Landscapes dotted with cork, fig and almond trees interspersed with blossoming orange and peach orchards: Many cold-stricken central Europeans dream of the Algarve, which enjoys over 3,000 hours of sunshine a year and boasts beaches that are among the finest in the world. Two mountain ranges cover the sparsely inhabited northern regions of Portugal's southernmost province. Between these mountains and the sea lie rolling hills of fertile land that produces up to four harvests a year. This area is hemmed in by a narrow coastal strip in the far south. While the mountainous West Algarve is incredibly scenic, most beaches and resorts are found in the east. The temperature rarely falls below 10° C in the winter, and the summer heat is tempered by a fresh breeze from the Atlantic Ocean.
Best of Portugal: Great Diversity of a small Country
Scenic old town below a castle
This town in the western part of the Algarve region features a lovely old town at the base of the ruins of a 10th-century Moorish castle. The sweeping view of the Serra de Monchique is reason enough to come for a visit. Aljezur is divided into two districts. The older one consists of buildings typical of the region and is built into the hill of the castle. The more modern district of Igreja Nova was added after the earthquake in 1755. Nearby beaches include the Praia da Amoreira with its wonderful dunes, as well as Monte Clerigo and Arrifana.
Hot springs and relaxing resort town
The only hot springs in the Algarve region are located in a lush, hilly landscape six kilometers south of the scenic village of Caldas de Monchique. The Romans were the first to attest to the curative properties of the water, which has a temperature of 32 degrees Celsius. A resort town with elegant buildings was built here during the 19th century. The main square is well-shaded and borders a park with centuries-old acacias and camellias. The ceaseless murmur of the water as it glistens in the sun creates a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere.
International sand sculpture festival
This international sand sculpture festival is the largest of its kind in the world. The exhibit covers an area of 15,000 square meters and has a different theme every year. Artists from a number of countries work for months to construct a city using 35,000 tons of sand. You can admire the sculptures during the day and then enjoy an evening program of live music, theater and dance. There is also an area where anyone can try their hand at making a sand sculpture.
Swimming in a lagoon
The lagoon islands known as the IIha de Tavira are located south of Tavira and can be reached via a ferry. The low dunes and the several kilometers of sandy beaches are ideal for a day in the water. There is also a pedestrian bridge to the island further to the west.
Ospreys and white storks in a unique biotope
Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park follows the coast for 80 kilometers from Porto Covo in Alentejo to Burgau in Algarve and is one of the most pristine coastlines in Europe. The park also features a unique biotope. Ospreys and white storks like to build their nests in the coastal cliffs, and it is one of the last natural marine habitats for European otters. Several species of of plants grow here that do not thrive anywhere else. The park is accessible via the Rota Vicentina system of hiking trails.
Beautiful beach without large hotels
The beach in western Algarve is still a secret – despite the stunning white sand and clear turquoise water. Because there are no major tourist resorts in the area the beach is populated mostly by locals, even in the high season.
Southwesternmost tip of Europe
This town lies near the Cabo de São Vicente, the southwesternmost tip of the European mainland. It is situated in the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina, which continues down along the entire southwestern coast of Portugal. In combination with the powerful ocean, this wild, rocky landscape continues to delight visitors. Cabo de São Vicente also features a tall lighthouse. Its light has a nominal range of 90 kilometers, making it the most powerful lighthouse in Europe.
Crenellated lookout castle made of red sandstone
Above the city of Silves towers a crenellated castle of red sandstone. One can take a walk on the upper ring of walls and enjoy the spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. A shaft leads into a copper mine that was exploited by the Romans. The Moorish cisterns are impressive as they are surrounded by four to seven meter high arches and reach a depth of 60 meters.
Beautiful beaches without massive hotels
This ancient city is located in the eastern Algarve, just a few kilometres from the Spanish border. However, it is not facing the sea, but the Rio Gilão, which forms a lagoon here before it flows into the Atlantic. Despite their long history, in which Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans and Moors followed each other, there are hardly any buildings older than 250 years. The devastating earthquake of Lisbon in 1755 had also hit Tavira hard. Today, the cityscape is as uniform as it is picturesque. The beautiful sandy beaches in front of the city are still relatively unpopulated, which is probably due to the fact that until today there are hardly any bigger hotels in the area.