Portugal’s beach-filled southern coastline has long been considered the country’s summer playground. And while the West side has enjoyed the lion’s share of the tourist trade since the 1970s, the East side, stretching from the central city of Faro to the Spanish border, is far more relaxing and infinitely more cool.
This is where the smarter Europeans are buying their summer properties and where boutique hotels and hot restaurants are opening up. Perfect for those who want to enjoy life in the sunshine. The common denominator here, for both locals and tourists, is an innate ability to appreciate life.
Secluded beaches can stretch for many kilometres with no – one in sight. Centuries old towns – with their winding narrow walkways, whitewashed markets and village square cafés – are beyond quaint. Exquisite mosaic tile work is everywhere you look. Traditional salt-cod fritters, octopus salad, seafood rice and the freshest bread are plentiful, tasty and inexpensive. Each bakery has its own unique recipe for the ubiquitous pastel de nata, or egg-custart tart which is uniquely delicious and the wine is just sublime.
The hub city of Faro separates the Eastern and Western Algarve. Travellers fly into its’ small but busy International airport – there’s a lot of history here, and a visit to the Arco da Vila Interpretation Centre, built within one of the city’s oldest Moorish gates dating from the 11th century, gives a taste of it’s history.
This national monument also fully documents the devastating 1755 earthquake, its aftermath and the rebuilding of the city.