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Geography and Landscape
The Algarve is the southernmost part of Portugal. To the east, the Algarve is bordered by the Rio Guadiana. This river also forms the border with Spain. In the north the Algarve borders the Spanish province of Alentejo and to the south and west of the Algarve lies the Atlantic Ocean.
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The total area of Algarve covers more than 6,500 square kilometers. There is a coastline of 170 kilometers. From the coast to the northernmost point is a maximum of 40 kilometers.
The landscape of the Algarve is very varied. The coast has the well-known rock formations with small beaches to the west of Faro. Many rocks, caverns and caves formed by water and wind can be found here. East of Faro are lagoons and kilometers of sandy beaches. The coastline is almost completely protected nature reserve (Parque Natural da Ria Formosa). Albufeira, Lagos and Portimao are the somewhat larger coastal towns.
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The interior of the Algarve is sparsely populated and virtually untouched by tourism. Here you can admire beautiful villages and towns and castles where it seems as if time has stood still. This area is hilly with the highest peak being Foia (902 m) near Monchique.
Climate and Weather
The sun shines frequently in the Algarve. On average, more than 3000 hours of sunshine are measured annually. Rain falls mainly in autumn and winter, the number of rainless days is over 300.
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The climate feels subtropical, despite its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, there is a Mediterranean climate with mild winters and not too hot summers. Average daytime temperatures fluctuate between 16 degrees Celsius in January and February and 28 degrees Celsius in July and August. The summer heat is tempered by a fresh breeze from the sea.
Plants and Animals
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Because there is sufficient rainfall in autumn and winter, there is a rich vegetation in the Algarve. The almond trees are already in bloom in February. There is a lot of scrub, broom and heather in the Algarve. Various herbs such as rosemary, thyme and lavender grow in between. There are also many wild flowers and plants.
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Various tree species grow in the Algarve. There are cypresses, pines, holm oaks, cork oaks, plane trees and carob trees. In the orchards are fruit trees, figs, olives, lemons and oranges.
In June 2005 it became known that the World Wildlife Fund will replant areas in the Algarve that had been ravaged by severe forest fires in previous years with woody plants. The so-called Cansino project was primarily aimed at the Monchique region. There, more than 70,000 hectares of forest and agricultural land went up in flames in two years.
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The animal world of the Algarve is in line with that of Spain, but also has a number of African elements, such as the chameleon, genet and mongoose. Of the mammals come under more for the wild boar and wild cat. Deforestation, erosion and inadequately controlled hunting mean that there are few large mammals left. Nature and environmental protection are still in its infancy. The fish-rich seas around Portugal have been successfully exploited for centuries (sardine, anchovy, cod). The Algarve is an important intermediate station for bird migration. Waders, avocets, curlews and godwits are the main migratory birds. There are also eagles, owls, buzzards and guillemots. In the salt pans and lagoons of the Algarve, flamingos breed ducks and storks.
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The Rafeiro do Alentejo comes from the Alentejo district in South Portugal. This dog breed is a combination of local breeds, which were crossed with the Estrela Mountain Dog and the Spanish Mastiff, among others. It is the largest of the Portuguese breeds and is mainly found in its native region.
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The oldest traces of man and civilization are from 8000 BC. Celts and Lusitanians were the first important inhabitants of Portugal. The Romans arrived in Portugal at the beginning of the second century BC and stayed there for more than 600 years. At first, they met a lot of opposition, especially from the able-bodied Lusitani. In 27 BC Augustus divided the Iberian Peninsula into three provinces. Tarraconensis (east and north), Baetica (south) and Lusitania (west), the latter province not entirely coinciding with the territory of present-day Portugal. Traces of the Romans are still there in the form of roads and bridges and places like Evora and Conimbriga. The Portuguese language also comes from Latin.
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After a brief domination of the Germans, the next invasion became significant, that of the Moors. Taking advantage of the divisions of the Germanic rulers, the Moorish general Tarik ibn-Ziyad crossed over to Spain in 711 and a little later also present-day Portugal. Within ten years the Moors were masters of the peninsula, save for some inhospitable regions of mountainous Asturias. The rule of the Moors has lasted for centuries and has been of great significance in Portugal. The Moorish influence was particularly strong in southern and central Portugal. Algarve is a Moorish word which means the West. The Moors brought with them the Islamic culture. Food and architecture still show Moorish features.
The Burgundian House
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After much struggle and with the help of the crusaders, Lisbon fell in 1147 to Alfonso I Henriques (1139-1185). He accepted the title of king, which was recognized by Castile and Rome after many struggles. His successors, named Sancho and Alfons in turn, expanded the area and managed to maintain themselves as sovereign princes. Alfons III conquered the last strongholds of the Moors in the Algarve in 1249. With this Portugal got its current national borders. The house eventually dies out due to a lack of male heirs to the throne.
The House of Avis
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During the plight after the extinction of the house of Burgundy, a number of neighbors turned their eager eyes on Portugal. But neither the bourgeoisie nor the nobility allowed this to happen. Field Lord Nuno Alvares Pereira made sure that in 1385 a bastard came to the throne Joao I. With the new king, the house of Avis was created.
His son Hendrik the Navigator (1394-1460) laid the foundations for the Portuguese empire. Madeira and the Azores had already been discovered at his death and the Portuguese in Africa had already reached Sierra Leone. Portugal had become the foremost maritime power in Europe. The main explorers were Vasco da Gama (he discovered the sea route to India, where he set foot ashore in 1498) and Pedro Alvares Cabral (he discovered Brazil in 1500. This took place under the rule of Manuel I (1495-1521). Portugal slowly fell into decline, and after a failed campaign against the Moors in Morocco in 1578, the Spaniards took power in 1580.
Philip II was quite loyal in recognizing Portuguese autonomy, but Spain's enemies, especially the Republic, settled on seeing Portugal as an enemy as well. The East India Company conquered large parts of the Portuguese empire in the east, the West India Company settled in Northeast Brazil. It was also fatal for Portugal to be involved in Spain's numerous wars with other European powers. Economically and socially, the country became more and more exhausted, especially under Philip III and IV, who regarded Portugal simply as a province of Spain. But Portuguese nationalism increasingly resisted oppression and exploitation. At the end of 1640, a small group of conspirators put an end to Spanish rule. This was enthusiastically welcomed by the vast majority of the population. The Duke of Braganca was proclaimed King Joao IV.
The House of Braganca
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In 1662 ties with England were strengthened by the marriage of Catharina Braganca to Charles II. This cost Portugal possession of Bombay. Only remnants remained of the Portuguese empire in the east, but the country's independence was assured. Yet Portugal failed to establish itself as a modern power. The Brazilian gold, which began to flow to Portugal in the 18th century, was spent on pompous buildings by the beautiful Baroque prince Joao V (1707-1750). His successor left the government to his minister Pombal, a typical representative of enlightened despotism. He had Lisbon systematically rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake.
Portugal was a constitutional monarchy in the 19th century with a fairly liberal constitution. Little came of the elaboration in practice. The rural population lived in almost feudal conditions and in great ignorance. Financial scandals from government leaders, the unwillingness and inability of the leading circles to improve the situation, and political abuses in Africa discredited the monarchy. Portugal built up a large colonial empire in Africa in the second half of the 19th century. But in conflicts with more powerful powers, the country always drew the short straw. The Republican Party was founded in 1878. In 1908, King Carlos I (1889-1908) and the heir apparent were killed after an attack by republicans. The young Emanuel II had to flee to England after a military rebellion and popular uprising in 1910. The same day the republic was proclaimed and Teófilo Braga became the first president.
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The new regime did not bring political stability. Financial problems, illiteracy, economic and social issues persisted. From 1910 to 1926, Portugal had no fewer than 44 governments, witnessed 20 coups d'état and changed president 12 times.
Portugal took part in the First World War in 1916 under heavy British pressure. It suffered significant losses in France, defeats in Mozambique and emerged from the war even more distressed financially. Government crises, international loans on humiliating terms, strikes and riots shaped the post-war picture. In 1926 a right-wing nationalist revolution broke out. General António Carmona, president from 1926 to 1951, brought the economist António de Oliveira de Salazar to the Ministry of Finance in 1928.
Salazar had negotiated absolute powers of attorney and drained finances thanks to the dictatorship of the generals. State deficits turned into surpluses.
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In 1932 Salazar became Prime Minister and a year later he gave the country a corporate political-social basis (Estado Novo) with a new constitution. For 40 years, Salazar would rule Portuguese politics. In fact, it was a mixture of Catholic corporatism and fascism. The ideas of liberalism and socialism, of democracy with political liberty rights and the workers' movement were suppressed as subversive. In the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), Portugal rendered many services to Franco. After Franco's victory, an Iberian Pact was concluded with them.
Portugal remained outside the Second World War After the war, Portugal joined the United Nations and NATO (1949) without changing its regime. The opposition was silenced.
In 1951 the colonies were given the status of overseas territories, but they remained outside the process of decolonization that took place in Asia and Africa. After a military action in 1961, India annexed the enclaves of Goa, Daman and Diu. Liberation movements started an armed struggle in Africa (Angola 1961, Guinea 1963, Mozambique 1964). Portugal engaged in a triple colonial war involving an army of 100,000 conscripts. The regime became internationally isolated and although hundreds of thousands of Portuguese worked in Western Europe, the economy stagnated. The resistance deepened and broadened. An opposition movement within the armed forces, the Movement of the Armed Forces (MFA), finally intervened.
The Carnation Revolution and Democracy
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The Carnation Revolution of April 25, 1974, which proceeded without bloodshed, disintegrated the "New State" like a house of cards and initiated a revolutionary development in Portuguese society. This development went far beyond the scope of the MFA. Old and new parties organized themselves. In the course of a few years the (social) revolutionary tidal wave was to be contained and a political democracy emerged, for the first time in Portuguese history. The elections to the Constituent Assemblies on April 25 brought a major victory for the moderate parties, the Socialists (SP) under Mario Soares (38%) and the People's Party (PPD) of Sá Carneiro (26%). The Communists (PCP) under Cunhal gained 12.5% and the right-wing CDS 7.7%. Political tensions increased further and on November 25, a 'group of nine' soldiers intervened. It became a turning point, the revolutionary structures quickly lost ground, formal power structures were restored. In 1976 the new constitution came into effect. Soares became prime minister and held the PCP, which had tried to hold as many key positions as possible, outside the new power structures.
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Soares focused strongly on Europe, especially on its German sister party and tried to adapt the country, which was in great economic difficulties, to both the new Portuguese and European relations. In 1979, Sá Carneiro became prime minister of a coalition government of PSD and the right. He and his successors Francisco Pinto Balsemão and, since 1985, Anibal Cavaço Silva followed the path towards more capitalist relations, with the popular Cavaço Silva achieving electoral successes. In 1987 the liberal PSD came to power. The constitution was also amended (1982 and 1989). Eanes was succeeded in 1986 by the socialist Mario Soares, who was reelected in 1991. In October 1992, the PSD won a majority in parliament in elections. Portugal, which had applied for membership of the European Community in 1977, became a full member in 1986.
Dissatisfaction with the bad economic situation was clearly revealed in the municipal elections in Dec. 1993. The left-wing opposition parties, the socialists and the communists made great gains at the expense of the center-right ruling party.
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This result turned out to be a clue to the parliamentary elections of Oct. 1995, which was a great victory for the socialists, whose leader Guterres formed a government with the independents. The presidential elections ended in victory for the socialist candidate Jorge Sampaio, the former mayor of Lisbon, who succeeded his party colleague Soares. Portugal, which for years had the lowest standard of living in democratic Europe, gradually caught up in the 1990s, thanks to rapid economic growth.
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On 20 February 2005, (early) elections took place in Portugal, with the Partido Socialista (PS) winning with an absolute majority with party leader José Socrates. The PSD (the previous government) suffered the biggest defeat in its history in these elections. The 17th Portuguese government since the revolution of April 25, 1974 was formed on Saturday, March 12, 2005, with José Socrates as the new Prime Minister. Head of State has been President Anibal Cavaco Silva (PSD) since early 2006.
In the second half of 2007, Portugal was president of the EU and in April 2008 the Portuguese voted en masse in favor of the new EU treaty. In September 2009, the socialist Jose Socrates wins the elections but loses the absolute majority. He will form a minority government in October.
In March 2010 social unrest arose because of the austerity package imposed as a result of the credit crisis.
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Pedro Passos Coelho has been Prime Minister since June 21, 2011. The crisis hit Portugal hard in the years 2010 to 2013 with increasingly tougher budget cuts. The economy is showing signs of recovery at the beginning of 2014. In November 2015, socialist leader Antonio Costa forms a center-left government. In October 2016, former Prime Minister Antonio Guterres was appointed Secretary-General at the UN. In February 2017, Portugal withdrew its complaint to the EU over Spain's plan to build a nuclear waste repository that environmentalists fear could affect the Tagus River that flows into Portugal. In return, Spain agrees to share environmental information and consult on the facility. Pedro Passos Coelho has been Prime Minister since 21 June 2011. The crisis hit Portugal hard in the years 2010 to 2013 with increasingly tougher budget cuts. At the beginning of 2014, the economy is showing signs of recovery.
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In November 2015, socialist leader Antonio Costa forms a center-left government. In October 2016, former Prime Minister Antonio Guterres was appointed Secretary-General at the UN. In February 2017, Portugal withdrew its complaint to the EU over Spain's plan to build a nuclear waste repository that environmentalists fear could affect the Tagus River that flows into Portugal. In return, Spain agrees to share environmental information and consult on the facility. The years 2018 and 2019 will bring further economic growth and the unemployment rate drops significantly to below 8%, in 2013 the unemployment rate was still 17%. After the October 2019 elections, Antonio Costa's socialist party will remain in power.
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Portugal has approximately 10.840 million inhabitants (2017). Many Portuguese live abroad, mostly for economic reasons. After the decolonization of Angola andMozambique, hundreds of thousands of so-called retornadoes have returned to the motherland. After some time, some of them migrated to Brazil. Annual population growth is 0.12. The birth rate in 2014 was 9.42%, the death rate 10.97%. The population density varies greatly from region to region. Large population concentrations are located in and around Lisbon and Porto and onMadeira. Nevertheless, Portugal is a sparsely populated country with just over 100 inhabitants per km2.
The Algarve itself is home to approximately 442,000 people (2017). The capital Faro has more than 50,000 inhabitants. Of all the Portuguese, the inhabitants of the Algarve are most closely related to the Moors. The people are darker in appearance and smaller in stature than the Portuguese from the north.
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The official language is Portuguese. Portuguese is a Romance language, closely related to Spanish. However, the pronunciation is very different. Portuguese has a unique sound and is immediately recognizable. Anyone who has ever listened to Fado music will recognize both the raw and melancholic of this language. Portuguese is a world language and is spoken by more than 160 million people, especially in Brazil, which is more archaic in pronunciation and vocabulary than the language spoken in Portugal. In terms of sentence structure, on the other hand, it is more modern. Due to the many influences of other languages, Brazilian Portuguese has about 10,000 words more than Portuguese in Portugal.
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The former national church of Portugal is the Roman Catholic Church. About 80% of the population claims to be Catholic, although mass participation has been declining in recent years. There are three archdioceses, namely Braga, Évora and Lisbon, with eight, two and eight dioceses respectively. Lisbon has been the seat of a patriarch since 1716, who has also been a cardinal since 1736.
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Portugal has a tradition of Marian worship, the most famous religious cult in Portugal is the alleged apparition of the Virgin Mary to three children in Cova da Iria, in the village of Fátima, in 1917. The apparition of the Heavenly Mother in this small village in the district of Santarém has led hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Fátima every year, many in the hope of a cure from an ailment.
The Protestant churches have about 50,000 members. There are also smaller groups of Muslims, Hindus (from the former colony of Goa) and Jews.
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In 1982 a new constitution, replacing the old one in 1976, came into effect. It abolished the Military Revolutionary Council and limited the president's power. Furthermore, Marxist and socialist elements were removed from the constitution. The president, who is elected every five years by universal suffrage, appoints the prime minister and has the right to dismiss his government. The president is also Commander in Chief of the Army. The government is in a relatively weak position as it is politically accountable to the president and to parliament. The parliament consists of one chamber, the Assembleia da República and consists of 250 members. For the current political situation see chapter history.
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Historically, Portugal has been divided into eleven provinces: Minho, Trás-os-Montes, Alto Douro, Douro Litoral, Beira Alta, Beira Baxia, Estramadura, Ribatejo, Alto Alentejo, Baixo Alentejo and Algarve. Portugal is divided into 18 districts and two autonomous regions (the Azores and Madeira) headed by an appointed governor. The districts are divided into municipalities (concelhos).
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After the revolution of 1974, a large number of industrial companies and banks were nationalized, but by the end of the 1970s, many of these nationalizations were reversed. The new 1982 constitution opened the way to further liberalization of the economy. A number of sectors were opened up to the business community. From 1985, after two years of recession, there was some recovery. Especially the accession to the European Community (EC) in 1986 has benefited the country. Since that year, the average annual growth of the economy has been around 4.6%. The shadow side of the economic recovery is high inflation and the growing trade deficit. Portugal is exceptionally affected by the recession as a result of the credit crisis. In recent years, Portugal has been experiencing an economic contraction of around -2% and high unemployment (8.9% in 2017). The Portuguese economy is now doing much better. In 2017, the economy grew by 2.5%.
In May 2014, Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho announced that Portugal no longer had to rely on emergency loans from other euro countries and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Portugal would try on its own to get its public finances in order. Since 2011, Portugal has been steered through the economic and financial crisis with EUR 78 billion in emergency loans and as a result, the budget deficit had already substantially narrowed.
Agriculture, forestry and fishing
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Agriculture contributes 2.2% to the gross national product and provides work for 8.6% of the labor force. Portugal is receiving financial support from the European Union to modernize the agricultural sector. Emphasis is placed on increasing productivity. Farmers are urged to form cooperatives again. Arable farming is carried out on small farms in the north. There is a lot of large land ownership in the south. Although the south, in particular, is very fertile, agriculture does not meet its own needs due to the lagging behind technology and the poor infrastructure. Many foods have to be imported. The main products of arable farming are grain, maize, beans, rye, rice, potatoes, olive oil and wine. Viticulture is mainly concentrated in the valleys of the rivers Minho known for the Vinho Verde, the Douro port! and the Tagus. Livestock farming is mainly carried out in the north. Sheep and pig farming is done on the coast in the provinces south of the Tagus. About 40% of the ground surface is covered with forest. Portugal covers half of the world's cork needs.
Fisheries are of great importance, both for food and for exports. Inshore fisheries mainly fish for sardines, tuna and shellfish. The Portuguese also fish further from home, cod (Bacalhau) is the national food par excellence.
Mining and Industry
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Portugal does have mineral reserves, but extraction is not very profitable. Only the production of wolframite, copper, tin, lead, coal and iron ore (iron content 50%) is of interest.
Industry contributes 22.1% (2017) to GDP and provides employment for 23.9% of the labor force. Compared to other Western European countries, the industry is still quite poorly developed. Small-scale companies dominate the picture. Lisbon, Porto, Setubal and Sines are the main centers for the industry. Of interest are the textile and fish canning industry, the wine-growing industry, shipbuilding (Lisbon), the petrochemical industry and car assembly.
Energy and trade
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The hydropower plants in the north and center of Portugal are of great importance for the energy supply. But Portugal has to import a lot of petroleum to meet its energy needs. Solar energy is now also becoming an important factor.
The exports mainly consist of clothing and textiles, wine, preserved fish, cork, wood and paper. The main buyers are Spain, Germany, France and the rest of the European Union. The total value of exports was $ 62 billion in 2017.
Petroleum, petroleum products, machinery, iron and steel are the main products to be imported. Here, too, Spain and the European Union are the most important trading partners. The total value of the imports was $ 74 billion in 2017.
Almost all trade is done by sea. Portugal has traditionally been a seafaring nation. Lisbon and Porto are the main ports.
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The road network of more than 70,000 kilometers is well maintained, but the infrastructure is still insufficient. Portugal does not have an extensive railway network, it covers approximately 3,500 kilometers. Shipping is of great importance. The national airline is Air Portugal. The main airports are Lisbon, Porto and Faro.
Holidays and Sightseeing
The Algarve, the southernmost province of Portugal, is the most popular holiday destination of Portugal due to a friendly climate, more than a hundred clean beaches, a varied landscape, a rich culture, museums, a peaceful hinterland and a hospitable population.
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To the west of the capital Faro you will find rock formations with small stands, to the east of Faro you will find lagoons and kilometers of sandy beaches, including the famous beaches of Praia da Ouro, Praia da Rocha and Praia de Dona Ana. Nature lovers will enjoy Ria Formosa, the Serra da Monchique mountain range, the Caldeirão mountains and Cabo Sagres, areas where more than thirty hiking routes have been set out. Cabo da Sao Vicente is the most south-westerly point of the mainland of Europe and undoubtedly the most impressive place in the Algarve in terms of view.
Golf enthusiasts will also enjoy their attract with more than thirty beautifully situated golf courses. There are no more than 500,000 Portuguese living in the Algarve, ten times as many tourists stay in the holiday period, so we can certainly speak of mass tourism here. The beauty of the Algarve, however, is that a few kilometers inland you end up in a completely different world, without the hectic pace of the narrow coastal region.
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Albufeira is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Portugal. Many caves can be found in Albufeira and the surrounding area. It is highly recommended to visit one of these caves during your stay in Albufeira. For example, at the beach at 'Rua Lationo Coelho' Here the Moors hid from the Christians. The Falesia beach is also recommended. It is one of the most beautiful sandy beaches in all of Portugal and all facilities can be found there. Albufeira's Falesia beach has even been awarded the Blue Flag for the cleanest and safest beaches in Europe. Read more on the Albufeira page on Landenweb.
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Champion,N. / Portugal Corona
Dominicus, J. / Portugal Gottmer
Holisova, J. / Algarve ANWB
Keuning, T. / Portugal ANWB
Wakeren, B. van / Algarve, Zuid-Portugal, Lissabon Gottmer
CIA - World Factbook
BBC - Country ProfilesLast updated September 2021
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