Some like it hot

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Some like it hot

With 300 days of sunshine a year and 160km (100miles) of coastline, neither sun nor sand is in short supply on the Algarve.  Which is the best beach? That’s a debate without end, like many of the beaches along the southern coast, whose vast expanses of sand enjoy a Mediterranean climate. And how do you compare them to the quieter pleasures of a hidden, hard to reach bay on the rugged western coastline? Roll up your trousers, kick off your shoes and socks and join me in a stroll from east to west as I list my top ten, a small sample of the Algarve’s best beaches.

PRAIA VERDE, Monte Gordo: Just 10km (6miles) from the Spanish border, this long, broad beach is popular with families as it is quiet and the water warmer than further west. Shaded by pine trees (hence its name), there is a simple beach bar but few other facilities. However, cycling, horse-riding, fishing, sailing, surfing and, of course, golf are among the many activities available nearby.

PRAIA DE BARRIL, Tavira: This area near Tavira has some of the Algarve’s best Blue Flag beaches. It’s a long walk to Barril beach across the Ilha de Tavira but there is a miniature train in summer if you’re feeling lazy. The pathway is lovely, though, under shady trees, across a pontoon bridge and past mud banks and sand dunes, with plenty of birdlife around. A graveyard of rusted anchors is another photographer’s dream. The beach itself is well served with shops, restaurants and cafes but its endless expanse of lovely sand never gets crowded.

PRAIA DA ARMONA, Olhão: The nature reserve of Ria Formosa envelopes Olhão and Faro with the three islands of Armona, Culatra, Barreta and Farol protecting the seaward side. A ferry will take you across the reserve’s lagoons to the islands, all of which have long beaches. On Armona, long walks are a popular activity but the island has some restaurants and facilities for water sports.

PRAIA DE GARRÃO, Vale de Lobo: Halfway between the two chic resorts of Vale de Lobo and Quinta do Lago in the Loulé Golden Triangle, high-end restaurants, jet-skis lifeguards and all the trappings of the good life abound. But you can also take to the sand dunes (using boardwalks to protect the delicate and beautiful eco-system) to find peace and literally smell the flowers.

PRAIA DA FALÉSIA, Vilamoura: The distinctive low pine-topped red cliffs that give Praia da Falesia its name stretch from Vilamoura most of the way to Albufeira. This 8km (5mile) stretch of sand is protected from north winds by the cliffs and is popular for long strolls, especially at sunset. Sun-loungers and sunshades are available for those who want to take it even easier.

PRAIA DE ALVOR, Alvor: This beach is one of the Algarve’s very best, with miles of fine white sand, clear water and great views. Immensely popular in summer, it’s big enough to absorb the crowds effortlessly. The western end is very quiet, with nature walks around the estuary of the Ria Alvor. It is also near the amazing Caniço restaurant in Prainha which you enter via a lift from the cliff top.

MEIA PRAIA, Lagos: Another Blue Flag beach, stretching for 4.5km (3miles) from the east of Lagos to Alvor along a sweeping bay. The eastern end, sheltered by Ponta da Piedade, is popular for surfing and other watersports. The clear water, the views of Lagos and Alvor and to the distant horizon also make this another great beach for long walks. Nearby is the scenic Palmares golf course which has five link-type holes.

PRAIA DE BURGAU, Burgau: Well sheltered by cliffs, the beach of the pretty cobbled-street town of Burgau is usually quiet even in summer. It’s the perfect place for a relaxing day not doing very much except eating and drinking at the famed Burgau Beach Bar. For the more active, scuba diving is popular.

PRAIA DO CASTELEJO, Vila do Bispo: The big Atlantic waves and rugged rocks of the west coast give its beaches a very different feel to those on the south of the Algarve. A Blue Flag, lifeguards and lack of strong currents make Castelejo beach popular with swimmers while novice surfers and bodyboarders also love the predictable waves.

PRAIA DA ARRIFANA, Aljezur: This secluded beach has wonderful views that make the long trip to Arrifana well worthwhile. This tiny village has become a base for surfers, but development has been well controlled and the beach’s remoteness and beauty ensure it remains a relatively hidden gem. The bay sucks in Atlantic swells and you will see some world-class surfing from the cliff-top bars.

Weather note: Algarve summers are hot and dry with temperatures averaging around 29º and up to 12 hours of sunshine a day and a cooling sea breeze. Spring and autumn are milder but temperatures still average 17 – 20º with lots of sunshine. The 50 days of rain that the Algarve averages usually come in winter, when temperatures are usually around 15º.

For information on the latest travel packages to the Algarve

please visit  www.bookingalgarve.co.uk

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More from Issue 5 - July 2010

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