picture of the Algarve marina

Sunshine: Only 1091 miles south of here

“I haven’t ridden a bike since I was 10”, I casually warned our tour guide. “Don’t worry, it’s just a gentle 6km cycle around the national park.” An hour and a half later I arrived, near collapse, to a bemused guide. “Hmmm, you need to join a gym,” he said, eyebrows raised. D’ya think!?

Assuming your exercise regime is more extensive than walking between the sofa and fridge, there’s plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy in the Algarve. But more importantly than pesky sports, this region of Portugal boasts more than 300 days of sunshine a year.  And given the biblical levels of rainfall we’ve been experiencing this ‘summer’, I’d say that can only be a good thing. Assuming a strapping lad named Noah isn’t building a giant ark to sail us away from this sodden island, the Algarve is an excellent back up plan.

Getting there

Flights start from around £70 return with low cost carriers Monarch and easyJet and take approximately two and half hours. Whilst prices are currently on the increase in anticipation of school holidays, there are some bargains to be bagged in October.

picture of white flowers with yellow and red centres

Are they edible?

What to do

Chillax: If unspoilt beaches are your bag you’re in the right place. Pack a picnic and head to the Algarve’s sandy coastline to soak up some sun (and maybe treat yourself to a cocktail or five.)

Go-kart racing:  For hen parties and groups go kart racing at the Autodromo Internacional race track is a great activity.  Prices start at EUR 37 per person which includes a 10 minute training session and 20 minutes’ driving time.

Fauna and Flora jeep tour: Travelling by 4X4, you’ll be off roading through the region’s national parks on a nature trail. Kind of like a primary school field trip but with local liquors instead of milk and cookies. Check out Portitours for more ideas and prices.

The Ria Formosa National Park: Sail between sand islands and swim in lagoons on a boat tour of the region’s flatlands. You can even give kayaking a go if you’re feeling especially adventurous.

Spas: Think luxury, tranquillity and those lovely towel dressing gowns that are always three sizes too big. Most of the major hotels have onsite spas, though my favourites are the Seven Spa at the Hilton Vilamoura and the Banyan Tree spa at Tivoli Marina

What to eat

Offering great value for money, Portuguese coastal towns are flooded with simple local restaurants offering fresh fish and seafood dishes. Though there’s a selection of Michelin star and high end joints for those feeling a bit classy, simple restaurant food is equally good.

Regional specialities include the very delicious salt cod and the less delightful octopus. Even for my (relatively adventurous) palate, the teeny tiny suckers floating in my dinner like little nipples were a no go.

Where to stay?

picture of Pea puree, poached egg yolk and Parma ham
Vila Vista lunch: Pea puree, poached egg yolk and Parma ham

Fly and flop: Vila Vita Parc is a 54 acre sub tropical luxury resort with swimming pools, a spa, tennis courts, seven restaurants and a golf course. If you’re a fan of ‘minimal movement’ holidays this is the hotel choice for you.

Boutique: Featuring a brand new L’Occtaine spa the quirky Bela Vista hotel is only a few years old. With an ‘inspired by a European fairytale’ vibe, it’s definitely worth splashing out for a romantic long weekend.

Groups: One of the best value options is villa hire which you can investigate at Owners Direct. You can sometimes find reviews on Trip Advisor but I can’t promise all the writers are mentally sound. Don’t say you weren’t warned.