“In August most of Europe goes on holiday” Tony Visconti
Sometimes it feels like every day is an August day in the Algarve!
In the start of this new series of articles ‘my personal A ~ Z of Portugal’ how could I resist the Algarve as my letter ‘A’ topic?
I have written before about why we chose to live in Portugal – So Why Portugal?
So what does the Algarve have to offer? Well, I have to admit that I could probably write a book about this wonderful region and all that it has to offer (now there’s an idea!); but this is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe – and with good cause.
It’s name derives from the Arabic Al-Gharb, meaning “The West” and the length of the Algarve coastline is approximately 155 kilometres, and covers an area of approximately 5412 square km. Its highest point is Fóia which is 902 metres (2,959 ft) above sea level in the Monchique.
And within its boundaries are a host of delights and surprises.
The weather is gorgeous with an average temperature well over 30 degrees in the summer, and over 300 days of sunshine a year.
We have some of the most beautiful beaches – you can choose from tourist focused large resorts that cater for holidaymakers – or you can explore some of the more isolated and deserted coves and small beaches that dot the 100 miles of golden coastline. There are limestone caves and grottoes only reachable by boat, and sparkling waters and tiny inlets with fishermen stood precariously on the edge of the cliffs.
The food is varied, freshly-cooked and enticing. Fresh fish from the sea – yes please! Yummy puddings and pastries – and the famous pastel de nata – of course! And don’t forget figs, pork, clams, ‘porco preto’, oranges, almonds, Aquardente de Medronhos, and the famous piri-piri chicken.
And the Portuguese are so proud of their coffee – I am sure the Algarve would grind to a halt if the coffee shops were closed! There are so many restaurants where you can sit back, watch the sun set, and enjoy a sumptuous relaxed meal.
We have a beautiful nature reserve, the Ria Formosa lagoon, which is over 170 square kilometres and home for hundreds of different birds.
The Algarve is also a golfer’s paradise boasting some of Europe’s finest championship golf courses, all set in magnificent surroundings, and many with breathtaking views of the coastline. There are spa resorts, luxury five-star hotels, villas and small fishing cottages to rent.
We have beautiful historical villages with traditional old white-washed cottages, windy cobbled streets and an unhurried pace of life. Moorish influences prevail, from the chimney pots to the magnificent castles, churches and 9th century Roman remains which are scattered across the region.
For those who want to party, we have a vibrant nightlife, with pubs and clubs particularly around the Vilamoura/Albufeira region. For the family, there are theme parks, water parks, zoos, and a host of attractions and days out to enjoy.
The Algarve has an abundance of quaint shops, stalls and market places to buy locally produced goods, and there are purpose-built shopping centres with designer merchandise and exclusive boutiques. Look out for the painted tiles, cork, leather goods, and wine.
And throughout the region there are gentle; kind; welcoming Portuguese people, who seem to march to a different pace of life; with time to sit in the sun; greet their friends; pass the time of day on a park bench or in a coffee shop; and reflect an era long passed in many other countries. They are polite, reserved, proud of their culture and heritage, and always willing to help you.
The Algarve – where the West meets paradise.