The Algarve (Portuguese pronunciation: [aɫˈɡaɾv(ɨ)], from Arabic: الغرب, trans. Al-Gharb, meaning "The West") is the southernmost region of mainland Portugal. It has an area of 5,412 square kilometres (2,090 sq mi) with approximately 450,484 permanent inhabitants, and incorporates 16 municipalities. The region coincides with the Faro District, and has as its administrative centre the city of Faro, where both the region's international airport at Faro (FAO) and public university (the University of the Algarve) are located. Tourism and related activities are extensive and make up the bulk of the Algarve's summer economy. Fish, seafood and fruit production, which includes oranges, carob beans, figs and almonds, are other important activities in the region. The Algarve is the most popular tourist destination in Portugal, and one of the most popular in Europe. Its population triples in the peak holiday season thanks to a high influx of visitors, and receives an average of 7 million foreign tourists each year. In total, including national visitors, almost 10 million people visit the Algarve every year.
The Algarve is currently the third richest region in Portugal, with a GDP per capita of 86% of the European average.
Human presence in southern Portugal dates back to the Neolithic, and Palaeolithic. The presence of megalithic stones in the area of Vila do Bispo attests to this presence.
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 about 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." Due to the Moorish conquest of Iberia, the region was called Al-Gharb Al-Andalus; Al-Gharb (الغرب) means "the west", while Al-Andalus is the Arabic name of Muslim Iberia. But, for several years, the town of Silves was the capital of the region under Moorish rule.
In the mid-12th century, the Moorish occupation ended in the region due to the successful military campaigns of the Kingdom of Portugal. The "Al-Gharb" became the Kingdom of the Algarve, but battles with the Moors persisted. It was not until the 13th century that the Portuguese finally secured the region against subsequent Moorish attempts to recapture the area, what was referred to as the Reconquista. King Afonso III of Portugal started calling himself King of Portugal and the Algarve. After 1471, with the conquest of several territories in Northern Africa (the area considered an extension of the Algarve) Afonso V of Portugal began fashioning himself as the King of Portugal and the Algarves (referring to the European and African possessions). Prior to the independence of Brazil, the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves (1815–1822) was an official designation for Portugal which also alluded to the Algarve. Portuguese monarchs continued used this title until the proclamation of the Portuguese Republic in 1910. Between 1595 and 1808, the Algarve was a semi-autonomous area of Portugal with its own governor, as well as a separate taxation system.[verification needed].
In the 15th century, Prince Henry the Navigator based himself near Lagos and conducted various maritime expeditions which established Portugal as a colonial power. It was also from Lagos that Gil Eanes set sail in 1434 to become the first seafarer to round Cape Bojador in West Africa. The voyages of discovery brought Lagos fame and fortune. Trade flourished and Lagos became the capital of the historical province of Algarve in 1577 and remained so until after 1755, the year of the fabled Lisbon earthquake. The earthquake damaged many areas in the Algarve and an accompanying tsunami destroyed or damaged coastal fortresses, while coastal towns and villages were heavily damaged (except Faro, which was protected by the sandy banks of Ria Formosa lagoon). In Lagos, the waves reached the top of the city walls. For many Portuguese coastal regions, including the Algarve, the destructive effects of the tsunami were more disastrous than those of the earthquake proper.
In 1807, while Junot lead the first Napoleonic invasion in the north of Portugal, the Algarve was occupied by Spanish troops under Manuel Godoy. Beginning in 1808, and after subsequent battles in various towns and villages, the region was the first to drive out the Spanish occupiers.
In 1910, with the Portuguese First Republic, the Kingdom of Portugal and the Algarve ceased to exist as such.
The Algarve has approximately 5412 square km, extending just south of the Tagus valley to the southern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. Its highest point is Fóia, 902 metres (2,959 ft), in the mountain range of Monchique. 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 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.
The maximum recorded temperatures in the Algarve fluctuate between 25 °C in winter and 48 °C in summer, with the temperature never usually falling below zero in the winter months. The winter of 2008/2009 was exceptionally cold and wet. Temperatures below 0 °C were recorded for the first time in many years.
The Algarve has many sports clubs, including football teams which play in the first (Olhanense, Portimonense), second and third layers of the main national football championships' pyramid. SC Farense is the most successful football club in the Algarve, however, after financial troubles it is currently (season 2008/2009) playing in the 4th level of Portuguese football. The Clube de Ciclismo de Tavira is a noted Portuguese cycling team. The major stadium in the Algarve is the Estádio Algarve, where SC Farense and Louletano play their home matches. The region is also host to the annual Algarve Cup invitational tournament for national teams in women's football. The Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, a 4.692 kilometres (2.915 mi) race circuit, is located in Portimão.
The Algarve is famous for its pottery and ceramics, particularly hand-painted pottery and azulejos or tiles. There are numerous ceramics and pottery outlets throughout the Algarve. For working potteries/ ceramics workshops the main, or best-known, pottery centers are located in the towns of Almancil, Porches and Loulé. But there are many other potteries and workshops in the Algarve region.
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