The Algarve — from the Arabic “Al-Gharb,” meaning “The West” — is the southernmost region of Portugal, with a coastline that stretches for around 100 miles from the Spanish border to Cape St. Vincent. The year-round climate and beaches of golden sand attract Northern Europeans but are ...
The Algarve — from the Arabic “Al-Gharb,” meaning “The West” — is the southernmost region of Portugal, with a coastline that stretches for around 100 miles from the Spanish border to Cape St. Vincent. The year-round climate and beaches of golden sand attract Northern Europeans but are unlikely to be of particular interest to Americans. The coastal golf courses, however, are excellent. Inland, the Algarve is hilly, with picturesque white villages surrounded by forests of cork trees. The region is famous for its distinctive cuisine, which is centered on seafood, especially sardines. The drive north from the Algarve through the Alentejo to Lisbon is scenically dramatic and culturally fascinating.
The Lovely Port Town of Olhão
The pleasant port of Olhão is a delightful place for lunch, since restaurants serving just-off-the-boat fish line its main street. My favorite here is O Bote (Avenida 5 de Outubro 122. Tel. (351) 289-721-183), for a grilled seafood feast at prices so reasonable that the occasionally slow service can be forgiven. Another simple but memorable seafood restaurant is Raposo (Praia da Mareta, Sagres), overlooking the Praia (Beach) da Mareta in Sagres. There you can order dishes such as sautéed squid, grilled sardines, or grilled lobster. Tel. (351) 282-624-168.
Silves Makes for an Excellent Day Trip
A favorite day trip is the picturesque hill town of Silves, former capital of the Algarve. It is one of those quiet, dreamy places where time seems to have stood still, and on one sunny morning, we had the little town almost to ourselves as we inspected its still-formidable red ramparts and the spectacular castle that finally fell to the Portuguese in 1249.
Peaceful Paradise in Cacela Velha
Cacela Velha, a tiny seaside village with a ruined 18th-century fort perched on a cliff overlooking an azure lagoon, faces a barrier island of white sand. We packed towels, a beach blanket, an umbrella and plenty of water and found a boatman to row us across the lagoon. On the island, the only thing that broke the Robinson Crusoe fantasy was a bamboo-and-driftwood café that served us a lunch of grilled lobster and chilled white wine.