Portugal is one of the cheapest destinations at the moment, and with the pound to euro exchange rate more favourable than ever for Brits heading abroad, the Algarve looks set to be a 2015 favourite.
Here are four classic – and one brand new – Algarve attractions you’ll want to take in if you’re visiting this summer.
Celebrate times gone by at the medieval festival in Silves (mid summer)
Silves is a favourite of many fans of the Algarve and there’s plenty to celebrate in mid summer (generally in August) at the old Moorish capital, Silves. Its medieval festival goes on for days, in a magical setting of cobbled streets, flanked by the castle and the cathedral. The locals even get into the spirit of things by dressing up in medieval costumes and the village switches off electric lights and signage while “knights” wander the streets and mistrals play music of the era. You’ll feel as if you’ve been whisked back in time – this is a wonderful festival to be part of!
Play with the dolphins at Zoomarine Theme Park
There are dolphins all along the Algarve’s Atlantic coastline, but if you want to get up close and personal with them, head to Zoomarine where you can take part in the Dolphin Emotions project. You’ll learn what makes dolphins tick, how they behave and why they are so unique. You’ll even get to get in the water with them, and bring home photos and video souvenirs of this once in a lifetime experience.
Loule Market (best day to go: Saturday)
Another picturesque Algarve town, Loule is famous for its produce market which is held in a building that resembles a souk. You’ll find stallholders selling all sorts of fruit and veg, as well as a meat, cheese and deli produce section. Wander over to the fish stalls to find the freshest Atlantic catches – some of them rather unrecognisable! – and if you have Saturday free, that’s the best morning to go. Local farmers will be there selling their wares and it’s one of the best times to meet the locals and get a real flavour for the fresh, sun-grown local produce which is so abundant in this part of southern Europe – and at much cheaper prices than in the UK!
Portimao Sardine Festival (August)
If you’re not a sardine fan, this is one you might want to miss – but if you want a real taste of the Algarve, there’s a whole festival dedicated to the silver fish! Portimao is lively any time of year but in summer, usually August, it shifts up a year during this local festival where you can attend live concerts, handicraft exhibitions and fairs, buy some fabulous local wines, cheese, meats and sweets. Even the town’s museum is nicknamed The Sardine Museum and it’s also worth a visit.
NEW: The Discoveries Wax Museum in Lagos
One of the Algarve’s newest attractions, the Museum of Discoveries in Lagos features 22 wax figures of Portugal’s historic explorers. It tells the story of the Portuguese traders, explorers and historic voyages made by the famous navigators.
The businessman who funded the opening wanted it to appeal as much to local school children as tourists, and the 22 wax models were made in England and shipped over to Portugal.
You’ll find it in Lagos’s marina, the perfect spot for a late pizza lunch or sunset cocktails where you can watch the sleek white yachts moored in geaming dark blue water, just steps from your table.