Planning an Algarve vacation? We’re here to help!
Was Portugal’s southern Algarve region created specifically for the purpose of having a picture-perfect vacation? It seems that way, as this popular European hot spot’s natural beauty, endless sandy beaches, mouth-watering local cuisine and never-ending options of sporting activities ensures all vacationing needs are met, from large family gatherings to coupled up honeymooners. Whether it’s your heart’s desire to relax by your very own infinity pool, to tee off at one of the region’s world-class golf courses, or even to sample some of the area’s most mouth-watering dishes, the Algarve has it covered.
It’s not surprising that the seafood in this region is fantastic and with 200 kilometers of beaches, there are plenty of seaside restaurants to choose from. If fine dining is more to your taste, there is a select number of Michelin starred restaurants. The most popular is the Ocean restaurant at the Vila Vita Parc resort, boasting two Michelin stars. With an extensive wine list and ever-changing menu, it is the place to go to celebrate a special occasion. While Arte Nautica, an upmarket beach restaurant, close to Vila Vita Parc on Armacao de Pera beach, offers a wide variety of locally sourced seafood dishes every day. For a relaxed meal, head to Salema, a small fishing village, and visit Boia. This family-run restaurant has a terrace overlooking the beach where fishermen bring in their catches of the day. A variety of local grilled meat and fish dishes are always available, with sardines, octopus and sea bream regularly appearing on the menu. Nestled between the sea and the Ria Formosa nature reserve is Gigi’s, a hidden gem of an eatery reached only by a wooden footbridge. Every morning at dawn the owner selects the fish to be served later in the day, meaning the carabinieri (or giant red prawns) are always extra fresh.
There are over twenty designated surf beaches in the south-west corner of the Algarve alone, making this the ideal destination for novices and seasoned surfers alike. The beaches around Sagres and Lagos offer some of the most exciting surfing opportunities and are famous for their huge swells. Most notably Praia do Telheiro, Praia do Tonel, Sagres South and Praia do Beliche. The summer months see smaller waves and some beaches, especially Praia do Telheiro are a little remote and not recommended for rookie surfers but there are dozens of surf schools to choose from and your Luxury Retreats concierge can easily recommend one for you. Not keen on surfing? Paddleboarding and bodyboarding are popular options, too.
Portugal is famous for its world-class golf courses and with the Algarve’s almost guaranteed sunny weather, there has never been a better time to experience these five-star courses for yourself. The historical town of Lagos, has two tempting golf courses, the Onyria Palmares (designed by leading US golf course designer Robert Trent Jones Jr) and the Parque de Floresta. While in the Eastern Algarve, the Monte Rei golf club features a course designed by Masters champion Jack Nicklaus, set in over 1,000 acres of beautiful countryside. Over in Quinta del Lago, the Paul McGinley golf academy offers a variety of classes to improve on your natural playing ability. Since 2011 thousands of golf players, young and old, have benefited from the 2014 Ryder Cup Captain’s legendary insight, making the academy a must-visit for vacationers who love this sport.
Sun, sand & sea
As the Algarve is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Europe, some of its beaches can get a little busy over July and August. But there are enough hidden gems and sandy coves for everyone to enjoy. Near Salema, there are a variety of beaches within walking distances. Ten minutes away is the Praia da Santa, famous for the 125 million-year-old dinosaur tracks set into the rocks surrounding the cove, while the picturesque Praia da Figueira lies beneath the ruins of an old fort. Close to Lagos is Ponta da Piedade, which is loved for its stunning cliff top views, hidden grottos, and azure blue waters. If that doesn’t whet your appetite, Meia Praia, Praia da Luz, and Praia d Ana beaches are all nearby too. They only tricky decision will be to settle on which one to visit first.
Ramblers, ornithologists and wildlife fans will delight in the Algarve’s nature reserves. The most notable is the Rio Formosa Nature Park, comprising of 45,000 acres of lagoons, marshland, pine forests and sand dunes. It’s home to 20,000 different types of bird, and the Portuguese water dog (the same breed President Obama owns) is indigenous to this area. North of Lagos is the Ria de Alvor, which has a boardwalk stretching for miles along the clear water lagoon, with Spoonbills and Iberian Chiffchaffs regularly spotted flying along the trail. On Algarve’s west coast, is the Cape St Vincent natural park, extending from Salema westward to the cape of St Vincent, with lush wildlife and remnants of Roman and Phoenician settlements along the way.
Where to stay: Algarve villas
From cliff-top villas with endless views of the ocean to chic apartments made for romantic getaways, there is a luxury home in the Algarve just waiting for you.
Looking for a home with breathtaking views of the sea, several golden beaches to choose from, within close distance to a variety of cultural pursuits? Choose a home away from home with Luxury Retreats’ selection of Lagos villas. All of the villas are centrally located close to the historical town of Lagos, filled with great places to explore as well as eat and drink. Large family gatherings are catered for as our villas can accommodate parties of up to 20 people and there are several beaches within walking distance, which are perfect for all kinds of activities. Private pools, expansive terraces, modern décor, and ocean views come as standard. Salema fishing village is also a close neighbor is well worth an excursion to for a low-key seaside supper. Golf lovers will be pleased to note that the Palmares Golf course is only a six-mile drive away.
A hole in one
If sun, sand, and golf are high on your vacationing agenda, a Quinta Do Lago villa rental could be ideal. These opulent villas are situated in the prestigious Parque Atlantico area of Quinta Do Lago and cater for up to 12 people, with large outdoor terraces, well-equipped kitchens, and private swimming areas. Three world-class golf courses are nearby; the North course, the Laranjal course and the South Course that overlooks the Rio Formosa Nature reserve. If you can tear yourself away from the greens, the Quinto do Lago beach is close by, as is the pretty town of Almancil which is famous for its local bars and eateries.
Just the two of us
Algarve honeymoons are a popular choice for couples who are keen to experience a wide variety of activities and local flavors on their special trip. The elegant villas and apartments are close to beaches, such as the Praia do Martinhal and Praia dos Rebolinhos, while also having their own swimming pools, terraces and landscaped gardens, for sun-worshipping a little closer to home. The apartments in the luxury Vila Vita Parc complex have access to all of the amenities, including the health club, tennis courts, restaurants, and spa. Plus, the Bengali caves and local nightlife hotspots at The Strip in Albufeira are nearby, too.