The Algarve: Portugal's Irresistible, Inexpensive Beach Vacation Spot

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    Algarve Vacations in Portugal: a Visitor Magnet Since Time Began

    Beautiful Algarve beach in Portugal
    ••• Praia (Beach) do Benagil at Lagoa in the Algarve vacation region of Portugal. ©Valter Jacinto/Getty Images

    The Algarve Region of Portugal: Irresistible for Eons

    Throughout history, everyone has come to the Algarve on the sunny southern tip of Portugal,  facing the Atlantic to the west and south. It's just that kind of irresistible spot.

    The Algarve is history's guest book. Everyone came here to bask in the sun: Neanderthals, Paleolithic cave-painters, seafaring Phoenicians, Imperial Romans, philosophical Moors from North Africa, princely Castilians from neighboring Spain, and piratical Brits. Tourists discovered the Algarve in the Victorian era of the late 1800s, and Algarve vacations became a tradition for many Europeans.

    What You Will Love About The Algarve

    Nowadays, the Algarve lures international travelers who think for themselves: people with no interest in competing for a patch of sand on a crowded, overdeveloped beach. The Algarve bestows many blessings on visitors. It is authentic, with a low-key, unpressured mood. It has incredible history everywhere you look. Its brilliant...MORE climate offers 360 days of sun, moderate temps, and never excessive humidity. Over 100 miles of coastline are lined with magnificent beaches. The fantastic cuisine is fresh and seafood-centric. And golfers love the Algarve's
    challenging coastal courses.

    What Luxury Travelers Love Most About The Algarve: Its Hospitality

    The Algarve's unique hospitality impresses even that most demanding luxury travelers. Service is unpretentious, nonjudgmental, and sincerely welcoming. Your treatment at even a modest establishment is as gracious as ​five-star hotel service.

    How to Get to the Algarve from North America

    The best way for North Americans to visit the Algarve is via TAP, Portugal’s national airline.
    Portugal's capital, Lisbon, is a seven-hour flight from North America's East Coast. From there you can hop a short flight to Faro (the Algarve’s main airport) or rent a car for the easy 2 ½ hour drive down the coast.

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  • 02 of 06

    To Each a Beach on the Algarve

    Stone caves at beach in Algarve Portugal
    ••• Famed caves at the Praia (beach) do Benagil in the Algarve. ©Digitalsignal/Getty Images

    You've Never Seen Beaches Like the Algarve's

    The Algarve's endless coastline is lined with enchanting beaches. Many visitors check out several and decide on their favorite patch of sand. Beaches are spotless and wide, with white-powder sand. Boat rides and rentals are easily had in the Algarve's many marinas.

    The Algarve's beaches are not Mediterranean but Atlantic. The sapphire water is fresh, lively, and warmed by ocean currents. Praia (Beach) do Benagil is world-famous for its amazing caves (above) created by eons of waves.

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  • 03 of 06

    The Algarve's Hotels Deliver Fantastic Value

    Albufeira beach town in Portugal's Algarve
    ••• Albufeira is an Algarve beach town to stroll when you're not jumping the waves. ©Sabine Lubenow/Getty Images

    Where to Stay in the Algarve: Pousadas and Palaces

    The Algarve has not been denatured by cookie-cutter beach hotels. Here you have a vast choice of lodgings: historic pousadas (inns), traditional manor houses, seaside villas, and (yes) some stylish contemporary hotels. No matter their type, Algarve hotels are likely to win you over with their charm and professionalism.

    Algarve hotels featured here on TripSavvy: a count's castle now a pousada inn, with notable azulejo mosaics and a dreamy pool, Pousada Palacio de Estoi; a serene oceanfront boutique hotel with a Michelin-honored restaurant, Vila Joya; a vibrant town's beach mansion decorated by Portugal's top designers, Bela Vista.

    What You Can Expect from Hotels in the Algarve

    Wherever you stay on the Algarve, you're in store for high-end guest amenities like:
    a swimming pool (sometimes indoors as well as outdoor); a sophisticated spa (even if it's petite); fast wifi connections; (I'll say it again) great service,...MORE from servers and maids to concierges and managers. 

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  • 04 of 06

    Delicious Dining and Drinking on the Algarve

    Algarve-Portugal-Vilamoura-Marina-Dusk.jpg
    ••• An Algarve dusk over Vilamoura and its marina. ©Regiao de Turismo do Algarve

    The Algarve’s Culinary Bounty

    The Algarve is a paradise for travelers who love seafood and the Mediterranean diet. The freshness of the local fish and seafood is unsurpassed. Simplicity reigns with just a dash of lemon and the finest olive oil. (With this quality, who needs sauce?) The flavor of the local produce is superlative, too. Just try the local oranges.

    And there's high-end dining here on the Algarve. Local chefs have trained in some of the world's top dining establishments. Presently there are three one-star and two two-star Michelin restaurants in the region, like the restaurant at Vila Joya.

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    The Algarve's History Will Dazzle You

    SIlves Castle, Algarve, Portugal
    ••• Silves Castle on the Algarve (upper right), over 800 years old. ©moedas1/Getty Images

    Moorish Mystery in the Algarve

    The Algarve's Moorish heritage pervades this richly historic part of Iberia. Culturally advanced Moors, from North Africa, swept across vast areas southern Iberia beginning in 711. The very name Algarve comes from the Arabic al-gharb, meaning "west" (the Moors' stronghold was Spain, east of here).

    The Moors founded Al-uhera, now called Albufeira, the Algarve's top vacation spot. The Moors' coastal capital of Xelb (now called Silves) challenged the dominance of the old Roman capital in what is now Lisbon. Silves Castle, built in the 1200s, is the Algarve's best-preserved and most historically significant Moorish palace.

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    More Fun You Can Have on the Algarve

    Faro on the Algarve in Portugal
    ••• The lovely city of Faro on the Algarve (clearly not taken during the motorbike festival every June). ©westend61/Getty Images

    Festivals of The Algarve

    The Algarve entertains visitors year-round with celebrations of local culture and cuisine. The Festival of the Chouriças (sausages) in Querencia spices things up in January. The musical Festival of the Janeiras refers to Roman times, when citizens would bless the god Jane (Janus) when entering or leaving their houses. The May Fair in Azinhal spotlights traditional artisan skills of the Algarve: lacemaking, embroidery, tapestry, basketwork. The International Motorbike Festival rolls into Faro in July. See the Algarve's annual festival calendar.

    Swinging on The Algarve: Golf

    The Algarve is now one of Europe's premier golf destinations with a total of 42 courses.
    Penina, a championship course, was designed by Henry Cotton in 1966 as the first golf course in the Algarve. Other top courses include Monte Rei, Oceanico, San Lorenzo, and Quinta do Lago (designed by American William Mitchell). The Pine Cliffs at the Sheraton Algarve features an academy with cool new...MORE tech. See some Algarve golf resources.

    Find Out More About the Algarve

    Official Algarve tourism site, and  Facebook page, and Algarve photos on Pinterest