It provides something for everyone and every effort is made to keep holiday makers entertained.
There are many attractions throughout the region – with the larger fun parks and theme parks (eg “Zoomarine," "The Big One" and "Slide and Splash") located in close proximity to the main arterial roads (A22 and N125).
The region offers a vast choice of sporting facilities including water sports, tennis, horse riding, yachting and, of course, some of the best European golf courses.
The Central Algarve’s coastline is characterised by reddish/brown sandstone cliffs that lead down to long beaches of golden sand and rocky outcrops. The vast choice of beautiful beaches and coves means that beach-goers can find a private and peaceful place to relax even in the height of the summer season. Inland, north of the arterial roads, tiny farming villages and hamlets are scattered in the peaceful rolling countryside.
The Climate in the Algarve
The Algarve is famous for its 300 days of sunshine, and very nice weather during 9 months of the year.
Main Towns and Villages in Central Algarve
Albufeira is a popular, lively and cosmopolitan resort particularly popular with the young and families.
Originally a fishing village perched above the beach, Albufeira is now a major holiday resort. In the old village, the quaint narrow streets are lined with whitewashed houses giving it a very traditional atmosphere. In contrast, modern holiday developments stretch across the adjoining hillside. Tunnel access through the large rocky outcrop leads to the excellent sandy beach which is still peppered with brightly painted fishing boats.
In Albufeira and in close proximity, the coastline offers you the following beaches: Praia da Balaia, Praia do Castelo, Praia da Falésia, Praia da Galé, Praia dos Olhos d’Água, Praia da Maria Luisa and Praia de São Rafael.
In Albufeira you will find: A very good selection of shops, a Daily Market - 1st & 3rd Tuesday of the month, various Supermarkets, Post Office, Banks, Cafés, Restaurants - with traditional and international cuisine, Bars, Discos, Schools, Museums, Marina, Railway Station and various Golf courses.
Approximate Driving Time to Airports: Faro – 30 minutes, Lisbon – 2 hours 30 minutes and Porto – 6 hours.
Alcantarilha is a small village situated in the Silves lovely department on a small hill, at about 3km distance inland from the much developed and frequented beach resort of Armação de Pêra.
This village presents vestiges of remote human occupancy and its location on the top of a hill made a perfect strategic defensive place, as it is visible by the 17th century walls and what is left of the Castle.
Alcantarilha has a Moorish origin, as it was first named as “Al-Qântara“, meaning “bridge“ and it was later changed to Alcantarilha, an abbreviation for 'Little Bridge'. The stones for the bridge came from the battlements that were built in the 16th century as a protection against pirate attacks.
The village is characterized by its charming typical white houses with a coloured bar around windows and doors, with the traditional Algarve’s chimneys, showing off the big Moorish influence, not only because of the proximity with the North of Africa, but also by the many years of Moorish occupancy of the territory.
This little village is located just north of the EN125. It has a maze of steep, narrow streets and a selection of snack bars, coffee shops and small restaurants. A market is held on the 1st Friday of each month. They also have
Approximate Driving Time to Airports: Faro – 35 minutes, Lisbon – 2 hours, 20 minutes and Porto – 4 hours, 50 minutes.
Set about 5 kms from the coast and 12Km northwest of Faro, Almancil is the nearest town to the resorts of Quinta do Lago, Vale do Lobo and Quarteira. This vibrant town is well-known for its ceramic tiles and pottery, not to mention being an haven for golfers.
Almancil is a busy town with several banks, shops and also offers a good selection of restaurants. Since properties in the nearby resorts are among the most expensive in the country there are several estate agents on the main street!
There are many excellent beaches near Almancil such as Praia do Garrao and Praia do Ancão, and the Ria Formosa Natural Park begins it's stretch to the East side of Almancil.
In Almancil you will find: A good selection of restaurants offering many different types of cuisine, Shopping, Banks, Market - 1st & 4th Sunday of the month and close proximity to various Golf courses.
Approximate Driving Times to Airports: Faro - 15 minutes, Lisbon - 2 hours 30 minutes and Porto - 5 hours 30 minutes.
It seem as though time has stood still in Alte - possibly one of the most picturesque villages in Central Algarve. Set in lovely countryside with pretty views, the village has a 16th century church, natural springs and some great places to picnic near by.
Alte is situated north of Albufeira on the N124. It is a typical, Algarve village of whitewashed houses with lattice work, handcrafted chimneys and narrow, cobbled streets nestling in the foothills of the Serra do Caldeirão. The church is at the centre of the village, and there are numerous little cafes in the surrounding area, to relax at and soak up the tranquility of the village.
At the eastern end of Alte, past the school, are the springs for which Alte is well known.
The area around Fonte Pequena (little spring) is picturesque...a bridge across the stream, the beginning of a series of waterfalls as the water flows down the hillside, a grassy area on the banks ideal for picnicking, and ducks making the most of the waters and the sunshine! There is a pretty, paved, garden area in front of the 'Fonte Pequena Inn' dedicated to Alte's famous poet, Cândido Guerreiro.
Alte along with most towns and villages in the Algarve, has a carnival. The main street leading to the church and the side streets around, are cordoned off for the parade, and is ideally placed for exploring the towns and villages of the central Algarve with Messines and Silves to the west, Salir and Loulé to the east and Algoz, Boliqueime, Paderne and Albufeira to the south.
In Alte you will find: Shops, Bars, Cafés, Restaurants and a Market - 3rd Thursday of the month.
Approximate Driving Time to Airports: Faro - 40 minutes, Lisbon - 2 hours 15 minutes and Porto - 4 hours 50 minutes.
Armação de Pêra
Not that long ago, the resort of Armação de Pêra was little more than a collection of small shacks used by the residents of the nearby village of Pêra to maintain their fishing boats. Now it is a small vibrant holiday location – bursting in the summer months and a lovely peaceful destination in the winter.
It has one of the longest sandy beaches in the Algarve, with caves and interesting rock formations. The fishermen still repair their nets and sell the day’s catch on the beach – which explains why there are such excellent fish restaurants there.
The village of Armação de Pêra is, today, a popular tourist center with fine beaches, hotels, cafés and restaurants. The village is on a broad bay that stretches from Pont da Galé to Senhora da Rocha. Its beaches extend from Praia dos Pescadores or the Fishermans Beach, to Salomão beach, including those of Maré Grande and Beijinhos.
The village is one of the last places in the region where fishing boats are launched from and recovered from the actual beach. There is no harbour.
In Armação de Pêra you will find: Bars, Restaurants, Cafés, Shops and Banks.
Approximate Driving Times to Airports: Faro - 40 minutes, Lisbon - 2 hours, 30 minutes and Porto - 4 hours, 50 minutes.
Formerly a fishing village, Carvoeiro is set on sloping land above cliffs. Still retaining much of its original charm, there is a central square and plenty of bars, restaurants and supermarkets. It has some lovely beaches, some of which are only accessible at low tide. The fishing boats are still active and their catches, together with locally grown fruit and vegetables, are available to buy at the market.
Carvoeiro was a traditional, small fishing village surviving on the tuna catches but has, not surprisingly, become an incredibly popular resort with visitors and has developed to keep pace.
Their claim to fame, historically speaking, is that in 1554 a naval battle took place off Cape Carvoeiro when a Portuguese flotilla attacked the Turkish corsair, Xaramet, and destroyed his fleet. Today the most activity you are likely to see is people enjoying the beach and the local fishermen bringing in their catches!
Carvoeiro is very popular for family holidays as there is such a large choice of self-catering accommodation and has all the things you are likely to want in quite a compact area around the town centre. A lot of the accommodation is in new residential areas on the outskirts as the developments have spread, but it is all in keeping - this isn't an area of high rise hotels and apartment blocks.
The centre of Carvoeiro isn't very big and there are just two roads leading down into the town where they meet in a small square behind the beach. There is no parking in the square since it was given a re-vamp in 2009 so be prepared to find parking up one of the side streets away from the centre.
The town beach, Praia do Carvoeiro is a beautifully sheltered sandy bay and spreads out just in front of the square with cliffs protecting it on either side. There are bars and cafés ideally placed around the square to still enjoy the view when you leave the beach!
Watersports like jetskis and pedaloes are available at the beach for those who like messing about on the water and there are a couple of diving schools based in Carvoeiro if you prefer to be under the water. The local fishermen also make use of their boats during the day to offer visitors the chance to take boat trips around the coastline and to see the caves.
The cliff tops around Carvoeiro offer plenty of scope for walking and some great views. You may also come across some 'algares' which are holes in the cliff where the sea has eaten it away from underneath - there are some near the lighthouse at Cabo de Carvoeiro - luckily they are fenced around and it just shows how fragile the cliffs can be. Also on the cliff above Carvoeiro are the remains of the walls of the Fort of Senhora da Conceição dating from the 17th century, inside which is the hermitage of Nossa Senhora da Encarnação (Our Lady of the Incarnation).
Carvoeiro is also ideally situated for family fun days out. There are two water parks within easy reach - the closest being Slide and Splash at Lagoa and Aqualand just slightly further away at Alcantarilha. If water parks aren't for you then there is Zoomarine Sealife park at Guia and Krazy World at Algoz to choose from.
In Carvoeiro you will find: Restaurants, Shops, Bars, Cafés, Daily Market – fresh fish & local produce, Golf courses and a Tennis centre.
Approximate Driving Time to Airports: Faro – 45 minutes, Lisbon – 2 hours 30 minutes and Porto – 6 hours.
Estômbar is an unspoiled Algarvean village with narrow streets and whitewashed buildings. On holy days canopied processions make their way to the distinctive twin-steepled church. The village has plenty of small grocery shops, cafés and fantastic restaurants and a fresh produce market that every morning selling - fresh bread, meat, fish and vegetables. Also nearby you will find a water-park and a Railway station.
Estômbar is one of the oldest parishes in the Algarve. The whiteness of its buildings makes it the most Moorish-looking settlements in the concelho. Sanabus (or "Shombos"), its name at the time of the Arab occupation, constituted an important inland center with a castle called Abenabace, captured by the troops of King Sancho I in 1191. A number of important figures have called Estômbar their home over time, such as the poet Ibn Ammar, and the notorious bandit hero, Remexido, as well as members of the nobility and the clergy.
Because of its favorable position (up to the late 20th century it included the present freguesias of Ferragudo and Parchal along the Rio Arade), Estômbar was formerly a very prosperous economic center. Although based mainly on an agricultural economy, it also gained importance and wealth with the development of the salt industry and of trade on the Rio Arade. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries it was a center for fish canning which led to urban growth especially near the river bank.
Today its economic life is mostly tied to the support of the tourist industry.
Approximate Driving Time to Airports: Faro – 45 minutes, Lisbon – 2 hours, 30 minutes and Porto – 5 hours.
Faro is the capital of the Algarve, ad it is a real pity that most holiday makers by-pass Faro as this is a vibrant port town with excellent shopping, a pretty harbour, interesting CBD, and a pleasant waterfront with a very nice sandy beach. The old town centre has a relaxed atmosphere with its pedestrianised areas, cobbled streets and a great selection of restaurants, bars and cafés.
Faro was created in Roman times, when the town was called Ossonoba. During the 9th century it was the capital of a short lived princedom, ringed with defensive walls and later the name changed to Santa Maria then to Harune. Finally in the middle of the 13th century Faro became part of Portuguese territory, completing the Christian reconquest of Portugal. In 1540 Faro was made a city and in 1577 became the site of the Episcopal Sé when the Bishop of the Algarve moved from Silves to Faro.
'Arco da Vila', the arch that takes you into the oldest part of Faro, or as the Portuguese calls it the 'Cidade Velha' ('Old Town')Faro, is a city full of history, great shops, restaurants and cafes aplenty, theatres and galleries, great beaches and the Ria Formosa nature reserve on the door step. The central area is really quite compact with everything within easy walking distance.
'Cidade Velha' is on the eastern side of Faro marina. Walk through the arch (Arco da Vila) by the Algarve tourist information office at the end of the Manuel Bivar gardens and follow the narrow, cobbled street, Rua do Municipio into the tree lined Largo de Sé. Faro Cathedral, in the middle of the square, may not look very grand from the outside, but inside is another story - the intricate gilded carving, decorated tiles (azulejos) and works of art are well worth seeing. It originates from the 13th/14th centuries (although much of the inside decoration is 17th century) and, despite having to be repaired after being ransacked and set alight by the Earl of Essex's men in 1596 and damaged in the earthquake of 1755, still has the original doorway and two original chapels.
View Faro from the Sé Cathedral of the 'tesouro' roofs, Episcopal Palace and marina if you don't mind a bit of a climb, walk up the steps in the tower and get a tremendous view of Faro and the other buildings in the square - it's a good chance to get a birds eye view of the typically Portuguese pyramid shaped roofs of the 17th century Episcopal Palace. The Palace is still the official residence of the Bishop of Faro so is not open to the public.
Porta Nova pier just around the corner from Faro marina is where the ferries and boat trips leave. Around the corner from Faro marina, is Porta Nova pier where you can get a ferry to the ilha beaches. The streets leading away from the Manuel Bivar gardens take you into a mainly pedestrianised, shopping area where the streets criss cross at various angles and cafés and restaurants sit around cobbled squares! As you move further away from the water front, the modern office and apartment blocks appear.
In Faro you will find: Restaurants, Cafés, Bars, very good shopping and a Harbour.
Approximate Driving Time to Airports: Faro - 10 minutes, Lisbon - 2 hours 30 minutes and Porto - 5 hours 10 minutes.
Set to the west of Albufeira, Galé is a popular venue for both holiday makers and homeowners. Away from the hustle and bustle of Albufeira, its beach meets the beach at Salgados, continues past the golf course and on to Armaçao de Pera – making is easy to find a quiet, private place to sunbath.
With three Galé beaches to choose from, there is plenty of beach for everyone, from picturesque rocky coves to long stretches of golden sand. They are all supervised by a lifeguard during the beach season and classed as accessible beaches making them perfect for anyone with mobility issues or disability. The question is, which Galé beach should you choose?
Praia da Galé Oeste - is a continuation of the long stretch of sands backed by gentle dunes that start at Armação de Pêra. There is a beach restaurant, sunbeds to hire and watersports. There is a large car park behind Galé Oeste with disabled parking bays and boarded walkways with ramps to the beach and beach restaurant. There are also special beach buggies available for disabled visitors.
Praia da Galé Leste - there are various rocky outcrops which at the eastern end form sheltered, secluded coves. There is a large car park just a short distance from the beach and a very small parking area right behind the 2 beach restaurants in front of the Vila Galé Praia hotel.
Praia do Manuel Lourenço is a small, sheltered sandy bay surrounded by shallow rock formations just to the east of Galé beach. There is a small carpark right behind the beach with reserved spaces for disabled visitors and access both to the restaurant and beach via wooden walkways and ramps.
In Galé you will find: Shops, Bars, Cafés and Restaurants.
Approximate Driving Time to Airports: Faro - 40 minutes, Lisbon - 2 hours 20 minutes, Porto - 5 hours.
Guia, is a small and exclusive village in the Algarve region, it is where celebs like Sir Cliff Richard own villas for example. It’s a quaint piece of the traditional Portugal, with authentic tavernas running along the main road and into the old town. There’s a modern element, too, courtesy of the huge shopping mall on the outskirts. As for nightlife, nearby Albufeira takes care of that rather well.
It is located inland from Galé, Guia is one of the Algarve's best known local villages. It is also the home of the best ‘chicken piri-piri’.
In Guia you will find: One of the biggest Shopping centers in the Algarve, Bars, Cafés, Restaurants and a Market in the 3rd Friday of the month.
Approximate Driving Time to Airports: Faro - 30 minutes, Lisbon - 2 hours 15 minutes and Porto - 4 hours 50 minutes.
Lagoa is set on a hill overlooking flat land which was once a lagoon. It is the administrative town for the local area and the wine capital of the Algarve. A church tower dominates Lagoa's skyline and the courtyards are bordered by whitewashed houses and long, low buildings. On the outskirts of the town is a co-operative for the local vineyards that produces full-bodied red wine and, in September and October, the country lanes are packed with trucks and carts bringing in freshly picked grapes. Lagoa wines age in a solera, have a high alcohol content and tend to have a nutty character resembling a fine sherry.
In Lagoa you will find: a wide variety of Shops, Restaurants, Bars, Cafés, Market - 2nd Sunday of the month, Flea Market - 4th Sunday of the month and an International School.
Approximate Driving Time to Airports: Faro - 45 minutes, Lisbon - 2 hours 30 minutes and Porto - 6 hours 30 minutes.
Situated 18Km (11 miles) north east of Faro, Loulé is often described as a town of charming contrasts: from the battlements of its medieval castle; through the maze of narrow white streets filled with craftsmen carrying on age-old traditions with brass, copper and clay; on to the minarets of an ancient mosque; and up to the hilltop to see the wonderful views.
Its Saturday morning market is famous for fresh produce, leather and textiles and the "Garden of the Sulky Ones" is a good place for some time out! The most famous Carnival in the Algarve is held here during the course of 5-day's (held before Lent) with street dancing, floats, flowers and fancy dress.
In Loulé you will find: Restaurants, Cafés, Banks, Supermarkets, a Market - every Saturday, and a Railway Station.
Approximate Driving time to Airports: Faro – 30 minutes, Lisbon – 2 hours 15 minutes and Porto – 5 hours 30 minutes.
Olhos de Água
Close to Albufeira, the quaint fishing village of Olhos de Água is set against a backdrop of cliffs and pine trees. An ideal place to spend relaxing days in the sun, there are small coved beaches and the beautiful golden sandy beach at Falésia is not far away.
In Olhos de Água you will find: shops, bars, cafés and restaurants.
Approximate Driving Times to Airports: Faro - 40 minutes, Lisbon - 2 hours 20 minutes and Porto - 5 hours.
Set slightly inland, Porches is about 5 minutes from two lovely beaches. Surrounded by pines, the village is famous for its hand painted pottery and the nearby international school.
Approximate Driving Times to Airports: Faro - 30 minutes, Lisbon - 3 hours and Porto - 6 hours.
Originally a small fishing village, Quarteira has grown into a holiday resort. On the sea front there is a pedestrian promenade with small shops, open-air cafés, bars and restaurants which front onto a soft sandy beach – this is an ideal place to enjoy one of the Algarvean’ favourite pastimes - people watching! In the Old Town, there is a daily fish and live produce market and on Wednesdays, there is a fascinating Gypsy market.
In Quarteira you will find: Restaurants, Cafés, Bars, Shops, Banks, Daily Market, Weekly market held on Wednesdays.
Approximate Driving Time to Airports: Faro - 15 minutes, Lisbon - 2 hours 30 minutes and Porto - 5 hours 30 minutes.
Quinta do Lago
Quinta do Lago is located west of Faro and is considered one of the most exclusive of the Algarve’s sports resorts. Set in about 1,700 acres of pine woods, this luxury holiday village boasts top-class golf courses interspersed with luxury villas and a sports complex set amongst rolling grassland, waterways and pine forests.
The eastern area is part of the Ria Formosa nature reserve which stretches east to the Spanish border. This offers a wide range of wildlife and natural/unspoilt countryside and is internationally renowned for its bird life.
In Quinta do Lago you will find: Shopping, including a range of designer boutiques, interior decor shops, Chinese and Italian Restaurants, an English pub, Golf courses, Equestrian centre, Tennis centre, Windsurfing school, Sailing and Water sports.
Approximate Driving Time to Airports: Faro - 15 minutes, Lisbon - 2 hours 30 minutes and Porto - 5 hours 30 minutes.
To the west of Albufeira, the small resort of São Rafael is particularly known for its beautiful beaches and good selection of bars, restaurants and small interesting shops.
Approximate Driving Times to Airports: Faro - 45 minutes, Lisbon - 2 hours 25 minutes and Porto - 5 hours.
Surrounded by rolling countryside and orange groves, this quiet town is dominated by its Moorish sandstone castle. Crossing the Rio Arade beneath the town’s 15th century walls, the Ponte Romana (bridge) is a reminder of the Roman occupation. A Silves’ speciality is the “Morgados” pumpkin cake. North of the town, forested hills give way to the Monchique mountains where two Dams (the Arade and the Foz) form reservoirs (Barragem) set in lovely countryside.
In Silves you will find: Restaurants, Shops, Cafés, Bars, Market - 3rd Monday of the month, Museum, Railway Station and Golf.
Approximate Driving Time to Airports: Faro – 1 hour, Lisbon – 2 hours and Porto – 6 hours.
Vale do Lobo
Just 12 km west of Faro, Vale do Lobo is Portugal's biggest luxury golf and beach resort. Set in low-lying hills between Quarteira and Quinta do Lago. This Golf, beach and Spa resort, is famous for its 18 hole, par 72 Golf Course. Vale do Lobo has won several awards for its services, sporting facilities and environmental awareness. It is next to two national parks – areas of outstanding natural beauty: the pine forests in the Ria Formosa nature reserve; and the 5 km long golden sandy beach and majestic red sandstone cliffs at Praia de Vale do Lobo.
At Vale do Lobo you will find: Golf, Spa, Beach, Sporting Facilities, National Parks, Restaurants, Bars and Cafés.
Approximate Driving Times to Airports: Faro - 20 minutes, Lisbon - 2 hours 30 minutes and Porto - 5 hours 30 minutes.
Vilamoura is the name given to an area rather than to an actual town. It is one of the largest single tourist resorts in Europe covering some 2,000 hectares and the land ranges from pine forest to open marshland, and on the southern border by a long sandy beach. In the heart of the resort a Roman site has been preserved with a Museum providing an interesting glimpse into the area’s history. Visitors are able to enjoy nearly every form of sport and entertainment – making this a very successful holiday destination.
In Vilamoura you will find: Restaurants, Cafés, Banks, Supermarkets, Railway Station, Marina, Golf Courses, Lawn Bowling Club, Tennis Centre, Sports Club, Shooting Club, Night Clubs, Casino with International acts, Cinema and a Riding School.
Approximate Driving time to Airports: Faro – 15 minutes, Lisbon – 2 hours 15 minutes and Porto – 5 hours 30 minutes.
Original article in www.gateway2algarve.com