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The Western Algarve
With miles of coastline and historic towns for you to explore, the Western Algarve has something for everyone.
With miles of coastline and historic towns for you to explore, the Western Algarve has something for everyone.
The protected nature reserve of Parque Natural da Costa Vicentina, stretches from Burgau on the south coast to Odeceixe on the west coast, and at about 100 km long, this is one of the finest expanses of protected nature reserves in Europe.
Jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, the steep eroded cliffs and isolated headlands with rocky outcrops host many rare and migrating birds as well as a wonderful array of colourful and fragrant flowers.
These areas were strategically important for the early Portuguese explorers, and in the 15th Century Henry the Navigator had a famous nautical/navigation school at Sagres Promontory, where the compass and remains of the fortress and church still stands on the headland from where many of the famous voyages of exploration began.
The Portuguese word for beach is Praia, and little beach is Prainha. The southern stretch of coastline from Lagos to Sagres has numerous l beaches, ranging from long sandy expanses to protected coves. Meia Praia is a 4 km long beach on the east side of Lagos and on the west side is the delightful Praia da Batata. Continuing westwards is the much-photographed Praia da Dona Ana, then Praia do Camilo and Porto do Mos. The small, low-rise resort of Praia da Luz has a large sandy beach protected on one side by the Black Rock. Burgau village, smaller than Luz, has cobbled streets with restaurants radiating up from the popular sandy beach of the same name. Salema, a large fishing village and tourist centre with a hotel, restaurants and a sweeping sandy beach. Praia do Martinhal has a few beach restaurants, a hotel and small urbanisation.
Popular beaches on the west coast include Praia do Tonel, Beliche, Castelejo, Amado, Bordeira, Arrifana, Monte Clerigo and Odeceixe. All are fabulous beaches, and there are so many other beautiful beaches, and everyone has their own particular favourite! Many of the beaches on the west coast attract surfers from all over Europe all year round and many surfers with rollers and crashing surf from the Atlantic Ocean.
The Western Algarve is surrounded by pretty towns and villages, perfect for exploring. Find out more below.
The vibrant, historic city of Lagos is a bustling centre with a myriad of narrow cobbled streets and squares, filled with shops and pavement café bars and restaurants inside its mostly intact ancient thick walls, that date back to the Moorish conquest of the 8th Century.
Today Lagos has a very attractive paved waterside promenade complete with market stalls and a pedestrian bridge to the large marina and to Meia Praia beach. Lagos has ancient buildings, churches, museums and a large fortress with a drawbridge. It has a daily fish market, a weekly farmer’s market, a regular travelling market and Lagos Zoo is near the city. Dolphin spotting boat trips and grotto/cave exploring trips can be booked from the quayside and marina.
Perfectly located in a wide sandy bay that is protected on the East side by the high cliffs of the iconic Black Rock and bounded on the West side by a rocky outcrop with old fortifications, the former fishing village of Praia da Luz is now a small family holiday town with holiday villas and low rise apartments piling up behind the sheltered sandy Blue Flag beach. A delightful paved promenade leads from the pretty church in the main square down to the beach, lined with palm trees and dotted with seats to admire views of the beach. Along the promenade are restaurants, cafes and market stalls selling jewellery, clothing and holiday goods. Two water sports centres at the beach offer water-skiing, banana boat rides, paragliding and children’s sessions, and there is sunbed and parasol hire on the beach, as well as boat hire for coastal sightseeing and dolphin spotting.
Luz village has several supermarkets, including Spar and Baptista who provide a home delivery service, while the larger supermarkets of Intermarché, Continente, Lidl and Aldi can be found in Lagos, less than 10 minutes by car. Luz has a pharmacy, medical centre, dentist, hairdresser, optician, a post office and banks and more than 30 good restaurants, serving excellent local and ethnic foods using quality seafood, meats and vegetables and there are many take-out options also.
A coastal & cliff trail links Lagos, Porto do Mos and Luz continuing along the coast to Sagres and Cape St. Vicente. The rough path has fantastic sea views but is not suitable for child buggies.
Boa Vista Golf Resort is less than 5 minutes by car, with other golf options at Espiche, Palmares, Santo Antonio Parque da Floresta and Penina. Tennis is available in Luz and Tiffany’s Riding Stables is located between Luz and Burgau.
You can walk to everything in the village and there is a regular bus service to Lagos. The drive from Luz to Faro Airport takes about 1 hour, mostly on the A22 Motorway, and Lisbon Airport is about 3 hours, largely on the A2 Motorway.
The peaceful little town of Praia da Luz is the perfect family holiday destination who adore its quiet traditional charm and welcoming, friendly atmosphere, its beautiful beach and captivating bay.
Located about 3 Km West of Luz, the picturesque little fishing village of Burgau has grown around a beautiful sheltered bay with a beautiful sandy beach protected on either side by towering yellow cliffs, with the ruins of an ancient fort on the Eastern clifftop.
The village is centred around a few little streets, lined with traditional houses, restaurants, grocery and gift shops which wind down to the beach where there is a small slipway for local fishing boats. Due to the village size and the friendliness of the local people visitors quickly feel at ease with many returning regularly to renew their ties and friendships. The sandy beach has Blue Flag status in recognition of water quality and facilities and there is a popular beach bar and restaurant on the beach where you can enjoy a drink or take lunch or dinner while delighting in the sea and beach views. With around 20 restaurants from which to choose, all serve delicious foods, the biggest problem is deciding which is your favourite. A limited Tuk-tuk service is available in Burgau which serves the local area and provides options for transfers to and from restaurants and the beach for much of the year.
Burgau Sports Club, just outside the village, offers squash, tennis, football and more and has a pool and snack bar also and diving lessons are available locally. Tiffany’s Riding Stables is located between Burgau and Luz. The clifftop coastal path meanders between Burgau and Luz to the East, continuing westwards to Boca do Rio and Salema, and many walkers take refreshments in Burgau during their walk.
Built on a hilltop less than 20 kms north east of Lagos is ancient settlement of Silves with a fortified castle that was first built by the Romans, later becoming a Moorish fortified walled enclosure to repel Crusaders.
Now open to visitors who can walk along the inside perimeter of the still intact thick walls, learn about its historic past, and marvel at the amazing views from its commanding position. The old town has historic churches, narrow streets, little alleyways with restaurants, bars and interesting shops to browse. Oranges are widely grown in the area and Silves hosts an annual Orange Festival.
A delightful market town set high in the foothills of the Sierra de Monchique, with ancient churches, a ruined monastery, cobbled streets and beautiful handcrafts, including floor rugs, knitwear, pottery and carved wooden pieces and distinctive folding wooden seats of Roman origin. is The Romans built baths at the Caldas de Monchique to utilise the natural spring water, which is still used in thermal treatment spas for rheumatism and respiratory ailments. There are spectacular views from Foia, the highest peak at 900m, from where on a clear day you can see Faro in the east, Cape St. Vincent to the west and Sierra da Arrabida near Lisbon in the north.
The Portuguese take pride in their food and the quality is usually excellent and prices more reasonable than many other countries.
Locals love fresh fish and seafood which are always on the menu and cooked to perfection. Prawns, crayfish, cuttlefish, squid and clams are regularly on offer, and fish options are usually hake (pescada), sea bass (robalo), bream (dourada) and salmon (salmao), but bacalhau (dried, salted cod) is the principal fish in Portugal and used in hundreds of diverse recipes, from oven-baked bacalhau with egg and olives, to cataplana fish stew and fried cod.
The Portuguese are also meat lovers, from pork and wild boar to lamb and Portuguese steak, duck and rabbit. Chicken (frango) is very popular, especially with spicy piri-piri (chilli) sauce. Churrasqueira restaurants specialise in char-grilled meat and chicken.
Soups in Portugal are generally home-made, excellent quality and inexpensive. Potatoes appear in many guises and all are appetising, as are vegetables, and rice and salad are served with many dishes. Most of the salads are delicious, with flavoursome, juicy tomatoes, onions and olives.
There is a huge array of Portuguese cheeses (queijo), from goats (cabra) to sheep’s (chevre) cheese to sheep from cow’s (vaca) milk and curd cheese (fresco). The choices of chorizo (chourico) is also vast with so many regional varieties on offer. Coffee in Portugal is excellent and comes as a small, black expresso type (bica), or with milk (café con leite), or as a large milky coffee in a tall glass (um galao).
With a long and proud tradition of wine production their wines are excellent, and visitors can be dazzled at the range of Portuguese wines available. However, you can simplify your decision in restaurants by ordering a house red wine (vinho tinto), or white wine (vinho branco) which are generally of reasonable quality and price. Chilled, slightly sparkling, immature white wines (vinho verde) are light and delicious on their own or with shellfish. Local beer (cerveja) is very good, the main brands available being Sagres, Cristal and Super Bock.Bottled water is freely available, and tap water is generally of good quality. Mineral water (agua mineral) often comes from the Monchique area, and still water (agua sem gas) and sparkling water (agua com gas) are inexpensive in supermarkets.
Most Portuguese have a sweet tooth and cakes (bolos), custard tarts (pasteis de nata) and egg-based deserts like crème caramel (pudim flan) and chocolate mousse are usually on offer for desert (sobremesa).
There are lots of ethnic restaurant choices in the Algarve, with Italian, Indian, Chinese and even South African foods available. Many restaurants now have Menus in Portuguese, English, French and German and a great many waiters are proficient in English and speak some French and German also.
Children in the Algarve
The Portuguese are very family-oriented, and they love children. Almost all restaurants welcome children, and it is common to see three generations of a family eating together, and waiters generally fuss over children too.