Because sometimes, the most interesting places are on your doorstep
When your Instagram feed is full of influencers jetting around the world, it doesn’t take long for your dream vacation list to become filled with far-flung cities and beaches on the Indian Ocean. But while a long-haul flight often leads to an incredible destination, it can also take a while to save up for. So it’s worth remembering that there are plenty of stunning holiday spots much closer to home.
Case in point? Portugal. Its beautiful Algarve coastline is less than a three hour drive from cosmopolitan capital Lisbon, making it the perfect country for both relaxing and exploring. And if you know where to go, it’s just as aspirational as places outside of Europe.
Here’s our take on how to enjoy the best of the area…
Where should I stay?
If you’re all about luxury, a reputable chain is your best bet for ensuring a 5* experience. Our pick this summer is Tivoli, with Tivoli Carvoeiro winning us over in the Algarve. Overlooking the sea on the Vale Covo cliffside, the views of beaten crags and azure waters are stunning. Not only that, but the hotel has recently undergone an impressive renovation.
In Lisbon, Tivoli Avenida Liberdade gives off an elegant art deco vibe. Established in 1933, it’s located in the heart of the city, on the central Avenida da Liberdade.
What’s there to do?
We wouldn’t blame you if you were only interested in snoozing on a sun lounger in the Algarve. But if you’re more of an explorer, don’t let its resort reputation put you off.
There are a number of excursions on offer around Carvoeiro. You can take on the 7 Hanging Valleys Trail, which involves an 11.4k walk along the winding coastline. For ease, Tivoli will set you up with a guide. Fábio from Algarfun was brilliant, explaining the geography and pointing out the flora and fauna as we hiked alongside secluded beaches.
Of course, there are plenty of sights in Lisbon. Interestingly, one of the best ways to see them is by hopping on a tuk tuk and riding through the city. Ask to be taken to the hilltop suburb of Graça, where you can snap dreamy pictures of the colourful buildings, Tagus river and Golden Gate-style 25 de Abril Bridge.
If you prefer to keep your feet on terra firma, you can pick from a number of walking tours. The Vintage Tour teaches you both about the country’s important history – it was under a dictatorship until 1974 – as well as showing you some of Lisbon’s oldest shops and eateries. For those with a creative streak, there’s a Street Art Tour.
Where are the best places to eat?
To put it simply, the food we sampled in Portugal was incredible. Think fresh shellfish, a mouth-watering selection of cheeses and exquisite pastries.
If you’re keen to fine dine in the Algarve, there’s no need to look any further than your hotel. Tivoli’s The One Wine Boutique is a gourmet gem, and given its proximity to the sea, it’s no surprise that its seafood is some of the most flavoursome around. We fully recommend the lobster ravioli.
The Azur Bar serves up delicious and quirky tapas (see below), with a refreshing melon shot being a surprise hit for the taste buds.
When it comes to eating out in Lisbon, you can’t go wrong with the central Cervejaria Liberdade. Again specialising in seafood, the fresh king crab and mussels were up there with some of the best we’d ever had. The restaurant’s decadent interior made the experience even more luxe.
Just over the road is Olivier, which has a gorgeous range of desserts. And if you have a sweet tooth, make sure you stop off for a Pastel de nata, the famous Portuguese custard tart.
Where can I have a drink?
As previously mentioned, Tivoli Carvoeiro is sat atop a cliffside. This means you can see the most beautiful sunsets from its rooftop Sky Bar, which boasts a chic and contemporary design.
Why not keep the rooftop theme going in Lisbon? Legend has it that the capital was built on seven hills, much like Rome. While this is pretty much folklore, there’s no denying that it’s a hilly city. So the view from Tivoli Avenida Liberdade’s sister Sky Bar is an epic look-out onto a gorgeous rising and falling plane.
Not only that, but it has a great cocktail selection.
Where should I go wine tasting?
As you’ll know, Portugal is well-known for its wine.
The Douro Valley – which lies in the north of the country - is perhaps more famous for its vines, but there are plenty of wine tasting options in the Algarve.
Head a little further inland to visit family-run winery Quinta da Vinha. We were taken on a tour of the local company’s cellars and sampled a selection of tasty wines, which were accompanied by cheese and meats.
Do the hotels have spas?
In short, yes.
After a few days in the Algarve, we imagine you’ve already seriously spoiled yourself. But for even more indulgence, stroll down to Tivoli’s spa. With a sauna, steam room and tranquil relaxation area, you hardly need a treatment to achieve a Zen-like state. Saying that, the full-body massage takes almost every stressful thought out of your head, and the therapists really listen when you tell them which areas you’d like them to focus on.
Been stretching your legs around Lisbon and feel like it’s time to soothe your muscles? Tivoli Avenida Liberdade recently opened a brand new Anantara Spa, where the massages have a more spiritual vibe.
How long does it take to get there?
You can fly direct to both Faro (for the Algarve) and Lisbon in just under three hours from London and Manchester airports.
What’s the weather like?
In summer, there’s an average temperature of 25°C. It’s hotter inland, and there’s a lovely cooling breeze along the coast.
In spring and autumn there are still nine to ten hours of sunshine a day. By November it starts to rain a little more, but winter days are comfortable at around 15°C.
Nightly rates at Tivoli Carvoeiro start from 120€/£106 for a double room on a B&B basis.
Nightly rates at Tivoli Avenida Liberdade Lisboa start from 200€/£177 for a double room on a B&B basis.
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