The Algarve’s 200 kilometer stretch of southern shoreline is one of Europe’s most popular holiday destinations. The region has attracted visitors since the time of the Phoenicians, but today it caters for millions of tourists a year with its stunning coastline, excellent golf courses and pleasant year round climate.
Bordered on two sides by the Atlantic, the Algarve is divided from the rest of Portugal by a series of low lying mountains. In the east, the Guadiana River forms a scenic border with neighbouring Spain.
The region’s capital, Faro, is built around a charming harbour at the edge of a wide lagoon. Its main attractions include a maritime museum and a 13th century cathedral.
Along the coast to the east stands one of Europe’s most luxurious resorts, Quinta do Lago, where visitors can play golf or explore the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve.
Equally famous is the resort town of Vilamoura located in the centre of the Algarve. The 1,600 hectare development comprises several high quality hotels, restaurants and an impressive range of sports facilities. Albufeira to the west is the region’s largest holiday resort, alive with tourist activity right through the year.
The quieter Algarve begins at Lagos, home to a modern marina, a clutch of ancient churches and a long, sandy beach. West of Lagos towards the Atlantic coast are the pretty villages of Luz, Burgau and Salema, with narrow streets, whitewashed houses and an ancient fishing tradition.
It is at Sagres, the most south_westerly place in Europe, that the rugged beauty of the Algarve is found. The town is a monument to Prince Henry the Navigator, a national hero whose expertise in compiling maps and teaching navigation earned him a place in the history books. Founded on a dramatic promontory, the site of his fortress is now occupied by a castle and a huge compass made from pebbles.