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Holidays in the Algarve
On Portugal’s southern coast, the Algarve offers everything from sandy beaches and lively bars, to cobbled streets, gypsy markets and seafood restaurants. It's famous for the great golf courses that line the coast, and there are plenty of watersports on offer too. Kids will be spoilt for choice when it comes to water parks and zoos, whilst grown-ups will love discovering its regional dishes like cataplana, a delicious medley of pork and clams served in a traditional copper pan.
The best time to visit is May or September when the days are pleasantly warm and the nights are balmy.
Faro Airport is 4km west of the city of Faro.
Book a Thomas Cook holiday to the Algarve for beaming sunshine, vast golden beaches and all-night dance parties to rival Ibiza’s finest.
The most popular destination for Algarve holidays is Albufeira, which is situated at the centre of the Portugal’s south coast. Holidaymakers of all ages love it for its sweeping, sandy beaches and huge array of shops, bars and restaurants. Just 15km west of Albufeira is the lively resort of Armacao de Pera. Take a walk down the bustling promenade before stopping in one of its many bars for a long, cool drink. The ancient fishing town of Lagos can be found in the southwest part of the Algarve. Explore its medieval city walls and pick up some handcrafted ceramics to take home.
The peaceful island of Culatra is known for its seemingly endless golden sands and can be easily reached by ferry. Soak up the sun on Albufeira’s Fisherman’s Beach and stop at one of the nearby fish restaurants for a plate of freshly grilled sardines drizzled in olive oil. For white-knuckle thrills and all-round family fun, Aqualand’s electrifying water slides are sure to please. Kids will love swimming with the dolphins and watching the acrobatic animal shows at Zoomarine. As night falls, Albufeira becomes a party town. Drink cocktails on the beach or dance until the early hours at one of its many nightclubs.
With its golden sands and gloriously sunny weather, the Algarve is known for having some of the best beaches in Portugal. Located just 10km from the Spanish border is Praia Monte Gordo beach. Warm waters and soft, white sand make it one of the most popular attractions in the Algarve. If you’re after somewhere quiet and secluded, take a short boat ride to the unspoilt island of Culatra. With no cars or roads, Culatra is a tranquil paradise with little more than a handful of restaurants serving freshly caught fish. Lose yourself in the island’s beauty as you stroll along its honey-coloured coastline.
From water parks to animal shows, there are plenty of things for kids to do in the Algarve. Aqualand is one of Portugal’s biggest water parks with a host of hair-raising slides to get your adrenalin pumping. Teenagers will love the thrilling Kamikaze whilst little ones will have fun splashing around in the kids’ zone. One of the most popular places in the Algarve is the Zoomarine theme park. Watch the animals show off their acrobatic abilities as they perform choreographed shows. Lagos Zoo is a small but well-maintained Algarve attraction, featuring over 120 species of animals and a petting farm.
Albufeira is known throughout Portugal for its thriving nightlife, offering everything from chic cocktail bars to all-night techno clubs. Partying is a serious business here; most clubs open after 11.30pm and don’t close until the sun comes up. If you’re feeling lucky, head to one of the many glamorous casinos. With more than just poker and slot machines, most casinos also hold live music and cabaret shows. For an authentic taste of Portuguese culture, try one of the many bars and restaurants with live fado music and traditional folk dancing known as corridinho.
Animal Lovers: Zoomarine - dancing dolphins, sea lions and parading parrots are just some of the attractions at this excellent marine zoo
Families: Visit Parque Mina theme park and Lagos Zoo with over 120 different species of animal
Sun-seekers: The unspoilt sandy beach at Culatra
Language: The language spoken in the Algarve is Portuguese
Currency: The currency used in the Algarve is Euro (€)
Local time: The time in the Algarve is the same as GMT/UK time
Fly to: Faro Airport is 4km west of the city of Faro
Flight time from UK: 3 hours
Tourist Information: Further Algarve tourist information can be found at www.visitalgarve.pt
Visa & Health: Before you travel, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/portugal for recommendations and advice on visas and health for your holiday to the Algarve.
Temperatures: Mid to late 20s (°C) in summer; mid-teens (°C) in winter
Best time to visit Algarve: May or September when the days are pleasantly warm and the nights are balmy. If you like the sun, you’ll love the Algarve weather during the summer. Expect long, hot days. The Algarve’s short winters are pleasant and mild
By hire car: Hiring a car is a great option if you fancy exploring the Algarve at your own pace. Enjoy a leisurely drive through the town of Salir with its white-washed houses and Moorish fortress, or take a scenic route along the coastline. Many taxi drivers speak good English and will double-up as tour guides. Popular areas such as Albufeira have a number of ranks. Be aware that it is standard for taxi drivers to charge extra for luggage.
Carnival time: Taking place every February is the Loulé Carnaval, one of the oldest carnivals in Portugal. A parade of brightly decorated floats travel through the town as the locals dress up in extravagant costumes and dance to non-stop samba music.
For sandcastle lovers: See world-renowned sand sculptors create works of art at the International Sand Sculpture Festival (FIESA), the biggest sand-sculpture event in the world. An enormous 35,000 tonnes of sand is used during the festival which takes place between May and October.
Travel back in time: In August, travel back to the Middle Ages at Castro Marim’s Medieval Festival for historical re-enactments, jousting tournaments and children’s storytelling.