Portugal's southernmost province, Algarve, offers some of the finest beaches and recreational facilities in Europe. The white-sand beaches are clean, and the fishing, watersports and golfing are world-class. (The courses designed by Henry Cotton at lovely Vilamoura are among the largest in Europe.)

It's fun to drive along the coast through picturesque villages, watching for the distinctive Algarvian chimneys, stopping to watch the fishermen and enjoying the arid scenery. Almond trees bloom in January and February, covering the ground with lovely white petals. To add to the charm, the weather is usually comfortable, the people are friendly, and the food can be excellent.

For all these reasons, the Algarve is very popular among European travelers: Don't expect to have this part of Portugal to yourself. In fact, since the influx of package tours, some people think the charm of the area has all but evaporated. Parts of the coast have been marred by runaway development that is only now being reined in. But if you can get into the spirit of the place while rubbing shoulders with masses of (primarily) Canadian, German, British and Scandinavian tourists, then you'll have a good time.

It takes a minimum of one week to do the area justice—there are so many beaches, small towns and historical sites. Areas to visit include: Albufeira, Armacao de Pera, Cabo Sao Vicente, Faro, Lagos, Loule, Caldas de Monchique, Monte Gordo, Olhao, Portimao, Praia da Rocha, Sagres, Silves, Tavira and Vila Real de Santo Antonio.

Request Full Destination Guide

To request access to the full version of this destination guide, please provide your email address below. Your email address will only be used for verification purposes and will not be used for marketing purposes.