Algarve Holidays Are Incomplete Without Visiting The Algarve Beaches
Not much - and I haven't found it yet! In a nutshell, Algarve holidays has everything that a discerning holidaymaker could want.
Algarve Portugal was
an important region centuries ago, when Portuguese mariners set out in
tiny wooden ships to discover what were then the unknown parts of the
world. Things change, and now the Algarve is famous mainly for its
delightfully-situated deposits of coastal sand!
So, where do you
find those Algarve beaches at those Algarve holidays? The Algarve is
the southern-most part of Portugal, which, with Spain, makes up the Iberian Peninsula.
In ancient times,
the western tip of the Algarve was considered throughout Europe to be
'the edge of the world'. It's certainly the end of continental Europe
if you're travelling west.
Because of its
history, there is culture in abundance throughout the region. And that
is why it is such a wonderful vacation spot: Algarve holidays have
everything for the holidaymaker.
'grand' in the cultural sense of the word, because Algarveans are
down-to-earth people. But the area has been host to migrant invaders
from many civilisations throughout its recorded history.
And the legacy of
that diversity is still in evidence to latter-day vacationers. Of
course, initially, most visitors choose Algarve holidays because of its
famous weather and beaches...
There are over 100 miles of beaches
in the Algarve! If you're used to the scale of a huge continent, that
might not sound much, but the area is only some 90 miles long and 30
miles wide between its utmost extremities.
What's even more
gratifying is the diversity of choice when it comes to Algarve beaches.
On the west coast there are the windward beaches with large dunes (and
the best surfing). The southern coast offers open, extensive beaches to
the east and smaller, more secluded 'cove' beaches to the west.
So the ambience,
view and even sea conditions vary widely within a short driving
distance. Whatever type of beach experience you're after, the Algarve
can provide it. But, visitors soon discover that there is so much more
to the region, even for beach-lovers.
Those who don't care
to spend all of their time on a beach will find a great selection of
alternative activities (among them, golf, watersports, horse riding,
tennis and sightseeing), all to be enjoyed amid stunning scenery at
their Algarve holidays.
Artists in particular seem to love the 'light' in this area (and, of course, the fine weather in which to paint or draw).
The region's Moorish influences are everywhere, especially in the architecture of 'ordinary' residential houses.
The African Moors
occupied the Algarve (and much of Portugal and Spain) for centuries,
and although they were eventually expelled (from Portugal in 1250 AD),
their legacy lives on in the features of many buildings.
This is especially
evident in the strange yet splendid chimneys that adorn many Algarve
properties. (Even the name is believed to be a Moorish legacy...
'Algarve' supposedly comes from 'Al Gharb' or 'western land' which is
what the Moors termed it.)
But there are many
other fascinating aspects to the architecture of the Algarve, as you'll
discover if you visit. The houses' white painted walls and uneven tiled
roofs, often higgledy-piggledy where close together, take one back to
earlier, simpler times.
Generally, the only
adornments that Algarve houses display (if you don't count those
chimneys) are the painted frames around the doors and windows. And even
those colours have local significance, denoting wealth or piety, or
perhaps warding off evil spirits...
anything's an excuse for a festival in the Algarve, and the
celebrations generally make for a lively spectacle. Some are in honour
of saints, others commemorate historical events and yet others
celebrate elements of the local lifestyle.
On a recent visit to
Albufeira, I was fortunate enough to witness two consecutive nights of
the Festa dos Pescadores (Fishermen's Festival) where the importance of
seafood to the local economy was celebrated (with much live folk music,
dancing and copious consumption of said seafood)!
native activities, there are plenty of 'tourist' things to do. The
larger resorts have casinos and dance clubs, and live music is very
much a part of Algarve life. During our Albufeira stay, we were treated
(among other events) to free concerts, in the Old Town's square, by a
local rock band, a fado (folk music) ensemble and a flamenco group from
Spain. Wonderful stuff in a balmy climate!
And of course, there's always one of my favourite pastimes, let's call it 'promenading'.
That's simply an evening stroll in a colourful, warm climate, watching
the bustle of the local nightlife go on around me. Delightfully
Unlike many tourist
spots, Algarve has been slow to adopt the 'cosmopolitan' shopping
experience. Of course, you will see the unavoidable McDonalds 'M'
during your travels, but much of what is on offer to shoppers in the
Algarve is unique to the country.
Many towns have
weekly or monthly markets, where local produce, both food and goods,
are on sale. Different areas have their own specialities, with
wickerwork and carved wooden goods a feature of places like Monchique
(in the mountain area to the north west of Algarve) and celebrated
pottery wares on sale in Porches.
Those who want
'serious' shopping like they do at home can try the major resorts
(Albufeira, Quarteira and the capital, Faro) or the Quinta shopping
experience at the Quinta do Lago complex along the coast west of Faro.
The Algarve region
is separated from the rest of the country by mountain ranges (serras).
While they're not huge (on a Himalayan scale) they do manage to hold
back the cold weather from the north and are responsible for the
gentle, year-round climate.
But, they're only a
short drive from the coast and offer a different experience to the
vacationing visitor. The scenery is stunning, the pace of life even
more sedate, and the sensations unforgettable.
You reach the
mountain areas on small, local roads surrounded by foliage and amid the
scent of cork, citrus and eucalyptus trees. A simple day's drive can
take you from a beach area in central Algarve:
- up through the stunning mountain areas and east to the border with Spain,
- down the Guadiana river that separates the two countries, visiting the ancient fortifications, to
- the radially-cobbled main square and grid-like streets of Vila Real de São António
and westward via picturesque fishing ports like Olhão, through Faro,
the region's capital, then back to your start point in time for dinner
(unless you've chosen to stop at a charming country inn en route!)
But perhaps the best advertisements for the Algarve as a premier vacation destination are the people themselves...
friendly and responsive. They accept with genuine warmth the flock of
visitors among whom they must live their lives, and are quietly
confident in their own culture and ways.
Many of the
small-scale fishing enterprises still launch from the same beaches that
are used by holiday-makers. It's hard not to give a wry smile at the
sight of several local pescadores good-naturedly dragging their small
craft toward the sea between the variously-shaded, semi-naked bodies of
And I leave you with
this thought...Algarve Holidays, with its friendly locals, warm
climate, gorgeous beaches and varied, beautiful landscapes, is the
holiday spot of choice for most Portuguese from the rather grander,
more cosmopolitan north of the country.
Why venture further, they must wonder, when Paradise is just a few miles' drive to the South?
This Algarve Holidays article was written by Jennifer Dodds
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