Golden beaches, seafood and plenty of sunshine – the Algarve has it all, and more! With its breathtaking vistas and lively culture, the southern-most region of Portugal will steal your heart, as it has done for countless people before. Find out what makes the Algarve tick and experience its unique flair – just like the locals themselves, with Marco Polo’s insider tips:
Life’s a beach
Beaches might be a part of the Algarvios’ lives from a young age, but that doesn’t mean they let tourists hog all the best swimming and sunbathing spots for themselves! The Algarve’s many beaches come in all shapes in sizes, ranging from the cliff lined shores at the Ponta da Piedade to the long expanses of sand near Monte Gordo and on the Ilha de Tavira. The region is a beach fan’s dream come true!
Fresh fish from the grill
If you see columns of smoke in the air, it’s nearly time to eat! These telltale signs come from simple restaurants and open air grills that serve swordfish, salmon, sardines and a great deal more. It’s a guaranteed taste sensation!
Fun in the sun
Golf, standup paddle boarding, sea kayak tours… you’ll find all this and more in the Algarve!
The Via Algarviana and the Rota Vicentina are popular long distance hiking trails, the Costa Vicentina boasts some excellent surfing beaches, and the best cycling can be found along the 214km (133 miles) long Ecovia that connects the Cabo de São Vicente in the west with the Rio Guadiana border river in the east.
No matter whether they’re large or small, indoors or out, on the coast or inland… locals love their markets! They go there to stock up on fresh seafood, fruit, vegetables, honey, garlic, spices, sausages and cheese. The best markets in the region are held in Olhão and Loulé . There’s a bit of a carnival atmosphere there, particularly on Saturday mornings. Dive right in and enjoy the hustle and bustle!
Straight from the source
Farmers and beekeepers go to markets to sell their wares – but locals also sell goods right outside their front doors! You’ll often notice small crates or nets along the street filled with freshly plucked produce from the fields and private gardens. Depending on the season, you might stumble across oranges, lemons, mandarins, melons and much more besides. Selling direct like this cuts out the middleman, and because there are no receipts, the taxman doesn’t get a share either…
Taking a break
Taking a break is an essential part of life in the south, and no break would be complete without a spot of coffee! You could choose a tiny espresso (café), which locals drink with plenty of sugar, or perhaps a large latte (galão) that’s served in a glass – beware: holding this clear container without burning yourself demands a great deal of skill!
The Algarvios might seem rather reserved, but they certainly know how to let their hair down during festivals. They celebrate Carnival for days on end in Loulé, the village of Alte and elsewhere. Patron saint and summer festivals are also pretty lively. Get stuck in and party like a local!
Bottles of liquid sun
The region’s wines, grown around Alvor, are a vital part of the Algarve experience.
The reds are full-bodied, the whites are smooth and fruity, and they all taste like they’ve been soaked in the southern sun!
Buy the Algarve Marco Polo Spiral Guide.