Southern Portugal is characterized mainly by its south coast which is better known as the Algarve. It features stunning beaches, picturesque fishing towns, thriving nightlife, and a beautiful climate - all of which make the region a popular holiday destination.
The towns and villages of the Algarve coast are where most holiday-goers spend their days in Southern Portugal. The beaches of Albufeira are a main attraction to the area. Two popular beaches include the Praia do Tunel and Praia dos Pescadores, which are connected. Beachgoers can access Praia do Tunel via a manmade tunnel carved into the cliffs, while Praia dos Pescadores is reached by escalators that descend from the cliffs. There is also a boarded walkway which runs the length of both beaches as well as a selection of beachside bars and restaurants. Other beaches can be found just outside of Portimao (at Praia da Rocha) as well as near Sagres, Praia de Luz, Lagos, Alvor, Vilamoura, Quarteira, Carvoeiro, Tavira, and Monte Gordo.
Many of these locations also embody old world architecture and cobbled roads that speak to the history and culture of each place. Lagos, for example, is also home to the ornate 18th-century church of Igreja de Santo Antonio, which is situated right across from the Castelo dos Governadores, a castle with a baroque facade and watchtowers. Taviro also has many traditional painted houses and charming plazas. Much of the infrastructure features remnants of the Moors era, including a castle, ancient city walls, and mosques that were converted into churches. There are many other scenic towns along the coast of Southern Portugal, each with a unique charm of its own.
Visitors to Southern Portugal are mainly attracted by the southern Algarve Coast. It is lined with fishing villages and coastal resort towns. Albufeira, the most popular of these resort towns, was once a small fishing village and has since evolved into a popular destination for tourists attracted by the area's beaches, pleasant climate, and fresh seafood. Praia da Rocha, near Portimao, is another seaside option with a bigger beach, though the town is more modern that Albufeira. Lagos is known for its old world charm, plummeting cliffs, and Atlantic beaches. Cobbled streets, historic churches, and castles add to the charm, as well as a clifftop lighthouse showing the way to Lagos for ships at sea. Faro is the hub for industry and transportation, Vilamoura is a destination for the wealthy, Quarteira offers a beach and promenade near Vilamoura without the expense, and Tavira is a quaint historic town located on the banks of the Gilao River.
Beyond beaches, history, and scenic villages, the towns of Southern Portugal also offer a range of other activities from daytime ventures to upbeat nightlife. Excursions by boat include things like coastal cruises, jet boats, deep-sea fishing, and dolphin watching, while opportunities on the mainland include golf, water parks, local markets, weathered cliffs and other natural features, and the regional cuisine of the coast. As far as nightlife goes, the more popular resort areas - Albufeira, Praia da Rocha, Lagos, and Vilamoura - all have a vast selection of restaurants, cafes, and bars that cater to all tastes and preferences.
Food and Dining
With its extensive shoreline, especially of the Algarve coast, Southern Portugal serves an abundance of seafood. One particular favorite for locals is a dried and salted cod called bacalhau. Other fish-cooking techniques entail grilling, boiling (including poaching and simmering), frying or deep-frying, stewing (often in clay pot cooking), roasting, or steaming. Portuguese cuisine also features spices influenced by its former colonial possessions, some of which include piri piri, black pepper, cinnamon, vanilla, and saffron. Garlic and olive oil are also commonly used, as are herbs like bay leaves and parsley. A specialty throughout Portugal is a soup called caldo verde made with potato, shredded kale, and chunks of chourico (a spicy local sausage). And for dessert - don't miss arroz doce (rice pudding with cinnamon) and caramel custard.
As far as flights go, Southern Portugal is mainly served by Faro Airport located about 4 kilometers west of Faro city. Most of its services operate package tours and discount flights from the UK and Ireland, mainland Europe, and Canada. From the airport, there are bus services into Faro city as well as routes to most other Portuguese cities and some destinations in Spain. Taxis and car rentals are also available from the airport, as well as a railway station 15 kilometers away.
Many visitors also fly into Lisbon in South Central Portugal, as it is an important European hub for international travel with good connections to the rest of the country.