The Algarve Portugal has 300 days of sunshine each year. And it attracts millions of visitors. But sticking to beaches and golf means missing out.
With 200km of coastline there's lots to discover. Five centuries of Moorish left a rich legacy. And secrets can still be found in the Algarve. The information in this article is taken from The Rough Guide to Portugal, your essential guide for visiting Portugal.
Don't skip Faro and head straight for Algarve resorts. Spend a few hours in the city at least. Get lost in Faro old town. Discover narrow lanes and churches. Explore the ruined city walls. And make time for its pretty harbour.
Visit the town of Olhão for its extraordinary creativity. Much of centre has been transformed with street art celebrating the town's heritage.
In the suburbs, abandoned buildings and churches showcase Portuguese artists. And if want to buy art, many town shops sell the work of local artisans.
The Ria Formosa Natural Park stretches 60 km from Ancão beach almost to the Spanish border.
Explore Ria Formosa by boat. Ferry services run from Faro and Olhão. Want a more personal experience? Take a catamaran cruise from Olhão for a day of island hopping.
Some 395 bird species have been recorded in the Algarve.
Want to spot birds with local experts? Book an eco-friendly bird watching tour of Ria Formosa.
Algarve cuisine is an aromatic melting pot. Influences range from Arab to Mediterranean. And the local larder is packed with fresh tuna, olives, oysters and more.
It's a foodie playground. The seafood's fresh as can be. And head inland to discover vineyards, olive groves and carob trees.
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Expect architectural grandeur even in small Algarve towns. Vila Real de Santo Antonio sits on the Guadiana river. It's close to the Spanish border. And in 1755 was levelled by the same earthquake which devastated Lisbon. Happily, the same architect who rebuilt the capital travelled well.
Marquis de Pombal recreated his Pombaline style in Vila Real de Santo Antonio. He designed a grid-plan around a central square. And then he combined neoclassical elements with whitewashed facades and red roofs. The town's Art Nouveau riverfront was designed by Swiss architect Ernesto Korrodi.
Tempted to experience some Pombaline style? Consider at stay at Pombaline Building, in the heart of Vila Real de Santo Antonio.
The Algarve coast is a magnet for surfers. And equally alluring for sailing and swimming.
Western Algarve is where the Atlantic is wildest. It's the coast for experienced surfers and sailors.
Algarve weather is warmer to the east. And seas are calmer closer to the Mediterranean.
You can go dolphin or whale watching right along the Algarve coast. Try Lagos or Albufeira for guided cruises. Grottos and caves can be explored by yacht or kayak. And Portimão, Faro or Olhao are all good for boat trips.
Ready to take to the water? Catch a dolphin watching guided cruise from Lagos with local experts.
Costa Vicentina Natural Park has no major developments. There are no new urban areas. And the park stretches from near Lisbon, south to Porto Covo in Alentejo.
Heavily protected Costa Vicentina is the Algarve's best preserved coast. Sustainability is high on the agenda. And the focus is on protecting the environment and local communities.
The park's networked with 1750km of hiking and cycling trails. Try one of 24 circular routes. Or go for the Historical Way or Fishermen’s Trails.
The Algarve has some of the world's best beaches. And it isn't too hard to find quieter ones.
Head east for Praia da Ilha Deserta. It's on an island on the Ria Formosa. Completely unspoiled, it's reached by ferry. Praia da Culatra is another eastern beach to try.
Need more beach facilities? Make for western Algarve. Praia de Dona Ana, Praia de Benagil, and Praia da Falesia are all great choices.
Praia da Bordeira is north on the Atlantic coast. It's perfect for walking or surfing.
Ready for a trip to Portugal? Check out the snapshot Rough Guide to Portugal. Read more about the best time to go to Portugal, the best places to visit and best things to do in Portugal. For inspiration use the Portugal Itineraries from The Rough Guide to Portugal and our local travel experts. A bit more hands on, learn about getting there, getting around the country and where to stay once you are there. And don't forget to buy travel insurance before you go.
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