The Algarve is the most popular holiday hotspot in Portugal for British holidaymakers seeking sun and sea. The region runs across the entire south coast of the country from Castro Marim on the border of Spain to the east and Sagres to the west. Since the opening of an international airport in Faro in 1965, mass tourism has disfigured certain parts of the coastline like in Albufeira, Vilamoura and Portimao. But far from the seething masses of tourists, the Algarve has plenty to offer the visitor. An infinity of green rolling hills, long sweeping deserted beaches, a vibrant surf scene, picturesque villages, friendly people, and excellent cuisine, are just a few of the region's advantages that you will find once you look further than the immediate hotel surroundings.
The region was occupied by the Arabs during the 17th century and the Algarve still boasts a strong Moorish influence in its buildings as well as its various ruins of Islamic settlements and forts. Reminiscent of this period, are the white houses, open chimneys, and azulejos (ceramic tiles typical of Portugal), which are now an integral part of the Algarve's identity.
The beaches are beautiful, with soft golden sand and turquoise waters, the problem is that the main beaches get very crowded in peak season. But as we mentioned above, there are plenty of beaches for travellers who are willing to go beyond the hotel beach.
The main attractions of the Algarve are its golf courses (especially in Vilamoura), its beaches, surfing (in Aljezur), its beautiful weather, and its favourable prices. Even for travellers under a tight budget, options other than huge resorts are within reach. See our reviews of the Algarve's hotels and guesthouses.