The appeal and beauty of the beach of Vilamoura and its encircling area have led to what is nowadays one of the most popular and exclusive holiday destinations in the Algarve. Contrary to the general trend in the Algarve, Vilamoura did not develop from a little fishing village into the resort that it is today. It was specifically designed to become a self-contained, exclusive resort and as such it has developed in an orderly and tasteful manner to include some of the region’s top hotels and luxury residential accommodation, providing an impressive array of amenities and activities. A selection of beautiful beaches, a luxurious marina, manicured gardens, wide avenues, a number of golf courses, a casino and an aerodrome are to name but a few of Vilamoura’s attractions.
Vilamoura owes its existence to the beauty of the natural surroundings, characterised by long expanses of sun-drenched paradisiacal beaches, large areas of pine forests and natural marshlands. The most accessible beaches are those of Vilamoura, Marina and Falésia, all of them Blue Flag beaches and providing a long list of water sports and leisure activities. Windsurfing, jet skiing, parasailing, pedal boats and surfing complement the activities available from the famous marina, where chartered boats are available for big game fishing, diving, dolphin-sighting and pleasure trips. Praia da Falésia stretches for many kilometres westwards and has earned its name from the long line of golden cliffs flanking its shores. A number of additional, equally beautiful beaches can be found along the coast heading eastwards as far as Quinta do Lago, the beach bordering the Ria Formosa Natural Park. Access to this beach is provided by a long wooden bridge that crosses the estuary’s waterways and is an excellent spot for observing the marshland vegetation, the white salt pans and the rich bird life of the region.
Vilamoura offers all the amenities consistent with a quality resort. The numerous golf courses situated in this resort have made it a favourite destination with golfers, who can choose from Severiano Ballesteros’ Quinta do Vale Golf Resort, Martin Hawtree’s Oceânico Millennium or the English course design, the Oceânico Old Course, amongst several others in the area. In addition, Vilamoura’s exclusive marina, one of the largest in Europe, provides a further source of attractions. Quite apart from the many luxury boats adorning its pontoons, the marina is set amidst a host of cafés, including Portuguese football star, Luis Figo’s Café Sete, many restaurants and luxury boutiques. In keeping with the cosmopolitan flavour of Vilamoura, the restaurants provide a choice of international cuisine as well as the regional fish dishes. For a taste of the local speciality, consisting of grilled sardines, horse-mackerel in tomato sauce, squid served in its ink or octopus rice, a trip inland into one of the local villages will provide a more authentic flavour.
The scenery behind the resort of Vilamoura changes dramatically and there are charming local villages to visit at the feet and in the hills of the Caldeirão mountain ridge directly behind Vilamoura. Fig, almond and carob trees cover the undulating slopes at the feet of the mountains and climbing further inland, the modern luxuries of the resort are left well behind as local workers preserve age-old traditions such as copper, iron, wood and brass-work in villages where the round, thatched stone cottages, now used as barns, are reminiscent of the dwelling-places of ancient inhabitants. The village of Alte is renowned for its unspoilt beauty and is held to capture the age-old essence of a typical Algarve village.
There are several sites of historical interest to visit in these inland areas. Testimony of Roman occupation is beautifully preserved in the mosaics of the 3rd century ruins of a Roman villa at Cerro da Vila, the ‘ceteiras’ (tanks for salting fish) at the Loulé Velho archaeological site near the coast and the Tor Bridge over the Algibre River. The castle at Salir contains one of the few surviving Moorish fortifications in Portugal and is an excellent vantage point from which to admire the view over the mountains and lower-lying landscape.
Vilamoura combines that perfect mix of a luxurious and cosmopolitan holiday destination with the timeless essence of old Algarve. In whatever situation you find yourself, whether in the sophisticated surroundings of the seaside resort, on the greens of its many golf courses or in the historical towns of the mountains, you will feel the soothing effect of the Algarve at its best.