The Eastern Algarve is a charming region that has a lot to offer. While many visitors tend to frequent the central region of the Algarve, the Eastern Algarve region has something unique to offer, especially for those looking to escape the crowds, enjoy calmer sea views or explore more quintessential Portuguese towns.
It offers secluded beaches, picture postcard towns and the Ria Formosa National Park with its deserted island beaches and small island dwellings.
Here are the highlights of the Eastern Algarve:
Now regarded as the capital of the Algarve, this is where the region is internationally connected through its airport. Steeped in history dating back to Roman times, there is a wealth of heritage to be explored. Today, Faro is a fully functioning modern city that still respects the days of the past, with its beautiful cobbled shopping streets. It offers a bustling marina connecting it to the islands of the Ria Formosa, as well as exceptional gastronomic experiences and it is well on its way to putting itself on the map as a city to live and play in.
Straddling the river Gilão, Tavira offers a historic centre, with its centuries-old houses and lattice doors. However, it is also a modern town with much to offer everyone. The town has done its best to maintain its Algarve character and has done it well. Although it does not have a direct beach, it is connected by ferry to the beach on the island of Tavira. The town offers some of the most beautiful vast, white beaches, all within walking distance. In contrast, the beautiful hills of the Algarve behind the town also offer a quiet place to live and explore.
Formerly a fishing village and once the parish of Tavira, it has grown in popularity with tourists as well as residents in recent years, while maintaining the sleepy village structure. Situated on the edge of a lagoon that meets the Ria Formosa, it offers sloping houses and a fine selection of shops, bars and restaurants. Still strongly linked to the fishing industry, many residents make their living from the sea and the selection of seafood and fish on offer is remarkable.
Located inland from the river Guadiana, a natural border between Portugal and Spain. It is steeped in the history of a bygone era when ships traded metals and other goods. Once a walled town, Alcoutim offers steep, narrow streets lined with centuries-old houses and offers a calm, relaxed atmosphere, typical of many inland Algarve towns and villages. Situated on the river, there are plenty of places to relax and take a break while taking in the views of the river and the Spanish town situated on the other side.
Situated inland away from the coast, this beautiful fortress town overlooks the Guardiana River which forms the border with Spain. It is a charming Algarve village with cobbled streets, whitewashed houses and terracotta roofs. Surrounded by salt flats and 2000 hectares of marsh land, it offers some spectacular wildlife and flamingos are often found feeding and nesting nearby.
Another river town, Vila Real de Santo António was built to replicate Lisbon with its careful grid-like planning. It has a thriving economy and a strong residential community and offers a true glimpse into an Algarve of times past. Situated on the Guardiana River, it is the easternmost town in the Algarve, and still retains that charm and heritage.
With its easy access to the islands of the Ria Formosa and long stretches of beach ideal for swimming and sunbathing, it offers tranquil waters and is a paradise for nature lovers. With the backdrop of fields and hills dotted with white houses, there are many attractions in Olhão. Still a strong fishing port, it offers fantastic food and a number of annual events centred around the local industry.
To the west of Tavira is the picturesque village of Santa Luzia. It originated as a fishing village and is now famous as the octopus capital, which is a local speciality. Situated on the Ria Formosa, the village is connected by a small train to the beach "Praia do Barril", which is an extension of the beach on the island of Tavira. It was once home to a tuna factory which has since been converted into amenities for beach goers, but you can still see the remnants of this long forgotten trade, with all the tuna anchors stacked in the sand in front of the old factory.
Lying within the Ria Formosa national park the village is situated on top of a hill. It offers beautiful sandy banks on the Ria Formosa lagoon and one of the highest vantage points out to sea. It is a reminder of what the Algarve must of been like half a century ago. Whilst fishing was its main source of income, in recent decades, tourism has become a strong contender. However you will still get fresh fish and seafood delivered by the local fisherman to the restaurants.
A relatively unspoilt fishing town, it offers you a feel for the real Algarve and remains unspoilt by tourism and development. Yet still boasts some stunning beaches all within easy reach. With a small marina that is home to a number of restaurants and street cafes, you will still see the fishermen preparing to head out to sea if you get there early enough.
With life centred around the village, it is nestled within the rolling hillsides that sit above Faro and the coast and offering a mix of cobbled streets, whitewashed houses and terracotta roofs. It is a pleasant village with a relaxed atmosphere, that is home to two major attractions, Estoi Palace and the Roman Villa of Milreu.
Boasting one of the best beaches in the Algarve that stretches as far as the eye can see. It has unfortunately not retained its quaint Portuguese village feel, giving way to apartment blocks and hotels. However, it is not to be mistaken for some of the more developed resorts on the coast and still holds something special to offer as a small resort town with a raised boardwalk that takes advantage of this fabulous beach.
Originally a fishing village, of which it still retains some of that charm, today Manta Rota has become a popular resort destination due to its expanse of beach, that some of its neighbours lack due to the Ria Formosa formation. Life centres around its large square, with a network of paths and walkways leading off of it taking you through the dunes. Popular Manta Rota is not as crowded as other main tourist resorts and offers a great blend between old and new, with a number of peaceful and quiet spots to be found.
Famed for its tile production that is exported worldwide, the town of Santa Catarina de Fonte do Bispo sits to the northwest of Tavira. Small town life centres around the church square, however the location offers a semi rural setting with plenty of open spaces and hillsides, all within easy reach of Tavira.