Portugal is a holiday paradise, with 500 miles of wonderful coastline, over 3,500 hours of sunshine each year, and charming, courteous people, whose friendship with the British stretches back for generations. Long, clean, sandy beaches, sheltered coves of warm, white sand with a backdrop of whitewashed villas; some of the best sporting facilities in the world, excellent seafood, highly drinkable wines – an unbeatable combination.
The different regions of Portugal vary enormously. Whilst the majority of holidaymakers head for the Algarve, ever improving roads and a wide choice of flights mean that many people now combine the beauty, history and stunning beaches of the Lisbon Coast with a relaxing week further south. Driving from Lisbon to the Algarve has never been easier, with new roads the journey takes a leisurely two and a half hours.
One of the most popular leisure activities in Portugal is, of course, golf. There are around 40 golf courses in the Algarve with many more throughout the rest of Portugal.
With miles of gorgeous, golden, sandy beaches, calm clear waters and bays interspersed with rugged cliffs and enchanting grottos, the Algarve is amongst the top European holiday destinations. The south of Portugal was the last place to gain independence from the Moors in 1292, conquered by the King Dom Afonso III and even today traces of the Moorish presence are visible in the unique terraces, chimneys and whitewashed villas.
Whatever your preference; a secluded hideaway in the hills, a converted cottage in a traditional fishing village or a magnificent mansion in a sophisticated resort, you will find a warm welcome and your personal paradise in the Algarve.
Albufeira was once a fishing village and is now a popular bustling resort with many restaurants, bars and shops. The old town retains its character with winding cobbled streets and white painted archways; the modernised main square has cafés, music bars and, in the height of the summer, there is live entertainment. Leading from the square are narrow streets with numerous bars, as well as stalls and shops selling local pottery, handicrafts and souvenirs. The main town beach is reached through a tunnel and at low tide becomes joined to a smaller beach, once the home of the local fishing boats, which are now to be found in the marina to the west of Albufeira. Overlooking the fishermen’s beach are some great fish restaurants including the well known Ruina Seafood Restaurant and the area has a lively atmosphere during the summer with several bars playing live music until late. To the west side of the town is the brightly coloured marina, which is home to some stylish yachts, several cafés, restaurants and an ice cream parlour. Sea fishing trips, dolphin safaris, diving and other water activities are available from the marina and in the summer there are open-air concerts and fashion shows. The Cerro Grande is a residential area overlooking Albufeira Marina with a supermarket, restaurant, café/bar and is a short walk from the town centre. The road around the edge of Albufeira leads to the newer suburbs, where the daily fish, fruit and vegetable market is located.
The eastern side of Albufeira eventually becomes the popular resort of Praia d’Oura, not for anyone who wants to experience the Portuguese way of life but a hive of bars, nightclubs and shops – all catering very much to holidaymakers. Praia d’Oura is home to Indigo Divers where several of our staff have completed their PADI courses. A little further east are the areas of Santa Eulália and Olhos D’Água which were originally small fishing communities and have since become bustling resorts. One of the trendiest clubs in the Algarve – Le Club – is located on the Santa Eulália beach, which also has two restaurants. These resorts have lovely sandy beaches with attractive rock formations, creating rock pools at low tide. Most of the villas we offer here are in prime positions within walking distance of a beach, shops and all the attractions. Some are set in extensive grounds, allowing privacy even at the height of the season. Pinecliffs Golf Course is close by, as is the smart Sheraton Resort, with excellent (if expensive) restaurants.
Pros: These are good choices for young people or families as many of our properties are within walking distance of shops, bars, restaurants and beaches.
Cons: These resorts become crowded in the peak season and are more likely to be affected by building work than rural areas.
The Vale de Parra area is to the west of Albufeira and has some of the Algarve’s finest beaches. The best known is probably Galé, a vast expanse of golden sand with restaurants and water sports, including jet-skiing and parasailing; there is also a ‘banana’ – great fun for the kids! Galé can be busy in the summer but turn down any of the tracks along the coast road and you are likely to find a quiet beach or bay. Some, like Praia da Coelha, are a fair walk from the nearest parking area but worth the effort. São Rafael and Praia do Castelo are more accessible and have good beach bars. To the west of Vale de Parra, Quinta da Saudade is a mature estate of privately owned villas with a restaurant and bar. It is only five minutes from the beaches and just above Salgados Golf with a club house and restaurant. Guia is close by; slightly inland and famous for its modestly priced restaurants serving chicken piri-piri (dry cooked, with a spicy chilli marinade). The nearby Algarve Shopping Centre, located just to the north of Albufeira near Guia. It has numerous and varied shops, fast food restaurants, cinemas showing English speaking films and ten pin bowling, as well as a large hypermarket.
Pros: Close to some of the best beaches with a varied selection of restaurants. Most of the villas are in country positions, just a short drive from towns.
Cons: This area is very popular and so the larger beaches tend to be crowded in the height of the summer.
Armação de Pêra was named after the inland region of Pêra in Portugal, where the fishermen came down from originally and armação, which was a specially adapted boat, with a combined netting system, designed by the Moors. Today Armação de Pêra is a lively high-rise Algarve resort, which is very popular with Portuguese holidaymakers in the summer. It has a wonderful long sandy beach stretching all the way to Praia de Galé. Arriving on the outskirts of Armação de Pêra, there are large numbers of attractive, modern apartments along with the roads and roundabouts to link it all together. The centre (centro) and the beach (praia) are clearly signposted, and there are several roads leading to the beach, so if you miss the first one, don’t worry! There is a large area of ground at the western end where you can park and another large area at the eastern end by the fishermen’s beach, along with a multi-storey by Pingo Doce supermarket. There are several beach restaurants including the excellent Arte Náutica Beach Restaurant – not the cheapest but in addition to freshly caught fish they have an excellent wine list and make a rather good Espresso Martini!
Pros: The wonderful sandy beach is child friendly and there are lots of great beach bars and restaurants
Cons: This area gets exceptionally busy in the main summer months
Portimão is primarily a fishing port and it is worth risking a headache to drink rough local wine while eating grilled sardines in the quayside area. It has many shoe shops, selling good quality international shoes at low prices. The riverside has been pedestrianised and boat trips can be taken from the quay down the river to Silves or along the coastline. Nearby Penina has been synonymous with championship golf since the famous course was designed by three times British Open champion Henry Cotton in the 1960s. There is plenty to do in this area with Lagos easily accessible, as well as many of the magnificent beaches for which the Algarve is renowned.
Ferragudo is smaller and more traditional than neighbouring Portimão and is located across the river estuary of the Rio Arade. The main cobbled square, Praça Rainha Dona Leonor, has lots of café’s serving delicious pastries and a variety of different types of coffee. Just around the corner is the quayside with lots of fish restaurants of varying prices serving the freshest of fish, barbequed in front of your eyes. At one end of the village is the impressive Fort of São João de Arade. It began life in the 15th century as a lookout tower and then was extended in 17th/18th century as part of the fortifications protecting the mouth of the river. On the opposite bank above Portimão Marina is the fort of Santa Catarina. At the beginning of the 20th century it was converted into a private home by the poet, Coelho Carvalho which is how it came by it’s present, rather romantic, appearance.
Pros: Some of the best golf courses are to be found at this end of the Algarve. Ferragudo has some of the best fish restaurants.
Cons: These resorts are further from Faro Airport so transfer by taxi is more expensive.
The coastal resort of Praia do Carvoeiro is flanked by high cliffs and was, until the 1970s, a sleepy fishing village. Nowadays the steep roads, to the left and right of the main square and town beach, are lined with restaurants and bars. Our villas are scattered around the main resort and also in the many smaller developments that have sprung up in recent years. Areias dos Moinhos was one of the first developments to be built on the edge of Carvoeiro and is a fifteen minute walk from the centre; there is a reception and a tennis court, albeit not championship standard. Cabeça de Pias has a couple of restaurants and is close to Pestana Golf Club with two courses, Vale de Pinta and Quinta do Gramacho. For discounted golf rates visit the Algarve Golf Desk. In Sesmarias, there is a good supermarket, restaurants and tennis courts. Alfanzina, on the coast to the east of Carvoeiro, is close to the popular Rocha Brava development. Facilities here include a cyber café, a holistic health centre, tennis club and a small gym. The prestigious Carvoeiro Club, to the west of the town, has tennis courts, a gymnasium, a snack bar/coffee shop and Finisterra, with wonderful views, is on the edge of the club. Nearby Monte Carvoeiro has a lively jazz club, supermarket, bars and several restaurants. There is a central square with a fountain and al fresco dining, including an Indian restaurant and a steak house, where diners are provided with hot stones to cook the meat to their taste at the table. There are two water parks and horse riding within easy driving distance and a lively nightlife in the town centre.
Porches became the centre for ceramics and pottery in the 1960s when Patrick Swift set up the first pottery, using original Portuguese designs of past centuries. The original “Porches Pottery” is on the outskirts of the village, in a delightful setting with a good café and you can watch the pottery being hand painted. Porches is home to one of the oldest restaurants in the Algarve “O Leão”; set within the narrow, cobbled streets, it is a beautiful building, with an attractive terrace for dining on hot summer nights. Porches has a chemist, mini-market, post office, several cafés and a couple of restaurants and is a short drive from several lovely beaches including Benagil, Marinha and Albandeira.
Pros: These areas are close to many facilities including water parks, golf courses, shops, bars, restaurants and many beautiful beaches.
Cons: Once again, this is a developing area so some construction work is possible and the restaurants tend to be busy in the height of the summer.
In the hills behind Faro there are some wonderful towns and villages which remain relatively unaffected by tourism. Loulé is a typical, bustling market town with lots of history and remnants of its Roman and Moorish past, including the old castle walls and mosque-like churches. As the coast has developed, gradually more villas have been built on the almond tree filled hills surrounding Loulé but this has not changed the character of the town; if you wander down the cobbled side streets, you will find workshops with craftsmen busily working on leatherware, weavers making baskets and metal workers beating out copperware.
São Brás is a sleepy town 12kms from Loulé with a central square, an interesting museum, several restaurants and few tourists. Close by is the village of Estoi which has Roman ruins, an 18th Century palace and an excellent market held on the second Sunday of each month. Santa Bárbara de Nexe has several very good restaurants including inexpensive, traditional cafés and an Italian with live music on Sundays. For the adventurous traveller, Seville, just across the Spanish border, is an easy drive, just two and a half hours via the motorway.
The centre of Boliqueime is in the hills just in front of the motorway and a short drive to the coast. It retains a village atmosphere yet is just a fifteen minute drive from the centre of Albufeira and about the same to the golf courses at Vilamoura. The centre still has some cobbled streets with local shops, a post office, chemist, a couple of cafés, one or two good restaurants and there is an annual fair, held during the summer in the church square, with stalls selling locally produced handicrafts and food. The surrounding countryside is hilly, with pine and almond trees and dotted with gleaming white villas. This is the way to get the best of the Algarve if you do not mind a short drive to the shops and beaches. Salir is well known for its 12th century castle, originally built by the Moors to protect the countryside and its peoples from a Christian attack, It is situated at the top of the village and there are some outstanding views across the town and the surrounding countryside. It is close to the Rocha da Pena national park which is a popular hiking area, with locals and visitors alike.
Pros: The villages in these areas are largely unspoilt and most of our villas are in peaceful locations. The restaurants are usually very reasonably priced and offer authentic Algarvean cuisine.
Cons: You will have to drive to the beaches and barking dogs can sometimes spoil the tranquillity of the countryside.
The historic walled town of Lagos was once the capital of the western Algarve and has a cosmopolitan atmosphere, with paved pedestrian areas, wide avenues, an excellent choice of shops, bars, restaurants and a couple of nightclubs. There is a superb daily fish market together with a weekly tourist market in the summer. The cobbled boulevard that runs parallel to the river leads to the fabulous marina which is filled with all manner of boats from small dinghies to opulent yachts, and there are some great bars and restaurants overlooking the water. The dolphin watching trips from the marina are fantastic and private yacht charter is also available. The golden sands of Meia Praia beach stretch for 4kms around the bay of Lagos and the small, sandy coves and grottoes provide secluded and sheltered sunbathing. There are superb sports facilities in and around Lagos including scuba diving, water-skiing, windsurfing, surfing (Surf Experience), microlite and golf (we can arrange discounts of up to 25% on golf packages, see Algarve Golf Desk for details). We can also arrange horse riding and lessons at a local estate Quinta do Paraiso Alto. Nearby Funchal Ridge is a hill with fantastic countryside views, yet is only five kilometres from the sandy beach at Praia da Luz and from Lagos. There are six or seven beaches within a twenty minute drive, wide stretches of golden sand and steep sided sheltered coves, some busy and some deserted, but all very beautiful. The seaside town of Praia da Luz is just a few kilometres away.
Pros: Excellent shops, an attractive marina, a good market and lovely beaches.
Cons: Transfer by taxi is quite expensive as these resorts are further from Faro Airport.
The village of Luz has cobbled streets leading down to the sandy beach with a pedestrian walkway. There are lots of restaurants, cafes and shops along the promenade and in the summer months market stalls and artisans displaying their work. Praia da Luz also has some Roman ruins, thankfully saved from recent development, the Roman bath remains are open to the public during the summer. It has a relaxed, holiday atmosphere and there are a range of water sports available. There are several mini-markets and a supermarket as well as a natural food shop selling all manner of unusual foodstuff. Luz Bay Club Hotel has indoor and outdoor pools, tennis and squash courts, Turkish baths and a gym; visitors can buy a day pass.
Facilities at, or near, Praia da Luz include scuba diving, water-skiing, windsurfing (Surf Experience), microlite, horse riding at Quinta do Paraiso Alto and, of course, golf. There are four courses within a 20 minute drive; the championship course at Penina, Palmares at Lagos, Parque de Floresta at Budens and the Boa Vista course between Lagos and Luz.
Pros: Most of the villas do not require a hire car & the beaches are shallow and therefore good for families.
Cons: Taxi transfers from the airport are quite expensive.
These prestigious developments are arguably the most sought after resorts in the Algarve, with golf courses considered to be amongst the best in Europe. Set in the beautiful Ria Formosa Natural Park, Quinta do Lago has some of the most luxurious villas on the coast. The resort was carefully planned, with gleaming, whitewashed villas blending neatly into pine trees, and golf courses which are an oasis of green. Facilities include floodlit tennis courts (professional coaching available), two top golf courses (for golf booking see Algarve Golf Desk), horse riding, water sports and squash. There are superb shops at Quinta Shopping, including fabulous boutiques offering exclusive designer labels and amazing interior design outlets. In addition there are some wonderful, international restaurants on the estate – one of our favourites is the Casa do Lago overlooking the lagoon.
Vale do Lobo is best known for its fabulous golf courses – including the famous Ocean Course, one of the prettiest in Europe. Set in a valley, running down to the sea, there is a magnificent white sandy beach with fantastic beach front restaurants, bars and cafés. The famous Vale do Lobo Tennis Academy is one of the finest of its kind in Europe; there are fourteen hard courts, set in a pine clad amphitheatre overlooked by the superb club house; it is difficult to imagine a more relaxed and picturesque setting to enjoy a game of tennis. Throughout the summer, activities include archery, dance classes, exhibitions, massages and children’s ballet.
Dunas Douradas is situated between Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo and is popular with golfers as it is close to so many of the Algarve’s top courses. It is also the perfect resort for families. Set in 77 acres of pine forest, the estate is named after the golden sand dunes in the area. Most of the villas have their own pools but you can still enjoy the superb communal pool in the heart of the resort. There are also tennis courts, which can be booked and paid for at the reception, lovely beaches close by, a mini-market and 24 hour security. Although all the resorts have supermarkets, most visitors tend to shop in nearby Almancil which has several excellent supermarkets and a fantastic selection of restaurants ranging from small, family run bistros to five star international establishments. The restaurants in these resorts can be a little bit pricey and the menus are often international so it is worth driving inland for more authentic and reasonably priced choices.
Pros: Close to some lovely beaches and ideal for golf enthusiasts with numerous sports and leisure facilities. Luxurious properties with landscaped gardens.
Cons: Inevitably, the coastal areas are more likely to be adversely affected by building work. Restaurants are likely to be more expensive in these resorts.
Vilamoura is one of the longest established resorts on the coast. Situated about 25kms from Faro Airport, it has a smart, vibrant marina, filled with boats and ocean-going yachts as its centrepiece. Around the marina are parades of shops, restaurants, cafés and bars overlooking the waterfront which has cocktail bars, Chinese food, pizzas, pancakes, burgers – there is even a Polynesian restaurant! During the summer, the marina has an amazing atmosphere and this is very much the place to see and be seen. Talented artists will paint a good likeness for just a few Euros, or you may prefer to stroll past the many opulent yachts. Beside the marina, there is a long, sandy beach. If you feel adventurous, there are boats to take you big game fishing or you can hire one for a leisurely trip along the coast for sunbathing and a picnic.
Vilamoura is perhaps best known for its top quality golf courses and with another at the nearby Vila Sol resort there are six within a very small radius. For more information please see Algarve Golf Desk. There is also horse riding, clay pigeon shooting, tennis, fishing, scuba diving and water skiing. Browns Health Club has aerobics, tennis, squash, a sauna, swimming pool and snack bar – temporary membership can be arranged locally. Vilamoura also has a casino, with nightly shows, and a cinema.
Pros: Perfect for families, with many of the villas close to the exciting marina. Also great for sport lovers, especially golf!
Cons: Tends to be very busy in the height of the summer and it is sometimes difficult to get tee times.
We have a small selection of properties in fabulous locations which are an easy drive from Lisbon Airport. Just 28kms south of Lisbon, across the River Tagus is the beautiful Arrábida National Park with breathtaking scenery and beaches, stretching for some 22 miles between Sesimbra and Setúbal, this area is carpeted by wild flowers which are amongst the most colourful and varied in Iberia. The coastline at Sesimbra is beautiful and dramatic, the town has some fantastic seafood restaurants and local activities include an array of water sports, scuba diving, climbing, cycle trails, horse riding and boat trips.
Sintra inspired Lord Byron to write Glorious Eden and it is easy to see why. It is a picturesque town, amidst the pine-covered hills. The panoramic scenery and slightly cooler climate historically enticed the nobility and elite of Portugal, who constructed exquisite palaces, extravagant mansions and decorative gardens, most of which are now open to the public and well worth a visit.
Quinta do Peru is also to the south of Lisbon, close to Azeitão. Located in a forest of pine and cork trees, it is an area of great natural beauty with an excellent golf course. Dolphin watching trips can be arranged and kayaks and sail boats can be hired in nearby Setúbal.
The food here is quite different from the Algarve with a tasty variety of stews, oven baked dishes and delicious Atlantic shellfish widely seen on menus.