Sitting on the banks of the meandering Rio Gilão and looking out across the expansive salt flats of the Ria Formosa Natural Park, the charming town of Tavira oozes old world charm. With a long history dating back to Roman times, there are many a fine mansion and graceful townhouse on display. Cobbled streets, castle ramparts, beautiful gardens and an abundant and growing list of excellent eateries are but a few of the many attractions on offer. The morning market is a must for foodies while a fun ferry trip takes visitors to the impressive ten-kilometre-long island beach, where the clean waters of the Atlantic Ocean lap against dune backed sands. With all this on offer, then it is easy to see why some say that Tavira is the loveliest town on the Algarve.
Sao Bras de Alportel
Gateway to the wilderness of the Serra do Caldeirão and home to a thriving cork industry, the small sleepy market town of São Brás de Alportel epitomises the relaxed Mediterranean way of life. Here, a slower pace of life, in keeping with its rich rural surroundings, is very much in evidence and showcased sensitively at the local museum of traditional costumes and rural life. A well-preserved historic centre provides an ideal backdrop to while away the hours wandering through narrow streets, perhaps stopping at a local patisserie to sample one of the locally baked cakes and sweets. For beach lovers, the less popular resorts along the Eastern Algarve are but a short drive away.
In the heart of the ‘golden triangle’ the small town of Almancil belies its size with a wealth of excellent eateries ranging from traditional side street to Michelin Star serving haute cuisine. Nearby cosmopolitan Quinta do Lago and Vale de Lobo provide a certain ‘wow’ factor, awash with world renowned golf courses, stunning villas, many with avant-guard design and high-end shopping to satisfy even the most demanding of clients. Combined with beautiful golden beaches, easy access to Faro and a short distance to the attractive hilltop town of Loulé, it is easy to see why this is a ‘must be’ location on the Algarve!
Authentic and unassuming, this small fishing village sits on the banks for the Ria Formosa Natural Park. From the quayside, a small ferry takes beach goers to the island, considered by many to be one of best beaches in the region while after a hard day’s work, local fishermen moor their craft then head to the open restaurants dotted along the water front for traditional fish and seafood simply served with flavoursome salads and vegetables. Ideally located between Tavira and the port town of Olhão, Fuzeta benefits from easy access to several other interesting towns and sights along this stretch of the coast.
This small seaside town, popular with the Portuguese, offers excellent long sandy beaches and an array of tempting seafood eateries, serving freshly caught fish and seafood. Low key and conveniently located between charming Tavira and the frontier town of Vila Real do Santo António, Altura is ideally positioned to enjoy the many attractions of this lesser known part of the Algarve. Nearby, visit the Reserva Natural do Sapal de Castro Marim, on the banks of the softly flowing Guadiana and home to countless birdlife, or take a drive across the border to sample some Spanish tapas then return to Altura to enjoy those fabulous beaches.
Overlooked by the remains of a 10th century Moorish castle, Aljezur sits within a fertile valley famed for its sweet potatoes, celebrated in style during the annual sweet potato festival. Within the stunning Southwest Alentejo & Costa Vicentina Natural Park, this unassuming little town has become a mecca for surfers and water sports enthusiasts worldwide, attracted by the excellent conditions along this unspoilt and breath-taking coastal stretch while also offering excellent opportunities for hiking and walking along the extensive costal footpath trail. To the south sits Lagos, rich in maritime history and home to some of the Algarve’s most beautiful beaches while to the east, head to the hills to reach the peak at Monchique, a mountain town famed for its Medronho liquor.
Armacao de Pera
With fabulous Blue Flag beaches and excellent seafood restaurants, it is easy to see why Armação de Pêra has become a top tourist destination for the Portuguese. Near the remains of the 17th century fort, local fishermen still beach their boats on the shoreline bringing with them their daily catch, while in the pretty old town narrow cobbled streets retain their old charm with an abundance of restaurants offering visitors a chance to indulge in delicious local dishes. Nearby, Lagoa dos Salgados offers excellent bird watching against a backdrop of sandy dunes along the impressive Praia Grande.
Sitting on the banks of the Rio Arade, the pretty fishing village of Ferragudo exudes charm at every turn. Along narrow cobbled streets local fishermen tend to their nets, while others crowd corner cafés to discuss their daily catch. Bohemian artisan shops, and art galleries mix effortlessly with cafés, bars and several renowned seafood restaurants to make for a delightful atmosphere. Across the river, the port city of Portimão, commercial hub of the western Algarve, sits proud and assured of its maritime history. With excellent shopping facilities and an abundance of enticing eateries, it is well worth a visit. Then return to Ferragudo to enjoy an evening aperitif while watching the sunset.
This charming village, sitting only 5 kilometres from the stunning sandy beaches at Galé and Salgados is most famed for being the home to ‘piri piri’, with countless local eateries serving delicious spicy chicken. Close by, Adega do Cantor, offers guided vineyard tours while excellent shopping is assured at Algarve Shopping. For family fun, head a short distance to Zoo Marine, while at nearby Pêra, the fascinating sand sculpture exposition, with annual themes, is well worth a visit.
The freshwater springs which appear at low tide give this small beach resort its name - ‘eyes of water’. Located only a few kilometres from the busier Albufeira, Olhos d’Agua assumes a more relaxed ambiance and is home to a superb selection of restaurants serving both traditional and international dishes, many with a keen emphasis on fresh seafood. Nearby Falesia beach stretches seamlessly along the coast towards fashionable Vilamoura, home to one of the region’s largest marinas and several of Europe’s more famous golf courses.
The popular and pretty family resort of Carvoeiro, nestled into sea cliffs around a sheltered bay, is an ideal spot to explore this stretch of rugged coastline, home to several of the Algarve’s most iconic beaches. To view this incredible seascape, try a boat trip or follow the cliff top trail, then return for a much-deserved meal at one of the many highly rated restaurants on offer. A short distance inland, visit the old Moorish capital of Silves, sitting proudly within its red sandstone castle and home to a fascinating archaeological museum. Further still, the high hills of Monchique offer a cooling respite from the Summer heat amongst forest of pine and eucalyptus while providing outstanding views across rolling hills down to the blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
Located just north of the regional capital Faro, the pretty village of Estoi boasts many attractions, most notably a stunning 19th Century pink Rococo palace, now a luxury hotel, resplendent within beautiful walled gardens adorned with traditional blue and white Portuguese Azulejos. On entering the village, a visit to the Roman ruins of Milreu, a well-preserved settlement dating from the 1st century, is a must. Famed also for its large monthly market and annual equestrian events, Estoi has much on offer and as is commonplace there are always several good eateries to sample, serving delicious traditional dishes at very reasonable prices!
With its pretty picture-postcard church square, the well-preserved village of Boliqueime offers visitors a chance to experience a flavour of the real Algarve. Meander narrow streets lined with traditional tiled houses, indulge at one of the excellent local restaurants or simply enjoy the colourful monthly market. Nearby, the fashionable beach resorts of Vilamoura and Albufeira offer fabulous golden beaches and top rate sporting pursuits, while heading north discover a landscape of rolling hills dotted with ancient olive, pine and cork, white washed hamlets and hidden eateries serving flavoursome dishes.