Consistent weather, exhilarating dusty tracks, long snaking roads and luxurious greens, if you like a sporting holiday, the Algarve has it all. The exclusive resorts which line the golden sands of this famous southern stretch of Portugal cater for every imaginable sporting obsession. But it’s not all gloves, sweat and tears. Step away from the activities and you will discover cultural references in the resort architecture and regional flavours in the restaurants.
The big players
The giants of golf & tennis in the Algarve, Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo, offer just about every sporting facility available under the sun. Performance centres, specialised academy’s, a football and a riding school are in high demand for those who want to enhance their practice. While the opportunity to kayak, bike, hike or swim offer alternative outdoor activities to the favoured sports of golf and tennis.
One of the top-rated golf destinations in Europe and the amongst largest in the Algarve, Quinta Do Lago boasts three world-class golf courses nestled amongst the umbrella pines of the 2,000-acre estate. Easily accessible from Faro airport, the courses, golf academy and performance centre have built up an unrivalled reputation in the Algarve. And the resort frequently hosts the glitterati of golf during the Portuguese Open. The manicured greens, challenging bunkers and palatial clubhouses are indeed impressive. But it is the stunning sunset views from the 10, 11 and 15 to 18 on the South course which take your breath away.
A tennis lovers mecca, the Vale do Lobo offers a busy year schedule of coaching and tournaments throughout the year. Out of season temperatures vary from twelve to twenty degrees. These pleasant levels are perfect for practising on one of the ten hard courts, or four synthetic grass courts. With Intensive or semi-intensive packages which include up to ten hours of group coaching, you can understand the temptation to improve your level and have fun in the sun.
There are plenty of well-documented mountain bike routes in the Algarve. Most of the challenging trails are further inland. But there are a few good two-three hours ride close the Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo resorts. One such intermediate loop takes you along the natural beauty of bird invested marshlands of the Ria Formosa before circling around the back of the resort to near Almancil and onto Faro town.
The perfect tarmac which weaves around the quiet roads of the Algarve resort is ideal for cycling on a daily basis to build up fitness. For some serious climbs, you need to head for the hills. The elevation of the Serra de Monchique offers seasoned cyclists a significant challenge. For the best scenic rides, the roads towards Sagres, to the west of the Algarve or Tavira to the east, offer rewarding routes. But beware unlike the smooth surfaces of the resorts, portions of the ride are unpaved and difficult to ride in places.
The Moorish influence of whitewashed buildings, decorative chimneys and castles are most evident in the Algarve’s oldest towns of Faro, Tavira and Silves. However, there is an echo of Arabic architecture in the ‘cubic’, flat-roofed design of many of the villas and apartments. And the regional dishes of the exclusive resort restaurants pay homage to the past with ingredients such as almonds, figs, carob and citrus fruit within their recipes.