The coastal towns of the eastern Algarve are ‘real’ towns, far more
under-developed than those in the Central and Western area of the
If you are after a more relaxed style of holiday, away
from the hordes of tourists and water parks, then the Eastern Algarve
may be the place for you.
Why is it so undeveloped? The reason for this is
probably because the towns along the coast are not generally right on
the sea. They are separated from the Atlantic by salt-pans, marshland
and lagoons. These form part of the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve, which
stretches from just south of Faro along the coast to the town of Vila
Nova de Cacela, a few kilometres west of the Rio Guadiana river on the
The beaches you’ll find along the coast are to be
found on long sandy islands and outcrops. Because of this, little
development of hotels has been possible, and should therefore keep the
area quieter than other areas in the Algarve.
The wetlands of the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve
make this area of coastline, wild and interesting, in contrast to the
red sandstone cliffs of the central Algarve and the rugged coastline in
Further inland, the area is completely
undeveloped. Small rustic villages nestle in the remote countryside.
You’ll find the local inhabitants going about their daily business, the
same today as they did many generations before.
Leaving Faro, to the east along the N125, the first town you come to is the fishing port of Olhao. Well worth a visit, particularly for the large fish market down by the sea front.
Leaving Olhao and continuing east along the N125 for about 23km, you’ll see Tavira signposted. This is a charming and unspoiled town, with narrow cobbled
streets, straddling both sides of the River Gilao. If you like
churches, then you won’t be disappointed as there are plenty to
About 17km east from Tavira, is the Eastern
Algarve's only real tourist resort, Monte Grande. Being beyond the Ria
Formosa reserve, it lies on the coast, with some beautiful beaches.
You’ll find more high rise apartments here than in other towns, and in
the summer plenty of Spanish holiday makers (no doubt attracted by the
cheaper prices here).
A few kilometres to the west of Monte Gordo, on the coast is the small purpose built resort of Altura,which is a peaceful and relaxing place to unwind, although you shouldn't expect much more from it than that.
Finally we come to Vila Real de Santo Antonio, on
the Spanish border and the resort town of Monte Gordo. The Guadiana
river here marks the border with Spain.