"Where the past and present rub shoulders and luxury beach and golf getaways reign supreme." - Reviewed by Lisa
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From Faro in the east to Portimão in the west, Central Algarve claims some of the region’s most renowned destinations, including Vilamoura, Boliqueime, Abulfeira, Olhos de Água and Loulé, with exclusive gated communities such as Quinta do Lago and Vila Vita Parc attracting luxury seekers from all over the world.
The entire sandy coastline is a heaven for beach lovers, warm-weather seekers, golfers, hikers, water sport enthusiasts and those looking for a combo of culture mixed with pleasure pursuits. Expect soaring cliffs, white-washed villages, rare rock formations, natural wetlands, rocky bays and golden sand beaches.
In Central Algarve, magnificent days on the beach alternate with world class golfing challenges and all can be topped off with evenings of casual to fine dining in every type of restaurant imaginable, first-class shopping or dancing until dawn. There is something along this golden stretch of coast to make everybody happy.
However, not far from the hustle and bustle of destinations such as Vilamoura and Albufeira (in fact, within a few short minutes driving distance), you will find yourself in another Algarve altogether. A place where you can still see donkeys pulling carts of reads, three-wheel farm vehicles wend their way slowly up narrow rural roads and the red earth yields to mature olive trees and a variety of laden fruit trees from fig to pomegranate. Backroads lead to new adventures, off-the-beaten-track restaurants, hidden beaches and pine-flanked shady spots. You do not have to go too far to find a local market, a typical dish or a slower pace.
You find Vilamoura where the hilly Algarve topography eases into the coastal plains and the landscape fills with lush green pine trees, palms, exotic marshland and world-class golf courses. The past and the present all seem to live together very harmoniously here. From a marina full of multi-million-dollar yachts to an oceanside casino, restaurants and bars all only minutes away from undulating interiors full of old-world charm, donkeys and agriculture. Literally, something to please everybody within a 20-minute radius!
Think rolling hills, tiny white villages, old stone walls and twisty narrow farm tracks flanged with heavily laden orange and pomegranate trees and you have chipped the surface of the Boliqueime area’s beauty. Add to that scene deep red earth surrendering to the manicured lawns and groomed flower beds of luxey homes flanking old tumbled down farmhouses and quaint rattling village properties, and you are getting closer to the essence of this Algarve beauty spot.
Before you discount Albufeira as being a popular tourist trap, remember that our job at Tripwix is to find those special homes in special locations where the world-class traveller feels comfortable, while our local ambassador prepares the most authentic experiences and points you to the quieter beaches.
The magnificent golden beaches of Albufeira are hard to beat anywhere in the world. The high golden rock cliffs tower long stretches of fine, sun-drenched sand, and small hidden coves make the area a beach-enthusiasts dream. Meanwhile, the bustling marina offers an assortment of restaurants and bars, sailing options and boat excursions – it also makes for great cocktail-hour people watching.
Olhas de Agua
Drive through Olhas de Agua and you might not realize that you’d been there! This small village sprung up due to its superb, idyllic gilded beach flanked by excellent seafood restaurants. Although a sandy spot may be hard to find during high season, off-season you’ll have the beach to yourself. This little town is more about families and back yard BBQ’s than it is about nightlife. However, there is a stretch of shops and restaurants offering everything that a villa guest might need, from supermarkets to wine stores, to Chinese take outs to gourmet Portuguese delis.
Loule is the principal inland town of this central area and it seems that every signpost offers an alternative way to get there. Resplendent in its pretty pastel buildings and attractive black and white cobblestone streets, it invites the visitor to wander through its charming pedestrian-only main street and multiple little side street and take in the delights of art galleries, ceramic shops, boutiques and of course they omnipresent Portuguese pastry shops.
- Airport: Faro International Airport
- About 2.5 hours from Lisbon
EXPERIENCES IN CENTRAL ALGARVE
- Beaches – 6 sandy beaches from Faro to Albufeira
- Water sports – The area offers just about every water sport imaginable: jet ski, parasailing, flyboard, diving, kayaking, canoeing, surfing, fishing and sailing.
- Boat trips – Book one of the many boat cruises offered in the area and see some spectacular scenery. Explore caves and grottoes, feast your eyes on the rugged coastline, or head out and watch the dolphins as they frolic about in the beautiful bays.
- Fishing –All types of fishing expeditions can be enjoyed here: reef fishing, deep sea fishing and more. The fishing village of Olhos de Água is a good place to start.
- Gastronomy – Cuisine here is strongly influenced by the Mediterranean. Fish and seafood dishes are readily available on the Algarve coast, while recipes featuring poultry and pork, along with fresh vegetables, are the main ingredients as you go inland.
- Golf – Dozens of courses to choose from and sunny days most of the year, the Algarve is a top-notch golf destination.
- History – Roman ruins in Cerro da Vila (Vilamoura) and impressive cathedrals such as the Sé in Faro.
- Shopping – Plenty of shops offering local products, handicrafts, tasteful jewellery, unique boutiques and good quality artwork. Loulé is a favourite, where market days are always a buzz with bargain hunters.