The Top Things to do and see in Portugal's Algarve Region
The Algarve is one of the most popular vacation destinations in Portugal and there are plenty of things to do whilst on holiday. Whether you are like sports, exploring or just building up your suntan there are plenty of activities to enjoy.
The majority of people go to the Algarve for the excellent climate and for the beaches. The striking coastline is home to many of Portugal’s best beaches. Beaches in the western part of the Algarve are famed for their golden cliffs, that are peppered with caves and tunnels. Good examples are Solaria, Batata and Praia da Rocha. In the east the cliffs recede and there are broad expanses of sand. One of the longest stretches of beach is between Acoteias and Faro (where you will also find the islands of the Ria Formosa).
The lovely weather in the Algarve means that it is a popular destination for golfers the whole year round. The excellent courses have also ensured that the Algarve has become one of the foremost golfing destinations in Europe, drawing golfers from around the world. There are golf courses situated along the whole coast from Parque de Floresta (near Vila do Bispo in the west) to Monte Rei Golf club (Vila Nova de Cacela near the Spanish border in the east). The greatest concentration of golf courses is between Albufeira and Faro and you would need a very long holiday to try them all!
Food and Drink
Fish has characterised the economy and diet of the Algarve and the region is renowned for its seafood. Highlights include the local sardines, mackerel and shellfish. There are many excellent restaurants where you can try the native fare or, if you are adventurous, you can venture into the local fish markets, such as the one in Lagos, and buy something fresh off the fishing boats.
What better way to wash a lovely meal down than with a glass of wine? There are a host of local vineyards providing a fine selection of fruity wines. As well as wine the area also produces its own signature spirit Medronho; a brandy made from Arbutus berries.
The west coast, from Vila do Bispo up to Aljezur, provides the best surf. Praia de Bordeira, which is about half way between Vila do Bispo and Aljezur, is a popular surfing haven that offers stunning views as well as some big waves. If you are just starting surfing then bodyboarding is an easy way to catch the surfing bug. Bodyboarding is also very popular among the smaller waves on the southern coast.
Whether it is picking up supplies or looking for gifts there are plenty of shopping options in the Algarve. Faro is the largest town in the region and hosts the largest quantity and selection of shops, especially in terms of large chains and brands. If you need food and groceries then you will find supermarkets, such as the Continente chain, in the major towns including Portimao and Lagos. In the smaller towns there are many interesting handicraft shops; perfect for finding interesting gifts and mementos to take home.
The Algarve has been the settlement for various peoples over thousands of years and is rich in history. Explore the Neolithic past by visiting the Megalithic monuments in Alcalar (near Portimao), or see something of the Moorish influence on the region by visiting Silves castle. You could also visit the striking lighthouse on the cliffs at Cape St. Vincent (Cabo de S. Vincente), find out more about the regions past in the Portimao museum, or watch Flamingos and other wildlife in the Ria Formosa Natural Park.
I have listed the most popular activities but there is plenty more to do whilst on vacation in the Alagarve.
Other water activities include and sailing, jet skiing and diving. Joining a boat or kayak tour is a great way to explore the coastline. Back on dry land there is tennis, riding and cycling (mountain biking being especially popular). If you are looking for a little adventure you could walk the whole (or just a stretch) of the Via Algarvina, a 300 kilometre pedestrian trail that runs from Alcoutim in the east, to Cabo de S. Vincente in the west.
Finally, if you want something noisy then the Autodromo do Algarve, the new home of motorsport in southern Portugal. Built to host to bike and car Grand Prix races, this is a chance for petrol-heads to have a go at racing like a pro.