Algarve travel guide: what to see plus the best bars, hotels and restaurants

July 3, 2015

There is so much more to this sun-kissed region of Portugal than its beautiful beaches. Great seafood, elegant villages, and near-deserted islands and lagoons for a start …

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There are three Algarves. I’ll call them the Mystic East, the Dead Centre, and the Wild West. Most people flying to Faro will end up at the popular resort towns of the Dead Centre such as Vilamoura, Albufeira and Lagos, leaving a whole lot of Algarve relatively free of visitors. But if you do fetch up in such a resort, a 20-minute drive will deliver you to some of southern Europe’s most scented, empty countryside.

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Our Mystic East is the borderland. The Guadiana river separates the Algarve – where humility is regarded as a strength – from brasher Spain. Inland, it’s possible to meander for miles through enchanted valleys, hear birdsong, see few people and find peace. The east’s coastal margin is where the ocean is tamed by the sand islands, salt pans and azure lagoons of the Ria Formosa natural park, where flamingos and dolphins abound.

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