Algarve travel is popular for tourists of Portugal, and is located in the southwest corner of the Iberian Peninsula. In the past, this region of Portugal played an important role in the politics of the ancient world. Populated even before the Phoenicians established trading ports in 1000 B.C., the Algarve historically has been an important holding for the Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths and Moors. In fact, the name Algarve comes form the Arabic word for West, "Al-Gharb". All of these invading cultures contributed to the arts, cuisine and architecture of this area and helped to keep this area distinct from the rest of Portugal. It was not until 1910 that the Algarve became an official part of the Republic of Portugal, and that independent spirit can still be felt in the residents today.


The rich farmland and hilly terrain of the Algarve is one reason that this area was so prized by conquering forces throughout the ages. Today, those same picturesque hills and the gorgeous coastline draw people of a different sort: tourist. The population of the Algarve more than doubles during the summer months due to an influx of visitors, however, as tourism is the main industry of the region, the Algarve is well equipped to handle the large number of visitors, and development has managed to keep up with demand.

The region is divided into sixteen municipalities with the provincial capital and chief city being Faro. This vibrant university town is the perfect starting point for a visit to the Algarve. The international airport in Faro,  is easily accessible and the charming maze-like lanes, churches and marina make it well worth a visit. The Ria Formosa Lagoon and National Park is a short boat ride away and is a must see, especially for bird watchers and water sport enthusiasts. The Hotel Faro, which is right on the water and close to shopping, is the perfect place to stop for the night.

If you would like to escape the bustle of the city, then a short trip north to the quiet town of Estói is in order. The main attraction here is the magnificent palace, Palácio de Estói, which was erected in the eighteenth century. A day spent here walking among the charming gardens and marble statues will not be forgotten. For Roman culture buffs, the ruins of Milreu which consist of a large temple and baths, offer a great peek at that ancient civilization.

If you are drawn to the Algarve by the temperate climate and warm waters, there are many magnificent beaches to satisfy the beach bum in you. As a matter of fact, the Algarve has more than 100 km of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Whether you are looking for remote, quiet beaches or more happening ones, you will certainly find it here. Some of the nicest beaches are located in Aljezur, on the western Atlantic coast. The beaches here are long swaths of dark sand, surrounded by rugged cliffs. Arrifana beach is one of the more charming choices, as it has a fishing port and a large rock formation called Needle Rock, which rises from the sea. Costa Vicentina Natural Park which extends from Odeceixe to Burgau, is 80 km of protected coastline. It is here that one can see native flora and fauna that have survived the difficult conditions of wind, sand and sea.

On the southern coastline, Praia de Rocha is more of a family oriented beach with many amenities and development. This very long sandy beach is famous for being one of the nicest in the Algarve and is a 30 minute drive from Lagos by car or bus. If you would like a little culture to go along with your suntan, then don't miss the Regional Museum in Lagos which has a diverse collection of archeological finds from different periods throughout Algarveian history. Likewise, the Lagos Grotto Tour is a fun and fascinating boat ride into the beautiful rock caves that the ocean and wind has so obligingly carved out.

Some of the other main draws to the Algarve are the excellent golf courses and resorts that continue to be built here. If a golfing holiday is part of your travel plans, then there are more than 35 superb courses to choose from. Due to the temperate climate, the golfing season is extended here and year round golfing is certainly possible. While most courses are located in the vicinity of Faro, Parque da Floresta on rolling, hilly terrain near the south-western tip of Portugal feels like you are playing on the edge of the earth.

Lastly, if you are coming to the Algarve to let loose and party, then you should make your way to Albufeira. This town on the southern coast has all of the attributes of a true tourist destination; high rise resorts, sunshine, beaches, discos, bars and fun. It has earned a reputation as one of the most "touristy" areas in all of Portugal, and still attracts visitors in droves for its youthful vibe. If you are not feeling so youthful after a night of partying, you might consider the spa treatments offered at the Grand Real Santa Eulalia Resort and Spa which has received a "Great Hotels of the World" award.

It is no wonder that the Algarve has drawn visitors to her shores for centuries. Warm, idyllic beaches, hilly terrain covered with almond trees and charming towns and villages all conspire to create a siren song for tourists. Add that to the fact that Portugal is one of the least expensive countries in Western Europe, and it becomes an irresistible travel destination.