The rugged southern coast of the Algarve between Albufeira and Sagres in the extreme west has particularly influenced the international image of the Algarve as a holiday destination. Hidden rocky bays with small sandy beaches, grottos and bizarre rock formations shaped by erosion are broken up by larger bays with extended beaches and sand dunes. The best known places for holidays are the two tourist centres of Albufeira and Armação de Pêra, the former fishing villages of Carvoeiro and Ferragudo in the municipality of Lagoa, Praia da Rocha – the main beach of Portimão on the mouth of the river Arade, Alvor, Lagos, Porto do Môs and Praia da Luz. Holiday makers selecting this area are especially attracted by the sunbathing and swimming opportunities and the large number of water sports facilities on offer during the summertime.
The rocky western coast between Albufeira and Lagos
The western Algarve is also known as “Rocky Algarve” due to the impressive limestone rocks dominating the coastline. Small romantic bays, hidden creeks and caves formed by the waves of the Atlantic Ocean, accessible only by boat, are surrounded by rugged rock formations. This dramatic scenario is interrupted by several large bays with sandy beaches protected by dunes, stretching for miles, salty marshlands and lagoons, where a variety of bird species live in a protected habitat.
Albufeira, Armação de Pêra, Carvoeiro, Portimão/Praia da Rocha and Lagos
Lagos is undisputedly the most beautiful city of this area, looking back over a glorious past as the starting point for many expeditions during the Age of Discoveries. Like most of the well known destinations the city is located directly on the coast. The most frequented centres of mass tourism are Albufeira, Armação de Pêra and Praia da Rocha near Portimão. Smaller popular places nicely situated on the rocky coastal strip are Alvor, Ferragudo and Carvoeiro. Portimão on the estuary mouth of the river Arade and Lagoa, situated in the interior a few miles away from the coast are of special importance to the regional economy.
Sports & leisure
Beaches & water sports, great golf courses and many more
Visitors selecting the western Algarve as their holiday destination, looking for more than just a beach vacation, will primarily enjoy the numerous water sport opportunities offered along the larger beaches and in the marinas of Albufeira, Lagos and Portimão. Excursions by boat to discover the hidden grottos and caves along the coast, to watch dolphins or for big game fishing are especially popular.
The first 9 hole golf course in the Algarve existed already as early as 1935 in the Portimão area, when tourists had to take the maritime route to come to the Algarve. It was John Stillwell who realised the potential of the Algarve as a promising golf destination in the early 1960s. He engaged the famous Sir Henry Cotton to design the first courses, Penina and Alto Golf. Today golfers have the choice of 38 excellent courses of various proficiency levels located between Albufeira and Lagos.
In the hinterland of the Western Algarve: Silves and Serra de Monchique
The city of Silves is located on the river Arade in the interior of the western Algarve. For almost 5 centuries of Moorish government it was named Xelb and used to be the capital of the Algarve and one of the cultural centres of the Iberian Peninsula. The huge Moorish castle overlooking the town is the best preserved testimony to the architecture of the Islamic Golden Age in the Algarve and a landmark of national importance.
In the background stretches the Serra de Monchique, a mountainous highland forming the northern border of the Algarve with the neighbouring Alentejo. With an altitude of 902m Foia, located near the village of Monchique, is the highest elevation in southern Portugal. The healing effects of the warm springs in Caldas de Monchique were known even in Roman times. The lonely landscape of the Serra is an excellent terrain for hiking, trekking, mountain biking and other outdoor activities.