|ABOUT THE ALGARVE|
Due to its geographical location, the Algarve enjoys one of the best climates in Europe all year round, with only a short period of rainfall (normally between November and March), maximum temperatures varying between 15°C and 31°C, and long hours of sunshine (the highest in Europe). With fine white sand beaches all along its coastline and a calm sea with water temperatures of around 22°C in the summer, the Algarve is perfect for the so-called “beach tourism”, although a wide range of different activities is offered.
This is why the Algarve, the southernmost region of mainland Portugal, is its most popular tourist destination, and one of the most popular in Europe. With an area of 5,411 km2 and a permanent population of approximately 451,117 inhabitants, its population triples in the summer season due to a high influx of visitors. In total, the Algarve receives almost 10 million people every year, including national visitors, of which 7 million are foreign tourists.
The Algarve possesses two main urban centres: (1) the city of Faro, capital of the region, with an international airport, sports stadium, three university campuses and the main hospital; and (2) the city of Portimão, Algarve’s second main city and home to the University’s fourth campus.
A chosen place of settlement for various groups of people, the Algarve derives its name from the Moors AL-Gharb, meaning “The West”. This is but one clear example of the rich cultural heritage that the Moors left dotted across this region. The castles, fortresses, narrow roads and lacework-patterned chimneys are some of the other landmarks that have survived the passage of history.
Before the Moors, the Algarve received further valuable legacies. The Ruínas de Milreu, in Estoi, and the Roman villa Cerro da Vila, in Vilamoura, are good examples of Roman civilisation and come fully equipped with visitor centres that illustrate the realities of everyday life many centuries ago. In 1249, King D. Afonso III of Portugal conquered Faro and began to use the title of “King of Portugal and of the Algarve”.
The golden age of the Portuguese voyages of discovery placed the Algarve at the centre of some of the key events in those great adventures that opened up new worlds to the West. Setting sail from Lagos and Sagres were caravels of Prince Henry, the Navigator, and explorers such as Gil Eanes, a renowned Algarvian honoured for his daring feats.