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It is always difficult to explore an entire region during a short break, especially when there are so many beautiful sights to visit but the Algarve makes it very easy to enjoy as many of the splendours as possible.
Most people are likely to relate the Algarve to images of sunbathing on sandy beaches but there is so much more besides. Even though the region was destroyed by an earthquake in 1755, there remains ancient monuments from the Romans, historical buildings dating to the time of the Moors and a Maritime history back to when the world was still being discovered, that are all well worth investigating. Walk around the walls of Silves castle and feel the wraiths of the Moors, for whom this was once the capital of Al-Gharb – the Western Land. Visit the church of St Francis and see the unusual Capela dos Ossos, or take a trip to Faro to see the Cathedral. The choice is endless.
The land itself creates some dramatic scenery from cliff tops to mountain peeks. Some of the best views can be seen from Praia do Camilo, near Lagos and Cabo de Sao Vicente, a suitably dramatic spot for the very corner of a continent. Ships on their way to or from the Mediterranean pass by incredibly close. The unspoilt beauty of the region provides breath-taking moments and the perfect photo opportunities so make sure you don’t forget your camera.
Read more on this destination in the AA Essential Guide to the Algarve
Must-see attractions in the Algarve
Capela dos Ossos - The UNESCO site of Évora is home to this eerie chapel at St Francis' Church. The interior is covered with the human bones of 19th century monks. The entrance reads “we bones, lying here bare, are awaiting yours”.
Zoomarine - A very popular theme park located just outside Albufeira, home to a marine centre and zoo. Visitors can explore the animal houses, swim with dolphins, relax in the huge man-made lagoon or take a ride down the Rapid River!
Ria Formosa Natural Park - This beautiful nature reserve spans the length of coastline between Manta Rota and Vale do Lobo. Made up of marshes, sand banks and freshwaters lakes, it's a haven for exotic birds and marine life.
Cape St. Vincent - The most south-western point of Portugal, referred to as the 'Land's End' of the Algarve, is a stunning village home to some of the country's best beaches. It is here you will find the famous 19th century lighthouse.
Silves - This quaint little town is situated on the banks of the Arade River, just a few miles from the coast. Explore traditional Portugal, visit the town's spectacular castle and sample some local Portuguese cuisine.
Parque da Mina - This newly converted 18th century farm house has been renovated into an exciting theme park, where attractions include a disused ore mine and numerous distilleries which you can explore.
Tavira - A delightful, historic little town in the far east of the Algarve which is touched rather than engulfed by tourism. A string of elegant 18th century classical facades line the waterfront in the river Gilao. There are 21 churches, the finest being Igreja do carom, and a ruined castle commanding views across the town. Offshore is Ilha de Tavira, an 11km bar of golden sand (one of the best beaches).
Museu Maritimo - Housed in the harbour masters office on the seafront at Faro, the museum is dedicated to the fishing industry with models of vessels and equipment on display.
Se Cathedral - Faro’s cathedral is a jumbled mix of Gothic, Renaissance and baroque of no great architectural distinction. However, the 17th and 18th century azulejos in the side chapels on both sides of the nave are worth seeing. The darkened interior can also be deliciously cool on a hot day.
Foia - This is the highest peak in the Algarve (902m / 2,960ft) in the Monchique hills, overlooking the town of Monchique, where you can enjoy the most sensational views on a clear day.