What you must see in the Algarve
Resorts including Albufeira, Armação de Pêra, Praia da Rocha, and Vilamoura, are among the Algarve's main holiday destinations. Offering an excellent selection of accommodation, beaches, entertainment and a variety of nightlife ranging from cabaret shows at casinos to lively discos and quaint, welcoming bars, it is no surprise that the Algarve has visitors coming back year after year.
The coastal city of Faro is the region's capital. Faro stands out as an important commercial, artistic and cultural centre. Often simply passed through by visitors as a gateway, the city in fact offers fascinating architecture as part of the region's rich history.
Sagres, on the western coast was the place where Infante D.Henrique (Henry the Navigator) founded a school of navigation during the 15th century thus instigating a culture of maritime exploration. Moving east, Henry the Navigator also had a great influence in Lagos. Set in one of the largest bays in the Algarve,Lagos was once an important naval centre and is now an attractive, bustling town. Evidence of its important naval history is still visible today with a large statue of Henry the Navigator gazing out to seasituated in one of the town's main squares.
Despite being most famous for its sandy beaches, the inland villages of the Algarve offer visitors peace and quiet in its lush green hills. The cork and oak forests are a haven for nature lovers and provide the natural habitat for the Iberian Lynx, now an endangered species. Just as interesting are the Algarve mountains of Serra de Monchique where you can relax at the natural thermal spa of Termas de Monchique once described as 'sacred' by the Romans.
Tavira, situated on the edge of the Ria Formosa Nature Park, is a must-see for visitors to this area of the Algarve. This pretty town is abundant with historic churches and fine mansions as well as a plethora of excellent restaurants where you can sample delicious local seafood.
Once a rich and powerful city, today Silves is a sleepy town lying in the foothills of the Serra de Monchique mountains. Believed to have been founded by the Phoenicians, its cathedral and red sandstone castle remind visitors of its rich and industrious Moorish past, which came to an end after a three-month siege led by King Sancho I in 1189.
Vila Real de Santo António is 53 miles (85km) east of Faro and is neatly designed on a geometric grid system. Radiating out from the central square, the Praca Marquês de Pombal with its dramatic paved radial mosaic floor and central obelisk is edged with orange trees. The town is on the west bank of the River Guadiana. Back in the 17th century the original town was flooded by the sea, and was rebuilt by the Marquês de Pombal who had rebuilt Lisbon after the 1755 earthquake. The reconstruction was completed in just five months leaving a tidy town with streets lined by elegant 18th century townhouses, and a long esplanade along the riverbank where strollers can enjoy an impressive view. Visitors can take river tours inland along the Guadiana River from Vila Real de Santo António.