The Algarve of Portugal refers to the southernmost region of mainland Portugal, and features some of the most dramatic coastlines in all of Europe. Though the area was home to paleolithic and neolithic cultures — as evident by the megalithic stones near Vila Do Bispo — the area is heavily influenced by the Visigoth culture and the Moorish cultures.
The Moorish Influence of Algarve, Portugal
During the Moorish Invasion and Conquest of the Iberian Peninsula that began in 711 A.D. the area took on a new identity with its many Muslim inhabitants. In fact, the name Algarve stems from the Arabic word Al-Gharb (الغرب) meaning “The West,” as this was the furthest west coast of mainland Europe. While the culture has changed much in past years, the Muslim and Moorish influence is still heavy in The Algarve’s culture, cuisine, architecture and traditions.
Formerly known as “Vila Nova de Portimão,” Modern Portimão is a bustling tourist destination and one of the most popular and important port cities in all of Portugal. The port of Portimão is host to the “Portuguese Grand Prix of the Sea Run,” the annual international championship of power-boating. Scuba is also a major draw off the coast of Portimão, with two large Navy warships that were purposefully sank to create a habitat for indigenous sea-life.
Traditional Portuguese Azulejos
If you go shopping in Algarve, Portugal you will be sure to see many Portuguese Azulejos. These light blue, expertly-painted ceramic tiles have been a staple in Portugal since the 1500s, and are used both for decoration and as a form of temperature control in homes and buildings. All around the Algarve you will see many churches and homes with these beautiful tin-painted tiles on both the insides and outsides of buildings. Demand for these tiles is still very high today, and many local artisans still manufacture and sell the tiles both locally and as an export.
The Carob Bean Farms of Southern Portugal
Carob beans are widely grown in the Algarve region of Portugal, as they grow very well in the Southern Coast’s climate. These beans are fuly edible and are often ground to make cakes and breads, or can be stewed soft and added to stews and other dishes. Because of the sweetness of the bean — with a hint of bitterness — ground carob beans (Carob Powder) is often used as a substitute for cocoa powder in the region and often made into liqueurs. When traveling through the Algarve region, you will see many carob bean farms dotting the landscape.
The Orange Groves of Southern Portugal
Oranges are another staple of Algarve cuisine, and one of the most widely grown foods in the Southern region of Portugal. While much of the harvests are exported to the rest of Europe, you will see orange being used in many local recipes, especially as a citrus companion to fish and seafood.
World Famous Marinha Beach in Algarve, Portugal
Of course, the coastline of The Algarve is itself the most impressive sight in all of the region. The sheer and battered rocks of the coastline are reminiscent of the Cliffs of Dover in some areas, and are riddled with sea-caves, hidden inlets, and pristine beaches. The most famous of the Coastline’s beaches in the world famous Marinha Beach. Known locally as “Praia da Marinha,” the beach is consistently rated as one of the top beaches in Europe, and as one of the top 100 beaches in all of the world. The pristine waters here are formed as the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea filter into the Atlantic Ocean. While this is the most famous spot on the coastline for visitors and beach-goers, it is just a single gem in the crown coastline that wraps around the southern edge of Portugal, and the Iberian Peninsula.