It's our Loule 5 day tour - day 2, and day 5 of our Algarve tour. The next morning I drove down south, towards Almancil, a small town best known for its luxury resorts - Vale do Lobo and Quinta do Lago, both tremendously popular among the rich and famous. Here, one can enjoy high-end cuisine and premier golf courses all under one roof.
Before trying my hand at golf for the first time, I stopped by Igreja de São Lourenço de Almancil. This 18th-century church is one of the Algarve’s most unique religious sites and a great example of Baroque architecture. Visitors are drawn in by its blue and white tiles that fully cover the walls and the church’s ceiling. The tiles, or azulejos, as the Portuguese would call it, showcase the life of São Lourenço and were designed by Polícarpo de Oliveira Bernardes, one of the azulejo masters of the time.
After visiting the church, I went directly to Quinta do Lago for my golf lesson. This large estate boasts three remarkable golf courses, each with its own layout and difficulty level. Those who pick the South course will be greeted with a view of the Ria Formosa National Park and even the little ones can practise at the mini golf. In 2015 and 2016, Quinta do Lago was named “Europe’s Best Golf Destination” and to this day it remains a must-stop for golf fanatics. Beginners, like myself, can start with a private lesson before joining the more experienced golfers on the field. I worked on my swing for a while before hitting my first balls and soon afterwards, it was time for lunch.
Pizzeria Casavostra was my pick for the day, a Mediterranean restaurant that serves one of the, if not the, best pizzas in the Algarve. The pizza is thin, crispy and the fact that is cooked in an Italian wood oven, adds even more to its flavour. There are a dozen types of pizza on offer, that range from the most simple, the Margherita to the most complex combos like the pizza Nova Don Corleone that includes grapes and pine nuts.
A few minutes away from the pizzeria I found the Karting Almancil, a theme park dedicated to motorsport fans. For 15 euros you can take a quick spin on the main track or experience a high tech kart for 10 euros more. If you’re bringing your kids on your trip to the Algarve, this is a great place to spend a fun afternoon with them.
Since I still wanted to make it to the beach, I only stayed for a short period at Karting Almancil before getting back on the road towards Praia Vale do Lobo. This serene beach is enclosed by stunning reddish cliffs, forming a wall between the golf courses of Vale do Lobo resort and the shimmering waters of the Atlantic. I sat down under one of the straw umbrellas and enjoyed the last hours of sunlight.
Around 7 pm, I packed my things and headed to the Anantara Resort in Vilamoura, where I booked a room for two nights. This spacious hotel is decorated with paintings and artworks from Portuguese artists and combined with a local heritage of cork items and regional pottery, which add a unique touch to the property. Part of a worldwide hotel chain, Anantara Hotels found its European home in Vilamoura and much like the other resorts in Loulé, Anantara also has a golf course at its doorstep, along with five swimming pools, six restaurants, a gym, a spa and many more facilities.
For dinner, I booked a table at Emo (Michelin recommended), one of the hotel’s restaurants and a popular choice in Vilamoura itself. The restaurant serves Portuguese cuisine with a contemporary spin. After going through the menu I placed my order and waited patiently for the meal to arrive. What came was a series of prestige creations assembled like a piece of artwork on a white canvas. Dishes here are meant to be shared and complemented with a bottle of wine. Feeling satisfied, I picked up my room key, bid goodnight to the staff and left the restaurant.