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Algarve and the South

For most people, the southern coast of Portugal, known as the Algarve, brings to mind fighting for a small plot of sand on which to lay one’s towel amid (seemingly) millions of tourists.

Yet done right, southern Portugal can be a great option for those who love beaches, golf, or tennis. It is great for families or for those able to visit in the late spring or early autumn when crowds are much less pronounced.

Beyond the powdery sands of beaches and coves, there lies a different southern Portugal.

Southern Portugal offers rustic and charming villages as well as quieter beaches and isolated, dramatic Mediterranean coastline; some of the most stunning in Europe. There are ocher-colored cliffs, windswept dunes, and the endless blue waters of the Mediterranean.

This area abounds with fresh seafood in mom-and-pop establishments, whitewashed houses silhouetted against brilliant skies, and quirky small hotels.

Board a private sailboat in the morning at Lagos – admired by its Phoenician founders for its natural harbor. Here you’ll find sandy coves and seaside grottoes where you can explore rock formations in dinghies.

Perhaps your family might prefer to go deep-sea fishing or stroll through ancient ruins.

For an unusual morning, meet the owner of salt pans, dating back to the Romans, which have been brought to life again in recent years as one of Europe’s finest producers of artisanal salt.

For those seeking truly unmarred territory and raw, isolated, Atlantic coastlines of rugged beauty, the westernmost part of southern Portugal (very rarely visited) offers some of Europe’s last wetlands, dolphin-watching, and excellent birding –including the endangered (and enormous) great bustard.