The Algarve is the southernmost region of Portugal, on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. It is Portugal's most popular holiday destination due to the approximately 200 km of clean beaches, the cool, unpolluted water, and the facts that it is relatively cheap, very safe, and overall welcoming.

Cities

 
20 km
 

The cities of the Algarve are traditionally grouped into Barlavento and Sotovento, the western and eastern halves, respectively.

Barlavento

Sotovento

Climate

The Algarve's geographical position on Europe’s south-western tip in the south of Portugal gives it some special bioclimatic features. Although situated by the Atlantic Ocean, it has a temperate climate with Mediterranean characteristics, more than 3,000 hours of sunshine per year and a low annual average rainfall, mainly during the winter months. Even in the hottest days in July and August a mild breeze from the Atlantic provides relief.

The Serra in the northern half of the Algarve has a considerable influence on the climate of the region. It forms a physical barrier against the cold winds blowing from the north and the lows from the Northwest, thus giving the Algarve coast an almost Mediterranean climate, with low annual rainfall and mild temperatures in winter. Furthermore, it is also a barrier for the misty winds that come from the South.

Getting to Algarve

By plane

Faro Airport, the third largest in Portugal, 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.

Outside the summer season some airlines reduce their direct flights to Faro, so that Lisbon Airport should be considered as alternative.

By car

The toll motorway A2 leads to the Algarve from the north. You will need to allow approximately 2 hours for the 240 km drive from Lisbon to the A22 north of Albufeira.

From Spain the toll free A49 joins the A22 near Castro Marim in the Algarve after 145 km and about one and a half hours driving.

In the Algarve the toll motorway A22 Rua do Infante de Sagres goes from Lagos in the west to Castro Marim in the east at the Spanish border. Toll tariffs on the A22 depend on the distance and are recorded electronically only. Since the toll was introduced at the end of 2011 the parallel route of the national road EN125 is quite busy during rush hours, because many locals shy away from using the A22 for cost reasons. Cars with a foreign number plate have several options to pay the toll collected by an electronic system on the A22 motorway:

  • Toll Card: this card, valid for one year, can be charged with an amount between 5 and 40 € and needs to be activated by SMS, entering the license number.
  • Toll Service: you can have unlimited use of the A22 for 3 days after activation, for a one off fee of 20 €.
  • Easy Toll: Payment by credit card (Visa or Master Card), with the toll directly deducted from your bank account
  • Via Verde Visitors: renting a so called on board unit (OBU), a device that can be used both on roads with electronic or manual toll collection.

By bus

There are daily bus connections between Lisbon, Lagos, Olhao, Faro (and many other cities) and Spanish cities such as Seville and Huelva with Albufeira where the venue is located. Some of the bus companies serving Albufeira (RENEX, EVA). 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 Lisbon (4 hours) with the national rail system (CP).

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 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.

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, road markings may randomly disappear (in this case stick to the right as far as possible - a favourite Portuguese habit is to overtake, still they are mindful). 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 (GPL) 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.