Portugal’s Algarve – More Than Just Sun, Sea & Sand

It may be known for its beautiful Blue Flag beaches and an incredible 300 days of sunshine per year, but there’s so much more to Portugal’s Algarve region than sun and sand. The southern coastline is a real haven for those of you who need to de-stress and unwind on holiday, whether that means hitting the greens with your golf clubs or discovering a natural spa in the countryside. Get ready to indulge in some serious me-time.

It’s got to be Golf

You’ll notice that many of the visitors to the area have a passion for golf and, when you see just how many courses there are to try out, you’ll understand why they make a beeline for the Algarve. The Masters takes place here every October (11th-14th for this year) and it’s held at the Oceanico Victoria course in Vilamoura. In 2011 we saw Britain’s own Tom Lewis crowned the victor, so there’s no better place to soak up the atmosphere. If your budget doesn’t stretch to premium fees then choose one of the 38 other locations to enjoy a bit of tee time, with most offering junior rates for young enthusiasts as well as lessons for any age group to brush up on their skills. The newest course, Espiche, is even eco-friendly.

A Bottle or Two

One of the most overlooked things to do on a holiday to the Algarve is to try its wines. Ask anyone you know about the famous wine regions of Portugal and, chances are, they won’t even consider the lowly south! However, you’re missing out if you don’t sample some of the excellent produce here, which is helped by the warm and dry climate and the sea breezes. Cliff Richard has his own vineyard near Guia, called Adega do Cantor, which translates as ‘the winery of the singer’ and produces signature two wines: Vida Nova and Vida Onda. You can take a guided tour of the vineyard and learn how viticulture works, as well as sampling the produce.

Hop on a Boat Tour

As the Algarve enjoys a beautiful coastline dotted with beaches, islands and sea caves, it would practically be a crime not to explore the region by boat. You may well spot dolphins on your travels, through an organised dolphin-watching tour with a marine biologist (run from several of the local harbours) which is designed to appreciate the animals but also let them enjoy their natural habitat. Alternatively you can enjoy reef fishing along the coastline from Albufeira, or visit the large array of sea caves around the dramatic Ponta da Piedade rock formations. For something really sedate then try a river cruise from Alvor village that visits sheltered spots like Silves, home to a stunning medieval castle.

Make time for a Spa Visit

You can either try out a day spa (there are many across the region) or go for the natural approach with a trip to the Caldas de Monchique, which are hot springs where the waters are said to have healing benefits. You can see the springs and buy bottled water to get a true taste of wellbeing. Wherever you choose to go, make sure you disconnect from all distractions and really let yourself unwind.

One of the easiest ways to enjoy this experience is to do so at your hotel, as many of them have dedicated facilities for guests to be pampered. The Agua Hotels Riverside Resort and Spa is just one example, boasting a wide range of options at the Agua Viva Spa including a massage for children, body wraps and a marine facial treatment. Once you’re relaxed, head out to the gardens that overlook the Arade River close to Portimao, or walk along to the village of Ferragudo and enjoy the tranquillity as you watch the sunset.

Step Back in Time

The Algarve has a rich history which is easy to explore, regardless of time constraints, as you’re never far away from an old fort (the coastline is littered with these ancient defences from marauding pirates) or a building decorated with beautiful blue illustrative tiles called azulejos, which have been a signature sight in the region for centuries. There are also plenty of affordable – or even free – museums where you can become absorbed in local culture, from the Portimao Museum that’s housed in an old sardine packing warehouse to the Costume Museum of Sao Bras de Alportel.

At the Vila Gale Albacora Hotel in Tavira you’ll even find a heritage museum inside the grounds, as the resort has been built in a former tuna fishing village where workers lived. Period details such as the chapel have been left intact and are fascinating to explore. There’s a frequent ferryboat crossing to the main areas of Tavira should you wish to explore the historical city and its Roman bridge.

Evidently you can enjoy the best of the Algarve without cramming it into a hectic schedule; there are plenty of sights to see at your leisure, allowing you to recharge your batteries on holiday.

Article written by Polly Allen of easyJet Holidays