The Algarve is the southernmost region of mainland Portugal. It has an area of 5,412 square kilometres with approximately 451,005 permanent inhabitants, and incorporates 16 municipalities.
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.
In the 1960s the Algarve became a very popular destination for tourists, mainly from Britain. 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 Marinha Beach 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, cuisine and relatively low costs. Is also popular for religious tourism, for example with the pilgrimages to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Piety (best known as the Sovereign Mother), a Marian shrine dedicated to the patron saint of Loulé, that attract thousands of pilgrims of the Catholic faithful to the city, or with the international pilgrimages to the apparitions site of Our Lady Mother of Goodness occurred near São Marcos da Serra.
The procession of the Sovereign Mother (Our Lady of Piety) attract thousands of pilgrims to the Marian shrine of Loulé, in Algarve.
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.