Not far from the madding crowds of the Algarve’s splendid, but busy, central coast are tranquil enclaves and unspoilt villages, finds Nicola Venning.

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If you prefer to avoid uniform residences and heaving resorts (and why wouldn’t you?), there’s no need to look far from this ever-popular part of southern Portugal.

The hills above Faro, the regional capital of Algarve, are full of pretty, historic villages, with cobbled squares, old churches and whitewashed charm. One such is Santa Bárbara de Nexe.

Close to the bustling market town of Loulé, it’s surrounded by verdant rolling hills and the lush groves of Fonte da Benémola National Park are on the doorstep.

‘You have more space if you go to the hills as well as a bit more authenticity, compared with the coast,’ says Alex Koch de Gooreynd of Knight Frank.

Villas in the village and nearby Loulé cost about 25% to 30% less than those within the fabled golden triangle of Almancil, Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo, adds Mr de Gooreynd.

Fine & Country is marketing a five-bedroom house with four en-suites on the edge of Santa Barbara de Nexe, with a pool, grass tennis court and basement games room. Built in 2009, it’s surrounded by a large garden with views to the sea and the asking price is €1.6 million.

Much of the Algarve’s considerable appeal derives from its manicured, verdant golf courses. There are more than 30 across the region and, although many hug the centre, one of the best is at Monte Rei Golf Club, near historic, Moorish Tavira on the less touristy eastern Algarve.

Monte Rei Golf Algarve

About a 40-minute drive from Faro, Monte Rei’s undulating Jack Nicklaus Signature 18-hole course has been ranked number one by reputable golf agencies and publications ‘for more than seven years’, says Brennon Nicholas, commercial director.

As well as golfers, the resort also appeals to European buyers who like the facilities, ‘the seclusion and the fact they can switch off’.

Monte Rei Golf Algarve

There are about 100 different villas and apartments in the 1,000-acre resort, which has fine dining, bars and a clubhouse, as well as a number of pools and tennis courts. A rental programme, ‘which most of the homes qualify for’, is also available.

A further 40 apartments are currently being built, including eight recently launched duplex penthouses. Prices start from €825,000, rising to €1.25 million for a stylish three-bedroom penthouse. These airy homes have wraparound terraces and views over the countryside to the coast, about four miles away.

The development is set to be completed in summer 2019. A 70-room hotel and second golf course will be built next year and there are plans for further homes, plus plots of land available for self-build projects.

Even more discreet is the western Algarve. A hidden gem, this wild coastline has big, open beaches and sleepy inland rural villages. About 12 miles from coastal Lagos, with its Moorish castle, smart marina and increasingly upmarket restaurants, is Quinta da Perdiz, a farmhouse that exudes old-world charm.

The four-bedroom home, which has been in the same family for many years, is just outside the quiet village of Bensafrim and is a countryside lover’s dream. Eagles are often seen circling above the 42-acre estate, which includes a cottage, pool and tennis court. It’s on the market for £892,994 with Knight Frank.

Individual Villa 29 - Pool and Garden 20_234657412_341097072

An hour from Faro, the western Algarve attracts buyers who ‘want local Portuguese authenticity,’ says Mr de Gooreynd, and who ‘see value’. The area is also roughly 30% cheaper than Loulé and about 50% less than the golden triangle.

Buying off the beaten track might mean longer transfer times and limited amenities, but it is, for many, compensated by competitively priced, spacious homes and a happily authentic way of life.