town was a major canning centre for sardines and tuna, and the port was busy with the ships that sailed the Guadiana. It was also the first place in the Algarve to have gas lighting (1886). It is still a thriving community based on fishing, agriculture and tourism.

The main road runs straight from Monte Gordo to Vila Real, and the Avenida da República runs along the front of the town, adjacent to the Rio Guadiana. The riverfront is attractively laid out with trees and water features and there is also a marina where you can watch the boats.

Vila Real has a large town square, 'Praça Marquês de Pombal', which is edged with orange trees and populated with low white buildings, shops, cafes and restaurants. Just behind the square, there is a space called the Centro Cultural António Aleixo, which used to be the old market. Today it is used for temporary exhibits and events. There is also a museum, Museu de Manuel Cabanas, where you can go to see the works of a local painter and wood engraver.

In essence, Vila Real is a relaxed and peaceful town and ideal for anyone who likes the quieter side of life. It’s beautifully quaint, with lots to see and do, particularly for those who like to potter around and absorb the local culture. Like Monte Gordo, Vila Real is also very flat, so is ideal for walking and cycling.

Vila Real has a lovely open sandy beach, which stretches for several kilometres uninterrupted towards Manta Rota, near to Tavira.

Vila Real de Santo António is one of three municipalities that make up the 'Baixo Guadiana' region. Vila Real, Castro Marim and Alcoutim, are the three Algarvean Sotavento (eastern Algarve) municipalities that have been collectively coined 'Baixo Guadiana'. Linked by the Guadiana River, these places, with a total area measuring 940km², have become recognised for their beautiful environment, where sun, sea, river, mountain and friendly people coexist. There are two protected areas within the region - the Ria Formosa Natural Park and the Natural Marsh Reserve of Castro Marim and Vila Real de Santa António which are home to hundreds of different species of birds, mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles and plants.A relaxing way to see this eastern end of the Algarve (and the western end of Spain) is to take a boat trip along the Guadiana to Alcoutim. It passes through some beautiful countryside and changes from the very flat scenery around Vila Real to a backdrop of rounded hills with lush vegetation and a few houses here and there until you arrive at Alcoutim. Here you can see castles on hilltops on both banks of the river as reminders of the past.

Vila Real is certainly very popular with older visitors during the 'off season' months - a good dose of sunshine, plenty of places for walking and cycling and lots of restaurants to choose from. The only sounds 'disturbing' the total peace and quiet are from the birds in the area. It's also only about half an hour from Faro which makes it very easy to visit.

 

Moncarapacho

Moncarapacho presents itself as a typical village of the Barrocal Algarve, among soft hills, where orchards and orchards flourish and the presence of the fig trees, almond and pomegranate trees.

It is possible to prove the human presence in prehistoric archaeological vestiges and then the passage of the Greeks, the Romans, the Visigoths and the Arabs.

It stands out as being the largest and oldest parish in the municipality of Olhão, still earlier than this county. The first official document that refers to the settlement of Moncarapacho dates from 1368, the year in which King D. Fernando gave "to João Afonso and all his successors a vineyard and fig trees that he had in Tavira, in what they call Moncarapacho".
On June 19, 1471 Dom Joao de Melo, bishop of the Algarve, separated Moncarapacho from the parish of Santiago de Tavira, autonomizing the town and raising it to the seat of parish, although it continued to belong to the Term (or County) of Tavira until 1826, when it became part of the Municipality of Olhão.

In medieval times the region was occupied mainly by Fidalgos who explored the agricultural zones and, in the necessity to practice the sacraments, led to the construction of a Church approved in 1459, this event led to an aggregation and development of the surrounding area.

During the last quarter of the fifteenth century and all of the sixteenth century, Moncarapacho experienced a great population growth, motivated in part by the establishment of "noble families" that had integrated the company of the Discoveries in North Africa. Such growth has given rise, roughly, to a new urban structure, which the village maintains to this day.


This complex, which was developed around the main church, consists of two-storey houses with sober lines, and some palaces, also these two-storey houses. They are houses that preserve elements from the 16th century and, above all, houses representing the bourgeois architecture of the 16th century. XIX and beginning of the century. XX, being very influenced by the urban traits of the neighbouring city of Tavira.

In the middle of the sixteenth century was founded the Mercy of Moncarapacho.
Moncarapacho is currently and since the beginning of the century known for keeping carnival festivities.

For anyone interested in medieval history, churches and caves with a history dating back to the time of the Moors Moncarapacho have a rich selection of sights and many religious and cultural spots to visit.

 

Parque Natural Ria de Formosa

The eastern coast of the Algarve is characterized by estuaries and sandy islands that make up the Parque Natural Ria de Formosa. It is an important habitat for birds and marine life.

Parque Natural Ria de Formosa covers an area of about 18,400 hectares, distributed along 60 km of coastline comprising the territory from Ancão to Manta Rota. It's a wetland of international importance, which is part of the list of Ramsar sites and special protection zone. With about two hundred species documented, the Ria Formosa hosts migratory birds coming from central and northern Europe while it's also a breeding ground for many others.

Parque Natural Ria de Formosa is an area protected by Natural Park status since 1987, was elected in 2010 as one of the 7 Natural Wonders of Portugal, and it's also considered an ecosystem of great importance not only regionally but at national and international levels.

 

Sandy Islands (the whole of the Parque Natural Ria de Formosa) stretches along the coast from Cacela Velha to the far west of Faro. Ilha de Tavira, easily reached by boat from the historical city of Tavira, has plenty of sandy beaches to explore (it is 11 km long) consisting of impressive wide stretches of the beach, rich wildlife, birdlife, pleasant bars and lagoons that are suitable for paddling for young children. Beach time and swimming are obvious attractions and you can even enjoy a camping holiday on the island.
 

Tavira

Tavira is an ancient Moorish town that has retained its unique character and heritage to become one of the finest resort towns of the Algarve. The town is a delightful mix of traditional Portuguese architecture with deep-rooted Moorish influences. Tavira is a joy to explore with a multitude of historic buildings and decorative churches, all of which are set around charming plazas and pretty cobbled streets.

The Rio Gilão River runs through the city of Tavira and at a hilltop there are ruins to be found, an ancient Roman bridge and Gothic and Renaissance churches are among its historical attractions. A tempting selection of restaurants and guesthouses makes it an excellent base for exploring the Algarve's eastern reach.

Tavira is ideal for hiking through cobblestone streets and you will find beautiful historic gardens and shady places. There are a small active fishing port and a modern market. Just 3km from the coast, Tavira is the starting point for the amazing unspoilt beaches of Ilha de Tavira. There are good opportunities for watching birds and flamingos like the salt lagoon between the mainland and Ilha de Tavira.

The evenings in Tavira are spent alfresco dining in the charming historic centre, eating delicious freshly caught fish and socialising with new friends over a bottle of locally produced wine. There is a lot to love about Tavira, making it the ideal holiday destination for those tourists who want to combine beautiful beaches with an immersion in Portuguese culture.  

 

Cabanas de Tavira

Cabanas de Tavira it's a former fishing village, about 7Km from Tavira to the East side. It holds a little more than 1000 permanent residents, and its beautiful and clean beaches turn it into a popular tourist destination in the summer. This parish was established as such in 1997.

Cabanas derived it's name from the huts (cabanas) that were erected during the early 18th century by the tuna fishermen to store their fishing gear in, they then eventually built houses for themselves as well and the fishing village of 'Cabanas de Tavira' was born.

Fishing still plays a major role in the economy of Cabanas but for the last 30 years tourism has also played an ever increasing role. What was, until a few years ago, a small, sleepy village with a handful of cafés, is now a very popular tourist resort. As with any popular area, new apartments and houses are springing up around Cabanas, but, certainly at the moment, it hasn't detracted from the character of the town.

Cabanas is a delightfully 'chilling' place where any sense of 'urgency' simply disappears! The view across the calm, crystal clear waters of the lagoon to the beach, with brightly coloured fishing boats along the waters edge is really beautiful and picturesque.

 

Santa Lucia

To the west of Cabanas lies the 'Octopus Capital' of the Algarve - Santa Luzia. In latter years the fishermen of the village turned their talents wholeheartedly to catching octopus and to this end lower clay pots to the sea bed in the shallower waters to lure the octopus in. Octopus is considered quite a delicacy although it can be an acquired taste, is here served up in the family run restaurants that line the harbour front.

 

Monte Gordo

Monte Gordo is situated on one of the finest beaches of the Eastern Algarve, and has been transformed from a minor fishing village into a modern and popular resort town. During the summer Monte Gordo has a buzzing atmosphere, attracting a wide selection of nationalities, including many Portuguese, who simply adore the region. Monte Gordo is no charming or historic Portuguese town; it is a modern beach resort, and for this one aspect the town excels at.

Monte Gordo is a large town, spaciously laid out with wide streets. The high-rise hotels and apartment blocks are a characteristic feature of the Monte Gordo landscape, but as you’ll see, they don’t detract from the overall feel of the town because the town is so big and so well laid out.

The main road through Monte Gordo separates the beach and promenade from the rest of the town. On the town side, the road is lined with an array of shops, cafes, bars and restaurants and on the opposite side there is a wide, open promenade, with palm trees and benches and the golden sandy beach runs along in front.

Against the backdrop of the casino and the high-rise buildings either side, the beachfront is dotted all over with beach bars, restaurants and kiosks. So if you fancy a drink or a bite to eat, you’ll certainly be spoilt for choice. If you have younger children, the beach at Monte Gordo is perfect. It is so flat and wide that it’s really safe for little ones and the water at this end of the Algarve is slightly warmer for a swim or a paddle.

The beach of Monte Gordo is simply stunning, with miles of golden sands, which are lapped by clean and safe sea waters. In the town, there is a diverse selection of restaurants catering for every cuisine and taste, while the nightlife is relaxed and social, focused around late-night bars and restaurants.

Monte Gordo’s town centre is, again, incredibly spacious, with wide streets and flat cobbled areas. Monte Gordo’s calm ambience makes it ideal for families and, as the town is primarily aimed for Portuguese tourists, it offers exceptional value for money. 
 

Olhão

Olhão is the Algarve's largest fishing port. A rare gem, its centre is crumbling, charming, faded, and stuffed full of appealingly batty characters. The occasional tourist wanders about, wondering quite why they're here. Olhão is a top place for a relaxing long weekend. I'm intent on being inert, but rouse myself sufficiently to discover that the jewel in its crown isn't actually in town, but a lovely ferry ride away. Around 80% of Portugal's clams are fished here, around its four low islands. Farol and Armona is the most exclusive residential areas. Deserta is a secluded empty place for the adventureous, Culatra is where the fishermen live and where old fishing nets and briny ropes enclose exquisite gardens out of the sand with wildflowers, succulents, shell patterns and mad blushes of bougainvillea, and lines of washing flap in the Atlantic breeze. 

Downloads