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Introducing The Algarve

Love it or hate it, the Algarve is Portugal’s premier holiday destination, with pretty beaches, brash resorts and picturesque whitewashed towns that flood with foreigners when summer arrives. While the party atmosphere isn’t for everyone, the setting is undeniably beautiful: breathtaking cliffs, wide golden sands, natural bays, scalloped beaches and long sandy islands with waves lapping at the shore. Outside the touristy enclaves, there are quiet castle towns, flower-covered hillsides and enchanting stretches of shoreline still untouched by development.

The towns themselves aren’t as varied as the coastline, but still offer a wide range of personalities. Lagos, with its cobbled streets, young crowd and abundant nightlife, is the carnival queen of the Algarve. Monchique is a quaint town with fine views over the steep wooded countryside. Tavira, set along a peaceful river, remains elegant and laid-back, with a history dating back to the Romans. The capital of the region, Faro, has a more Portuguese feel than some, and a fascinating medieval quarter. Out on the rugged west coast, small, charming towns like Sagres and Carrapateira attract a surf-loving crowd, while cliffside Albufeira sees a wider mix of travellers.

If you’re not keen on crowds and high-season prices, avoid coming from July to mid-September. This is when most Portuguese and other Europeans take their holidays: spring and autumn are lovely alternatives (though the water will be a bit nippy).

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