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The Algarve

 

 

Climate Geography Getting There/Around Cuisine History
The Algarve's sunny climate, beautiful beaches and laidback lifestyle draw all types of visitors. Many of these are package tourists who head west out of Faro airport towards resorts like Albufeira. The eastern Algarve, where our properties are located, is rather different; it has largely ignored tourism and much of the area remains unspoilt, with few high-rise hotels or lager-swilling lads. Its popularity as a holiday destination for the Portuguese also ensures that prices stay reasonable.

CLIMATE
The Algarve has a temperate climate, with long warm summers and mild winters. From June to September the temperature rarely drops below 20°C (68°F), with daytime temperatures rising as high as 30°C (85°F) in August. Coastal breezes usually keep things bearable and there is an average 10-12 hours a day of sunshine. Winter days are often warm and sunny, but the temperature can drop to 13°C (55°F) overnight. Rainfall is in winter, but you'd be very unlucky not to have a few sunny days during a week's holiday even in those months. Winter is arguably also the best time to visit as there are few other visitors and the countryside is cloaked with blossoms and wildflowers from December to May. To see today's weather, click here.

GEOGRAPHY
The southern Algarve coast stretches 150kms east to west, though Faro divides it into two distinct areas. Beaches to the west of Faro consist mainly of small coves backed by cliffs, but to the east long sandy islands have formed between the sea and land, and beaches are accessed by ferry. The land side of the sandbars form lagoons that make up the Ria Formosa nature reserve, a haven for birds. All the main beaches have life guards and many hold the European Blue Flag for their quality of water, cleanliness and safety. Most also have bars and restaurants. The west coast beaches are very different - open to the winds and Atlantic Ocean rollers, they are excellent for surfing though the dangerous currents require caution.


The interior landscape varies greatly and changes dramatically with the seasons. The slopes of the Serra de Monchique in the west are covered with woods of cork and chestnut, stripped to a stark beauty in summer. The coastal plain is a mass of fruit trees, vines and dry stone walls, at its best from January to May when almond and orange blossoms give way to a stunning display of wild flowers. The remote northeast is dotted with ancient whitewashed villages where craftsmen and farmers go about their business as they have for centuries.

GETTING THERE AND AROUND
Flights to the Algarve land at Faro airport, about 6kms west of the city and less than 3 hours from London. Plenty of car hire companies have offices at the airport, while a taxi costs about €35 (£20) for the half-hour trip to Tavira. There is also a bus service to Faro's central station, from where you can get a bus or train to most Algarve towns.

The inexpensive and efficient Algarve Rail Link runs the length of the coast, connecting Lagos in the west with Vila Real St Antonio on the Spanish border. It also connects to the main Lisbon line (a 3-hour journey from Faro). An extensive bus network also links all the main towns and resorts.
A new dual carriageway runs from near Albufeira eastwards to the Spanish border and beyond, while the older N125 main road runs along the whole south coast.

FOOD & DRINK
Fish is the staple diet in the Algarve. Grilled sardines are hugely popular, but tuna, swordfish, sea bass, clams, calamari and cuttlefish are also caught locally. Chicken piri piri -- chicken grilled with chilli and olive oil -- is a speciality, and there are some excellent restaurants serving international cuisine.
The Portuguese are a sweet-toothed nation and pastry shops can be found everywhere. Try the fig pastries, custard tarts, angel cake, or egg yolk, almond and caramel confections.
Portuguese Port is world famous of course, but its wines are also of good quality and very inexpensive. The wineanorak site has a good guide to the country's wines.

A QUICK HISTORY
The Algarve has been inhabited since prehistory, and successive waves of invaders - Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans and Moors - have all left their mark. It was the Moors who named the region "al Gharb", meaning "the western part". They were expelled from the province in the 12th century after 500 years of occupation and their influence is especially apparent in the buildings of the eastern Algarve, with their curious pyramid-shaped roofs and tiled facades.
The Algarve played a prominent role in the Age of Discovery after Prince Henry the Navigator founded a school of navigation in Sagres. In the 15th century, many Algarvians were aboard the Caravels that voyaged to Africa, India and the East, capturing trade routes that opened up the New World and for a short time made Portugal the richest country in Europe.
After a turbulent 20th century - much of it under dictatorship - Portugal is now a member of the European Union, though it remains one of the poorest of the members. To read more about the country's history and culture click here.