Effortlessly blending unspoilt sandy beaches with stunning golf courses, and high quality homes with world-class amenities, the Algarve is an internationally acclaimed tourist destination. Despite being on the Atlantic Ocean – hence its clean, blue sea and stunning sunsets, the Algarve’s selection of traditional and modern resorts offer a laid-back Mediterranean lifestyle.
The Algarve falls naturally into three parts – the Western Algarve, Central Algarve and Eastern Algarve. Faro Airport, in the Central Algarve, is the easiest entry point for the region. Flights into Lisbon or Seville (across the border in Spain) are also options.
In the Western Algarve, key resorts include Luz, Lagos, Portimão and Carvoeiro. Both Lagos and Portimão have marinas and attractive old towns.
Heading east, the Central Algarve’s first major resort is the cheerful British hot spot of Albufeira, after which begins one of the most exclusive stretches of coastline anywhere in Europe. Vilamoura, one of Europe’s largest private tourist developments, centres around its impressive 825-berth marina, which is overlooked by chic bars, restaurants and hotels. There is also a selection of pristine 18-hole golf courses.
After Vilamoura is Vale do Labo, the oldest luxury resort in Portugal, where whitewashed villas sit atop distinctive orange cliffs, overlooking lush fairways and the pretty beach. The resort’s amenities and social scene revolve around a collection of stylish but family friendly bars and restaurants, as well as the resort’s famous golf club. Vale do Lobo has two championship golf courses, the Royal and Ocean, and has hosted the Portuguese Open tournament twice.
The eastern edge of Vale do Lobo rolls into the newer – and arguably more exclusive – resort of Quinta do Lago, which occupies a 2,000-acre site in the Rio Formosa Natural Park. Here multi-million-euro villas line broad, shady boulevards, and boast views towards the lagoon or across one of the resort’s three championship golf courses, namely the Laranjal, South and North courses.
Things get more affordable when you enter the Eastern Algarve, the focus of which is the charming historic town of Tavira, set on a river estuary. Further towards the Spanish border are the small resorts of Cabanas and adjoining Conceição de Tavira, close to the Benamor Golf course and, like Tavira, with ferry access to exceptional beaches on the ocean side of the lagoon there.
Meanwhile, inland areas of the Algarve offer a quieter, more authentic lifestyle to the coastal resorts. Popular spots with foreign homeowners include Monchique in the Western Algarve, and in the Central Algarve, Paderne, Boliqueime and Loulé, including the nearby village of Santa Bárbara de Nexe.