“Todo es possible, se lo queremos”
Algarve is located in the South of Portugal, bordered on the North by the Alentejo Region, on the East by the Spanish region of Andalusia, and on the Southern and Western areas by the Atlantic Ocean. Algarve is spread over 5,000 km 2 and is home to about 440,000 inhabitants, which accounts for 4.3% of the Portuguese Population.
Algarve is World-Wide recognised as a Holiday Destination, and Tourism is very important for its Economy together with Retail , Wholesale, and Construction. However, I have to say that there is much more to do in Portugal‘s Beautiful South than Only Beach and Sun Vacations! Of course, how to ignore the fact that Algarve is breathtaking for its Golden Sandy Coastlines along the Sea! They are even more beautiful in person, the pictures don’t do them justice! Algarve attracts Millions of Visitors every year not only for its White Sand , Warm Waters and its exciting movida, but also for its Culture, Nature, Friendly people, and some of the World’s Finest Wines! And where there’s Top Wine, here I am! What about Food? I ‘m crazy for Algarve Gastronomy, because combines the Best the Sea has to offer with the Rural Flavors of the Mountain. Besides, Algarve offers many leisure options when it comes to Birdwatching, Golf, Hiking, Cycling or Watersports. Moreover, Algarve is a Land full of History.
Algarve History and National Tradition
The Algarve has more than 3000 years of History. During different periods, the South Coast of Portugal was occupied by people from the Mediterranean, such as the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans and Moors, but those from North Africa leave the strongest influence. Centuries of Arab occupation are still visible in the local architecture and place names. Indeed the name “Algarve” comes from the Arabic for “Al-Gharb”, that is “The West”. Algarve is a Christian Kingdom dominion in 1249, after which its Many Ports play a key role during the “Age of Discovery” (15th – 18th century) under Henry the Navigator . Using caravels based on local fishing boats, Prince Henry opens routes that led to Africa and Asia. Bringing in Great Wealth from trading Spices, Slaves and Gold, Portugal acquires Possessions around the Globe, from Cape Verde to Macao, and from Mozambique to Brazil. In 1755 a Massive Earthquake destroys Many of the Wealthy Towns financed by these voyages, and the massive Tsunami afterwards leaves fishing boats stranded two miles inland.
All the year long Algarve boasts Various Cultural Events, many of which are known far beyond the country. All this invites travellers to come not only for a memorable pastime, but also for getting acquainted with the National Culture. I’d like to list some of the most interestimg ones:
- “Corridinho”: it’s the Traditional Dance of the Algarve ,which is full of energy and danced in pairs. It’s part of the Traditional Culture of Farmers and Fishers . Nowadays, there are still folk groups in many villages. Also, Corridinho belongs to the regular entertainment offered by hotels and festivals in the region;
- FolkFaro: the City’s Big Folk Festival features lots of dance (with local and international folk groups), live music and street fests over eight days at various venues around town;
- Fado: Fado music is a form of Portuguese singing that is often associated with pubs , cafés and restaurants. This music genre has much earlier origins but is generally placed as being originated in the 1820’s in Portugal. Fado is generally known for how expressive in nature it is, as well as being profoundly melancholic;
- Carnival of Loulé: the Algarve’s best-known Carnival attracts thousands of people every year to the city of Loulé. The streets of Loulé are filled with the most spectacular face-masks warming up the cold winter days;
- Motard Concentration of Faro: it happens every year in the middle of July and draws many thousands of bike enthusiasts from all around the globe! The main activity is a parade that passes through the main streets of Faro, exhibiting all types of bikes, tattoos, and people;
- Lagoa, the Sand City: a Sand SculptureFestival takes place in Lagoa, where artists from all around the world construct and expose their enormous and wonderful sculptures;
- Holy/Easter Week: the Holy or Easter Week is one of the Most Important Celebrations of the Year. A part from the popular parties of some villages and cities, there are some special and Intense Religious Festivities. Some of the most famous are: “la Fiesta de la Madre Soberana”, doubtlessly, one of the biggest celebrations in the South of Portugal and also, the festivity of the “Antorchas Floridas”, this one with just men who walk through streets completely covered with flowers also carrying altar candles full of flowers.
What’s the Best thing in Algarve? People !They are open-minded and friendly for foreigners, including the large immigrant community (especially from Ukraine, Romania and Brazil) and tourists. Portuguese people love to talk, share knowledge and stories with people from different countries. A way of learning about the daily life and habits of the native people is to visit a fishing harbour, a market , or sitting on a terrace in the pedestrian areas of a town and observe local people in their environment.
Faro is the capital of Southern Portugal’s Algarve region (although the population isn’t huge: around 65,000 people), located next to the Ria Formosa Lagoon Nature Reserve. Faro is the gateway to the Algarve region of Portugal , and it’s a place where visitors pass through Faro Airport on their way to the various seaside resorts of the Atlantic Coast. But Faro justifies a closer look, at least a day of your holiday or a weekend break!
Faro is a destination blessed with Rich Cultural Wealth . Faro’s History is compelling. Originally thanks to its strategic location Faro, once known as “Ossonoba”, attracts settlers and traders as the Phoenicians and the Carthaginians , who helps to create trade routes across the area. After Romans, and 500 years of Moorish Rule (XI century), Christians take over Faro, and under the new Christian Rulership, Faro is established as the capital of the Algarve region by King Afonso III of Portugal. Faro becomes a centre of Culture and Learning as a result. In fact, some of the earliest printed books in Portugal are created in the city by a Jewish printer in the 15thcentury. In 1596 Earl of Essex and his men plunder and burns to the ground Faro and its library ; these books and other texts are now part of the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford. Faro suffers more disaster in 1722 when it is ravaged by an earthquake, and again in 1755. Parts of the historic area of Faro, particularly the City Centre, survives the disaster. This, of course, means that much of the area that surrounds it is built after 1755. In 1834, the city recovers completely and once again becomes the capital of the Algarve.
I Fall in Love with Faro, Portugal and Here’s Why You Will Too
I arrive in Faro by bus from Seville , where it’s too hot for spending all my summer vacation in July! At first sight, Faro does not have the Wow Factor unlike the other popular European cities, but it has its ways to charm and captivate your heart! Staying in the heart of Faro’s Historic District allows me to take in the authentic Portuguese Atmosphere while discovering one of the most tradional towns that the region has to offer. From the cobbled streets and Moorish architecture in the Old Town to the Scenic Marina and Pedestrian Shopping Area in the City Center, it was nice to see that the Algarve’s capital has preserved much of its Portuguese Heritage.
A sudden rainy day breaks the spell of my First Visit Faro , and I’m petrified! What to do? I’ve got a black cofee and a fast lunch break at my hotel and despite the bad weather, I’m able to go on with my trip . Here my Top Tips for 1/2 days in Faro:
- “Praia de Faro” (“Faro Beach”): I don’t want to waste anything! My audacious faith makes a miracle. Clouds disappear and I’m in this Paradise admiring only the Beauty of Nature. The “Praia de Faro” is the Best Beach in the Faro region and it’s easily accessible from the city, via the regular bus service, that also serves the Faro Airport . Faro Airport is very close to the center of the city which is pretty convenient and there is a bus that runs every 30 minutes to an hour. It drops you off at the main bus station for less than €2 and takes 15-20 minutes . The Soft Sands of the “Praia de Faro” extend for 5km, along the entire sea facing side of the “Ilha de Faro” (Faro Island), while the rear of the island overlooks the lagoons and tidal mud flats of the above mentioned Ria Formosa Lagoon. It is hard to believe that this laid-back resort town is less than 5 minutes from Faro Airport, and that it’s virtually unknown by foreign tourists!
- “Cidade Velha”: the Old Town is situated in the East of the City Center near the Marina, and it’ s one of the most popular things to do. It’s encircled by Medieval Walls built over Roman Foundations and contains a Gothic Cathedral, the Bishop’s Palace and pretty cobbled backstreets. Other important attraction are the “Arco da Vila”, a 19th-century gateway, which is Moorish in origin and the Cathedral. Due its position in “Largo Sè”, Faro’s Cathedral is called “Sé Cathedral” . It is built over remenants of a Roman temple, Visigoth church and then a Moorish mosque and is completed in 1251. Except for the tower gate and two chapels, the original cathedral is damaged in the English raid of 1596, destroyed in the earthquake of 1755 and subsequently rebuilt in a hotchpotch of styles, which include Baroque, Gothic and Renaissance. The interior of ““Sé Cathedral” contains some beautiful azulejos tilework, marble inlay and gilded wood carvings;
- City Center and Shopping Area: outside the Old City Walls there is The City Center, which is walkable and many parts have been pedestrianised, although many of the narrow streets have equally narrow pavements. Along these streets you’ll find plenty of cafés, restaurants, and bars for hanging on ;
- Dinner at “Taberna Modesto”: this is a very nice restaurant! Its position is gorgeous, because it’s in the heart of Old Town, where the Faro Castle is . It’s very simple, but the atmosphere is relaxing and above all fish is amazing : a Grilled Sea Bass with olive oil, baked potato paired with a great local White Wine . If you want to taste Genuine Food and want to be Welcomed with a Smile , don’t choose any other place for your dinner in Faro! ;
- Dancing Night at “O Castelo”: it’s the best spot in Faro to spend a splendid afternoon/night life in front of Ria Formosa and where to have fantastic drinks;
- Breakfast at “Nautic Bar” : my “Pastel de Nada” , a Portuguese egg tart pastry dusted with cinnamon, at this lovely Lounge Bar at Faro Harbour is the best farawell to Faro. Being there If you’ve got one thing running through your veins, it’s Sea Power!
Faro is not free of tourists, but it’s definitely kept it’s character! What impresses me about Faro is its White Washed Houses, with geometrically decorated chimneys, and graffiti walls, a perfect background for a dramatic photo shoot!
Lastly, the Sunset View in Faro is Unforgettable. Need I say more? Only that after a half day relaxing on the rolling sand dunes, looking out on the Endless Sea and soaking up the Warm Sun, I could stay in Faro forever!
Até Breve Faro!