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—  Region  —
Map showing Algarve Region in Portugal
Country  Portugal
Capital city Faro
 - Total 5,412 km2 (2,089.6 sq mi)
 - Total 426.386
Time zone WET (UTC+0)
 - Summer (DST) WEST (UTC+1)
NUTS code PT15
GDP per capita (PPS) € 19,200 (2006)[1]

The Algarve (Portuguese pronunciation: [aɫˈɡaɾv(ɨ)]) from the Arabic word (الغرب) meaning "the west" is the southernmost region of mainland Portugal. It has an area of 5,412 square kilometres with approximately 410,000 permanent inhabitants, and incorporates 16 municipalities. The region coincides with the Faro District, and has as its administrative centre the city of Faro, where both the region's international airport (Faro/Algarve Airport) [FAO] and public university (the University of the Algarve) are located. Tourism and related activities are extensive and make up the bulk of the Algarve's summer economy. Fish, seafood and fruit production, which includes oranges, carob beans, figs and almonds, are other important activities in the region. The Algarve is among the most popular tourist destinations in Portugal, its population more than doubles in the peak holiday season thanks to a high influx of visitors.



Coat of Arms of kingdom of the Algarve

The Conii, influenced by Tartessos, were established by the sixth century BC in the region of the Algarve. They would be strongly influenced by the Celtici. The Phoenicians had established trading ports along the coast circa 1000 BC. The Carthaginians founded Portus Hanibalis — known today as Portimão — in circa 550 BC. The Romans in the 2nd century BC spread through the Iberian Peninsula, and many Roman ruins can still be seen in the region, notably in Lagos. Roman bath complexes and fish salting tanks have been found near the shore in several locations, for example the ones near Vilamoura and Praia da Luz.

In the 5th century the Visigoths took control of the Algarve until the beginning of the Moorish invasion in 711. When the Moors conquered Lagos in 716 it was called Zawaia. Faro, which the Christian residents had called Santa Maria, was renamed Faraon, which means "the settlement of the Knights." For several years, the town of Silves was the capital of the region under Moorish rule.

Due to the Moorish occupation of Iberia, the region was called "Al-Gharb Al-Andalus". Al-Gharb (الغرب) means "the west"; Al-Andalus is the Arabic name of Muslim Iberia.

A 16th century map of the Kingdom of Portugal, clearly showing the separated status of the Algarve at the time.

In the mid-12th century, the Moorish occupation ended in the region due to successful military campaigns of the Kingdom of Portugal. Under Christian domination, the "Al-Gharb" was known since then as the Kingdom of Algarve. It was not until the 13th century that the Portuguese finally secured the region against subsequent Moorish attempts to recapture the area - see Reconquista. King Afonso III of Portugal started calling himself King of Portugal and Algarve. Later on, after 1471, with the conquest of territories in Northern Africa (considered as the Algarve of abroad in Africa) the title became with Afonso V of Portugal, King of Portugal and the Algarves here (in Europe) and abroad in Africa, and it stayed so till the proclamation of the Portuguese Republic in 1910. The Algarve was a semi-autonomous area of Portugal with a governor from 1595 to 1808, as well as a separate taxation system until the end of the 18th century. From 1249 to 1910, to reflect the Algarve's unique status, Portuguese monarchs were known (amongst other titles) as "King/Queen of Portugal and The Algarves." Prior to the independence of Brazil, the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves (1815–1822) was an official designation for Portugal which also alluded to the Algarve.

In the 15th century, Henry the Navigator based himself near Lagos and conducted various maritime expeditions which established Portugal as a colonial power. It was also from Lagos that Gil Eanes set sail in 1434 to become the first seafarer to round Cape Bojador in West Africa. The voyages of discovery brought Lagos fame and fortune. Trade flourished and Lagos became the capital of the historical province of Algarve in 1577 and remained so until 1756, the year following the destruction of much of the town by the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. The earthquake damaged several areas in the Algarve, where a tsunami dismantled some coastal fortresses and, in the lower levels, razed houses. Almost all the coastal towns and villages of the Algarve were heavily damaged, except Faro, which was protected by the sandy banks of Ria Formosa lagoon. In Lagos, the waves reached the top of the city walls. For many Portuguese coastal regions, including the Algarve, the destructive effects of the tsunami were more disastrous than those of the earthquake proper.

In 1807 when Junot was leading the first Napoleonic invasion in the north of Portugal, the Algarve was occupied by the Spanish troops of Manuel Godoy. The Algarve became the first part of occupied Portugal to liberate itself from the Spanish invaders, in the rebellion of Olhão in 1808. In 1910, with the Portuguese First Republic, the Kingdom of Portugal and the Algarve ceased to exist as such. A historical province, the Algarve has been Continental Portugal's southernmost region.


Burgau, Algarve - a view of the Nature Park of Southwest Alentejo and Cape St. Vicente Coast.

The Algarve is hilly, but traversed with rich valleys. Its highest point is Fóia, 902 metres (2,959 ft), in the mountain range of Monchique. It is composed of 5,412 square kilometres with approximately 410,000 permanent inhabitants (density of 76 inhabitants per square kilometre). This figure increases to over a million people at the height of summer due to an influx of tourists. The Algarve has several cities, towns and villages. It also includes some islands and islets. The region is also the home of the Ria Formosa lagoon, a nature reserve of over 170 square kilometres and a stopping place for hundreds of different birds.

The region's capital is the city of Faro. Other cities are Albufeira, Lagoa, Lagos, Loulé, Olhão, Portimão, Quarteira, Silves, Tavira, and Vila Real de Santo António.

The length of the south-facing coastline is approximately 155 kilometres. Beyond the westernmost point of Cape St. Vincent it stretches a further 50 kilometres to the north. The coastline is notable for picturesque limestone caves and grottoes, particularly around Lagos, which are accessible by powerboat. There are many other beautiful and famous summer places such as Albufeira, Vilamoura, Praia da Rocha, Lagos, Armação de Pêra, Alvor, Monte Gordo, Tavira, and Sagres.


Faro is the chief city in the region of Algarve.
Dona Ana Beach in Lagos, Portugal.

Maps: Interactive map of the Algarve The region is divided into 16 municipalities:

Note: the Algarve region and the Faro District are coexistent (comprise exactly the same territory).

Algarve Orange Tree, 'faux door' in Silves, which was famous throughout the Moorish Kingdoms for its oranges. Tiles by Kate Swift


Agricultural products of the region include fig, almond, orange (laranja do Algarve), carob bean, strawberry tree and cork oak. Horticulture is important and the region's landscape was known for the large areas of land covered with plastic greenhouses which are used for that end. Fishing and aquaculture are important activities in the coastal area of Algarve, with sardines, soles, cyprinids, gilt-head bream and various seafood, including the grooved carpet shell, being the major productions. Algarve's wines are also renowned. There are four wines in the region which have Protected Designation of Origin (Denominação de Origem Controlada - DOC): Lagoa DOC, Lagos DOC, Portimão DOC and Tavira DOC. Food processing, cement and construction, are the main industries. Tourism related activities are extensive and make the bulk of Algarve's economy during summer time. The Algarve's economy has always been closely linked to the sea, and fishing has been an important activity since ancient times. Only since the 1960s, has the region embraced tourism, which has become its most important economic activity.

Tourism and immigration in the Algarve

Praia da Marinha (English: Beach of the Navy) near Lagoa city, Algarve.

In the 1960s the Algarve became a very popular destination for tourists, mainly from Britain. It has since become a common destination for Germans, Dutch and Irish people. Many of these tourists own their own property in the region. There are Algarve-based English-written publications and newspapers specifically addressed to this community. In addition to the natural beauties and plenty of beaches, the Algarve has invested in the creation of a network of golf courses. Well-known beaches in the Algarve range from Praia da Marinha to Armação de Pêra. A well known spa town is Caldas de Monchique.

Algarve is also famous for its luxury resort & hotel spas by the beach.

The Algarve is a popular destination for tourism, primarily because of its beaches, Mediterranean climate, safety and relatively low costs.

Algarve's mild climate has attracted interest from Northern Europeans wishing to have a holiday home or residence in the region. Being a region of Portugal, and therefore in the European Union, any EU citizen has the right to freely buy property and reside with little formality in the Algarve.[2] British expatriates, followed by German, Dutch and Scandinavians, are among the largest groups wishing to own a home in this sunny region of Portugal.

Tourism plays an important role in the economy of the Algarve. A large number of seasonal job opportunities are tourism-related and are fulfilled by thousands of immigrant workers from countries like Brazil, Ukraine and Cape Verde, among others.

In March 2007, the Minister of Economy, Manuel Pinho, announced the creation of the "Allgarve" brand, as a part of a strategical promotion of the Algarve as a tourism destination for foreign citizens.[3]


Accommodation in the Algarve ranges from high rise resorts in places like Albufeira to traditional guesthouses, located in the small towns and villages surrounding the Algarve coast. Over the past 50 years the Algarve has seen an increase in development, particularly from non-Portuguese developers. Over the past few years many tourists visiting the Algarve have moved away from the resorts, and have chosen the comfort of a traditional Algarve guesthouse, many of these run by ex-pats from England, Holland, and Germany who have escaped to the Algarve for a higher quality of life.

Education in the Algarve

The University of the Algarve, headquartered in Faro with an extension in Portimão, is a public university which awards all academic degrees in fields ranging from marine biology to economics to environmental engineering. There are also several higher education private institutions, state-run and private secondary education schools, including a number of international schools, and a wide network of kindergartens and primary schools.

The 30,000-seater Algarve Stadium (Estádio Algarve).
Traditional hand painted pottery
Traditional pottery


The Algarve has many sports clubs, including football teams which play in the first (Olhanense),second and third layers of the main national football championships' pyramid. Examples include the football teams of Portimonense, Olhanense, and Louletano. SC Farense is the most successful football club in the Algarve, however, after financial troubles it is currently (season 2008/2009) playing in the 4th level of Portuguese football. The Clube de Ciclismo de Tavira is a noted Portuguese cycling team. The major stadium in the Algarve is the Estádio Algarve, where SC Farense and Louletano play their home matches. The region is also host to the annual Algarve Cup invitational tournament for national teams in women's football. The Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, a 4.692 kilometres (2.915 mi) race circuit, is located in Portimão.


The maximum temperatures in the Algarve fluctuate between 15 °C in winter and 31 °C in summer, with the temperature never usually falling below zero in the winter months. The winter of 2008/2009 was exceptionally cold and wet. Temperatures below 0 °C were recorded for the first time in many years.

Algarve Pottery

The Algarve is famous for its pottery and ceramics, particularly hand-painted pottery and 'azulejos' or tiles. There are numerous ceramics and pottery outlets throughout the Algarve. For working potteries/ ceramics workshops the main, or best-known, pottery centers are located in the towns of Almancil, Porches and Loulé. But there are many other potteries and workshops in the Algarve region.

Personalities from the Algarve

See also


External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Europe : Iberia : Portugal : Algarve
Secluded beaches bordered by rocks near Albufeira
Secluded beaches bordered by rocks near Albufeira

The Algarve is the southernmost region of Portugal, on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.

  • Barlavento (Lagos, Silves, Portimao, Lagoa, Albufeira areas)
  • San Rafael
  • Sotavento (Faro, Loule, Olhao, Tavira areas)
  • Serra Algarvia (Monchique)


The Algarve is Portugal's most popular holiday destination due to the clean beaches (approximately 200 km of them), the cool, unpolluted water, and the facts that it is relatively cheap and very safe. English is spoken at most resorts.

The Algarve is rich in culture and diversity. If you are looking for fast paced resorts or a calm tranquil setting either is attainable. The entire region is approx.5400sq km and is graced with over 100 different beaches, each unique in its own way. If you are into nature the choices are many from the Ria Formosa to Monchique mountain, in fact there are over 30 hiking trails (as per offical Turismo de Portugal guide books). If you are a golf lover then you have come to the right place with over 30 courses doted throughout the region. Although the permanent residence population is under 500,000 the area receives more than ten fold that in tourism each year. The busiest times of year tend to be July/August. Come and explore the region further, discover a new place to visit, a different beach to swim in, annual events you may want to attend ... it's all here with videos covering several different topics.


Following the neolithic period of the regions history, approximately 1000 BC, settlements and trading ports were established by the Phoenicians who were attracted by deposits of copper, manganese and iron. They came from the coastal regions of the eastern Mediterranean of modern-day Syria, Israel and Lebanon. Circa 550 BC Portimão was one of the ports founded by the Carthaginians who came from North Africa. In the 2nd century BC the region came under the control of the Romans as they spread throughout the Iberian Peninsular. Many Roman ruins still remain today throughout the Algarve and can be seen in many areas, but the best to visit are probably at the Milreu ruins, 7km from Faro, where buildings that started construction as a Roman villa later became a Christian Church.

Following the collapse of the Roman Empire, the Visigoths took control of the Algarve until the invasion of the Moors from North Africa in 711 AD. At this time, the Visigoths who came from central Europe, were defeated in the Battle of Guadalete by a force of invading Arabs and Berbers.

There followed a period of five centuries of Arab rule in Iberia. The Moors conquered the Algarve in 716. Faro, which had been called Santa Maria, was renamed Faraon, meaning 'the settlement of the Knights'. Even the name of the region owes its origin to the Moors who knew the region as 'al-gharb' meaning 'the west'. There is evidence of the moors throughout the Algarve and Southern Spain, illustrated by chimney stacks, pottery and the Moorish style of architecture, and particularly, the Arabic castle at Silves. The castle was built by Almoravid Arabs in the 11th century out of red sandstone and dried mud and is the best preserved Moorish castle in the country. In the 12th Century, King Afonso III, with a little help from English mercenaries, finally evicted the Moors and once again the Portuguese dominated the region, although the area was not fully secure from Moorish attacks until the middle of the 13th century.

Born in Porto in 1394, Prince Henry the Navigator based himself somewhere around Lagos/Sagres, and is considered to be responsible for many of the 'discoveries' made by the Portuguese in the middle ages sending out expeditions to Africa, the islands of Madeira and the Azores. In 1419 he was appointed governor of the province of the Algarve.

Disaster struck on 1st November 1755, with a huge earthquake whose epicentre was reported to have been 200km South-West of the country and registering 9 on the Richter Scale. The coastal areas of the Algarve were devastated by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami. The devastation was not only limited to the Algarve, British naval reports from the period indicate the arrival of a huge wave in the port of Lisbon. The damage to Lisbon was almost total, and following huge political turmoil the person responsible for the reconstruction of the city was the Marquis of Pombal, the then Prime Minister.

Get in

International flights into Faro airport (FAO) then (1) by bus: national buses run from outside the airport to the bus terminal regularly throughout the day time on weekdays. A taxi will be under €10, or (2) by train: a taxi will be under €10 from the airport to the train station.

By plane

Faro Airport [1] is the main airport for the region. On arrival there is a wide selection of car hire options both at static desks in the airport and also within the terminal at a meeting point. From Faro airport the train station and bus terminals can be reached by taxi.

By bus

There are daily bus connections between Lagos, Olhao, Faro (and many other cities) and Spanish cities such as Seville and Huelva. A single ticket Sevilla - Faro costs €16 and the journey takes 4 to 5 hours.

By train

There are daily(fast) train connections between Faro and Lisboa (4 hours).

By boat

There is a ferry service between Vila Real de Santo António and Ayamonte (Spain). The ferry was once a main mean of transportation although after the construction of the Guadiana International Bridge it is nowadays mostly used by tourists. Naviera Armas [2] operates a ferry to Portimão from Madeira (connecting with Gran Canaria) with a couple of departures per month.

Get around

Take the train or buses, more detailed information: see Public Transportation [3]

By train

The Algarve railway is the most convenient way to get around in Algarve. It connects Lagos in west with Vila Real de Santo António on the border to Spain, calling at most towns and cities along the way. You will probably need to change train a few times although there's little waiting time.

By car

A car is often the best way of seeing the Algarve, owing to the limited public transport services. Cars can be hired at Faro Airport and in other towns and cities in the Algarve. Most car rental companies will stipulate a minimum age of 21. Prices start from about €30 a day for a small car and there is often a wide range of cars to choose from.

The Algarve has a good network of roads, but be aware that some country roads are little more than dirt tracks. Roads are however generally well maintained, however due to the shortage of white paint in Portugal, road markings may randomly disappear (in this case stick to the right as far as possible - a favourite Portuguese habit is to overtake in the middle of the road, often on blind bends). After many years, the A22 (IP 1) motorway was finally completed in 2007, which goes from Bensafrim in the west all the way to Monte Francisco on the Portuguese/Spanish border. The Algarve, like the rest of Portugal and mainland Europe, drives on the right.

Petrol stations are found all over the Algarve. All stations will sell standard unleaded (95 RON) and super (97 RON) and diesel. Some stations sell LPG (GP) as well. Unleaded petrol is known as gasolina sem chumbo and diesel gasoleo. Petrol prices in Portugal are high in comparison to other European countries; as of August 2009 a litre of 95 RON unleaded costs around €1.33 a litre, 97 RON super €1.47 a litre and diesel €1.06 a litre.

  • Lagos - The old inner city inside the remnants of a protective wall. You'll find winding streets barely wide enough for small cars, quaint shops and wonderful (but pricey) restaurants.
  • Silves - The red stone castle. The road there is narrow and winds through some rural areas, but it is definitely worth a half day trip if you like castles.


The Algarve is famous for its hot and spicy Piri Piri Chicken, which can be found all over. Since it has a big and rich coast, it boasts a very interesting array of fish and seafood, from sardines to cataplanas, and many dry fruit sweets that will make your mouth water for more.

  • Alentejo coast
  • Evora
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ALGARVE, or Algarves, an ancient kingdom and province in the extreme S. of Portugal, corresponding with the modern administrative district of Faro, and bounded on the N. by Alemtejo, E. by the Spanish province of Huelva, and S. and W. by the Atlantic Ocean. Pop. (1900) 255,191; area, 1937 sq. m. The greatest length of the province is about 85 m. from E. to W.; its average breadth is about 22 m. from N. to S. The Serra de Malhao and the Serra de Monchique extend in the form of a crescent across the northern part of the province, and, sweeping to the south-west, terminate in the lofty promontory of Cape St Vincent, the south-west extremity of Europe. This headland is famous as the scene of many sea-fights, notably the defeat inflicted on the Spanish fleet in February 1797 by the British under Admiral Jervis, afterwards Earl St Vincent. Between the mountainous tracts in the north and the southern coast stretches a narrow plain, watered by numerous rivers flowing southward from the hills. The coast is fringed for 30 m. from Quarteira to Tavira, with long sandy islands, through which there are six passages; the most important being the Barra Nova, between Faro and Olhao. The navigable estuary of the Guadiana divides Algarve from Huelva, and its tributaries water the western districts. From the Serra de Malhao flow two streams, the Silves and Odelouca, which unite and enter the Atlantic below the town of Silves. In the hilly districts the roads are bad, the soil unsuited for cultivation, and the inhabitants few. Flocks of goats are reared on the mountain-sides. The level country along the southern coast is more fertile, and produces in abundance grapes, figs, oranges, lemons, olives, almonds, aloes, and even plantains and dates. The land is, however, not well suited for the production of cereals, which ire mostly imported from Spain. On the coast the people gain their living in great measure from the fisheries, tunny and sardines being caught in considerable quantities. Salt is also made from sea-water. There is no manufacturing or mining industry of any importance. The harbours are bad, and almost the whole foreign trade is carried on by ships of other nations, although the inhabitants of Algarve are reputed to be the best seamen and fishermen of Portugal. The chief exports are dried fruit, wine, salt, tunny, sardines and anchovies. The only railway is the Lisbon-Faro main line, which passes north-eastward from Faro, between the Monchique and Malhao ranges. Faro (11,789), Lagos (8291), Louie (22,478), Monchique (7345), Olhao (10,009), Silves (9687) and Tavira (12,175), the chief towns, are described in separate articles.

The name of Algarve is derived from the Arabic, and signifies a land lying to the west. The title "king of Algarve," held by the kings of Portugal, was first assumed by Alphonso III., who captured Algarve from the Moors in 1253.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Wikipedia has an article on:



From the Arabic الغرب (al-Gharb), meaning the West.

Proper noun




  1. The southernmost region of Portugal.


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