The southern Portuguese province of the Algarve is divided from the rest of the country by a series of low-lying mountains. It is one of Europe's most popular coastal holiday destinations, catering for millions of tourists every year. The region's capital, Faro, is built around a charming harbour beside a wide lagoon. An international airport was opened near Faro in 1965 to cater for the incoming tourists, making the city the hub of the resort trade.
Marinha Beach © Luis Ascenso
Most of the Algarve's trendy, modern holiday resorts were formerly little fishing villages. They still feature central areas with narrow streets, whitewashed houses and ancient churches, but it is the region's long sandy beaches which have ensured its place as a holiday Mecca. The coastline stretches 100 miles (161km) from Cape St. Vincent to Vila Real de Santo Antonio on the border with Spain, and much of it today is built up with high-rise hotels and holiday apartment blocks, particularly the area to the west of Faro.
A special feature of the Algarve is the myriad almond trees that are found throughout the region; in late January and early February, the countryside is blanketed with white almond blossom. There are also groves of lemons, oranges, carobs, pomegranates and figs growing inland in what is known as the 'garden of Portugal'. Also characteristic of the province are swathes of green golf courses, associated with real estate developments and major resorts, which have proliferated since the tourist boom began in the early 1960s.
If you ever get bored of lying around on the beautiful beaches of the Algarve, why not head inland to the timeless village of Guia, just three miles (about 5km) north of the coast. This small though bustling village is full of interesting things to see and makes for a great excursion from any of the coastal resorts.