A Guide to Living in the Eastern Algarve

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Last updated on June 4, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 6 minutes

The Eastern Algarve, starting from the charming town of Olhão and stretching to the Spanish-Portuguese border, offers a unique and enchanting lifestyle for those seeking a more laid-back and authentic Portuguese experience. While it may not be as crowded as the Central Algarve, the Eastern Algarve still boasts a fair share of tourists, striking a perfect balance between tranquility and vibrancy.

Living in the Eastern Algarve means having access to a wide array of stunning beaches, although some may require a bit more effort to reach compared to those in the Central Algarve. Many of these hidden gems are only accessible by boat, adding a sense of adventure and exclusivity to your beach-going experience. Monte Gordo, the region’s primary beach resort town, offers a more traditional seaside atmosphere for those who prefer a livelier setting.

One of the most appealing aspects of living in the Eastern Algarve is its proximity to Spain. With most towns located less than an hour from the Spanish border, residents can easily embark on day trips to fascinating Spanish destinations like Ayamonte, Huelva, and even the vibrant city of Seville. This unique cross-border lifestyle adds a rich cultural dimension to the Eastern Algarve experience.

Of course, the Eastern Algarve itself is brimming with natural wonders and charming towns that will keep you captivated. The Ria Formosa, a breathtaking area of immense natural beauty and one of Portugal’s 7 Natural Wonders, is a must-see for nature enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers. Living in the Eastern Algarve means having this incredible natural treasure right at your doorstep, providing endless opportunities for exploration and relaxation.

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Popular Places to Live

Castro Marim

castro marim town centre

Castro Marim is a small, historic village that offers a peaceful and authentic Algarve experience. Living in Castro Marim means being surrounded by centuries of history, with its impressive castle and fortress serving as reminders of the region’s rich past.

Residents can explore the village’s narrow streets, lined with traditional white-washed houses and adorned with colourful flowers, or visit the local salt pans to learn about the area’s long-standing salt production industry.

The village also hosts an annual Medieval Fair, which attracts visitors from far and wide to experience the sights, sounds, and flavors of the Middle Ages.

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Monte Gordo

monte gordo sun loungers

Monte Gordo is a popular seaside resort town that offers a more modern and lively atmosphere compared to some of the other towns in the Eastern Algarve. Its large, sandy beach is the main attraction, drawing tourists and residents alike to enjoy sun, sea, and sand.

Living in Monte Gordo means having access to a wide range of amenities, including high-rise accommodations, restaurants, bars, and shops, all within easy reach of the beach. The town’s promenade is perfect for evening strolls or bike rides, and there are plenty of opportunities for water sports and other outdoor activities.

While Monte Gordo may lack the traditional charm of some other Algarve towns, it offers a convenient and enjoyable lifestyle for those seeking a more bustling seaside experience.

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Olhão

Arial photo of Olhao

Olhão is a charming seaside town renowned for its vibrant seafood market, where locals and visitors alike gather to purchase fresh catches and immerse themselves in the lively atmosphere.

Living in Olhão means having access to some of the freshest seafood in the Algarve, as well as a variety of traditional Portuguese restaurants serving up delectable dishes.

The town’s proximity to the Ria Formosa nature park offers residents the opportunity to explore the unique landscape and enjoy activities such as birdwatching, hiking, and boat tours.

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Tavira

Praça da República Tavira

Tavira is widely considered one of the Algarve’s most picturesque towns, with its stunning Roman bridge, historic city center, and charming cobblestone streets.

Living in Tavira is like stepping back in time, as the town has managed to preserve its traditional architecture and cultural heritage. Residents can enjoy leisurely strolls along the Gilão River, which runs through the heart of the town, or explore the numerous churches and historic buildings that dot the cityscape.

Tavira also boasts a variety of excellent restaurants, cafes, and shops, as well as a lively cultural scene with regular events and festivals throughout the year.

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Vila Real de Santo António

praca marques de pombal vila real de santo antonio

Vila Real de Santo António is a delightful riverside town that combines traditional charm with modern amenities. Situated at the easternmost point of the Algarve, right on the border with Spain, living in Vila Real de Santo António offers the unique opportunity to experience the best of both countries.

The town’s stunning main square, Praça Marquês de Pombal, is a testament to its rich history and serves as a gathering place for locals and visitors alike. Residents can enjoy leisurely walks along the Guadiana River, which separates Portugal from Spain, or take a short ferry ride across to the Spanish town of Ayamonte for a change of scenery.

With its excellent restaurants, shops, and cultural events, Vila Real de Santo António provides a vibrant and welcoming community for those seeking a blend of Portuguese and Spanish influences in their daily life.

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Pros & Cons of Living Here

The following are some of the main pros and cons to living on the Eastern side of the Algarve.

Pros

  1. Tranquility: Quieter than Central Algarve in terms of tourism, allowing for a more peaceful and authentic living experience.
  2. Affordability: Property prices are often more affordable compared to other parts of the Algarve, making it easier to find your dream home.
  3. Capital Life: Easy access to Faro, the capital of the Algarve, which offers essential services such as hospitals, shopping centres, and administrative offices. IKEA is also situated here, next to Mar Shopping, which new homeowners will appreciate.
  4. Best of Both Worlds: Close proximity to the Spanish border, allowing for convenient day trips and the opportunity to explore another country’s culture and cuisine.
  5. Public Transport: Towns are well-connected by train and bus services, making it easy to travel within the region without relying on a car. However, owning a car is still recommended.
  6. Faro Airport: Faro Airport is easily accessible, providing convenient connections to other parts of Europe and beyond.
  7. Nature On Your Doorstep: The Ria Formosa nature park provides a stunning backdrop for outdoor activities and nature exploration.

Cons

  1. Entertainment Options: The Eastern Algarve may have fewer entertainment options and nightlife compared to the livelier Central Algarve, which could be a drawback for those seeking a more vibrant social scene.
  2. International Schools: Some towns may have fewer international schools or educational options compared to the Central Algarve, which could be a concern for families with school-aged children. However, the Algarve is a relatively small space and it is easy to commute between towns by car.
  3. Popularity: While the proximity to Spain is a bonus, it may also lead to increased traffic and crowds during peak travel seasons or holidays.

Despite these potential drawbacks, the Eastern Algarve remains an attractive and appealing destination for those seeking a more authentic and laid-back lifestyle in a beautiful and culturally rich setting.

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James Cave is the founder of Portugalist and the author of the bestselling book, Moving to Portugal Made Simple. He has visited just about every part of Portugal, including Madeira and all nine islands of the Azores, and lived in several parts of Portugal including Lisbon, the Algarve, and Northern Portugal.

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Comments

  1. Hi I am looking to settle in Portugal/Eastern Algarve in the near future and looking for a long term 2 bedroom/2 bathroom unfurnished accommodation probably for 2 or more years. Maximum rent !000 Euro per month. I particularly like the area of Tavira, Fabrica or nearest villages.
    I am visiting Algarve to start searching. Could you please point me in the right direction to help me finding the above?

    Reply
  2. Thank you for your excellent breakdown of everything Portugal. My husband and I would like to explore the possibility of spending all of our future winters in Portugal away from the extreme cold of northern Canada where we live.

    In our research of Portugal, we’ve found much to be excited about. The country is beautiful, the architecture stunning, the food to our taste, and the climate, even in the winter, almost perfect.

    So here’s the only problem I’ve encountered so far. We are seniors on a limited but adequate budget and are looking to rent a two bedroom house away from the built up tourist places for six months in the winter – October through March or November through April. Foreigners who post online about long term rentals in Portugal give a much more reasonable assessment of the cost than do any of the Airbnb or other brokered sites, which run are least three times more expensive and change on a daily basis or disappear altogether.

    We are looking for something with some old world charm in or near a smaller town. In Canada, we live on a wild and beautiful farm so aren’t that keen on crowds or interested in nightlife. Eastern Argave is so beautiful, but so is everything in the countryside. Anything but the sterile white apartments that seem to have popped up at all the tourist sites.

    Once we have found the perfect place we are hoping to return to it year after year, having our grandchildren come for visits, spending our golden years learning the language, and enjoying a country we have so long wished to come to.

    We are hoping to find something for the winter of 2022/2023 and return every year after that. I know that’s part of the problem I’m having in the search for the perfect place. I cannot give dates that fit into the required boxes of the normal sites and I get bumped off the sites.

    I’m wondering if you could help me out – point me in a direction that would allow me to access the landlords or reputable brokers of desirable properties more directly, where I could view pictures and start a conversation with the people in charge about our future winter place and examine all the parameters.

    Thank you for allowing me to type so many words into this box. It’s already vastly different from what I’ve encountered so far.

    Reply
    • Hi. If you’re still looking, I own a flat in Fuseta (Rua Miguel Bombarda, 49 1st floor) which is available at the moment and throughout the Autumn/Winter.

      Reply

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