If, like us, you’re thinking spring cannot come soon enough, we’ve found the perfect place to escape for lashings of spring sunshine – and even better, it’s an easy flight from the UK.
With its glorious sun-soaked 150km coast just 10km shorter than the Costa del Sol’s, the Algarve springs to mind in the spring, because it’s quiet enough to relax, yet varied enough to really explore and enjoy.
Famous for its special light, orange-gold sunsets breeze-kissed coastline, southern Portugal has come a long way since it was a collection of little fishing villages dotted along the country’s southern-most shores.
Now firmly a celebrity favourite, particularly with golf champions and footballers, comedian Jimmy Tarbuck once quipped during a round of golf: “The sky is so blue, I’ve never seen a golf ball look so white as it flies through the air.”
Cliff Richard had been visiting the Algarve for over forty years and liked it so much that he put down roots in the region. His vineyard “Adega do Cantor” (“Winery of the Singer”) lies in the hills at Guia near Albufeira and if you fancy a tour while you’re holidaying near there, it’s open for visits. Adega do Cantor produces its Nova Vida signature wines (if you’e tempted but can’t get to Guia for an onsite tasting, they’re available from www.winesvidanova.com).
Every beach along this coast feels different from the next, from the salt marshes to the more popular family beaches, over to the dramatic Atlantic beaches (heading west) towards Cape St Vincent where the surfers ‘live off the wind’.
Most of the timeshare resorts along the Algarve are well located near the popular beaches or golf courses, the busiest being Albufeira, while the more low key glamour of Vilamoura attracts the golf-and-yachting crowd.
We’ve rounded up some of the best places to while away a week in the Algarve, starting with one of the liveliest resorts….
Albufeira is the Algarve’s liveliest holiday town and resort destination. There’s always something going on and the restaurants start filling up at seven, the bars are busy by eleven.
If you don’t have a rental car, Albufeira is a great base – it’s very walkable. The town is split into two, comprising the Cidade Velha (the old town) and Oura Strip where a lot of the popular tourist bars are. It’s a great combination if you like somewhere relaxed but busier at night, right by the beach.
Just like Malaga and Palma, Faro’s airport can get really busy in the peak summer months but even though most visitors bypass it on the way to their resorts, the town itself is worth exploring if you have time. Faro, like Palma and Malaga, has a year-round population making it not just seasonal and that ives it a more authentic feel than some of the more summer-only resorts.
If you’re a culture vulture there are two museums in Faro worth seeing: the Museu Municipal and Museu Maritim.
The Archaelogical Museum which is housed in a 16th-century convent and has a Roman Mosaic unearthed in Faro in 1976. This amazing piece of mosaic is ten yards long with a handsome portrait of Neptune – complete with moustache!
If you’re in the mood for somewhere much more low key, take a look at Carvoeiro.
This small scale fishing town still retains a lot of the authentic Algarve experience. Quieter than many other resorts, it is expanding to meet the growing number of families who holiday here. The town’s beach, Praia do Carvoeiro is a lovely sheltered sandy bay with cliffs protecting it on both sides and there are lots of friendly bars and cafes around the main square where you can sip “um galao” (a milky coffee) and take in the sea views after you’ve left the beach.
A trip on a fisherman’s boat. It’s a great way to see more of the coastline and get another perspective on the Algarve’s astounding natural beauty.
Lagos is a lovely town to explore (but it’s worth noting that it’s quite hilly). There’s a very good beach, Praia Porto de Mos, at the far end of town surrounded by stunning cliff views and crashing surf.
This is the sort of place where you could easily while the day away just gazing out to sea over a simple lunch, or strolling along the strip of beach where the water meets the sand, then finishing that really good book after a leisurely wander around the town in the afternoon.
It may be the Algarve’s largest purpose-built holiday resort but Vilamoura has bags of style. Centred on a chic marina dotted with cafes and restaurants right at the edge of the water, there’s a very international mix of cuisines here in the marina, making it the perfect place for dinner at the end of a sun-soaked day. Vilamoura is the place for top golf. It’s famous for its excellent championship courses, and like its neighbour Quinta do Lago, Vilamoura is all about the five star lifestyle.
The golf! Vilamoura is a golfer’s dream.
And a stroll around Vilamoura marina, it’s a blissful place to while away an afternoon and the perfect spot for a romantic dinner.