Praia da Rocha in the city of Portimao, Algarve, Portugal

Algarve Beach in Algarve, Portugal. (ThinkStock)

What to do in Algarve

With its robust fruit orchards basking in the warm Mediterranean climate, The Algarve lives up to its nickname, the Garden of Portugal, as the sunny region overflows with crops of oranges, carob, figs, pomegranates, and almonds. It also has a coastline teeming with fresh seafood. Full of Moorish and Roman ruins, cubist houses, and other flavors left by past Phoenicians, Greeks, Visigoths, and Christians, this area's more recent invaders include Northern European tourists and transplants who have made the southwestern tip of Portugal one of the most popular vacation destinations in Europe.

As though transplanted from arid North Africa, the coastline harbors once-quiet fishing villages that now feature tourist apartments and some of the best beaches in Portugal. Stretching a hundred miles from Henry the Navigator's Cape St. Vincent to the Spanish border town of Vila Real de Santo António, The Algarve region is a tourist favorite year-round. Make sure to reserve accommodations in advance, especially in the height of summer when the the local population is said to double due to tourism.

Most travelers fly into The Algarve through the bustling, historic capital of Faro, Portugal's second-busiest gateway after Lisbon, with about 30 low-cost airlines flying in on a regular basis from more than 20 airports in the British Isles and numerous other airports in Northern Europe. Tourists typically head directly to one of the coastal resorts, such as Quarteira, Praia da Rocha, Lagos, Albufeira, or the spa town of Caldas de Monchique. Despite the region's tacky restaurants, sprawling golf courses, and cookie-cutter hotels, The Algarve remains charming and scenic, with literally hundreds of beach coves, dramatic cliffs, deep valleys, and village marketplaces selling copper, pottery, and almond and fig sweets..

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