The Algarve, Portugal’s south-facing Atlantic coast, is one of Europe’s favourite holiday destinations. There are beautiful beaches all along it – some are small coves with spectacular rock formations and others have vast expanses of superb sand. They are swept clean by Atlantic tides and the water is fresh and clear.
The coast is well served by villa and apartment developments. Inland, there is pretty countryside and villages barely touched by tourism. The Monchique hills add interest, while historic sights like the town of Silves are well worth a visit. Both on the coast and inland you’ll find plenty of excellent golf courses, often with villa developments attached.
In summer the Algarve’s weather is as hot as in Mediterranean resorts and in winter it’s pleasantly mild, though rainy days are possible.
Coastal towns in Portugal
Almost everyone will arrive through Faro airport, with its smart new terminal. Few visitors go into Faro itself, but it’s actually a very attractive city, surprisingly untouched by tourist development. Heading west along the coast from Faro there’s a string of pleasant resorts with plenty of excellent villas on offer. Quinta do Lago is on a beautiful stretch of beach with dunes and the Rio Formosa lagoon adding interest; nearby Vale do Lobo has a somewhat genteel feel and excellent golf facilities.
Vilamoura has an attractive marina, while the old-established resort of Albufeira gets busy in summer but has a superb golden beach. There’s also a good beach at Armacao de Pera, but if you like the idea of a pretty fishing village that hasn’t been swamped by development then Carvoeiro is the place. It’s only got a small beach, but there are plenty more either side of the resort.
Praia da Rocha has a busy, heavily developed feel but another nice beach. Lagos is also busy, but in an area where many resorts are purpose-built it stands out as historic and picturesque. Its attractive new marina and fish market is a magnet for tourists and there’s a pretty small town beach as well as a variety on either side, ranging from vast sandy expanses to small coves. Almost at the western end of the Algarve is Praia da Luz, a very pleasant resort with lots of villas stretching to Burgau.
Inland villas in Portugal
It’s always nice to be by the sea, but there’s also a good choice of villas inland. The hillside town of Loulé, for instance, is pretty and not too touristy.
Comparatively few people visit the rest of Portugal, which is a pity. The western coast, from Lisbon to Oporto and north to the Spanish border, has some attractive resorts like Estoril, Cascais, Ericeira and Nazaré. Almost anywhere inland you can find attractive countryside and there's a good choice of delightful restored rural houses, often with pools. The Douro, Lima and Minho river valleys are especially picturesque, and much more accessible now that Porto is well served by budget airlines. Once there, excellent new motorways have made getting around much easier.
Madeira lies as far south as Casablanca but some 350 miles away from Africa in the fresh, clear waters of the Atlantic. Lapped by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, this mountainous island has a milder and less arid climate than its neighbours to the south, the Canaries. Locals say there are only two seasons – spring and summer!
With its climate and rich soil, Madeira is amazingly fertile, growing abundant bananas, grapes, other fruit and flowers which are colourfully displayed in the market of the capital, Funchal.
Because it is so mountainous Madeira has no real beaches (though you’ll find some excellent ones on neighbouring Porto Santo) but it is marvellous walking country. The terraced lower mountain slopes are criss-crossed by a network of little irrigation streams called levadas. The paths alongside these provide a network of walking routes through magnificent scenery.
If walking sounds a bit energetic, this is a great place to enjoy relaxing by the pool, or exploring the magnificent countryside by car. Wherever you go on the island you will find tiny, picturesque villages and friendly people. And there are plenty of flights throughout the year.