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Set amid acres of lush green pine forests in the Ria Formosa Natural Park, the exclusive resort of Quinta do Lago has much to offer for discerning travellers, including glorious sandy beaches, championship golf courses and other sporting activities. A wealth of chic nightlife and an exciting array of restaurants serving fresh local cuisine are also waiting to be discovered. Those looking for retail therapy will love the Quinta Shopping Centre with its choice of exclusive designer boutiques and fine restaurants. The 3 kilometre golden sandy beach at Quinta do Lago is reached by a wooden bridge over the estuary and benefits from a selection of beachfront restaurants and bars. Nature lovers will enjoy walking trails and bird watching amongst the pine forests and beautiful lakes within the Natural Park. Three fabulous golf courses, Quinta do Lago North, Quinta do Lago South and San Lorenzo, are available for budding golfers, along with other sporting facilities including tennis and horse riding. Quinta do Lago truly does have something for everyone!
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With such a large coastline it’s no surprise the Algarve is a great place for all kinds of fish and seafood, with restaurants commonly serving fresh sardines, bream, cod, monkfish and tuna. Another famous dish of the Algarve is chicken piri-piri great for a relaxed atmosphere! Most dishes will be served with served with boiled potatoes and vegetables or salad.
Quinta do Lago offers a great selection of restaurants no matter what type of cuisine you fancy. There is a small selection of bars but those who are looking for a more lively night should head to the nearby resort Vale do Lobo.
Boat trips and dolphin watching
Don’t miss a chance to explore the Algarve’s stunning coastline from the water at least once during your stay. There are short dolphin-watching trips that can also include a visit to the area’s dramatic caves, or venture further afield with a full day cruise aboard a beautiful yacht or catamaran, breaking for lunch on a secluded beach with time to cool off in the gloriously clear water.
Rio Formosa Nature Reserve
The 170 square kilometres of saltwater lagoons, islands and marshes of the Ria Formosa estuary is a breathtakingly beautiful area, teeming with migrating birds, dozens of species of fish and unique flora and fauna. Only a few minutes’ drive from the resort, the reserve’s easily accessible pathways and boardwalks make this a fabulous place for walking, cycling and birdwatching and there are numerous guided boat trips on offer. You can even hire a kayak and paddle your way around the canals and lagoons. Viewing points and bird hides are strategically placed to make the most of the views and to spot rare birds in their natural habitat. You could spend several days here but be sure to include at least one visit during your stay.
Church of Sao Lourenço de Matos
This magnificent early 18th century church is a must-see for anyone staying in the area. Often referred to as one of the Algarve’s most important art treasures, the church’s exceptional wall-to-wall blue and white tiled tableaux run the length of the nave and depict the life of Saint Lawrence in wonderful detail. The gilded wood-carved altar and tiled dome are equally stunning. The church is located on the hillside just a few minutes south of Almancil off the main N125 road towards Faro.
It may be best known for its international airport but the city of Faro is well worth a visit. Its charming old town is located to the east of Faro marina. The city’s Se Cathedral, quite unassuming on the outside, is surprisingly ornate inside, with gilded carving, traditional azulejos (tiles) and impressive works of art, and you can get a wonderful view of the city by climbing the steps up the cathedral tower. A mainly pedestrianised shopping area consists of dozens of cobbled streets and squares with plenty of cafés and restaurants. For a little retail therapy head to the Forum Algarve shopping mall on the main EN125 road from the Faro airport area; it has a wonderful choice of stores built around an open air square.
Now a cosmopolitan market town, nearby Loulé retains plenty of its historical roots. The ancient walls of its medieval castle still dominate, with the winding cobbled streets of the old town now bursting with cafés, bars, restaurants and shops. There are some beautiful old churches here and the daily market is particularly worth a visit for its array of fresh produce, crafts, basket weaving and copper goods.
With more churches than hotels, the unspoilt riverside town of Tavira is one of the Algarve’s best kept secrets, exuding authentic Portuguese charm. History abounds in its colourful architectural details, with decorative features from Renaissance to Baroque, Moorish to Gothic. The fishing port is a hive of activity and it’s a wonderful place to wander around at leisure. Pop into the former water tower that’s been turned into a camara obscura, reflecting a fascinating 360° tour of the town on a horizontal screen.
Whether you’re game for a challenge or simply love the idea of exploring on two wheels instead of four, the Algarve has some superb cycling routes. Joining a cycle tour for a few hours means you also get the benefit of an experienced guide’s local knowledge so you’ll get to see the best views as well as cycling on back roads and tracks you might not otherwise have found. There are numerous tours available, starting from Boliqueime near Vilamoura, including the coastline towards Albufeira, the hills around Querenca and Paderne and the golf resorts of Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo. Tours are around 35-40 kms, mostly moderate cycling, and you can travel at you own pace with plenty of stops along the way. Mountain biking is also available.
The riding centre just outside Almancil provides a wealth of horse and pony riding options for those staying in the area of Vale do Lobo and Quinta do Lago. English-run and with a friendly, experienced international team of professionals offering riding lessons for all ages and abilities, including disabled riders, the centre is also wonderfully located for fabulous horseback nature walks and hacks. It’s a great way to get to see some of the Algarve’s beautiful countryside, from pine forests and farmland to the coastal tracks and lagoons of the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve.
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