With many of the country’s world award winning safest and loveliest beaches, and a year-round balmy climate, it is not surprising that the Algarve is Portugal’s most popular region for holiday-makers and those seeking to make Portugal's 300 days of sunshine their new home. Something to suit all tastes whether your requirement is for a developed area with all facilities, though even here the beaches are first-rate, as are the facilities. Or something a little more quaint elsewhere in the Algarve, especially around Sagres and Tavira, where the surroundings are more natural, with laidback resorts and low-key development.
To the west of Vilamoura, you’ll find the rocky outcrops and cove beaches for which the Algarve is best known, especially around the main resorts of Albufeira, Armacao de Pera and Lagos. The coast becomes progressively wilder as you head west, where attractive smaller resorts include the former fishing villages of Salema or Burgau and the historic cape of Sagres – thought to be the site of Henry the Navigator’s naval school. The string of villages along the rougher west coast, as far as Odeceixe are quieter still, with limited facilities but fantastic wild beaches ideal for surfing.
The eastern coast between Faro and the Spanish border is very different. Most of it is protected within the Reserva Natural da Ria Formosa, a series of barrier islands fronted by extensive sandy beaches. That means taking a short boat trip to reach the sands which has helped preserve these towns from large-scale development.
Inland Algarve is still relatively undeveloped, especially around Alcoutim on the Spanish border. The Roman ruins of Milreu and the market town of Loule are both worth an outing, while the old Moorish town of Silves is easily accessed from Portimão. Towards the west of the region, Caldas de Monchique is a quaint spa town in verdant woodland that makes up much of the picturesque Serra de Monchique mountain range.
Alongside sun-drenched beaches and historical villages, the Algarve region of Portugal is packed with choices for anyone with a passion for simple, lovingly prepared local food. The Algarve's busy hotels and resorts offer an abundance of dining options, and the destination is dotted with impressively plush and Michelin-starred restaurants, But for food lovers looking to delve deeper into the culinary delights of the region, dining with the locals is a foolproof way to ensure you are sampling some of the best dishes southern Portugal serves up. From seafood snack bars to snug mountaintop restaurants, here is how to eat inexpensive but delicious food while rubbing shoulders with Algarvios.