Best of Algarve

The climate – with over 3,000 hours of sunshine per year and a low annual average rainfall, the Algarve enjoys mild weather throughout the year, which is certainly a big attraction for visitors, both in the summer for a few days on the beach and in winter to relax or engage in a variety of activities.

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The sea in every shade of blue, almost always calm and warm, and the beaches of fine white sand are the hallmark of the region. The beaches, stretching as far as the eye can see, bound by golden cliffs in small bays nestling between rocks, provide many stunning backdrops for unforgettable holidays. There are around 200 km of coastline that are perfect for all kinds of water sports, including sailing, surfing and windsurfing. Yachting enthusiasts are guaranteed to find great support infrastructures in the modern marinas spread along the Algarve coast.

Golf has brought the Algarve many international prizes and awards, and the region has more than once been voted the best golfing destination in the world. The Algarve has about forty courses with excellent conditions for both experienced players and those taking up the sport for the first time…

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Nature is at its best in three protected areas: the Vicentina Coast which is the best preserved stretch of coast in Europe, the Ria Formosa, a maze of channels separated from the sea by a strip of sand, and the Marshland of Castro Marim and Vila Real de Santo António, rich in fauna and flora. But there are also the hills you can discover by bike or on foot, following the footpaths of the Via Algarviana, which connect the eastern end of the region to the westernmost point via the interior, ending at the Rota Vincentina – another set of trails not to be missed for those who like walking. For those seeking a bigger adrenaline rush, there is parasailing, scuba diving, hang gliding or abseiling.

Heritage offers many treasures to discover. For example in Silves, formerly the capital of the Arab Kingdom, in Sagres and Lagos, very important during the 15th-century Discoveries, in Tavira, a showcase of traditional architecture or in the historical centre of Faro with its beautiful cathedral.

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Entertainment is red hot every summer in the many bars and clubs, especially in the most cosmopolitan areas like Albufeira, Portimão and Vilamoura. And throughout the year there are various events that bring colour and fun to the region, such as Carnival, music or food festivals, historical re-enactments and the traditional fairs and festivals which are held all over the region.

Food where the spotlight is naturally on fresh fish and seafood, either grilled or in a stew. But there are meat dishes, more common inland, and almond and fig cakes such as morgados or Dom Rodrigos, which go perfectly with the local almond liqueur or arbutus aguardente.

Resorts and Spas where you can enjoy some serious relaxation or health and well-being cures which are also available at the thalassotherapy centres and Spa at Monchique.

Eighty eight Algarve beaches to fly Blue Flag

The Algarve is once again the Portuguese region that will fly the most Blue Flags in 2016, with 88 beaches receiving the coveted classification.

Compared to last year, the number is up by three with Amoreira Mar (Aljezur) and Rocha Baixinha (Albufeira) set to fly a flag for the first time and Armona Ria (Olhão) making it back to the list.

All four Algarve marinas – Vilamoura, Albufeira, Portimão and Lagos – will also be once again flying Blue Flags.

On a national level, Portugal received a record 314 Blue Flags, with 15 new additions.

This means Portugal is the fifth country with most flags in Europe, trailing only behind Spain (579), Turkey (436), Greece (395) and France (379).

A map with all of Portugal’s Blue Flag beaches and marinas can be found online at http://bandeiraazul.abae.pt/galardoados/

Portimão shops are coming back to life

Today we chose to write about the new lease of life that is springing up amongst some of the smaller independent shops in the town of Portimão.

We met some lovely shopkeepers and discovered some fabulous new little stores in the side streets of the town – far too many to be able to cover in one tiny feature article .. so we thought we would share some more of our finds with you all here on the blog.

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Portimão has looked quite tired and run-down of late, what was once a proud and bustling quayside and shopping area has been passed by in favour of out-of-town shopping – but at last things are beginning to come back to life with a range of new shops opening up around the main Rua Direita street. If you can find your way to the waterfront, by the ice-cream shop outlets, then you need to walk into town past the banks .. and then find the main theatre above the Largo December 1 gardens (you may remember us telling you about the Organic market that happens there every Saturday) – then if you are facing the theatre you need to go left down the main street and you will find all the shops waiting for you!

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The first shop we visited was one of our favourites for picking up an unusual gift or special present – the very enticing Opcão Decor, run by Marcelo Correia, who is an interior designer with a keen eye for a unique product.

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The inside of the shop is beautifully presented with a range of gifts, home-ware and ceramics which are all original and traditional Portuguese brands:

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Many items are sourced locally, from the raffia bags from Loulé, to the nativity scenes which are made in Ferragudo, and the kitchenware from casaalegre.pt

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Vilamoura: Portugal’s best beach for people with mobility problems

Vilamoura has been named Portugal’s “most accessible beach” for people with physical disabilities.

“It’s a huge honour,” said Loulé mayor Vítor Aleixo as he accepted the award at Lisbon’s Pavilhão do Conhecimento on Tuesday (April 12).

“It is fair recognition of Loulé council’s social inclusion policies,” he said, adding that the award will motivate the borough to continue improving its accessibilities.

In order to qualify for the award, beaches must not only have good wheelchair access but also parking and cloakroom facilities for the physically disabled.

Loulé council has stressed in a statement that the borough flew six “accessible” flags at its Vilamoura, Quarteira, Vale do Lobo, Garrão Poente, Loulé Velho and Forte Novo beaches in 2015 – the first three of which boast an ‘amphibian chair’ which makes getting in and out of the water much easier for handicapped people.

‘Praia + Acessível’ distinction is promoted by Portugal’s Institute for Rehabilitation (INR) in collaboration with the European Blue Flag association and other entities.Vilamoura has been named Portugal’s “most accessible beach” for people with physical disabilities.

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Beach at Vilamoura

 

Albufeira leads list of “most searched-for” summer destinations

Albufeira was the “most searched-for destination” in Portugal last summer, according to travel website Trivago.

Monte Gordo, Portimão, Vilamoura and Praia da Rocha also made the top-10 between June and September.

Albufeira was also second on the list of destinations that were most searched during the 12 months of 2015, trailing only behind Lisbon.

Three Algarve beaches are among “the most beautiful in Spain and Portugal”

Three Algarve beaches are among “the most beautiful in Spain and Portugal”, according to a list published online this week by Condé Nast Traveler’s American website.

Carvoeiro’s Praia da Marinha (pictured) is placed second, trailing behind Spain’s Cala En Porter in Minorca.

“With beautiful rocky outcrops and clean, calm water, Marinha is generally recognised as one of the best beaches in Europe – and the world,” the magazine writes.

The third spot belongs to Praia da Falésia in Albufeira, the beach that “draws its name from the orange-red cliffs that serve as a backdrop to its nearly four-mile stretch of sand.”

Following Falésia are three Spanish beaches – Playa de Ses Illetes (Formentera), Playa de Las Catedrales (Galicia), and Playa del Silencio (Asturias).

The list ends with the Algarve’s Praia de Odeceixe, especially “popular with surfers”, and Spain’s Playa de Rodas in the Cíes Islands.