EASTERN ALGARVE INFORMATION
Whilst not exhaustive, we hope that you enjoy reading this information to give you a flavour of the Eastern Algarve.
THE ALGARVE REGION
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. Bordered on two sides by the Atlantic, the Algarve is divided from the rest of Portugal by a series of low lying mountains. In the east, the Guardiana River forms a scenic border with neighbouring Spain. The region's capital, Faro, is built around a charming harbour at the edge of a wide lagoon. Its main attractions include a maritime museum and a 13th century cathedral. .
Eastern Algarve Towns & Beaches
The Eastern Algarve stretches from Faro right across to the Spanish border. The coastline is dotted with charming towns and villages, most of which are accompanied by lovely beaches.
The East region is very different compared to the rugged beauty found to the West. It’s tidal marshlands have a tranquil beauty and the small resorts along the coast have retained much of their character, looking today as they must have looked long ago. Here, tourism blends in perfectly with local activities creating a relaxed way of life. There is a tinge of excitement and even romance about those ferry or tiny boat trips to the islands, where visitors are rewarded with superb, less crowded bathing beaches and warm waters.
So if you are seeking a holiday without long lines of bars and nightclubs, and would prefer in contrast a taste of local charm, amongst some wonderful cobbled streets and Tasca bars, then the East is for you!
Beaches In the Eastern Algarve beaches follow on from one another in the form of vast expanses of sand, and as you travel along the coast line from Faro through to the Spanish Border (around 50kms in total) there is a beach to be found every 2-3 kms or so! Some are very natural and therefore not very popular, but those that are developed are done so with consideration for the environment.
It is important to note that some of the mainland coastline is actually separated from the coast by the arm of the Ria Formosa creating 'beach islands'. This means that to reach some of the beaches, it necessary to take a short boat ride from the town to reach the sandy shores. The boat trips are generally inexpensive and often no more than 10 minutes or so. Not all beaches are separated from the mainland, the more you travel East, the more the Ria Formosa narrows and the land and coastline merge into one. So towards the Spanish border, it is possible to reach the beach on foot or by car. You can read about this more by clicking on the links below.
Here are the most popular Eastern Algarve destinations - please click on the link for more information!
Cabanas de Tavira
THE CLIMATE & SUNSHINE HOURS
The sea water temperature is around 14c in January and reaches a high 22c in August. A pleasant sea breeze refreshes the temperatures of the region, which are around 15c in January and up to 28c or more in July and August. The Algarve can also count on around 3.000 hours of sun during the year which makes it a favourite destination for those who enjoy such a delightful climate. The autumn and winter months are mild, but you will need a jacket in the evening and some kind of heating in your villa or apartment. January is the coolest month.
THINGS TO DO
As well as the lovely pastime of dining and relaxing, by travelling a little further afield there are a good range of things to do to suit all tastes.
For the Children
The large water parks and children's attractions are located in the Western Region, but each are easy to reach by car (around 45 minutes) and all offer direct coach travel in high season.
Aqualand - One of Portugal’s biggest water parks, Aqualand is the perfect location for an unforgettable day out. Enjoy attractions for all ages such as Kamikaze (95m high), Crazy Race, Banzai and Mini Park. Usually open from June to September between 10am and 6pm.
Slide & Splash - This is considered one of the biggest and best waterparks in Europe! Usually open from April to October between 10am and 5pm.
Zoo Marine - Less Slides and more of animals! - Here you can watch presentations with dolphins, seals and sea lions, with tropical birds and birds of prey. Open all year round from 10am to 6pm
Walks and Birdwatching
For nature lovers there are forest walks, cruises along the River Guadiana or nature trails along the Ria Formosa Reserve where bird watching is in abundance!
There are 2 shopping centres in the Eastern Algarve, one in Tavira and one in Faro. Vila Real St Antonio, located just on the Spanish border is also a very popular town for shopping.
History and Interest
The Castle at Castro Marim is well worth a visit to sample some of the most fantastic views and learn about local history.
Tavira's Camara Obscura is also fascinating where you can see a panoramic 360 degree view of the town.
WINING & DINING IN PORTUGAL
The Portuguese are great at making tasty and nourishing soups. In Algarvian restaurants, it is highly unlikely that you will be presented with anything out of a tin. What you get will be made from fresh vegetables or fish. Be warned, however, soups are very often served tepid here. If you like your soup piping hot tell the waiter beforehand. Bem quente (meaning literally well hot) is pronounced ‘beng-kent’
The cheapest and most common shellfish in the Algarve are conquilhas (pronounced ‘con-keel-yash’). These are like small cockles, cooked in wine, garlic and parsley – a must for shell fish lovers. Before you order prawns, check on the price which is often quoted per kilo.
Seafood Main Courses
A very wide range of fish is landed in the Eastern Algarve harbours, some with which you may be familiar, others not. Tuna, swordfish and Dourada (Type of sea bream) are great for people who dislike the bones! Other locally caught fish include sole, bass, sea bream and red mullet. Cheapest and most typical of all are sardines, and are to be cooked on a charcoal grill – definitely more tasty than the supermarket tins back home! The most popular speciality seafood dishes are Cataplana - clams, spicy sausage, tomatoes, sometimes also with pork fillet, then cooked in a sealed, clam shaped, copper pan, and Arroz de Marisco - several types of shellfish spiced and gently boiled with rice. You may need to order these types of dishes in advance as they can sometimes only be catered for 2 people.
Meat Main Courses
The most popular Portuguese beef dish is Bife a Portuguesa – sirloin topped with smoked ham, cooked in a clay dish and served on a bed of French fries. However, the Algarvians prefer Pork to Beef and you will see it on every menu! You will find Pork Fillets (Lombo), Chops (Costeletas) or Slices (Febras). Chicken (Frango) is generally cooked over a charcoal grill. If you see ‘Piri-piri’, this will mean a light coating of chilli and olive oil. Turkey (Bife de Peru) also appears on the menu all year round. Some restaurants will offer suckling pig (Leitao) and wild boar (Javeli) Most owners/waiters speak English.
The Portuguese created their desserts with ‘sweet-tooth’ people in mind! You should try Pudim Flan (Crème Caramel), Tarte de Amendoa (Almond Tart) or Tarte de Natas (sticky chilled cream cake) – all mega calories!
Wines and Liqueurs
The most inexpensive way of buying wine in restaurants is to order the house wine (Vinho de Casa), either White (Branco) or Red (Tinto). Nearly all restaurants in the Algarve only stock Portuguese wines, of which there is a very wide range. Vinho Verde – Green wine is light and refreshing, especially good for fish or chicken dishes. Highly recommended are Gatoa (Cat wine!) and Casal Garcia. Rose is also light and crisp, the most famous of which is produced by Portugal – Mateus Rose. You will also come across a great deal of wine from the Alentejos, just north of the Algarve which is renowned for consistency and good value. Names to look out for are Monsartaz, Borba, Redondoi, Reguerngos and Monte Velho. Higher quality and more expensive wines from the north are Ribatejo, Bairrada and Douro Valley.
You can dine from around 6.30pm in most restaurants, and last serving times are usually around 9.45pm – 10.00pm. Most Portuguese people dine between 8pm and 9pm, so if you have not reserved a table, we recommend that you arrive at around 7.30pm!