The Algarve region
Dhe Portuguese Algarve on the south-western tip of mainland Europe is the most sun-kissed spot on the continent: a good 3000 hours a year, spread over around 300 days, it shines from the sky here. How good that the cooling Atlantic is close by.
Good to know for bathers: The Algarve is divided into two areas. There is the rocky Algarve west from Faro to Sagres with only small bays between cliffs (exception: the beach in the seaside resort Armaco de Pera) and the sandy Algarve east from Faro to the Spanish border with wide sandy beaches.
The whole region was culturally shaped by the Moors. From 711 to the 12th, sometimes 13th century, it belonged to Al-Andalus, the Muslim-ruled part of the Iberian Peninsula. The name “Algarve” is derived from the Arabic word for “the West”.
Witnesses of this time are, for example, the heads crowned by turbans in the coats of arms of many places or the famous azulejos, brightly painted and glazed ceramic tiles on house facades, churches and interior walls, whose glazing technique comes from the Persian region. A popular souvenir.
In culinary terms, the area is characterized by the fruits of the sea, such as grilled sardines, the cataplana fish pot and the xerém, a corn flour soup that is served with mussels, bacon and ham in Olhão, for example.
“Oh, my lost Portugal, how do I miss your southwestern coast”
Günter Grass (1927–2015) loved the Algarve and mourned when he could no longer travel there for health reasons – how much is shown by this quote from his posthumously published work “Vonne Endlichkait”.
In his house in the hinterland of Portimão – he called it “Casa Rosmano” because wild rosemary grew there – he drew a lot. To do this, he used fresh, “expressive” sepia ink, which he extracted from squid himself. Then he fried the animals and ate them with relish. “The process of obtaining ink is a pleasure.”
Fantastic beaches for surfers and sun worshipers
Fine sandy beaches that gently nestle into the sea. Dramatic cliffs. Bizarre rock formations like arches, needles, caves, and natural bridges, perfect for Instagram photos. But there are also surfer paradises, marinas and beach bars.
The region’s 200-kilometer coastline offers more than 100 dream beaches, many of them award-winning. At Praia de Odeceixe (photo), for example, the salt water of the Atlantic mixes with the fresh water of the Ribeira de Seixe river, children can splash around in the lagoons, and surfers can ride the waves.
Sometimes the whole Algarve is simply named a top beach destination, for example in 2019 with the World Travel Award, the “Oscar of the travel industry”, as “Europe’s Leading Beach Destination”.
The Portuguese water dog likes to go fishing
Fluffy, friendly, hardly hairs, so it is suitable for allergy sufferers – and it can also catch fish! Who cares that the Portuguese water dog jumps into every pool and doesn’t avoid a puddle.
Barack Obama made him famous: when he became US President in 2009, he gave his daughters a copy. Since then, dogs have been in fashion. The breed has its origin in the Algarve, where the dog helped fish. Today he doesn’t need that anymore, being cute is enough.
The golf courses are also attractive in winter
There are 35 golf courses in the Algarve, which – thanks to the mild climate – can be played all year round. The best place in Portugal (ranking: Golf Monthly) and one of the top 10 in Europe (according to golfworldtop100) is the Monte Rei Golf & Country Club.
The 18-hole course, located in the picturesque foothills of the eastern Algarve, was designed by Jack Nicklaus. And the Vale do Lobo Royal Golf Course near Almancil can boast of the most photographed golf hole in Europe: at No. 16, a cliff of the cliff is torn off.
The Templar Church survived the great seaquake
It is the oldest church in the Algarve. Knights Templar built the chapel in the 13th century after their victory over the Moors: Nossa Senhora de Guadalupe (“Our Lady of Guadalupe”), 13 kilometers northeast of Sagres. The church was one of the few structures in the region to survive the seaquake of 1755.
Back then, on November 1st, of all Saints’ Day, waves up to 20 meters high had destroyed many Algarve locations – and with them many architectural testimonies. But this little early Gothic church only had a few cracks. It has been a listed building since 1942. Its annex houses a museum on the history of the Algarve and seafaring.
The best cork in the world comes from Portugal
The region around São Brás de Alportel near Faro prides itself on being the origin of the “best cork in the world”. In fact, the material from the cork oak, Portugal’s national tree, is of such high quality that it can not only be used to make bottle corks, floor coverings and insulation, but also bags, hats, shoes and jackets – and even masks. Cork is sustainable and hypoallergenic.
Quirky, record-breaking, typical: You can find more parts of our regional geography series here.
This text is from WELT AM SONNTAG. We will be happy to deliver them to your home on a regular basis.