The Algarve is hilly, but traversed with rich valleys. Its highest point is the mountain range of Monchique, with a maximum altitude of 906m (Peak of the Fóia).It is composed of 5,412 square kilometers with approximately 410,000 permanent inhabitants (density of 76 inhabitants per square kilometre). This figure increases to over a million people at the height of summer due to an influx of tourists.The region is also the home of the Ria Formosa lagoon, a nature reserve of over 170 square kilometres and a stopping place for hundreds of different birds.The Algarve is a popular destination for tourism, primarily because of its beaches, Mediterranean climate, safety and relatively low costs. The length of the south-facing coastline is approximately 155 kilometres. Beyond the westernmost point of Cape St Vincent it stretches a further 50 kilometres to the north.
The coastline is notable for picturesque limestone caves and grottoes, particularly around Lagos, which are accessible by powerboat. Praia da Marinha, Lagoa was classified as one of the 100 most beautiful and well preserved beaches of the world. There are many other beautiful and famous summer places such as Albufeira, Vilamoura, Portimão, Lagos, Armação de Pêra, Quarteira, Monte Gordo and Tavira. It is also host to the annual Algarve Cup invitational tournament for national teams in women's football.
With more hours of sunshine than California and only short periods of rainfall, generally between November and March, the Algarve has the perfect weather and climate for tourism.
The maximum temperatures in the Algarve fluctuate between 15°C and 31 °C, with the temperature never falling below zero in the winter months.
History of the area
The Conii, influenced by Tartessos, were established by the sixth century BC in the region of the Algarve. They would be strongly influenced by the Celtici. The Phoenicians had established trading ports along the coast circa 1000 BC. The Carthaginians founded Portus Hanibalis — known today as Portimão — in circa 550 BC. The Romans in the 2nd century BC spread through the Iberian Peninsula, and many Roman ruins can still be seen in the region, notably in Lagos.
In the 5th century, the Visigoths inhabited the Algarve until the beginning of the Moorish invasion in 711. When the Moors conquered Lagos in 716 it was called Zawaia. Faro, which the Christian residents had called Santa Maria, was renamed Faraon, which means "the settlement of the Knights".
Due to the Moorish occupation of Iberia, the region was called "Al-Garb Al-Andalus". As stated above, Al-Garb means "the west"; Al-Andalus, as the greater Iberian region was known, makes reference to the Vandals, a Germanic tribe who had previously occupied the southern part of the peninsula. Arabic has no way of expressing the 'V' sound. In the mid-12th century, the Moorish occupation ended: the "Al-Gharb" has been since then the Algarve (or Algarves). It was not until the 13th century that the Portuguese finally secured the region against subsequent Moorish attempts to recapture the area - see Reconquista.
In the 15th century, Henry the Navigator based himself in Sagres and conducted various maritime expeditions which established Portugal as a colonial power.
The Algarve was a semi-autonomous area with a governor from 1595 to 1808, as well as a separate taxation system until the end of the 18th century. During this time, to reflect the Algarve's unique status, Portuguese monarchs were known as "King of Portugal and The Algarves".
In 1807, when Junot was leading the first Napoleonic invasion in the north of Portugal, the Algarve was occupied by the Spanish troops of Manuel Godoy. The Algarve became the first part of Portugal to liberate itself from Spanish occupation, in the rebellion of Olhão in 1808.
Traditional agricultural products of the region include fig, almond, medronho, carob beans, and cork oak.
Portugal is a country with a rich culture, but you will find out that each region has its own particularities. This is certainly the case with the Algarve, where you can see people’s way of living through their arts and music and confirm how different they are from other Portuguese regions.
Nowadays, one can still see the Moorish influences and the legacy of five centuries of Arab rule. Just look for the narrow streets and chimneys with the most varied shapes and designs.
Also not to be missed are the flat baskets made of palm tree leafs, the ceramics, the typical hampers and the many churches and castles built in previous centuries. The local culture and many of its representing works are preserved in museums in the major coastal centres and in smaller inland towns.
Music and dance are the cultural expressions that best reflect the soul of a people.
In the Algarve the tourist flag is the “Corridinho” a cheerful version of folklore that, according to several testimonies, was born from the polka and from the mazurka. With the introduction of the accordion to these saloon dances on the end of the 19th century, players invented and reinvented the songs until the “corridinho” was born.
The tinkle of the triangle and the sound of the accordion give way to the dancers that come on scene with a bright eye under the black felt hat ready to show how the Algarve dances the “corridinho”.
Any other unique points
The cuisine in this region is noticeably influenced by the Moors, particularly with the regional desserts. Typical dishes you can find at every charming fishing village from Albufeira to Lagos include: shark soup, razor clams, Prawn Bisque and Rice with Octopus. Arabic touches on the "Doces" (desserts) are seen in the typical Fig Pastries, Honey Fritters and Almond Cakes.
The delimited region of 'Algarve' comes from 1980 and the production of red, white, rose and fortified wines.
The dry aperitif wine Afonso III and Algar seco is very appreciated and tastes almost like Sherry. It ages in wooden casks, its colour is yellow and its scent and taste are very unique.
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The 1755 earthquake that raized Lisbon to the ground also had an effect in the Algarve, destroying a great part of the Algarvian architectural heritage. Many of the old buildings that remain are churches. Within the walls of many of these churches, a fascinating patchwork of styles reflects the centuries of renovations, additions and remodelling of these monuments. Solidly built, fortress-like 12th century churches constructed are termed as Romanesque. The Gothic style predominant in the 13th and 14th centuries is characterised by buttresses and pointed arches.
The unique Manueline architectural style was developed by the Portuguese during the 15th and 16th centuries. This was the time when Portugal ruled the seas and was the richest nation on earth, which was reflected in this style. The basis was gothic, but was less formal and included may exotic oriental touches, including twisted ropes, knots, fish chains and anchors.
From the middle of the 16th century, Renaissance took over, and this can be seen through the excessively ornate Baroque interiors of churches.
After the Great Earthquake, the rebuilding was dominated by neo-classical architecture, known in Portugal as Pombaline, characterised by simplicity of form. However, the fine details of vernacular architecture was derived mainly from the Moors, which is often the most interesting in the region of the Algarve, this influence is predominant in the wonderful tiles, better known as "azulejos", which adorn everything from street signs to opulent church interiors.
An established market but still growing
Faro International airport Eastern Algarve
Train link form Lagos in the West to Faro and with links through the rest of Portugal and Europe
Communication is by road but there is single-track railway line running from Lagos to Vila Real do Santo António that also links to the line running north to Lisbon. There is at present no railway line from the Spanish boarder to Seville but are daily coaches run from the Algarve.
The old "EN 125" main road that runs along the whole coast and has been suitably replaced by a dual carriageway named the "Via do Infante" or A22. It starts at the border to Spain and stretches along the coast to the western side of Lagos. Near to Albufeira the motorway links with another motorway to Lisbon. There is one international airport located close to Faro and this conveniently lies in the middle of the Algarve coastline.