I often get asked by people if there is actually anything to see and do in the Algarve except for playing golf and going to the beach and I can assure you that there is a lot more to Algarve than that, so here are just a few other things about the Algarve, that has nothing to do with playing golf or tanning on the beach.
Algarve is history.
Algarve has a very rich and long history, dating thousands of years back. It was a prosperous trading spot when Portugal was under the moorish rule and there are still many remains from that period that lasted from the 7th till the 13th century. Especially the architecture is still moorish looking in many way.
When you are in the Algarve, you should pay a visit to the old moorish castle in Silves, which has been restored in recent years.
When Henry the Navigator decided to explore the coast of Africa in search of the passage to India, he chose the Algarve as his place to live and all the first explorers set out from the town Lagos (after Henry the Navigators death, Portugal started using Lisbon as the starting point for the great sea voyages). The biggest city in West Africa today is called Lagos and that is because the guy who founded the city was a man from Lagos called Gil Eanes. There are still many remains from that time period, especially in Lagos. The remains of Europe first slave market was in Lagos and it’s possible to visit the little building where this cruel trade was first started.
Algarve is rocky and rugged coastline.
Algarve might be famous for it’s beaches with red sand, but this is just part of the coastline you see there. Large parts of the Algarve is rocky and rugged and fantastic for things like hiking and mountain biking. I personally like this part of the Algarve better than the sandy beaches and I almost always take some long hikes when I am there. The eastern part of Algarve also has a large nature reserve called Ria Formosa, where you have a couple of smaller endemic animals as well as many different kinds of birds living there.
Algarve is food.
The portuguese kitchen is maybe not the most famous in the world, but Algarve has some really nice food, especially if you like fish and seafood. The seafood dish cataplana is the most famous one, but you have many different local dishes worth trying. Grilled sardines for instance is a big local delicacy.
For a good restaurant recommendation, you might wanna check out my blog post about my favorite restaurant: http://travellingclaus.com/casinha-petisco-favorite-restaurant-planet/
Algarve is wine.
Wine from the Algarve did for many years have a very bad reputation and it’s still suffering from being known as cheap discount wine. But during the past two decades, the wine from the Algarve has become a lot better and there are some very decent wines from the region now. Old british pop singer Cliff Richard actually owns one of the biggest wine estates in the Algarve and you might bump in to him if you go there for a tasting. The place is called Adega de Cantor and is located a few kilometers outside the popular holiday town Albufeira.
Algarve is storks.
Algarve is one of the places in the world where you will see the most storks, especially if you visit during spring where they are mating. You will see stork nests everywhere on rooftops, in telephone poles, on chimneys and everywhere else, you can build a nest. The population has grown a lot in recent years due to rising temperature in the Algarve, so that the storks do not cross as much in to Africa as they used to. The stork is protected in Portugal and killing a stork will put you in to prison, so it’s by no means an endangered bird.
Algarve is cork.
The last thing I will mention is the cork industry. The cork oak has to be one of the oddest trees in the world and there are quite a few of them in the Algarve and you still have a few factories producing cork for the world market, especially in eastern Algarve around the town of Sao Bras de Alportel. The cork is not just used to make wine stoppers, but also to make all sorts of things such as floors, ceilings, baseballs (they have cork inside them), fishing equipment, postcards, handbags and lot’s of other things. If you have the time for it, then I would really recommend you to visit the cork museum in Sao Bras de Alportel and go on one of their little cork tours where they show you the museum and todays commercial cork production. It’s a very fascinating little tour.