As a former kingdom in its own right, the Algarve has a rich past and promising future.
As a former kingdom in its own right, the Algarve region of Portugal has a rich past and promising future. The Algarve has about 350,000 permanent inhabitants, rising to over one million when including the summer tourists. The attraction is easy to understand when you consider the diverse landscapes, quaint villages and glorious sunshine. Using your Railpass, the beauty of the whole region really is there for the taking.
The Algarve region, with the Atlantic lapping over its sides, is home to over one hundred beaches covered in gleaming white sand. Its climate is also one of the most pleasant that we have come across benefiting from wonderful sunshine for most of the summer months, yet accompanied by a constant breeze from the Atlantic, so preventing the intense heat felt in other southern destinations. We would suggest the Algarve as a relaxing break whilst on your hectic European tour.
The Algarve region is surprisingly accessible by rail, with good links all across Portugal providing ample opportunity to explore. The 'Sud-Express' is a good starting point taking you from Paris direct to Lisbon. After having explored the capital, there are then both rail and sea/river links to other destinations including the Algarve. Caminhos de Ferro Portugueses (Portuguese Railways) provide the country's rail services.
Note that there are specific bargains to be had for those traveling without a Railpass. 'Blue Days' (normally Monday afternoon through to Thursday) have special rates applying to journeys made on these days. Discounts of up to 30% are also available on for groups of 10 or more who are traveling over specified distances so remember to bear these in mind when planning and booking.
Cities in the Algarve
Faro is the capital of the Algarve and is a city that was practically raised to the ground (as was much of the region) by an earthquake in 1755. Luckily for today's travelers, part of the old town survived and now provides beautifully preserved buildings to be enjoyed. The cathedral which dominates the city was rebuilt following the damage caused and is now back to its former state of glory.
Another of the Algarve's major cities, Lagos, was a former center of the slave trade. Nowadays, however, it is known more for its main attraction that is the fort (now a museum). Originally built in the seventeenth century it is worth taking a walk there to enjoy fabulous views of the town's natural harbour.
Where to stay
For accommodation in the Algarve, we have a real insiders tip for you! Montes da Vala is a wonderfully tranquil and rural area lying just 8 km from the coast in between Lagoa and Silves. It is also home to the family run Casa das Olivieras, providing bed and breakfast accommodation to all its guests. In wonderful contrast to the often rather touristy resorts in the region, Casa das Oliveiras combines real local hospitality with all the comforts you would expect from modern holiday accommodation.
The area immediately around the Casa das Oliveiras accommodation has a host of activities ready for you to enjoy. Whether you are drawn by the beaches and watersports of Praia da Rocha, the golf courses and tennis clubs lying just a short journey away or the walking and sightseeing opportunities especially around Silves, there really is something for everyone. The contrasts between the beautiful sandy beaches of Armação de Pera and the attractive forest covered hills leading to the mountains of Monchique are stunning.
Just 4km away is Lagos which in August of every year plays host to an important commercial and rural fair (Fatacil). This draws traders exhibiting products from all over Portugal. The occasion provides locals and tourists alike with an excuse for merriment, with national bands providing accompanying music and singers on hand to entertain the visitors late into the night.
Take a trip to the Algarve to enjoy the wonderful weather, fresh air and true tranquility.