The Algarve is Portugal’s southernmost region, closest to Spain, making it a convenient destination for those of us looking to get out of the country for a long weekend getaway. Blessed with an average of 300 days of sunshine a year and glorious beaches, some of which are rated the best in Europe, make it a great setting for some fun in the sun.

Their national dish, bacalhau (dried and salted cod) can be enjoyed, it is believed, in up to 1,000 different ways. This can be washed down with a stiff glass of aguardente, a wine spirit created using the leftover grape skins following the winemaking process. The average alcohol percentage in aguardente is around 40 per cent, generating a fiery fruity explosion. Depending on what it is you are looking for, there is plenty to discover in the Algarve when visiting Vilamoura and Carvoeiro.


Where to Stay

The Tivoli chain in Portugal provides luxurious resorts throughout the Algarve. The Marina Vilamoura is no exception, with 30,000 square metres of luscious gardens and a tranquil spa, this five-star stay is based right next to the marina. The on-site Purobeach club is a great place to get into the holiday vibe while enjoying the latest tunes by resident DJs by the pool or beachfront. If you’re looking to unwind instead, enjoy a massage in the Wellness Centre, where they use only natural and organic products. Be sure to join their Foodies’ Night on July 13, where Purobeach promises to offer a premium gastronomy experience with a delectable secret menu.

Premium holiday rentals are available in the Val de Lobo resort, where your needs are tailored to create the perfect stay. Golf lovers can enjoy the ‘play and stay’ golf package, with a choice of two top 18-hole golf courses to tee off from, both of which overlook the ocean. Tennis packages are also available for people who prefer a racket to a club, and include essential coaching sessions, which will get you at the top of your game.

Those looking to focus on their health and wellbeing can enjoy the spa package. First you can work up a sweat in a class or the well-equipped gym within the Fitness Centre before heading to the Royal Spa to unwind. The Spa’s philosophy is based on the healing powers of salt, water and nature.

This is incorporated within their circuit, which consists of several hydrotherapies, including salt baths, a Vichy shower, and steam and hydro-massage therapies. Following a circuit you can enjoy a series of comforting treatments, including facials, massages, and body scrubs which will get you ready for the summer. The pampering does not end there, as you can also indulge within the Beauty Centre, where you will experience a range of top services to get you feeling your best. Enjoy a new hairstyle with hairdressers skilled on the latest trends, as well as a pedicure and manicure at the nail bar.

Where to Eat

Diners searching for supreme cuts of meat, should head hungry to the Retinto Rodízio and Wine Restaurant, where you can expect a Brazilian barbecue treat. Also known for its quality wine, which you can sip alongside twelve different types of meat, this restaurant additionally offers some great vegetarian and fish options for the non-carnivores among us.

For a special occasion, be sure to make a reservation at Willie’s Restaurant, where you can enjoy modern international cuisine by Willie Wurger, a Michelin star chef with some serious talent. Come and enjoy delicious food served in a nouvelle cuisine fashion by one of the top chefs in the region. Experience luxurious courses of crab with avocado and mango salsa, carpaccio of fillet beef, and scallops served on a beetroot carpaccio with green apple and wasabi cream. These mouthwatering dishes along with superb presentations should be sure to hit the spot on your visit.

Things to Do

Take yourself back in time and visit the Roman Ruins of Cerro da Vila, the remains of a villa thousands of years old, which contain graves dating back to the Bronze age. Portugal previously fell under Roman rule during the reign of Julius Caesar’s great nephew, Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus. Its influence is visible at the site today, with evidence of mosaic marble flooring which would have been the grand entrance to the property. Other old artifacts left behind include an oil/wine press, a well, and a spa complex which would have contained warm baths, showing health and wellness was just as important back then as it is now. This cultural site is a must-visit during your time in Vilamoura.

The town of Vilamoura itself is home to the largest marina in Portugal. With over 845 berths available, the marina attracts many lavish yachts, and naturally their glamorous owners with them. There is even the opportunity to charter your own boat to explore the beautiful coastlines in the area, where all the little luxuries provided can make for a perfect day out. For pure indulgence and exceptional service, be sure to contact Champagne Cruises Vilamoura, a company that will ensure a bespoke experience tailored to your needs. This can include the addition of jet-skis, parasailing and inflatables for a thrill seeker’s adventure, or simply a drive around admiring the beautiful waters with the potential for some dolphin watching, enjoying the sunset, and sipping a glass of Champagne, for those who like the more tranquil things in life.

For days when you are not enjoying the sunset on the ocean, be sure to stop off at bar Sal Rosa, which provides an impressive menu of refreshing cocktails along with beautiful views of the sea. In this little piece of paradise, you can work up an appetite before heading into the marina.

In the evenings, the marina lights up and is full of ambience, making it a very enjoyable place to head for drinks and dinner, and to meander through and enjoy an ice cream later. The Casino Vilamoura is ideal for those feeling like a flutter. There are several restaurants here to choose from, as well as an impressive games room where you can try your luck! Vilamoura is guaranteed to immerse you in the opulent way of life, so those looking for a little retail therapy should take the short twenty-minute drive to the Designer Outlet Algarve for some gear at a fraction of standard prices. Shops in the outlet include some great brands, including Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Guess and Lacoste to name a few. With reduced rates of 30 to 70 per cent from the original retail price, what’s not to love?

To break up the drive on your way to Carvoeiro, be sure to stop off at the Zoomarine Park, in between the two towns in Guia. Here you can enjoy a major animal connection and make life changing experiences where you can get up close and personal with the dolphins, one of the ocean’s most friendly creatures. The organisation itself is big on the welfare of animals, aiming to assist with the environmental problems that are affecting them.

The Park helps fund its Rehabilitation Centre, where a zoological team of experts rescue, rehabilitate and release animals back into the wild. They also work to help educate people on environmental awareness by encouraging behavioural changes that can be made in their day-to-day routines. For this they have received a number of accolades over the years, this year winning the EAAM Award Best Training Presentation for the European Association for Aquatic Mammals.


Where to Stay

As with Vilamoura, there is a great Tivoli hotel based on a cliff’s edge in Vale de Covo in Carvoeiro, providing very impressive views of the ocean and a cosy cove below. Having recently undergone a five-month extensive refurbishment, this resort boasts a high standard of luxury with exceptional five star service. The hotel has three restaurants onsite, with mesmerising views particularly from the Med Food and Wine restaurant, which specialises in seafood dishes inspired by the Atlantic Ocean below.

The on-site spa will assist in the unwinding process, which will come naturally to most staying in this peaceful little town. Guests can enjoy a sauna, steam room and indoor pool within, as well as a fitness suite with all the latest equipment.

Where to Eat

For beautiful views over the nearby Carvoeiro beach, visit Tia Ilda’s restaurant for some superb fresh fish. Reserve a table upstairs in advance to take advantage of the ocean views, as these are the first tables to go. Although fish is their specialty, there is something for everyone at this restaurant, including pasta, pizza and various cuts of succulent meats.

Vista Restaurante has been awarded one of Tripadvisor’s Certificates of Excellence for the last three years, and it is easy to see why. Vista prides itself in the exceptional presentation of mouth-watering Portuguese and Mediterranean dishes. This Michelin star haven is run by chef João Oliveira, who aims to awaken our five senses through his dishes, balancing flavours and aromas of natural ingredients to deliver some seriously tempting cuisine. Tasting menus can be accompanied by a wine pairing menu, a selection of wines that have been carefully chosen to enhance your meal.

Things to Do

Of the town’s highlights is the famous Praia de Carvoeiro beach, which was awarded Best Beach in Europe last year. Spending an afternoon relaxing by the sea in this quiet fishing village is the ideal antidote for anyone who has had a stressful week at work and needs to unwind.

Once you have de-stressed, hop on board a boat excursion to another of the Algarve’s gems, the Benagil Caves. Exploring the caves could not be easier, as due to their popularity, there are many trips available ensuring you can get there safely. It is not recommended to swim there from the nearby Benagil Beach, as the currents in the area are very strong, not to mention that the number of boats entering and leaving and entering the cave will not make for a pleasant dip.

This cave is very different, in that it has a sunroof as it were, providing natural light into what would otherwise be a chilly and dark cavern, so come and enjoy the views and the luscious sand within. There is also the option to try some SUP (Stand Up Paddle) around the cave to enhance the experience.

Alternative water activities can be enjoyed closer to the shore, with surfing being a popular sport in the area. Those willing to give it a try can head to Portimão Surf School, where you can purchase a package of three lessons for €90. Put into practice some key skills, which you can take back to Spain with you.

Another interesting option is to visit local handicraft shops where you can enjoy making pottery. These act as great souvenirs to take back to the family! Pottery is very popular in the Algarve, but for a supreme service, head to Porches Pottery, where the helpful owners can make you whatever it is you want from their very own kiln in store, all at very affordable prices.

Trekers should bring their best hiking boots to try the Sete Vales Suspensos route near Carvoeiro, known in English as the Seven Hanging Valleys. You can start the walk by Praia do Vale de Centeanes or Praia da Marinha to enjoy the 11.5km scenic route, which is the best way to appreciate the beautiful coastline in the area. You will notice arches and caves along the way that are a result of many years of corrosion caused by the ocean below. Allow five hours to complete the walk, which will give plenty of time to stop and admire the beautiful views and take photos. One of the highlights along the way is Alfanzina’s Lighthouse, which has stood tall guiding ships for almost 100 years. Should you like a tour inside, note that the lighthouse is only open to the public every Wednesday from 2pm – 5pm.

Those on holiday with the kids will enjoy a day trip to Slide and Splash, a fun-packed waterpark with plenty to keep your little ones or teens busy. The concierge service at your hotel can arrange pickups to the park for as little as €7 by liaising with the park directly. Since it’s opening in 1986, the park has been constantly growing and improving its amenities, ensuring plenty of rides and adventures for a great day out.

So whether you fancy heading to a luxurious marina port with exhilarating nightlife or a more relaxed fishing village with beautiful scenery where you can unwind from the stress of everyday life, visiting Vilamoura and Carvoeiro, both summer-loving towns, but each with their own distinctive charm, is a must this July.