7 Reasons the Algarve is One of the Most Unique Regions in Europe
Ryder-Walker’s hike through the south of Portugal has quickly become one of our most highly rated treks. This wonderful journey takes you along Portugal’s sunny southern coast, where craggy cliffs, the rolling waves of the Atlantic, and Portugal’s bohemian culture will all welcome you. Look forward to your next great adventure through the Algarve, the southernmost region of Portugal, known for its beaches, Moorish cities, and vineyards, with these 6 incredible facts about the Algarve.
- The Algarve is Portugal’s second most popular tourist region, surpassed only by the capital of Lisbon. Visitors from all over the world come to soak up the rays and iconic vistas. In 2017, the most recent study, a staggering 7.1 million tourists toured the region, and when you visit you will understand exactly why. Although these numbers may suggest that the Algarve is overcrowded, Ryder-Walker has selected secret and remote hikes to get you away from the crowds and discover Portugal with the peace and quiet of nature as your primary companion.
- The human history of the Algarve dates back beyond even the advent of written history. During the Neolithic period, humans began the transition from the hunter-gatherer traditions of old to farming during what is now termed the agricultural revolution. This history is supported by the discovery of megalithic stones in Lagos, a seaside resort region we visit along our hike. Megalithic stones are prehistoric human-built structures, often consisting of massive standing stones, the most iconic of which is the UK’s Stonehenge.
- Food is the heart and soul of Portuguese culture. The Algarve’s diet consists of a variety of fresh fish, local cheeses, meats, and the world-famous Portuguese baking. However, the most iconic dish of the region is the unique chicken piri-piri. Chicken piri-piri is a Portuguese take on barbecue, where the star is the piri-piri chili which was imported to Portugal during the Portuguese colonial period from its colony in Mozambique.
- Despite its location on the southernmost edge of the Iberian Peninsula, the Algarve is an Atlantic region rather than a Mediterranean one like Southern Spain and Southwestern Portugal. The effect of this is an even more temperate climate than the Mediterranean regions with the fresh Atlantic breeze keeping the Algarve cooler than its Mediterranean counterparts. This unique climate is quite welcome considering that the Algarve receives over 3,000 hours a year of direct sunshine!
- The Algarve is home to one of the most unique Natural World Heritage sites in the world. The Laurisilva of Madeira is home to one of the only surviving laurisilva or laurel forests. The laurel is a waxy green tree that is used in seasoning as bay leaves and is endemic to the Mediterranean. The only comparable laurisilva are in the Azores Isles and Madeira. The chance to explore these forests is an opportunity to hike through a biome that exists virtually nowhere else on earth.
- The Algarve wasn’t always part of Portugal. Originally its own kingdom, the Algarve was then occupied by the Moors and became part of the Moorish Empire. During the Reconquista, the period during which the Iberian Peninsula was reconquered by Christian kings, King Alfonso III of Portugal engaged in an extended campaign across the Algarve that wrested the territory from Moorish control. After his victory, King Alfonso III changed his heraldry to the King of Portugal and the Algarve, after which the region was subsumed into the Portuguese Empire.
- The capital of the Algarve, Faro, is home to a split cathedral-mosque. The Cathedral Faro was originally a Paleo-Christian Basilica. During Moorish rule, the basilica was replaced with an impressive mosque and after the Reconquista, a Portuguese-style cathedral was attached to the mosque creating a unique architectural fusion that is evident in less dramatic forms throughout the Algarve. Today, the cathedral only hosts Christian services despite its split appearance.