The Algarve has abundance of hills, but traversed with rich valleys. The altitude of 906m which is the Peak of Foia is the highest point within the mountain range of Monchique. It is composed of 5,412 square kilometres with approximately 410,000 permanent inhabitants (density of 76 inhabitants per square kilometre). This figure increases to over a million people at the height of summer due to an influx of tourists. The Algarve has several cities, towns and villages. It also includes some islands and islets. The region is also the home of the Ria Formosa lagoon, a nature reserve of over 170 square kilometres and a stopping place for hundreds of different birds. The region's capital is the city of Faro. Other cities are Albufeira, Lagoa, Lagos, Loulé, Olhão, Portimão, Quarteira, Silves, Tavira, and Vila Real de Santo António. The length of the south-facing coastline is approximately 155 kilometres. Beyond the westernmost point of Cape St. Vincent it stretches a further 50 kilometres to the north. The coastline is notable for picturesque limestone caves and grottoes, particularly around Lagos, which are accessible by powerboat. There are many other beautiful and famous summer places such as Albufeira, Vilamoura, Praia da Rocha, Lagos, Armação de Pêra, Alvor, Monte Gordo, Tavira, and Sagres. The Conii, influenced by Tartessos, were established by the sixth century BC in the region of the Algarve. They would be strongly influenced by the Celtici. The Phoenicians had established trading ports along the coast circa 1000 BC. The Carthaginians founded Portus Hanibalis — known today as Portimão — in circa 550 BC. The Romans in the 2nd century BC spread through the Iberian Peninsula, and many Roman ruins can still be seen in the region, notably in Lagos. Roman bath complexes and fish salting tanks have been found near the shore in several locations, for example the ones near Vilamoura and Praia da Luz. In the 5th century the Visigoths took control of the Algarve until the beginning of the Moorish invasion in 711. When the Moors conquered Lagos in 716 it was called Zawaia. Faro, which the Christian residents had called Santa Maria, was renamed Faraon, which means "the settlement of the Knights." For several years, the town of Silves was the capital of the region under Moorish rule.In 1807 when Junot was leading the first Napoleonic invasion in the north of Portugal, the Algarve was occupied by the Spanish troops of Manuel Godoy. The Algarve became the first part of occupied Portugal to liberate itself from the Spanish invaders, in the rebellion of Olhão in 1808. In 1910, with the Portuguese First Republic, the Kingdom of Portugal and the Algarve ceased to exist as such. A historical province, the Algarve has been Continental Portugal's southernmost region.
Tourism and immigration in the Algarve
Since 1960 Algarve already been a very popular visiting destination for the British. It has since become a common destination for Germans, Dutch and Irish people. Many of these tourists own their own property in the region. There are Algarve-based English-written publications and newspapers specifically addressed to this community. In addition to the natural beauties and plenty of beaches, the Algarve has invested in the creation of a network of golf courses. Well-known beaches in the Algarve range from Praia da Marinha to Armação de Pêra. A well known spa town is Caldas de Monchique.
The Algarve is a popular destination for tourism, primarily because of its beaches, Mediterranean climate, safety and relatively low costs. Algarve's mild climate has attracted interest from Northern Europeans wishing to have a holiday home or residence in the region. Being a region of Portugal, and therefore in the European Union, any EU citizen has the right to freely buy property and reside with little formality in the Algarve. British expatriates, followed by German, Dutch and Scandinavians, are among the largest groups wishing to own a home in this sunny region of Portugal. Tourism plays an important role in the economy of the Algarve. A large number of seasonal job opportunities are tourism-related and are fulfilled by thousands of immigrant workers from countries like Brazil, Ukraine and Cape Verde, among others. In March 2007, the Minister of Economy, Manuel Pinho, announced the creation of the "Allgarve" brand, as a part of a strategical promotion of the Algarve as a tourism destination for foreign citizens.
Accommodation in the Algarve ranges from high rise resorts in places like Albufeira to traditional guesthouses, located in the small towns and villages surrounding the algarve coast. For the passed 50 years, the Algarve has seen an increase in development, particularly from non-Portuguese developers. While these developments are certainly not on the same level as those in Spain, they have resulted in visual pollution which has affected residents living in the area. Over the past few years many tourists visiting the Algarve have moved away from the resorts, and have chosen the comfort of a traditional Algarve guesthouse, many of these run by ex-pats from England, Holland, and Germany who have escaped to the Algarve for a higher quality of life.