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.
But 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. 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.
We think it takes a minimum of one week to do the area justice—there are so many beaches, small towns and historical sites. Among the areas to visit are the following: Albufeira, Armacao de Pera, Cabo Sao Vicente, Faro, Lagos, Loule, Monchique, Monte Gordo, Olhao, Portimao, Praia da Rocha, Sagres, Silves, Tavira and Vila Real de Santo Antonio. See the guides for each town for more information.
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