The Algarve refers to the southern, coastal region of Portugal. It's a wonderful area with a dramatic coastline, gorgeous, charming towns, and wide beaches. From west to east, these are the seven spots I visited: Sagres, Alvor (Portimão), Silves, Albufeira, Faro, Tavira, and Monte Gordo.
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Sagres, on the far western corner of the Algarve, has the most dramatic coastline, with towering cliffs, small islands, and large, crashing waves. The town has a large, 16th century fortress, the Fortaleza de Sagres, set on a cliff overlooking the sea.
Alvor is touristy and not that exciting. It's not bad; it is lovely, as is any place on the wondrous Algarve coast, and it does have an old town. But its castle is almost non-existent (the ruins have been turned into a playground), and it doesn't compare in terms of natural or man-made beauty to some of the other spots.
What a great place! Silves has a humongous, mauve castle on a hill above the town and old city walls strewn throughout the town.
Albufeira has a nice combination of everything: history, architecture, and beaches. The skyline is dominated by an unusual clocktower. The Misericórdia Chapel, built upon the remains of Moorish mosque, still contains Moorish elements.
Faro is one of the bigger cities on the Algarve Coast and is a nice place to spend time. In addition to having a breathtaking old town, it is full of good restaurants.
Another excellent town, Tavira has castle remains planted with a fragrant, peaceful garden, and narrow, old streets with lovely, typical Portuguese buildings.
Monte Gordo is all about the beaches — very wide and sandy, with large hotels to lodge the beachgoers. The town seems quite modern, without the charm found elsewhere in the Algarve.