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The Algarve: Places to Visit.

City of Lagos

Sao GonÁalo

The Algarve has had a somewhat chequered past, being invaded by first the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, and then by the Romans. After them came the Goths, followed by almost twelve centuries of occupation by the Moors, evidence of which is still visible in the features of a goodly proportion of the population. The Arabs were finally driven out in the thirteenth century and Lagos became important as a ship building town and as a starting point for many of the great voyages of discovery. Now one of the oldest cities of the Algarve, Lagos is rich in history. The Moorish walls were strengthened after the Christians took the town in 1241 and whole restored sections still survive, with the patron saint, S. GonÁalo guarding the harbour entrance

Lagos was the capital of the Algarve from 1576 until 1755 when the Great Earthquake and subsequent tidal wave caused virtual destruction to the region. The castle and principal buildings of the town were destroyed and the Governor of the Algarve moved to Tavira.
Prince Henry the Navigator lived in the governorís palace when he was not at Sagres and some of the ships used in his voyages of discovery were built in the yards here. A statue of the Prince can be seen looking out to sea from the Praca do Infante.


The Forte da Ponta da Bandeira, guarding the harbour has a real drawbridge, which now leads to a small museum.
The first slaves brought from Africa were sold in the slave market, under the Custom House facing the Praca da Republica ; just out of this square is the little church of Santo Antonio, which is full of baroque carving and blue azulejos. The municipal museum is next to the church and houses religious and folk art, some pictures and archaeological finds.

Fishing was the main industry of the area and until relatively recently there were four sardine canning factories in Lagos. The factories have been demolished but their chimney stacks remain, providing nesting platforms for the White storks, which are a protected species throughout Portugal and their nests can be seen on top of electricity pylons, chimneys, telegraph poles all over the country.
Modern day Lagos is a bustling town, dedicated to Tourism. The centre of the town has been pedestrianised with plenty of restaurants, a variety of interesting shops and pavement cafes for sitting and watching the world go by. During August the shops stay open until midnight and there are pavement artists, jugglers and buskers entertaining visitors in the main squares. There are also open air concerts and folk dancing most weekends.

In recent years the new Marina has brought renewed prosperity to the town. Spanning practically the whole length of the main Avenida dos Descobrimentos, there are always a great variety of boats moored there. Pedestrian access is over a footbridge which is raised to allow boats in and out.
There are lots of shops selling a wide variety of goods and restaurants catering for every taste whether you are looking for a full blown meal or just a drink and a snack.

 On the west side of Lagos you will find the pretty coves of Camilo, Porto do Mos and Praia D. Ana. Praia D. Ana, pictured in the photograph,  is the best for large groups. It has good sand and beach bar facilities and is the most popular. As it faces east it is always sheltered from the wind, but there are some steep steps down to the beach from the Golfinho Hotel. There are plenty of places to park.
 
South of Lagos, the Ponte de Piedade peninsula has multi- coloured rock formations and caves, which you can visit by boat. Trips leave from the steps at the tip of the peninsula by the lighthouse or can be arranged from points along the main Avenida.
 
Other beaches in Lagos are  Meia Praia which stretches right round the bay from the Marina towards Alvor and is a long sandy beach with lots of beach bars. Praia da Batata, which is the nearest to the town centre next to the little fort at the harbour entrance. There is scuba diving and snorkelling from this beach.

 Zoo Lagos is a zoological garden, located on the road between Barao S. Joao and Bensafrim, in the grounds of the ďO Cangalho Restaurant. There are more than 120 species of animals, such as emus, wallabies, exotic birds, monkeys, lemurs, the Iberian lynx squirrels & parrots all kept in a natural environment.

The primates live on a specially constructed island, with idyllic scenery, climbing frames and ropes to swing through the trees.
 

It is a popular place with young children, especially the childrenís farm area, which is populated with ponies, sheep and goats, ducks and chickens that can actually be touched. As well as the animals there is a childrenís play area, a restaurant, handicraft shop and a quiet area for just sitting and enjoying the beautiful surroundings.

Sagres & Cape St. Vincent

The end of the world; this was the name given to Cape Saint Vincent by sailors in olden times.
The lighthouse signifies the most south-westerly point of continental Europe and at certain times you can take a guided tour inside the lighthouse and see the crystal on itís bed of mercury.
 
Locals fish from the towering cliffs, which overlook one of the worlds busiest sea routes. Many ships go past Cape St. Vincent every day and the light can be seen from a distance of 60 kilometres

Between Cape St. Vincent and Sagres itself is the old fortress, which was also the site of the school of Henry the Navigator. This has now been extensively renovated and there is a museum dedicated to the Discoveries and other notable feats of exploration.
 Cape St. Vincent has been the site of several naval battles between the British and the Spanish fleets and Nelson defeated the Spanish fleet here in 1797
 
Sagres is still principally a fishing village and there are always lots of boats in the harbour, some of them quite large ones. It is expanding rapidly as a tourist centre and there are two hotels there and a Pousada ( Government controlled hotel) in the old fortress. An oceanarium is also in the pipeline. 

The West Coast

This most south-westerly area of the Algarve is still relatively free from development and it is well worthwhile exploring this coastal area with its numerous beaches, wild moorland scenery and splendid views.On the Algarve's west coast the Atlantic is much colder and rougher and the rock formations are spectacularly beautiful.
  The town of
Aljezur is an attractive little place to visit; the castle was devastated in the 1755 earthquake but there is a magnificent view from the top of the hill on which it stood.
 

This area is called the Costa Vicentina and is an environmentally protected zone, which makes it ideal for walking. The Algarve is famous for its profusion of flora, which seem to grow everywhere, even in the most wndswept and desolate areas. It is also an  excellent area for ornithologists during the Spring and Autumn migration by birds like the Griffon Vulture.

 

Monchique; Located in the mountain range of the same name, between two high mountains. Worth a visit are the cathedral, the churches of Sao Sebastiao and Misericordia and the hot springs of Caldas de Monchique, which has been a spa since Roman times and is famous for itís medicinal waters.
This area is also noted for itís Piri-Piri chicken and if you continue on up towards Foia, there are many restaurants where you can sample this speciality while enjoying spectacular views.
 
There are viewing points all the way up the mountain to Foia, which at 902m. is the highest point of the Algarve. There is a radar station and Television & Communication masts at the top, plus the inevitable Artesanato and stalls selling almond cake, honey and the like.

 

Silves ; In Moorish times Silves was the capital of the Algarve. The castle is still standing but inside there is only a garden, water cisterns and excavations, though there are good views of the surrounding countryside from the restored castle ramparts.
Just below the castle gate is the cathedral and in the Rua da Porta de Loule is the Archaeological Museum. This is built over the centrepiece of an old Arab well and there are also a stone relief carving from 700BC, Roman bronzes, Moorish and Portuguese ceramics and coins.
There is an annual Beer Festival held in Silves during the month of June. There are lots of different types of Beer to sample, plus stalls selling local artefacts and live entertainment.

 

Portimao :-

 30 minutes from Lagos down the A22. It is located at the  mouth of the River Arade which forms a natural harbour for the busy Marina.
For centuries Portimao was an important trading port and until the 1990ís the sardine boats used to anchor there daily to unload their catch. Today Portimao has been greatly developed as a Tourist centre, with walking streets full of a wide variety of shops, a busy Marina and a thriving nightlife. Cruise ships regularly anchor off Praia da Rocha, which has a casino, many bars and night clubs to suit all tastes.
 
Just across the river is the small fishing village of Ferragudo which you can reach by taking the road over the old bridge out of Portimao and turning right at the traffic lights just the other side of the bridge. Have Lunch at one of the fish restaurants on the quayside, where freshly caught fish is cooked outside on a charcoal grill.

 

However you like to fill your days whilst on holiday, be it lazing on the beach or indulging in more energetic activities like water sports, golf or tennis, hiking or bird watching in the nature reserves - there is something here for everyone. There is always a market or local village festival somewhere near and in the evenings there is a wide diversity of entertainment.

Wider information on several aspects of the area can be found at Vale Grifo web site.
 

 

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e-mail:  jasminevillas@west-algarve.net
e-mail: S.A.M.Algarve@gmail.com

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Last modified:  03/11/2013