Category Archives: Algarve

Vacation Ideas for the Algarve, Portugal

The Algarve is the southernmost region of mainland Portugal, covering almost 5,000 square kilometers (almost 2,000 square miles). At the heart of this beautiful region is its capital, Faro. If you’re planning on visiting the Algarve, you’re likely to fly into Faro International Airport. Once you’ve arrived in this rich, cultural land, there are several ways to get around in Portugal, including using car hire companies at Faro Airport.

 If you want to spend your vacation on your own timetable, we’d suggest hiring a car for getting around the Algarve. After you’ve arrived and decided on a mode of transportation, it’s time to get serious about relaxing. While you can drive from Faro in southern Portugal to Bragança in northern Portugal in about six and a half hours, there is plenty to do without leaving the Algarve region. There are many attractions in Faro itself, but today we’ve put together a list of a few things you can do when you leave the city behind.

 

Visit the Beach

Northwest of Faro, not very far from the airport, is a little offshore island connected to the mainland by a bridge; this is the Praia de Faro (Faro Beach). It is also sometimes called Faro-Mar or Ilha de Faro. Being an island, this beach offers both a lagoon side and a seafaring side. The lagoon side has colorful boats on the water or moored along the slipways. It is a popular location for swimmers and jet skiers alike. On the seafaring side of the island is a glorious stretch of golden sand. The Praia de Faro offers many watersports including windsurfing and sailing.

 

Hop up to Estói

Just 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) north of Faro, you’ll find Estói, a town typical of the Algarve hinterland. Here you’ll find the Palácio de Estói, a palace that dates back to the late 18th century. While visitors are not allowed inside the palace, there are beautiful, multi-level gardens lavishly decorated with azulejos (Moorish tile mosaics) and busts. There is a grotto located in the lower part of the gardens that is completely covered in mosaics and can be accessed by going down a set of tile steps.

 

Travel to Historic Silves

Silves is a little country town about 65 kilometers (40 miles) from Faro situated on the Rio Arade and surrounded by cork oak forests. It was once the Moorish city of Xelb, capital of the Al-Gharb. Formerly an intellectual and cultural center to rival Granada, Silves is now a small, charming, old world town with some historically significant buildings. You can visit the Castelo dos Mouros, a massive Moorish castle that rears above the town; the Gothic Cathedral; or Sé, containing the tombs of crusaders. There is also the Archeological Museum in the Rua das Portes de Loulé with exhibits from Silves and the surrounding area.

 

Go a bit farther to Ponta de Piedade

Another 40 kilometers (25 miles) or so farther down the coast, you’ll find the Ponta de Piedade near Lagos. This is a stunningly beautiful section of coastline with an awe-inspiring collection of natural wonders and a lighthouse perched majestically atop the cliffs. Caves, grottoes and sea arches are among the natural sculptures you’ll find carved from the cliffs below over thousands of years.There are many boat trips that will take you into grottoes, around stone pillars and through natural tunnels. The vast variety of natural wonders coupled with clear water and the warm Algarve sunshine creates a truly magical effect.

No matter what you decide to do while in the Algarve, make sure you enjoy yourself. There’s something for everyone. See the sites, try the food, or just relax on the beaches.

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A Brief History of The Algarve

As one of the hottest places to visit and vacation, the Algarve area of Portugal has a rich and vibrant history. When you next go to the Algarve, take some time to try to notice all the influences from various cultures that have made their mark on this gorgeous area in Europe.

Around 1000 BC

While there is evidence that people inhabited the areas around the Algarve since the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods, some of the first documented people to live in this area were the Phoenicians. They established ports all along the the coast in order to trade with others via the water.

Around 550 BC

The port known today as Portimão was founded by the Carthaginians following the time of the Phoenicians. Both the Carthaginians and the Phoenicians subsisted for many, many years solely on the resources they were able to glean from the sea.

The 2nd Century

The Romans came on the scene around this time. You can still see many Roman ruins when you tour through the Algarve. These are typically found near the water.

The 5th Century

Around this time, the Visigoths took control of the Algarve area until the 500 years of Arab rule by the Moors. You can see this evidence in the names of many areas in the Algarve starting with the prefix “al” and in the construction of homes with flat roofs.

Early to Mid 12th Century

Following the reign of the Moors, the Reconquista began. Fighting remained until the Moors were eventually pushed out of the area. At this time was when the area’s name changed from “Al-Gharb” to the Kingdom of the Algarve. It wasn’t until the 13th century that the Portuguese regained control of their own land.

The 15th Century

This was a time in the Algarve’s history where the area truly flourished. A navigation school was set up, and many sea voyages left from Portuguese ports. Portugal became a major imperial power due to all their journeys.

1755

The Lisbon earthquake hit this year, followed by a massive tsunami. The devastation from the natural disasters severely hurt the Algarve, and many areas suffered from irreparable damage. Although the epicenter of the earthquake was close to the Algarve, the tsunami actually caused more damage.

Current

Other than a brief period in 1807 and 1808 when Portugal was occupied by Spanish troops, the Algarve has been a relatively autonomous and peaceful area. Despite any misfortune that came their way, the people of the Algarve have always remained warm and friendly, making this a great area to visit.