The Algarve is the most southern region of Portugal. The name comes from the Arabic expression al Gharb
, the West. It is bordered to the north by the Portuguese region of Alentejo, to the east by the river Guadiana, which separates it from Spain, and the west and south it is bordered by the Atlantic.
The Algarve is internationally recognized as a holiday destination, is the main tourist area of the country, and has developed a competitive strategy that is based on valuation of the natural, human, cultural and economic resources. Tourism and services are the structuring activities of Algarve's economy. The region annually receives about 10 million visitors.
And the region's productivity is higher than the national average.
The climate is Mediterranean, with mild temperatures throughout the year, and a dry period longer than the rest of the territory. The rainfall is relatively scarce.
It is divided into 16 counties: Lagos, Vila do Bispo, Monchique, Lagos, Portimão, Silves, Lagoa, Albufeira, Loulé, Faro, São Brás, Olhão, Tavira, Alcoutim, Castro Marim and Vila Real de Santo António. And its capital is Faro.
The architectural and cultural heritage of Algarve demonstrates an enormous wealth of influences of different peoples and cultures. There are archaeological marcs of the Phoenicians and Islamics, religious architecture with brands periods Gothic and Manueline, Renaissance and Baroque.
The urban centers in general are coastal cities with many tourists during the summer season, crowded beaches and vibrant nightlife, such as Albufeira and Portimão, and the small villages of high natural beauty, offering tranquility to visitors, such as Alte, a village on the interior, between mountains and water sources, and Fuseta, a coastal fishing village, surrounded by deserted beaches.
The region is composed by three areas: mountains, barrocal and coastline. And it shows a gradual decline of reliefs from the mountains to the sea.
The mountains separates the Alentejo and Algarve barrocal, and is marked by a mild but humid climate. It has rounded elevations as the Monchique mountains with a maxim altitude of 902m, and Caldeirão mountains with a maxim altitude of 589m, and includes waterways and a rich vegetation composed mainly of oaks, chestnuts, arbutus, and the farms with almond, carob and olive trees. It has small and quiet villages.
The barrocal makes the transition between the mountains and coastline and is rich in fields of almond, carob, fig and orange trees, willow, ash, thyme, rosemary and cistus. It is the area that provides most of the region's agricultural products. The crafts include baskets of palm, leather belts and bags, objects in copper, brass or iron clay, and objects linen or cotton.
The coastline is a narrow strip along the coast, divided between Vincentina coast and south coast. The Vincentina coast has great natural wealth, large cliffs alternating with almost deserted beaches and small villages dedicated mainly to agriculture and fishing. In general the south coast includes cliffs much smaller than the Vincentian coastline, excellent agricultural land, forests of pine, rosemary and thyme, large urban centers and extensive beaches, very crowded during the summer season. It’s on the southern coast the majority of the economic activity of the region, promoted, also by fishing, but mainly by tourism and related sectors. Attracts every year thousands of tourists for its beaches, sun, restaurants with local delicacies based on fish and seafood, and the intense nightlife.
However, the south coast can be divided into two parts, the windward and leeward. The Windward has the tourism sector much more developed, and includes larger cities, higher population density and greater number gives the number of tourists per bathing season. The leeward have smaller cities, and is more focused on traditional sectors such as agriculture, fishing and shellfishing, but also receives a significant number of tourists per year, in search of less crowded beaches, and excelent restaurants.
Among the hills, the barrocal and the coast line, the Algarve has five protected areas:
Alentejo southwest and vicentina coast
– It’s a natural park since 1988, and is divided by the regions of Alentejo and Algarve. In the Algarve has partially the municipalities of Aljezur and Vila do Bispo.
Rocha da Pena
- It became a protected landscape in 2010, is located in the parishes of Salir and Benafim, and has a maximum altitude of 479m.
- It is a natural area in the barrocal area of the Algarve in the municipality of Loulé.
Marshland of Castro Marim and Vila Real de St. António
- It's a natural reserve since 1975, and it’s an alluvial plain on the right bank of the Guadiana river.
- Natural Park since 1987, extends along 60 km of the Algarve coastline, between Ancão (Loulé) and Manta Rota (municipality of Vila Real de Santo António). Link