The Algarve, its name being derived from the Arabic word 'al gharb' meaning "the west", is the southernmost region of mainlandPortugal, and is one of Europe's favorite holiday destinations, due to its wonderful climate with its 200 kilometres of coastline, which hosts innumerable beautiful beaches and sandy coves, and every marine pastime, and marine life to explore, that one could wish for.
The Algarve, is an approximate 3 hour flight from the United Kingdom, Ireland and many other parts of Europe, and all flights arrive at the region's sole international airport, Faro Airport (central Algarve).
Faro flights arrive daily throughout the year, with several arrivals and departures each day from airlines during the busiest summer months of July to September.
The Algarve has an area of 5,412 square kilometres with approximately 410,000 permanent inhabitants, and incorporates 16 municipalities, with each municipality having its own, (and varied) number of parishes, giving a total of 91 parishes.
So, this can be bewildering to the first time holiday visitor to the Algarve, who is trying to decide on the best alternatives that will meet and satisfy their budget.
The region coincides with the Faro District, and has as its administrative centre which is the city of Faro.
The region's international airport is the Faro/Algarve Airport FAO and where the public university,(the University of the Algarve) is also located; Tourism and related activities are extensive, and make up the bulk of the Algarve's summer economy.
Fish, seafood and fruit production, which includes oranges, carob beans, figs and almonds, are other important activities in the region. The Algarve is among the most popular tourist destinations in Portugal, with its population more than doubling in the peak holiday season, thanks to a high influx of visitors.
Cobbled streets, whitewashed houses and quaint fishing villages decorate the Algarve's dramatic coastline. With the warm, rich waters of the Atlantic which grace the shoreline and mile upon mile of golden sandy beaches, irresistible restaurants, bustling markets and buzzing night-life, it's a melting pot of different cultures.
In springtime, almond blossom blankets the ground like snow, while the western headlands of Cabo de São Vicente and Sagres are renowned for their colourful and aromatic display of flowers from February to May. Later in the summer, the plains are covered with green pines, fig trees and orchards of orange groves, but it is the coastal resorts which lure the visitor attracted by long sunny days and balmy nights.
Renowned for its distinctive Portuguese architecture, the Algarve is also home to a unique history and culture much of which resides in its tangled, cobbled streets and walkways, that almost seem preserved, belonging maybe to another time, but brimming with traditional craftsmen and bustling with the activity of large open markets that form the centrepiece of daily life.
Beyond the coast, the Algarve terrain is a mix of plateaux and plains. Locals tend the fields and in many ways town and village life has stood still, untouched by worldly distractions. Here, tradition dies hard and local craftspeople ply their century's old trade across a broad canvas in pottery, brass, linen and jute.
The area has an array of expertly designed and world-class golf courses, which combine challenges galore and superb views. Seaside resorts are brimming with good restaurants with local food and wine being good value and a Portuguese welcome is invariably a warm one. You are also never far from great shopping at local markets or modern malls, should the mood take you.
The region is also the home of the Ria Formosa lagoon, a nature reserve of over 170 square kilometres and a stopping place for hundreds of different birds.
As there are so many beautiful areas in the Algarve to choose from, you'll need to check out the right resort. For example, Albufeira with seven beaches and plenty of energy, it makes a great choice for those looking for sun by day and a party at night. Families hoping for a good night's sleep may prefer the quieter, fishing village of Carvoeiro, or the tempting sands at Praia Da Rocha. If you prefer a touch of luxury, you might choose the style and polish of Vilamoura.
Another area worthy of mention goes by the name of 'The Golden Triangle', the name being derived due to the triangular area between the points of Vale do Lobo, Quinta do Lago and Almancil, where there is a wonderful selection of luxury villas and apartments, luxury hotel complexes and golf resorts.
Made more attractive by the fact that for those not so affluent, there are also town houses and more reasonably priced Apartments available, in the area of Almancil for example.
Bicycle hire, boat trips, excursions, horse riding, karting, outdoor pursuits, theme parks, water sports as in canoeing, windsurfing, sailing, and water skiing, as well as workshops, all are here for things to do in and around the Golden Triangle! The perfect 'Holiday Hub' from which to explore an incredibly varied holiday in the Algarve.
The Algarve is full of fantastic towns and villages to visit, whether be it for sight-seeing, shopping or just general exploring. With a cliff-lined coast of 23 golden beaches, relaxed restaurants and lively nightlife, combining Vilamoura's casinos and luxury hotels, Praia da Rocha's pavement cafes and Albufeira's buzzing nightlife, the Algarve attracts holiday-makers in their thousands every year.
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