A break to the Algarve to celebrate becoming a Gold Travel Counsellor made me realise how a long weekend to the sun could be achieved without involving much travelling at all. The flight from Stansted to Faro was just under three hours and the transfer from Faro Airport to Vilamoura took roughly 30 minutes.
Vilamoura - a glamourous resort with a magical marina to explore packed with super yachts - stunning bars and authentic Portuguese restaurants. A great resort to people-watch and admire magnificent boats!
My stay for the weekend was at the Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort, a prestigious five-star retreat overlooking the lush expanse of Victoria Golf Course where the Portugal Masters is held every year. A gem of a property, ideal for relaxing or playing golf or for exploring Vilamoura and the surrounding area. The hotel provides shuttles into Marina de Vilamoura, but you can use the hotel bikes to get around or you could just walk. Even though the hotel is located just outside of Vilamoura, you can easily get into all the action at the Marina.
I experienced a catamaran excursion from Albufeira Marina to the famous Benagil Cave. Travelling along the rugged coastline seeing sea caves and stunning rock formations.
The Algarve, an area on the south coast of Portugal, is known for its 300 days of sunshine, mild climate, turquoise seas and golden sands. The coastline stretches for 200km and has approximately 150 beaches. Although a popular summer holiday destination, a stay in the Algarve in the spring and autumn is highly recommended when temperatures are mild, and the region is much quieter than during the busier summer months. With good rail links to Lisbon and Oporto, the region can easily be combined with other destinations in Portugal.
Here are a few ideas if you want to get away from the main tourist areas!
The capital of the ancient Arab kingdom of Algarve was once the most important city in the area. Head to the castle for incredible views over the city and make sure to see the artefacts and relics at the Archaeological Museum. Aside from the seafood, try popular dishes from the mountain areas such as Barrocal pork and delicious folhados (puff pastries).
This charming town has Arabic and Roman influences throughout its lovely architecture and a leisurely stroll around the streets of the town is perfect for discovering the remains of the Islamic walls. Try the regional specialities of tuna salad and octopus at Restaurant Vale D’el Rei and stay at Vila Gale Tavira Hotel with Arabic influences including a Turkish bath.
Not just the location of the airport, this delightful historic city has plenty to see and do. Climb to the Cape Santa Maria lighthouse to admire the sea views and spend a day on the beaches of nearby Deserta island, untarnished by humankind. Try the fried seabass with tomato rice, the signature dish of Tertulia Algarvia, and stay at Eva Hotel which has rooms with either marina or National Park views and a rooftop pool.
4. Peaceful hilltop villages like Loulé and Monchique.
5. See the almond blossom colours the countryside in white and pink throughout January - February. An 11km Almond Path in Castro Marim has been developed so you can access this beautiful scene.
6. The cliffs, caves and grottoes of Ponte da Piedade (2km from Lagos) - one of the most photographed spots on the coastline, best explored by boat.
7. Ria Formosa Nature Park is a unique lagoon system with a beautiful sandy beach. The wetland area provides an invaluable habitat for birdlife including flamingos, buzzards, spoonbills and kingfishers.
8. Sagres with its maritime history, picturesque harbour and coves are a delight to discover.
Whether you want beaches, sea, culture, golf, nature, gastronomy and wines, wellness or water parks, or would like to experience activities like dolphin watching, fishing, jeep safaris, hiking, diving, surfing and paddle boarding, the Algarve has it all.
From the ‘touristy’ Algarve, to the ‘real’ Algarve, to the ‘hidden’ Algarve, there is something for everyone.