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    Driving holiday inspiration: the Algarve

    The glorious sunshine and stunning landscapes of the Algarve make it a brilliant destination for a driving holiday. After all, having your own wheels means you can not only enjoy some absolutely fantastic driving routes, but also have the chance to see a little bit more of this popular part of Portugal than just the standard tourist attractions - though of course, it's worth leaving time to discover a few of those too.If you're considering hiring a car in Portugal and exploring the Algarve, read on for some great ideas of routes to follow and what to see.

    Faro to Vila Real de Santo Antonio

    It makes sense to kick things off in Faro, which is the capital of the Algarve. Hang around here for a day or two, if you can, simply so you can explore it properly before setting off to some of the Algarve's other exciting destinations. Among the best places to visit in Faro is the Cidade Velha, which is the historical part of town nestled within the medieval walls. Come here to stroll along cobbled streets and see some of the city's wonderful old buildings, which include lots of different architectural styles. A few of the highlights include the ancient cathedral, which dates back to 1251. It's worth climbing to the rooftop lookout for fantastic views out to sea. Opposite the cathedral is the pretty Paco Episcopal, which is a great place to see some traditional Portuguese tile work. Also worth checking out is Praia de Faro, which is the local beach. As well as being a great spot for chilling out, it's also excellent for windsurfing.When you've finished exploring Faro, it's time to hit the road for a 53-mile drive to Vila Real de Santo Antonio, which sits on the border with Spain. A couple of places are well worth stopping at en route, including Olhao, which is just 6 miles from the capital city. This place has an almost North African feel about it, and taking a stroll around its old streets dotted with white houses is a must.Around 19 miles from Faro, meanwhile, is Tavira, which is crisscrossed with pretty canals. Enjoy a walk around and look out for its picturesque Roman bridge, before continuing on to Vila Real de Santo Antonio, which is home to Castro Marim - a fantastic fortress - and excellent museums.

    Lagos to Portimao

    Another great place to visit in the Algarve is Lagos. One of its most historic destinations, Lagos is an ancient port city, and is well-known for having been a port of call for Admiral Nelson's fleet. The top attractions here include Igreja de Santo Antonio, which dates back to the 18th century - look out in particular for its gilt carvings. Stop by the Castel dos Governadores, which housed the Algarve's military government in the 14th century, and is an impressive sight. Around a 2 km drive outside the city, meanwhile, is Ponta da Piedade - an absolute must-visit. This stunning spot on the headland provides spectacular views, and on a clear day you can see all the way out to Carvoeiro and Sagres. Then, hop in the car and continue on to Portimao, which is around 11 miles from Lagos. There is a great selection of beaches here, not to mention excellent golf courses for those who like the sound of teeing off under the sunshine.

    Portimao to Albufeira

    From Portimao, you can make your way to one of the Algarve's top tourist destinations, Albufeira, which is roughly 18 miles away. Once upon a time, this was a little fishing village, but it has grown into a fantastic beachside tourist resort that's achieved nationwide fame. This is where you will find some of the very best beaches in the Algarve, not to mention a range of excellent golf courses - a combination that helps make it a top spot for relaxing holidays. There's around 18 miles of coastline here, which is split into more than 20 beaches. And it's not only the sheer volume of beaches that makes this part of the coast so popular, but also their quality, which has meant the majority of them possess a Blue Flag award. Among the best local stretches of sand is Praia de Gale, which is a long, sandy slice of coastline that's great for waterskiing and jetskiing. This is one beach where it definitely pays to have a car, because the fact that there's no direct local bus service means it can be tricky to reach otherwise. If you like the sound of playing a spot of golf, meanwhile, Balaia Golf Village and Salgados Golf are among the courses you can try out. Wherever you decide to drive to in the Algarve, remember to take your time and enjoy the journey. After all, the sunshine, beaches and fabulous Portuguese food give this part of the country a laid-back vibe that you don't want to miss out on experiencing.

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