PORTUGAL : Madeira
The Algarve's 200 kilometre stretch of southern shoreline is one of
Europe's most popular holiday destinations. The region has attracted
visitors since the time of the Phoenicians, but today it caters for
millions of tourists a year with its stunning coastline, excellent golf
courses and pleasant year round climate.Algarve is the Portuguese
pronunciation of al-gharb, an Arab name meaning "land beyond" that the
Moors gave to this sunny region of Portugal after conquering the Iberian
Peninsula in 711. Situated on the extreme South of Portugal, this part
of the territory was the last to be conquered from the Moors by the
Portuguese king Dom Afonso III, in 1292. Traces of the Moorish presence
are still seen in its unique terraces, chimneys and whitewashed houses.
The Algarve is at its most pleasant during spring and fall, when resorts
are uncrowded but the waters of the Atlantic are warm enough for
swimming. Winter can also be pleasant, with average daily January highs
of 59° F (15° C). Water temperatures tend to be cooler in the west and
warmer in the east, with an average thermometer reading of 57° F (14°)
in January and 70° F (21° C) in July.
Faro is the capital city of the region, with a medieval wall and a large
number of monuments: Cathedral (Romanesque-Gothic origin), Nossa Senhora
da Assunção Convent (Renaissance), São Francisco Church (16th-18th
centuries). Museums to visit: Infante Dom Henrique, Regional
Ethnographic, Ramalho Ortigão and Antoniano (next to Santo António do
Alto Chapel). Also worthwhile visiting are the beautiful churches of São
Pedro da Misericórdia and Nossa Senhora do Carmo. Roman ruins of Milreu
in the suburbs.
Albufeira is the most famous spot in this area of beach resorts, golf
courses, and other tourist developments. The town is a favorite of
package tourists from Britain, France, and Germany who come for sunshine
and nightlife. Faro, the modern capital of the Algarve, is primarily an
airline gateway and regional business center. A newer and more upscale
private development, Vilamoura, is geared toward the condo crowd.
The quieter Algarve begins at Lagos, home to a modern marina, a clutch
of ancient churches and a long, sandy beach. Enclosed within 15th
century walls, with its Manueline window, are the magnificent churches
of São Sebastião (Renaissance portals and 17th and 18th century tiles),
Santa Maria or Misericórdia (16th-19th centuries), Santo António
(Baroque) and the very old São João Chapel (8th-9th centuries). Other
points of interest: Regional Museum, Governors’ Palace, Pau da Bandeira
Fortress and the old slave market.
West of Lagos towards the Atlantic coast are the pretty villages of Luz,
Burgau and Salema, with narrow streets, whitewashed houses and an
ancient fishing tradition.
Stones of different times and cultures overlap in the town of Silves:
the castle and walls are of Arab origin; the Gothic Cathedral (having
undergone several restoration work) was built on the site of an ancient
mosque; the 12th century bridge was built where formerly stood a Roman
bridge. The Cross of Portugal also deserves special mention (16th
century religious sculpture), as well as the following examples of
Manueline motifs: the Nossa Senhora dos Mártires Chapel and the
Misericórdia Church. The Archeology Museum is built around an almost
unique Arab water cistern, dating from the Almohad period.