THE EASTERN ALGARVE REGION
The Algarve is renowned for its mild winters and hot summers. The Moorish influence is still clearly visible in its architecture, and there are lots of historical points of interest to explore.
There is something for everyone here, whether you are interested in history, nature, culture, are a beach lover, have kids that love water parks, play golf, like horseriding, love shopping, or just need to take time out and get away from it.
The coastal strip with well-known towns like Albufeira and Vilamoura is highly developed and tourist-orientated, whereas the inland region seems like a world away, and some of the smaller villages tucked away in the hills still have that underdeveloped rural charm.
THE SÃO BRAS DE ALPORTEL REGION
The small town of S. Bras nestles in hills of cork trees, whitewashed houses, almond trees (almond blossom time: around last week in January), fig and carob trees.
This unspoilt hilly hinterland of the Algarve offers you a holiday away from the tourist crowds with peace and quiet. Villa Holanda is about 4 km from the small town of S. Bras where you will find well-stocked supermarkets, restaurants, street cafés, banks and post office. S. Bras and the larger town of Loulé (8 km) are a special shopping experience, you can still find some smaller individual shops, market halls offering daily fresh vegetables and fruit, fish and meat, and weekly gypsy markets.
Take a seat in one of the many street cafés, enjoy reasonable prices, the tempting traditional cakes and sweets, and the unhurried lifestyle and colourful atmosphere.
The local museum takes you into the history of S. Bras as the cork-producing capital of the world, and has a lively programme of music and cultural events (www.cm-sbras.pt, www.amigos-museu-sbras.org). The Easter Sunday procession with its flower petal carpeted streets is a famous event and a must-see.
Eating out in this part of the Algarve is a low-cost pleasure, traditional Portuguese restaurants serving fresh fish and seafood, hearty stews or the famous Chicken Piri-Piri. S. Bras now boasts Chinese, Italian and Indian restaurants as well, most do carry-outs so you could still dine alfresco on your terrace without cooking.
Restaurants on the coastline have a more Northern European price level. Some 5-star eateries can be found here for that special night out.
The prized Algarve beaches and some of the most famous golf courses (the Golden Triangle – Quinta do Lago, Vale de Lobo and Vilamoura courses) are only 25 minutes away by car. Thanks to easy access to the motorway, you can explore the Algarve from East to West. The motorway can also take you to Spain and the town of Ayamonte in 40 minutes - another cultural and culinary experience, or into Seville in 2 hours. Thanks also to the new fast rail link, you could squeeze in a day trip to Lisbon, or instead you can choose to stay at home and soak up the tranquil surroundings.