Dramatic sheer cliffs, glorious beaches and charming coastal towns make the Algarve a real gem of Portugal. The deep-blue Atlantic embraces its rugged shores to the west and the south, where the sun’s generous rays create a spectacular display of light throughout the day. A natural haven can be found in the stunning lagoons of the Ria Formosa natural park, which teems with an astonishing variety of birds and marine life.
Some 3,000 years ago, the Phoenicians settled, followed by the Carthaginians, the Romans, the Visigoths and the Moors, whose 500-year rule has left a legacy still evident today. The name ‘Algarve’ comes from the Arabic ‘gharb al-Andalus’, meaning west of Andalucía. The flat-roofed house so typical of the region is another Arabic gift, designed to escape the heat. In the 13th century, the Portuguese regained control and two hundred years later, the Algarve reached its heyday. Sagres, at the southwestern tip, was chosen by Prince Henry the Navigator as the base for his navigation school and Portugal’s seafaring achievements turned the country into a leading imperial power.
Our tour visits the picture-postcard coastal towns of Lagos and Tavira, but it’s not just the coast that’s worth exploring – a short drive inland will take you to sleepy mountain villages that ooze charm and authenticity, where fascinating local traditions haven’t only survived, but thrived.
The diverse and beautiful landscapes of the Algarve make it a walker’s paradise, so with our expert guides we enjoy wonderful walks along one of the most beautiful stretches of the Algarve coastline, around the lush mountain town of Monchique, and along the River Guadiana at the Spanish border through less-visited villages. We also enjoy a relaxing cruise through Ria Formosa to discover its incredible ecosystem and catch glimpses of its many fascinating inhabitants, from native egrets to migratory flamingos. And while we’re here, we’d be remiss to not include a visit to Spain and the Andalusian capital, Seville – the very epitome of Al-Andalus and a fitting finale to an unforgettable holiday.