Nestled 16km north of Faro is the lively town of Loulé. Steeped in history, some say the settlement goes right back to 400BC. Most of the landmarks you may want to explore are in a fairly compact area, making it a great destination with everything close to hand. Pop into the Jardim dos Amuados for a peaceful wander or soak up the history of the small but fascinating Loulé castle.
If you’re not planning on driving, then trips to Loulé’s renowned Saturday gypsy market are easy to pick up on most Algarve package holidays. Just remember to haggle before you part with your Euros!
Open every day except Sunday is the fabulous daily market located in the impressive Arabian-style market hall on Praça da República. In Loulé, all the landmarks you’ll want to spot are in a fairly compact area, making it a great destination with everything close to hand. Pop in the Jardim dos Amuados for a peaceful wander or soak up the history of the small but fascinating Loulé castle: be sure to enjoy the views from the top! Here you will be able to find a riot of fresh local food and goods and experience a taste of traditional Portuguese life among the sellers.
An annual carnival is hosted here, with three days of Brazilian-style celebrations which normally ends on Shrove Tuesday; this event is sure to get your toes tapping. If you like a party, then this could be well worth a visit. The young and the young-at-heart travel from all over to visit, watch, and dance the night away.
The Wild West Coast
Algarve’s west coast offers a taste of Portugal off the well-trodden tourist trails. Covered with nature reserves and stunning scenery, it is the least developed part of the Algarve. Here you’ll find clear waters, rocky coastlines and peaceful trails located at the most south-westerly point in Europe.
Cape St Vincent, Cabo de São Vicente, is nicknamed the ‘End of the World’. Set on the cliffs at the very tip of the Algarve, it boasts a heroic red lighthouse (the most powerful in Europe with a 95km range), a former convent and an impressive museum that opened in 2010.
The wind is relentless and the sea is always busy with ships. A deeply historic place, you almost expect to see a Portuguese galleon around the cliffs, setting sail for the New World.
Head to Sagres to experience some of the most popular beaches the Algarve’s west coast has to offer. Small but cheerful, Sagres has benefited in recent times from surfing tourists, looking for the next big wave and surf schools here are open most of the year.
Martinhal Beach (Praia do Martinhal) is enchanting with its soft white sand and deep green-blue waters. You are most likely to find it quieter and cooler than the usual Algarve hotspots due to the Atlantic winds found here. There are only a few street cafés and restaurants in this small fishing port, but you won’t be disappointed with some of the finest seafood the Algarve has to offer.
Only 24km north of Portimão, the journey is beautiful and relaxing, through woodlands and eucalyptus forest with opportunities to stop off at the traditional Portuguese craft and pottery shops along the way and its Aladdin’s caves of pottery, woodcrafts and lace are normally worth a moment to explore. Here, nestled in the mountains is a Portugal of old and a trip to Monchique will add a dash of true Portuguese charm to any Algarve holiday.
Take a short detour to visit the enchanting Caldas de Monchique, with its renowned spa waters. Said to have healing properties, you may be able to fill your bottle for free at its source. If you really want a spa experience, Hotel Villa Termal offers a touch of Algarve luxury accommodation and spa treatments. Situated on the site of Roman hot spa waters, offers an array of healing treatments in its bicarbonate, sodium waters which are rich in fluorine.
Travel on up to Foia on a clear day to take in the heady views from the highest point in the Algarve, standing at 902m. The view from this spot can be truly awe-inspiring; then why not try heading back to Monchique for a hearty dish of chicken peri peri and a shot of Monchique’s local spirit, ‘Medronho’?