Being doused in sunshine for virtually the whole of the year, boasting a beautiful golden coastline of soft sandy beaches and scattered with vibrant towns and villages bursting with character and life, it’s hardly surprising why the Algarve has long been a popular destination for families seeking sun, fun and a memorable holiday with a difference.
With the sun soaring overhead, the temperatures warming up nicely and colourful festivals taking place in almost every city, town and village, Easter is a wonderful time to be on the Algarve.
At Eastertime, fairs are put on across the region, where you can sample gastronomic delights unique to the region, such as almonds covered in chocolate or sugar and traditional ‘folares’, sweet or savoury Easter bread topped with a hardboiled egg still in its shell.
In the traditional Algarve town of Tavira, an annual Triumphal Procession takes place on Palm Sunday. The colourful procession starts at the church and makes its way through the streets, parading past throngs of onlookers, until it eventually finishes back at the church.
Holy Week is celebrated with deep Catholic significance across the whole of the Algarve. Religious ceremonies are re-enacted, including the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday, the ascension to Heaven on Holy Saturday and the Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
The Festas das Tochas Floridas – Flower Torches – is celebrated each Easter Sunday in the town of Sao Bras de Alportel. The streets of this characterful town are carpeted in flowers and petals displayed in intricate patterns.
The region’s bustling city of Faro is an enchanting place to be at Easter when the Carnation Revolution is celebrated every year. On April 25, 1974, the peaceful revolution marked Portugal’s liberation from a 40-year dictatorship.
This emotional festival involves locals singing Grandola Vila Morena, the song originally sung by the leftist folk singer Zeco Afonso.
With such vibrant, traditional, unique and meaningful events, carnivals and festivals held across the whole of the region, Easter is the perfect time to experience the Algarve at its most authentic, traditional and enchanting.
As you walk along the seafront of the Algarve at Christmas time one thing that is notable is the maze of Christmas lights, which drape and sparkle over the palm trees. Initially you may think that this doesn’t look right because there is a distinct lack of snow and fir trees.
Despite Xmas lights looking distinctly out of place in warmer countries we should try to remember that Jesus was not born in Scandinavia’s Lapland and Christmas did not originate in a land filled with snow, robins and fir trees.
The sapphire sea and the blue sky might seem out of place at Christmas but the Algarve’s climate is likely to be much more similar to that of Bethlehem than of London in December.
Put simply, Christmas in the Algarve is a wonderful experience and there’s not a reindeer in sight. There’s some artificial snow though as similar to many American and North European countries, the town of Faro opens its doors to an artificial snow rink at Christmas.
Another Portuguese Xmas tradition that might be difficult for us British to swallow is the fact that in Portugal they have their traditional Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve.
Not only this but instead of comprising of turkey, roast potatoes, cranberry sauce and all the trimmings, a Christmas dinner in the Algarve consists of salt cod, known locally as Bacalhou. However, as plenty of English live in the Algarve, turkeys, cranberry sauce and sprouts are all available.
Many restaurateurs on the Algarve also understand the demand for traditional ‘English’ Christmas dinners. If you couldn’t quite face salt cod on Christmas Day you’ll be pleased to know that there will be a sufficient number of restaurants and bars offering the traditional British turkey dinner with the usual trimmings.
If your Christmas in the Algarve is going to extend into New Year’s Eve then heading to the beach at Lagos to experience a phenomenal firework display will certainly be something to remember.
Thinking of spending Christmas in the Algarve? Make sure you view Vintage Travel’s collection of luxury Algarve villas!
Not only is the Algarve blessed with boundless stretches of beautiful beaches but it is also a hub for creative arts, meaning the southern Portuguese region takes some beating when it comes to having a beach holiday with a cultural twist.
Summer 2012 looks like the Algarve is more determined than ever to provide a string of cultural events for visitors yearning a tad of Portuguese history, heritage and tradition.
Take a look at three of the best cultural Algarve events in July 2012.
The Biker’s Festival
If the legendary Billy Idol rocks your boat then be sure to head to the Biker’s Festival where the pop legend will be headlining on July 21st. The veteran rocker hasn’t been in Portugal for 19 years, so if you’re an Idol fan make Faro a date in your calendar this July 21st for the celebrated Biker’s Festival.
From July 20 until July 24 the town of Albufeira will be welcoming back another edition of the Festival Al-Buhera. With craft fairs, live music and gastronomic shows, this popular festival provides visitors with a wealth of cultural delights from the Algarve.
The majority of the activities and shows take place in Albufeira’s Fisherman’s Square, which is certainly the place to head to if you want to experience a true taste of Portugal.
Silves Medieval Fair
From 28th July to 5th August the Silves Medieval Fair will be held in the town of Silves in central Algarve. This festival is one of the biggest cultural events on the Algarve calendar and never fails to attract a throng of visitors from Portugal, Europe and beyond.
People of all ages, tastes and ethnicities take to Silves cobbled streets as long as they’re dressed up in period costume. Food and drink plays a leading role in this medieval festival with the aroma of joints of meats slowly spit roasting in temporary barbecues filling Silves’s quirky streets as medieval revellers make their way up to the town’s magnificent castle.
The International Gourmet Festival 2012 is to take place in Algarve.
It’s one of the most prestigious, popular and anticipated events on the international gourmet calendar. It is an event that only features Michelin-starred chefs and it’s going to take place in the Algarve, well doesn’t that say something about the world’s perception of Portuguese cuisine?
The sixth annual International Gourmet Festival is being held at the exclusive Michelin-starred Vila Joya Resort in the Algarve from January 12 – 22, 2012.
As well has celebrating the very best of international cuisine, the event promotes local chefs, eateries, designers, vineyards and various other businesses, and will therefore give the Algarve a huge boost in commerce, particularly within the food industry.
More than 20 of the globe’s most recognisable and widely-acclaimed chefs from France, Germany, the USA, Sweden, Canada, Finland, Italy, Switzerland, the Netherland and the UK, will head to the Vila Joya resort this month.
Each of the Michelin-starred chefs will present a tasting menu accompanied with several wine pairings. Unique to this year’s International Gourmet Festival will be a lunch prepared and served at a local vineyard, with a local chef serving lunch on the Malhadinha Nova Vineyard.
Alongside the various wine and spirit tasting sessions, chocolate making and other cooking orientated workshops, there will be golf tournaments and even a Go-Kart race where the top chefs will race each other to be crowned Go-Karting champion!
Food is a serious affair in the Algarve, as it is in Portugal as a whole with the country being home to a total of 12 Michelin-starred restaurants, of which four are in the Algarve, including Vila Joya and Henrique Leis.
Visitors are welcome to come and experience a taste of local and international cuisine at the elegant and exclusive Vila Joya, which shines like a precious stone on a cliff above the Atlantic in the beautiful Algarve.
For more information on this year’s International Gourmet Festival visit: internationalgourmetfestival.com.
From Thursday 25 August 2011 until Sunday 28 August, the ancient town of Castro Marim on the eastern edge of the Algarve will be holding the Medieval Days of Castro Marim festival 2011.
This fun, family-orientated event is free for all and includes many colourful and exciting children’s activities, delicious local cuisine being served in abundance, beautiful handicrafts meticulously crafted by the locals being sold, alongside music, dancing and merriment well into the early hours, making the Medieval Days of Castro Marim an event not to be missed.
The earliest remains of this fascinating town date back as early as 5000BC and for thousands of years Castro Marim was an important town strategically position next to the mighty Guadiana River close to the Spanish border acting in defence of the Algarve.
The Castro Miram Castle stands on the hill overlooking the town and the fort of Sao Sebastiao. The castle dates back to the 10th century and was built by the Moors to protect the Algarve coast.
The castle remains the focal point for the medieval festival with many of the locals re-enacting the medieval era by dressing as queens, kings, knights, noblemen and minstrels and wandering around the castle and the streets of the town on horseback and on foot in authentic medieval clothing.
The food, drinks and music is presented at the castle, as well as many exciting activities including a jousting competition, an exhibition of the torture instruments used in the Middle Ages and many story telling sessions for the children.
The Medieval Days of Castro Marim festival is now in its eleventh year and was started as an initiative by the Castro Marim town hall to promote the history of the town as well as the local produce.
The festival seems to grow in popularity with each passing year, and if you are heading to the Algarve this August, be sure to follow the magnificent Guadiana River until you arrive at this remarkable ancient town and witness it at its most spectacular.
From Saturday 4 June 2011 until Sunday 5 June 2011, the International Algarve Fair will be taking place in the town of Lagos.
Cited as being “where all the Algarve meets”, this annual event seems to go from strength to strength and attracts an escalating international crowd with each passing year.
With hundreds of exhibitors, all day entertainment, bars, restaurants and kiosks all serving delicious local dishes, the Algarve Fair 2011 caters for all tastes and age groups, with something of everything for each family member.
This year will include several new attractions, including new features, shows and demonstrations in the third Algarve Dog Show and a prize draw on the entry tickets, giving every attendee the chance to win a fantastic prize.
Although the fun, exciting and friendly Algarve Fair is only one of a whole host of reasons to visit the town of Lagos this summer. Taken from the Latin word ‘Laccorbiga’, the name Lagos actually means ‘Lakes’, shedding a clue on the beauty of the town.
Situated at the mouth of the Bensafrim River and along the Atlantic Ocean, this seaside town remains a popular tourist destination, although maintains a certain charm seemingly resistant to the effects of mass tourism.
History is at the heart of Lagos and the town has the oldest slave market in Europe, which dates back to the 15th century. It was in the town of Lagos that Caravels were built and set sail to the new world.
Although Lagos provides an interesting mix of something for everyone, and for those yearning a vibrant nightlife scene, Lagos is the place to go.
Being one of the most visited towns on the Algarve, Lagos is home to a prolific amount of bars, restaurants and nightclubs, which, together with its grand, beautiful and diverse beaches, means Lagos remains a renowned party city, particularly in the summer months.
With its extensive, sandy, sun-drenched coastline beginning to come alive, and with a string of spectacular and unique religious festivals dedicated to Easter, the Algarve, year after year, proves to be a popular Easter destination. Below are three of the Algarve’s most fabulous events to make Easter 2011 a “feliz Pascao”!
Flower Torches Festival – April 24 2011, Sao Bras de Alportel
On Easter Sunday the tranquil town of Sao Bras de Alportel is paved with rich and beautiful arrays of flowers, and comes alive with passion, colour and music. Commencing at sunrise with the men of the town running through the streets holding brightly decorated torches and shouting ‘hallelujah’, the Flower Torches Festival starts as dramatically as it finishes. In the afternoon, the procession and its followers make their way to the churchyard in the Main Church, where prizes are awarded for the best flower torches. The celebrations continue into the early hours with music, dancing, food, drink and plenty of laughter.