Algarve holidaysThe sample prices are per person based on two people travelling!
With the Algarve being a territory of Portugal, Portuguese is the primary language spoken here. Portuguese is a Romance language that is related to Spanish. Most locals can understand Spanish, but visitors should avoid trying to communicate in Spanish due to the long history of rivalry between the two countries. Because of the popularity of the Algarve as tourist destination, English is spoken by those working in the beach resorts.
The official currency used in Portugal and therefore the Algarve is the euro (EUR, €). Money can be easily exchanged in banks, money exchange bureaux and even at money exchange machines. Banks accept travellers’ cheques as well. ATMs, locally called multibanco, are widely available throughout the Algarve and most have an English language option. Visa, MasterCard and other major credit cards can be used in most tourist-oriented establishments like hotels, restaurants and even grocery stores. Exchange rates for card transactions are often good.
Portugal is part of the Schengen zone thus nationals of other Schengen countries need only present their national identity card to enter Portuguese territory, including the Algarve. Nationals of EU and EFTA countries, including British citizens, can enter the Algarve with a valid passport for a stay of unlimited duration. Additionally, US, Canadian and Australian citizens do not need a visa for stays of up to 90 days.
Climate is characterised by pleasant sunshine almost the entire year, with summer temperatures of between 25°C and 30°C. The best time to visit the Algarve is during the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn when the weather is pleasant and the waters warm enough for swimming. In summer, the resorts and tourist towns tend to get busy.
The main gateway to the Algarve is Faro Airport, which is also known as Algarve Airport. The airport services Faro, the southernmost city in Portugal, which happens to be the Algarve’s capital city. The airport is located only four kilometres west of the city and has connections to many European destinations, with the frequency of flights increasing in the summer due to the Algarve’s popularity as a holiday destination.
The primary carrier at Faro Airport is low-cost airline Ryanair, which flies to the Algarve from various airports in Europe including Bristol, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow-Prestwick, Leeds-Bradford, Liverpool, London-Stansted and Manchester. Additionally, EasyJet flies to Bristol, Glasgow-International, Belfast-International and three London airports, among other UK airports. The average flight time from London to Faro is 2 hours, 30 minutes.
Package holidays as well as using low-cost airlines are great ways to save on fares to the Algarve, as is travelling out of season (November to February). Because of the popularity of the Algarve as a holiday spot, Faro Airport becomes busy from March to October. When travelling during these months, it is best to allow plenty of time for check-in, customs and connections.
It is easy to reach the Algarve from the Portuguese capital of Lisbon via bus. The main bus lines are EVA Transportes and Renex. It is possible to arrive via rail from Lisbon as well, with UK travellers able to take the Eurostar from London to Paris before connecting with a train to Madrid, Spain, and then another connection to Lisbon. Comboios de Portugal is the state-owned rail company that operates the Alfa Pendular, a high-speed train servicing major cities in Portugal.
Faro Airport is the main gateway to the Algarve. Buses and coaches connect the main cities and are comfortable and reliable ways of getting around. There is a railway network connecting cities along the coast, west to east, which is a good way to get around the Algarve. Car hire is readily available and major car hire companies are well represented.
There is an extensive bus/coach network in the Algarve connecting cities such as Faro, Olhao, Lagos and many other coastal and inland destinations in the region. Booking tickets in advance is highly recommended during the busy tourist season. Buses and coaches are generally comfortable, and most even provide entertainment as well as a toilet. There are also international bus connections to Huelva and Seville in southern Spain.
Caminhos de Ferro Portuguese is the main rail provider in the Algarve, with travelling by train the most convenient way to move around the coastal region. Several trains run daily and connect major destinations along the coastline. The line begins in Lagos, in the west, and runs all the way to Vila Real de Santo Antonio near the Spanish border in the east.
Car hire is widely available in the major tourist destinations in the Algarve. Travellers can arrange car hire at Faro Airport as all major car hire companies have offices here. Road networks are generally good and hire prices very reasonable. However, in some of the more remote areas, roads become dirt tracks. Also, some sections along the coast get clogged with traffic during the high season.
The Algarve is a popular tourist spot primarily because of its wide stretches of beaches and its affordability as a holiday destination. Apart from its more than 100 beaches, there are great nature trails, scenic driving opportunities and historical sites.
Tourists coming to the Algarve mostly begin their vacation in the gateway to the region, the capital city of Faro. It is a worthy stop because of its lively nightlife, beautiful marina, number of well-maintained parks, historic old town and abundant cafés and restaurants.
Lagos is another worthy stop in the Algarve and only an hour away from Faro by car. Sun worshippers will be in for a treat as Lagos has a stunning beach, Praia de Batata, which fronts the main road. Albufeira is another popular beach resort where exploring the coves and cliffs along the coastline via boat is a popular activity.
Meanwhile, the town of Tavira in eastern part of Algarve attracts visitors with its charming setting along the banks of the Gilão River. The town is perfect for strolling as its cobblestone streets are dotted with Roman, Gothic and Renaissance buildings. As far as history goes, however, the old capital city of Silves comes highly recommended as it has an old Moorish castle.
Those inclined towards adventure will want to take note of the picturesque little town of Monchique, the main settlement in the mountains of Serra de Monchique. Here, visitors can explore the Algarve’s woodlands by hiking or biking on beautiful nature trails.
To sample the delicious cuisine of the Algarve, visitors can head to Portimão. The second largest city in the Algarve has a lot of great restaurants that seafood lovers will truly enjoy.
With a history dating as far as pre-Roman times, the Algarve has a number of important historical landmarks. Faro Old City, or Cidade Velha, is a good place to take in the history of the region. While here, visitors can take a boat trip up the Formosa River to see the nature reserve stretching along it. Lagos Old City is another worthwhile stop for historians.
An important landmark in Faro is the Faro Jewish Heritage Centre. The centre houses a Jewish museum as well as a cemetery which serves as a burial ground for Sephardic Jews who escaped the Spanish Inquisition.
Portugal, with its history being intertwined with the Atlantic Ocean, has a number of historic lighthouses. One of the most prominent ones is Cabo de S. Vicente Lighthouse in Sagres. This popular tourist attraction, which now has its own museum, is Europe’s biggest lighthouse. Other important lighthouses in the Algarve are Santa Maria Lighthouse, located between Faro and Olhão, as well as Ponta da Piedade Lighthouse, located a couple of kilometres from Lagos.
In Silves, the old capital of the Algarve, is yet another important landmark. Silves Castle with its picturesque red stone walls is a Moorish structure which once served as the centre of government administration in the Algarve.
The Algarve has a few so-called bone chapels, or Capelas dos Ossos. One is located in Faro, while the other two are in Alcantarilha and Lagos respectively. These well-known landmarks are worth exploring, even if they are a little haunting, as they house the skeletal remains of monks.
The main form of entertainment in the Algarve is its thriving nightlife, which is characteristic of a popular holiday resort. The regional capital of Faro is known for its nightlife, with beach parties happening throughout the year.
One of the most popular night spots in Faro is Conselheiro Bar as it offers a range of night-time entertainment. There is both a lively dance floor and a relaxed lounge area equipped with a pool table and video games. Party bars in Faro which attract the young crowd are Bar CheSsenta and Bora Bar.
In Portimão, night-time entertainment venues can be found along the rocky beach of Praia da Rocha. The marina here has a host of exciting nightclubs, casinos and live music venues. Discoteca Ubi is a night spot that is popular with both locals and tourists in the city. Here, clubbers can enjoy hip-hop music as well as the occasional foam party. Avenida Tomás Cabreira, also along Praia da Rocha, features an esplanade that is dotted by high-end clubs and ritzy bars.
The town of Vilmoura is famous for having some of the largest party venues in the Algarve. The biggest nightclub in the region, Kadoc, can take in up to 7,000 revellers on any given night. Parties here go on well into the early morning. The Vilamoura Casino, on the other hand, boasts not only a vast number of gaming tables, but nightly shows featuring music and lively dancers.
Albufeira’s bars and nightclubs become packed with revellers during the busy summer season, with most clubs not getting started until after midnight and staying open until 06:00. With prices higher in the clubs, many drinkers prefer to get started in the bars along the Strip or in the Old Town.
Because the Algarve has over 150kms of coastline, with most of its major cities, including the capital city of Faro, located along it, seafood is invariably part and parcel of the Algarve diet. In most, if not all, local restaurants, diners will find the most popular fish eaten in the region-the sardine. This fish is often grilled then served with salad and/or boiled potatoes. Other popular seafood caught and consumed here are bream, cod, tuna, monkfish, oysters, clams, squid, octopus and prawns.
Apart from the seafood, traditional Portuguese fare is also popular in the Algarve. A dish that is worth trying is the feijoada, a traditional bean stew with beef and pork often mixed in for flavour. The stew is usually cooked for a long time under low heat. Caldeirada is yet another popular Portuguese dish which visitors are advised to try because this traditional stew features what the Algarve is best known for-seafood. What liquid is rendered by the fish and shellfish is enhanced simply by adding olive oil and white wine.
Dining in the beach-side restaurants is quite an experience because seafood is always fresh and prepared simply so as to take advantage of its natural flavour. In the smaller towns, visitors will find mostly traditional Portuguese restaurants, while those staying in touristy areas will international food options. Prices are reasonable, especially when the meal includes some of the best local wines that Portugal has to offer.
The Algarve has some of the best beaches in Europe, hence its popularity with holiday makers. The capital city of Faro has a popular beach, Praia de Faro, which is vast enough that tourists will find a good spot to lounge even in summer. In Lagos, Praia da Batata continues to captivate tourists with its sandy shores and picturesque rock formations.
With a stunning coastline and idyllic nature hideaways, the Algarve is the perfect romantic destination for couples new and old. The popular resort beaches of Lagos and Albufeira naturally have boutique hotels and luxury establishments where couples can spoil and pamper themselves. Heading inland, the secluded getaway of Monchique spells romance amid woodlands and lush hills.
An all-inclusive resort holiday in any of the Algarve’s beach resorts is sure to make for a holiday that the entire family will enjoy. Activities in these places include swimming lessons, tennis coaching and pony riding. After a round or two of tennis, parents can reward their kids with a fun daytrip to Aqualand Algarve, the Algarve’s only water park.
Sagres is a good place to get your dose of holiday adventure. Here, visitors can engage in surfing, windsurfing, diving and even fishing. The great outdoors of Monchique, meanwhile, have visitors engaging in nature hikes, bird watching, horseback riding and biking. In the eastern regions of the Algarve, the city of Albufeira is popular with golf, tennis and water sports lovers.