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The Algarve

Sunlight, heat and the vibrant colours of the landscape. Everything in the Algarve is a source of energy, offering you the chance to recharge your batteries. All year round, the region's beaches, nature reserves, picturesque villages, golf courses, castles and fortresses can be enjoyed in all their splendour. Day or night, you can do almost everything, or, if you prefer, do absolutely nothing. History, culture, and the popular local cuisine are readily available to all those who are interested. The people of the Algarve have mixed freely with other cultures for many centuries and have long been used to welcoming visitors. Perhaps this is why people always have fond memories of the Algarve.

All year round, the Algarve enjoys the best climate in Europe. With only a short period of rainfall (it normally rains between November and March) and long hours of sunshine (the highest in Europe), the Algarve region is blessed with the perfect weather for tourism. During the summer months, temperatures are quite high, which greatly favours the so-called "Beach Tourism". The Algarve is a veritable paradise for bathers. It is a region endowed with beaches of fine white sand all along its extensive coastline and a calm sea with water temperatures of around 22°C in the summer period.

 

Almancil

A fifteen minute drive from the main airport in Faro, the small town of Almancil is perfectly pleasant and typical of the Algarve. The neighbouring village of São Lourenço boasts a church decorated with characteristic blue tiles telling the life story of its patron saint, this example of azulejo work being particularly notable because of its age, it dates back to 1730, and the fact that it is attributed to one of the azulejo masters of the time, Policarpo de Oliveira. A stone’s throw from the church is the local cultural centre, which for many years has hosted a range of art exhibitions and musical performances. The local pottery is also widely renowned.
However, Almancil probably owes its position on the tourist trail mainly to the two very exclusive resorts located within 10km of the town. Both Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo are well-established developments which offer luxury accommodation, top notch food and excellent golf and have long been the holiday destination for the important and famous. The influence of their proximity is notable in the quality restaurants and stylish stores which adorn this seemingly simple market town, offering an alternative to those resident in the two beach resorts, or a decent place to stop for those just passing by.

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Vale do Lobo

Vale do Lobo is a far cry from the ominous English translation of its name. This supposed 'valley of the wolf' is, in fact, the most established golfing development in the area. Created in the late 60’s, before the end of the Salazar dictatorship and before any of its present competitors, its role in helping to establish the Algarve as a golfers paradise cannot be underestimated, although its tennis courts are also worthy of praise. The famous British golfer Henry Cotton designed the course, whose terrain is both varied and beautiful with wide ravines and troublesome bunkers vying with splendid views the ocean or of clusters of almond and olive trees so typical of this part of Portugal.

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Quinta do Lago

Next door, the immense Quinta do Lago complex is extremely impressive, with prices to match. Its five-star hotel has accommodated heads of state and fully paid-up members of the glitterati club, while its superb restaurants offer a cuisine fit for kings. Beyond this, over 1500 acres offer no fewer than four championship sized golf courses, all situated alongside stretches of the Rio Formosa Nature Reserve and each with its own distinctive flavour. São Lourenço is par 72 and considered the trickiest with a large expanse of saltwater to overcome on some of the long drives. The Quinta do Lago and Rio Formosa courses take you through some terrain very typical of the Algarve, that is to say clusters of cork trees and the scented shade of pines. Finally, designed by American Ronald Fream, Pinheiros Altos boasts the tall pine trees alluded to in its name, along with many petite lakes and some shots that stretch even the most able golfers, despite looking cunningly straight forward.

Nearby, some of the best riding stables in the Algarve offer treks which take you through stretches of classic Algarve countryside and even along beaches.

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Vila Sol

Vila Sol SPA & Golf Resort at Vilamoura lies within an estate of some 150 hectares of stunning natural scenery and a vast array of fauna, plant and animal life. It is located five minutes from Vilamoura, where you will find the international marina, commercial zone, bars and restaurants and a range of leisure amenities.

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Vilamoura

Vilamoura is more of an area than a town in itself and has grown over the past couple of decades to more or less engulf Quarteira to the east. Located virtually in the middle of the Algarve coast, within 15Km of the main airport at Faro, Vilamoura's accessibility has helped it become one of Europe's largest beach resorts. The 20 square kms of purpose built resort are home to practically every form of sport, entertainment and amenity imaginable. Combined with wide, well laid out roads, manicured gardens and public spaces and 6 golf courses, Vilamoura is without doubt a world class holiday destination.


The harbour side is the ‘in place’ for the yachting set and is home to a number of smart and chic bars, restaurants and hotels. As you would expect, prices are also somewhat higher than they are a little further inland.

 

There are plenty of excursions and boat trips going from the Marina with coastal trips to Lagos and dolphin watching trips. There are also opportunities for big game fishing with large marlin often being hooked. The area is also a haven for water sports such as parasailing, water-skiing, scuba diving and jet skiing.
Vilamoura's golf courses are the resort’s other big attraction. The 6 golf courses are Millenium, Laguna, Pinhal, Victoria, the Old Course and Vila Sol, all of which are world class.

 

Vilamoura is home to Portugal's biggest and perhaps best known nightclub - Kadoc. Located on the Vilamoura to Albufeira road, Kadoc regularly features big name DJs from all over Europe and has a capacity of around 7,000 clubbers. Other Vilamoura nightlife highlights include the bars and cafes around the Marina, in particular Portuguese football star Luis Figo's Cafe Sete (Sete being 7, Figo's shirt number). There is also the fairly large Vilamoura casino with around 20 tables and over 500 machines.

 

Of course Vilamoura also has a good selection of fine sandy beaches. The most easily accessible of these is Praia da Marina (Marina beach) which has every facility imaginable and is worthy of its Blue Flag award. Located just east of the Marina, Praia da Marina stretches to Quarteira and has the backdrop of big luxury hotels one expects of a major resort.

 

The resort’s other beach is the huge Praia da Falésia (cliff beach) on the Western side of the marina. Falesia stretches all the way to Olhos de Agua, 8 kms away. The name comes from the red cliffs that the beach backs onto. These cliffs form a good natural windbreak from Northerly winds. Again Falésia is a Blue Flag beach so expect excellent amenities and water quality.

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Faro

Faro is the administrative centre for the whole of the Algarve region with a population in excess of 55,000 people. The city has both Arab and Roman ruins but most of the present attractive older buildings were constructed after the disastrous earthquake of both 1755 and 1532.

 

A particularly attractive feature of Faro is the old part of the city, still surrounded by the Roman walls which date back to the 9th Century. Inside a spacious open square that was once the site of the Roman Forum is a 13th Century Cathedral that faces the 18th Century Episcopal palace.

 

The "golden" church of Nossa Senhora do Carmo is claimed to be the best example of gold-leaf woodwork in southern Portugal. It also contains the macabre spectacle of a chapel lined with the bones from over 1200 monks!

 

Beyond the history of the town, Faro provides well for the shopper with a bustling daily market selling fresh local produce and many shops selling Algarve handicraft and clothing. However the best place for this would doubtlessly be the monthly market where one can find a wide range of linen and leather goods and pottery. The local theatre hosts an extensive programme of drama, dance and musical performances and in the old electricity station on the waterside one can find the Centre for Living Science with its interesting and interactive exhibits providing entertainment for all the family.

 

A walk along the waterfront and beside the yacht-filled harbour, with its gaggle of cafes and maritime museum, reminds the visitor that Faro is indeed a waterside town. Faro is also the home of the Ria Formosa lagoon, a nature reserve of over 17.000 hectares and a stopping place for hundreds of different birds during the spring and Autumn migratory periods. The thousands of hectares of estuary that surround Faro are visited every year by hundreds of different migrating birds and are also home to many other species of animal. As for beaches, Praia de Faro is a long, sandy example reached by a bridge near the airport a few kilometres out of the centre. Other beaches found on the many islets in the Formosa Estuary are accessible by boat and the Praia de Farol is superb for water sport activities.

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