Popular in Portugal: Algarve and Madeira

It should come as little surprise that sun seekers picking Portugal for a relaxing holiday this summer are setting their sights on two very distinct parts of mainland Europe’s most westerly country.

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Madeira Algarve Map

Both the Algarve, the southernmost point of Portugal’s mainland, and the more laidback island of Madeira both boast a stunning coastline, fantastic seafood and warm summer temperatures of 23-24C.

But they are also markedly different. So which is right for your ideal summer holiday to Portugal?

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The Algarve

With over 100 miles of clean, sandy beaches, the Algarve is Portugal’s most popular region for holidaymakers.

One of the Algarve’s most popular areas is Albufeira. Lying not far from Faro airport, this resort offers something for every type of holidaymaker.

Albufeira old town has pretty cobbled streets lined with restaurants, bars, cafes and shops, while the nightlife on offer in the São João and Montechoro areas is guaranteed to keep the young and young at heart happy well into the early hours of the morning.

Other attractions in Albufeira include its marina with its sugar candy coloured apartments and its 25 sandy beaches, many of which have Blue Flag status.

Nearby Vilamoura is another key area of the Algarve’s central region that is popular with couples and families seeking relaxing summer holiday because it, too, has an abundance of golden beaches. The most easily accessible of these is Praia da Marina, which has Blue Flag status.

The marina itself is also a key attraction in Vilamoura because the harbourside is the place for the yachting set and is also home to smart, chic bars, restaurants and hotels.

Vilamoura’s golf courses are the resort’s other big draw. The best known of the 6 or so golf courses are Millenium, Laguna, Pinhal, Victoria and the Old Course all of which are world class.

After dark, Vilamoura offers a diverse range of entertainment for all ages, from bars and restaurants to a casino, nightclubs, live family-friendly shows and cabaret.


Madeira, on the other hand, attracts a more mature clientele, and raving is limited to enthusing about the island’s dramatic scenery and botanical wonders. This is because most of the island is covered by volcanic soil where just about anything grows – including the vineyards that produce the fortified wines Madeira is known for.

Madeira is a walker’s paradise, with the Levada trails being particularly popular due to them taking in lush green forests, waterfalls and stunning mountain vistas in addition to a route to and from Madeira’s highest peak Ruivo.

The coast, meanwhile, consists mostly of high cliffs and rocky volcanic coastline with golden and black sand beaches scattered around the island. Due to Madeira’s mild climate and wind conditions, handgliding and paragliding are also popular activities on the island.

This part of the world is also known for its big game fishing with tales of marlin weighing half a tonne being caught far from rare.

In addition to their wine and seafood, the islanders have cultivated an excellent cuisine, including the traditional and meaty Espetada, skewered meat cooked over hot coals.

Many of Madeira’s best restaurants are found in the capital Funchal, which in addition to being the birthplace of football star Cristiano Ronaldo is also home to a wealth of museums and high-class hotels.

So….which is best for you?

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