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Portugal’s Algarve region is renowned for its 3000+ hours of sunshine a year, making it a popular destination whatever the season. Here you will find many attractive holiday resorts, charming fishing towns and amazing natural environments. Many areas are preserved and protected by UNESCO as World`s Heritage Sites.
With 200km of coastline fringed by beautiful white sand beaches, the Algarve, is a haven for outdoor activities. From watersports including surfing, scuba diving and sailing, to hiking and biking the scenic coastal trails rich with flora and fauna such as Via Algarviana, an old pilgrimage route and network of footpaths which cross the inner part of the region from the east to the south-west.
Another highlight of holidaying in the Algarve, is the golf.
Around the Algarve coast there are over 40 golf courses with some designed by golfing legends such as Arnold Palmer and Sir Henry Cotton, hailed as some of the best courses in Europe. The region itself ‘a golfer’s paradise’ has been voted numerous times as one of the best golfing destinations worldwide.
As well as all the exercise you can expect yomping around 18-holes, the courses offer golfers spectacular views – nature at its finest - which frames the perfectly manicured greens and lush fairways. Fig trees, olive and carob trees and mesmerising backdrops of the Atlantic Ocean and the rugged mountains could put even the most focused player off his putt. From Lagos to Serra de Monchique there are courses that need to be seen, to be believed.
You can find some of the most popular courses in the affluent touristy resorts of Vilamoura, Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo in Algarve’s Golden Triangle, the latter boasting the Royal Golf Course - its 16th hole is the most photographed in Europe for its breathtaking coastal views.
From charming fishing towns to amazing natural environments, the Algarve is captivating in more ways than one. The Vincentina Coast or the ‘wild coast’ on the west between Odeceixe and Burgau is simply beautiful with swathes of sandy beaches and secret coves framed by rugged cliffs and blanketed with wildflowers and grasses.
This part of the region is popular with surfers who come to catch the surging waves of the Atlantic. The fishing harbour town of Sagres on the southwest is a popular place to stay for those who wish to unleash their wild side in this wild environment.
The Ria Formosa Natural Park is also a sight to behold and wonderful for wildlife. The coastal lagoon, protected by the sea from a system of barrier islands, has been voted one of the 7 Natural Wonders of Portugal. Covering 45,000 and extending along the leeward coast of the Algarve through the municipalities of Loulé, Faro, Olhão, Tavira and Vila Real de Santo António. Birdwatchers flock to the nature park to see birdlife species such as flamingos and Purple Swamphen.
Those that want to experience the tranquil calm of the inland towns should head to Silves where they can learn more about the history of the region. The Monchique mountains is another fascinating area with its eucalyptus trees and waterfalls. Exploring on foot is a must especially to the highest mountain peak of Serra de Monchique in the Algarve, Foia, which offers views along the coastline. The mountain town of Monchique itself is famous for its geothermal springs.
The Ponta da Piedade headland is another place to explore. South of Lagos the headland comprises a series of highly weathered cliffs that are lined with spectacular grottos, arches, sea caves, and are regarded as the finest natural feature of the Algarve.
Lagos with its historic centre has bags of character and charm with its narrow cobbled streets and Moorish influences, such as the ancient walls which overlook the harbour. Other historic monuments include Santo Antonio church, Europe’s first slave market - the Mercado dos Escravos and striking 17th century Bandeira Fort.
For authentic charm, the ancient Moorish town of Tavira is another historic masterpiece with its traditional painted houses. It also has 36 churches from all different periods ranging from Gothic to Renaissance, many featuring traditional Portugese azulejos tiles with their eye-catching designs.
The former capital of the Algarve, Silves is of great historic importance. Whitewashed houses with orange rooftops loom above the banks of the Rio Arada which runs through Silves, Lagoa and Portimão. Set amidst rolling countryside sprinkled with olive and almond trees, Silves also boasts one of the best preserved castles in the Algarve dating back to the 7th Century.
The capital of the Algarve, the historic walled city of Faro is another historic gem. Other than just being where the airport is, Faro has a picturesque marina, pretty plazas and a maze of quaint cobbled streets to explore. Faro is also home to the ancient ‘Se’ cathedral, a striking city landmark with Renaissance and Baroque influences. Climb the steps to the top of the tower for serene views of the Ria Formosa National Park.
The historic market town of Loule is also well worth visiting and taking a tour of the walled old town. It is also famous for its gypsy (flea) market held each Saturday at the end of Rua ad Nossa Senhora da Piedade selling locally made souvenirs and artisan products.
The Algarve is ideal holiday region for having a relaxing holiday experience. The region is known for its philosophy of calm and slow life. If you want to experience a relaxing way of living, beautiful natural scenery, wonderful beaches and exquisite cuisine – the Algarve has it all!
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