Central Algarve, Portugal
Albufeira, Central Algarve
Albufeira today is synomonous with tourism and the hussle and bustle of thousands of holiday makers flooding through the old historic old town quarter, and the neon lights of the "strip". However it is also an area steeped in history dating back centuries to the Neolithis and Bronze ages. In fact many of the old worldy traits can be seen here today.
From Fishing Port to City
The origins of this great city are found back when the Moors gradually inhabited the Algarve, the name Albufeira comes from the Arab "Al-Buhera", which means "Castle of the Sea" which is perhaps derived from the large fortification built atop the lower part of the town.
Much of the inhabitants of Albufeira made their living from the fishing industry during the 19th century, this in fact was almost the sole means of income for the city at that time, and is still evident today, although not so prominent.
It was not until the 1960’s that Albufeira become a holiday destination and tourism began to be seen as a potential income generator for the area. This tourism, grew and grew and in 1986 Albufeira, gained the title of “city”, and has been host to millions of people of the years, with no sign of any decline in its popularity, and it recognised as one of the most desired holiday destinations in Europe.
Holidays and Tourism
With the continued growth of tourism Albufeira increased its touristic borders to include Montechoro, Areias de Sao Joao and Oura, all which become hugely popular holiday destinations. More recently the new Albufeira Marina has extended the area of appeal to the Gale and Salgados areas.
There are a large percentage of the Algarve’s visitors who remain transfixed by the history or the old cobbled streets, and the local fishermen still holding onto the old ways, in amongst the modern backdrops of fine cuisine restaurants bars and night clubs. With over 20 beaches, stretching along the Albufeira coast line and 4 golf courses there is something for everyone to enjoy in this remarkable city.
Vilamoura, Central Algarve
Rather than the name of a town or city, Vilamoura is the name of an area. Renown as one of the largest tourist complexes in the whole of Europe covering 2,000 hectares of land this is an area of distinction and sophistication.
A Leisure and Holiday Resort
The plan for Vilamoura was to be a self contained leisure and holiday resort, and as such contains everything, and then some, for those looking for an easy, relaxing, cosmopolitan experience.
Vilamoura boasts some of the Algarve’s best hotel’s many of which are set around the famous Vilamoura marina with its plethora of multi multi million dollar boats and yachts. In fact boasting 1300 berths, this is one of the largest marinas in Europe.
Sun, Sea and Sand in Vilamoura
Many enjoy spending the afternoons strolling around the marina’s many boutique stores stopping for a Coffee or glass of chilled local wine sitting watching the boats parade around the marina. Here you can get away from the hectic pace of the modern world, and relax and unwind in a different world.
For those looking to have a more active time, there are no less than 5 top class golf courses in the Vilamoura, which also hosts the Algarve Open golf championships. An equestrian centre with regular show jumping competitions, and a tennis club. More than enough to keep the more actively minded entertained. And for a combination of pleasure and sport, there are daily big game fishing trips from the marina, a chartered boat leaving from Vilamoura in 1993 holds the record for catching the largest Black Marlin in the world, weighing an astonishing 737KG and measuring 3.65m!
For those looking for sun sand and sea, there are 2 beaches, one on either side of the marina which have all the water sports you can handle, from pedalos to jet skis, and Para sailing.
In the evening there are countless restaurants ranging from the traditional Portuguese Cafe serving sardines, to Michelin star extravagance. With the Casino hosting many evening shows from Russian Ballet to Hugo Iglesias there’s never a dull moment. After all this, there are a number of night clubs which are open through the night to make Vilamoura a vibrant all day, all year long haven for enjoyment and relaxation.
Faro, Central Algarve
Particularly attractive is the old part of the city surrounded still by the Roman walls which date back to the 9th. Inside a spacious open square that was once the site of the Roman Forum is a 13th Century Cathedral that faces the 18th Century Episcopal palace.
Quinta Do Lago - Golf Resort
The area that Quinta is now set upon was first developed from forest and swamp lands, back in 1970, by Andre Jordan, who designed and began building the golf resort. There were a few snags along the way including a military coup, but none the less the resort continued to rise and from the 1990's was always considered the most luxurious golf and beach resort in Europe, winning countless rewards further enhancing its exclusivity and appeal. Now all the plots are sold, and building permission is incredibly difficult to obtain and generally not possible. A lot of the older properties are now being acquired by developers and knocked down to rebuild for new buyers such is the demand.
Vale do Lobo
Vale do Lobo is one of the longest running "luxury beach front resorts" operating in Europe. It's beginnings go back to 1962. Now of course, it's one of the most recognised resorts in Europe, with its magnificent natural surroundings. Many changes have of course come about since it's inception, including a number of ownership changes and improvements, the latest was 6 years ago when a €500,000,000 investment programme was undertaken for development of 3 new areas - Vale de Santo Antonio, Oceano Clube (Vale do Lobo II) and Vale Real (Vale do Lobo III). The resort has over 1,500 private villas, with restrictive planning permission for more new builds.
Soaked in History
An interesting building is the neighbouring 16th Century Convent that is now turned into the home of the city’s archaeological museum. Within it is a section devoted to the Arab occupation. The "golden" church of Nossa Senhora do Carmo is claimed to be the best example of gold-leaf woodwork in southern Portugal. It also contains the macabre spectacle of a chapel lined with the bones from over 1.200 monks! Next to the small boat basin bordering the Praça de Dom Francisco Gomes is a small Naval Museum composed of scale model boats and galleons showing the maritime history of the coast.
Beaches, Nature, Retail and an International Airport
Much of the city is now composed of apartments and there are attractive shops and a particularly artistic theatre. Faro is also the home of the Ria Formosa lagoon, a nature reserve of over 17.000 hectares and a stopping place for hundreds of different birds during the spring and autumn migratory periods. The beach is almost 7 Kms distant from the city and is a long sandy spit reached by crossing a bridge not far from the International Airport. The municipal council has an active cultural department organizing different and various events during the year.
Loule, Central Algarve
Within the remaining walls is a museum with an explanation of what was in the past the grandeur of the castle. The various earthquakes that it has suffered through its history have damaged the 13th Century Church of São Clemente. However, its Gothic arches and side chapels that are from the 16th Century have survived. The town Loulé consisting of some 20,000 residents is mainly concerned in producing souvenir products made out of copperware, leather, cane and wood, or, servicing the tourist industry. The weekly Fair attracts tourists from all along the Algarve.
Carnivals & Processions
Due to the demands of the tourism this town has blossomed in size. An important event is the annual Carnival held in February that is considered to be one of the best in Portugal. In the town there is a Museum that is devoted to the local industry of dried fruits and it is interesting to see how these products are prepared for the public. To the west of the town is a hilltop Church that is built on the site of a 16th Century chapel. This is the destination of an annual religious procession that requires some physical effort on the part of the bearers of the church's religious shrines.
This area has two added attractions in both the caves at Alto Fica and the rock face of Rocha da Pena. The towns of São Brás de Alportel and Santa Bárbara de Nexe, are both small and also demonstrate the fast disappearing Portuguese atmosphere reflecting the rural social style of life. In São Bras de Alportel there is an interesting museum that houses a permanent collection of rural artefacts and costumes truly reflecting the past manner of living in the Algarve.
Armacao de Pera, Central Algarve
Not very long ago this town was nothing more than a collection of small shacks where the local residents from the nearby village of Pera used to maintain their fishing boats. It is quite probable that the name "Armação" is a link with the distant past of the great Tuna fishing industry that existed along the Algarve from the 15th Century and before. This later fell under the protection of a small 18th Century fort that still remains in part to this day.
Nowadays, the town is mainly composed of blocks of holiday apartments of which present bars and restaurants on the ground floor. In the three summer months the town overflows with tourists but outside the top of the season it offers a wonderful peaceful holiday location. Meanwhile, the nearby rural village of Pera remains as a reminder of the un-spoilt typical sleepy Algarve. Boasting one of the finest longest sandy beaches in the Algarve this is a popular location for tourists. On the beach close to the eastern side of the town are a number of fish restaurants that pride themselves on serving fresh fish. The spread of building from Armação de Pera has been mainly to the west with the creation of several holiday apartment complexes above the very charming beaches of Senhora da Rocha.
Places near to Armação de Pera are the market towns of Algoz, Alcantarilha, Porches and the inland historic and attractive city of Silves with its magnificent walls and castle.