There were Phoenician trading ports in the Algarve 3,000 years ago, and the Carthaginians founded Portus Hanibalis, modern Portimao, in the 6th century BC.
The Roman occupation of the Iberian Peninsula in the 2nd century BC took in the Algarve and there are important Roman remains in Lagos.
The Visigoths took the area in the 5th century AD, being expelled by the Moors in 716, who named the region Al-Gharb, the Country of the West, and they occupied it for longer than any other part of Portugal.
Alfonso III finally took the Algarve from the Moors in 1250 (so completing the re-conquest of Portugal).
In the 15th century, Henry the Navigator used the Algarve as the starting-off point for the Voyages of Discovery, which laid the foundations of the Portuguese Empire. He established an important school of navigation at Sagres and made Lagos a ship-building centre. However, the Portuguese capital was in Lisbon, to which most of the colonial wealth went, and the Algarve entered a period of economic decline.
The great earthquake of 1755, which destroyed much of Lisbon, hit the Algarve hard as well and the subsequent reconstruction left many of its towns with a distinctive architectural style.
Faro. The Algarve’s capital, largest city and location of its airport, so very possibly your initial point of contact with the region. It is an interesting and entertaining place, with great beaches and a bubbling nightlife.
Getting There. Faro must be one of the best-connected airports in the world.. Easyjet Ryanair, etc., fly there from Bristol, Stansted, Gatwick and Luton, but the most northerly UK airport served at present is East Midlands.
Transport. Apart from car hire, the regional railway operates between Lagos and Vila Real de Santo Antonio, from which there are connections to Spain.
The local bus companies, such as “Eva”, are useful and taxis are also reasonably priced.