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A guide to Algarve – towns, trails and churches

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As a diverse and varied region, Algarve is an interesting hybrid of natural charms and cosmopolitan perks.  Historical towns neighbor postcard-perfect topography; wherever you are in Algarve colorful views of the mountains or Atlantic Ocean will surround you.  Littered with beaches, the seaside hotspot is an ideal summer holiday destination, while the old towns and ruins cater to your cultural side.

Fiona Butler

My Destination local expert on

Algarve

Mixed bag - LagosA town of historical significance, Lagos is often associated with Henry the Navigator and the age of discoveries.  Wandering the warren-like cobbled streets where slaves were once sold makes for an intriguing day out.  The town embraces its past by retaining the old city walls and the ‘golden chapel’, yet today it is known for the flurry of surfers and backpackers that inhabit the town as a base.  Nearby is Praia D’ Ana, an exquisite beach: a regular on the top beaches list.  There is a thriving expat community and a welcoming, relaxed atmosphere.

 

Culture vultures - Tavira

 

The town of Tavira, also known by locals as ‘the queen of the Algarve’ is a charming town that emulates a Parisian vibe: particularly at the River Gilão, where its Roman bridge and bank sides echo the River Seine.  Ria Formosa National Park surrounds the town, leaving it neatly tucked away within the confines of the salt flats, azure lagoons and golden sand banks.  To visit the town’s beaches, visitors must take a ferry or small rowboat across the estuary to reach them.

 

Natural beauty - Faro

 

Flying into Faro is an experience in itself, as the Algarve’s capital city is the mouth to the Ria Formosa National Park.  Soaring over the park, passengers are treated to a bird’s eye view of the natural reserve.  The city’s old town is another selling point, where rustic buildings frame winding, narrow streets begging to be explored.  For unsoiled beaches, Faro Island is located near to the airport and the main beach in the area.  For those interested in history, a visit to the Chapel of Bones is an eerie venture, where the bones of deceased monks cover the walls from floor to ceiling.

 

Hillbilly hideaway – Serra de Caldeirão

 

Eastern Algarve is largely made up of undulating hills and valleys, called ‘the Serra’.  A hiker’s dream, the brown and green hills conceal abandoned villages, are speckled by oak trees and snaked by various dirt tracks enjoyed by biking enthusiasts.  Picnicking on the slopes of the Serra provides sweeping vistas out to the Atlantic Ocean; the pinky-white sprinkling of blossoming almond trees a stark juxtaposition against the clear blue waters.  Surrounded by deafening silence, the hills provide a tranquil escape from the buzzing region below accompanied only by the gentle song of a passing bird.

 

High life – Portimão

 

A cosmopolitan collection of facilities and outings, Portimão is one of Algarve’s largest towns with a thriving community.  Catering to socialites with a taste for adventure, Portimão is renowned for many sporting events and pumping concerts, including the World Superbikes Championships at the Algarve International Circuit on the outskirts of the town. Alternatively the local theatre promises a plethora of performances that will widen your musical repertoire including rock, jazz and opera.  Mast tipped boats dock at the marina, bopping in the swelling ocean, as sumptuous seafood restaurants selling world famous sardines look on.