Sotavento is the eastern region of the Algarve, comprising the municipalities of Alcoutim, Castro Marim, Faro, Loulé, Olhão, São Brás de Alportel, Tavira, and Vila Real de Santo António. The biggest city in the region is Loulé, and it is its capital.
Agriculture and Tourism in Eastern Algarve
The region is mainly an agricultural area, and the main crops are sugar cane and citrus fruits. The traditional industries of the region include fishing and shipbuilding; but with the rapid growth of tourism in recent times, it has begun to concentrate on tourist-related activities instead. The tourist industry in this part of Algarve is mainly focussed on the coastal town of Tavira. It is a popular destination for British tourists, and several people arrive here from the border with Spain by car or public transport every day.
Beaches in Eastern Algarve
Sotavento’s main beaches are Praia da Luz, Praia do Vau and Praia de Faro; however, the best beach in the region is Praia da Rocha, which was voted “Europe’s best beach” by a newspaper.
Popular Destinations in Eastern Algarve
The Eastern Algarve is also known for its beauty and revitalization of older towns such as Tavira, Vila Real de Santo Antonio and Alcoutim. The region has been slated to be one of the fastest growing tourist destinations.
The Spanish Border
In its southernmost section Sotavento borders on Spain; (the provinces of Cádiz and Málaga) to the west and the Portuguese district of Faro (in which it is located) along its northern borders. There are also four municipalities that border on those two districts: Olhão, Tavira and Vila Real de Santo António belong to both the Algarve and Portimão, while Castro Marim and Alcoutim are situated in the Algarve and Beja.
Transport – Airport and Motorway links
Faro Airport is located within the region, as well as a major river port of the country, Portimão. The A22 Motorway connects Faro to Lisbon (through Póvoa do Varzim). The A2 Motorway runs from Tavira to Odemira, passing through Algarve’s regional capital, Loulé. The A22/A2 intersection is located near Castro Marim.
The region has a serious problem with traffic congestion, mainly due to tourists travelling from Spain and Portimão. It is also having problems with housing; there are several “urbanizções” being built in the municipality of Loulé, like Quinta do Lago (the largest urbanization in Algarve) and Quinta do Sol.