As Brits flock back to their favourite short-haul destinations, Katie McGonagle looks at how Portugal is benefiting from the boom.
We’re always looking out for the latest up-and-coming destinations, but every so often, it’s worth taking a fresh glance at our old favourites.
With global unrest and economic uncertainty driving Brits back to more familiar short-haul destinations, Portugal has been quietly welcoming more of us to its shores. The number of UK travellers to Portugal jumped by 15% in the first six months of 2011, compared to the year before, despite the unfavourable euro exchange rate.
This is partly down to the country’s versatility, with its continental cuisine and wine-making regions drawing tourists in, as well as the traditional golf and beach break market.
Here, we look at the options on offer, showing that no matter what clients are looking for, Portugal can offer the perfect package.
TRAVELLING WITH TOTS
The three-hour flight and short resort transfers make Portugal popular with parents trying to avoid a long and stressful journey. Family-friendly resorts are clustered around the Algarve, although there are some notable alternatives along the Atlantic coast, with well established family product for kids of all ages.
Sample product: The three-star Estrela do Vau from the ‘family favourite’ range at Jet2holidays.com is a short walk from Praia do Vau’s sandy beaches, and has two swimming pools, a splash pool for tiny tots, and an on-site play area. There’s also a golf course nearby, and a spa with Turkish baths and whirlpool. A week self-catering starts at £1,209 for two adults and one child with flights in July.
Or: Mum and dad can have a real break at the four-star Aparthotel Paraiso de Albufeira, where the kids’ club runs six days a week until night-time, meaning parents can have a romantic dinner without worrying about the little ones. With a free child place, a week-long all-inclusive stay in August starts at £1,958 with Airtours SunStar.
For young families, the emphasis is on kids’ clubs and hotel facilities, but it’s hard to find a holiday that suits teenagers and their parents.
Watersports are a safe bet, as teens are bound to love jetskiing or snorkelling, and it’s worth opting for a lively but safe resort where they can get out and about without their parents.
Sample product: Cosmos has started offering the Aquashow Park in Quarteira this year. Its on-site theme park has one of the biggest water rides in Europe and the White Fall slide, where daredevils free-fall in a rubber ring into a pool. Entry is included in the package, which starts at £689 per adult and £415 per child for a week’s B&B in July.
Or: Further up the west coast, on the sheltered tip of the Troia peninsula, Aqualuz Resort offers unbeatable activities to keep teens busy. They can mountain-bike, go dolphin-spotting, play tennis and basketball, or hop on a ferry to Setubal to check out the Roman ruins. A week’s B&B in August costs from £740 with Sunvil, including flights from Heathrow.
OFF PEAK FOR OVER-50s
Portugal’s warm climate makes it popular with older couples throughout the year, as they search for sunshine outside the peak season. It’s also a haven for golfers, with many hotels offering on-site courses or discounted play at nearby clubs.
Sample product: The majestic Pousada Palacio de Freixo in Porto overlooks the River Douro so guests can while away the hours watching boats ply their trade along the river, or enjoying the peace and quiet of the resort’s beautiful gardens and spa. Wine aficionados can also taste the fruity, full-bodied reds and ports from the Douro Valley. Sunvil offers three nights’ B&B at the former palace from £553 in April, including flights.
Or: The adult-only Savoy Gardens in Funchal, Madeira, has a rooftop terrace, where couples can watch the sun set over a glass of wine, plus sub-tropical gardens, a putting green, driving range, and health suite. The Thomson Couples range offers a week half-board for £1,128 in total, based on departures in May.
Portugal has always been a popular choice for city breaks, given the short flight and easy availability of city-based accommodation. Marvel at ancient architecture in Lisbon, including the 15th-century Jerónimos Monastery and Belem Tower, or enjoy the gastronomic delights of Porto, which is small enough to get around on foot, and has hidden gems such as Livraria Lello, one of the most ornate bookshops in the world.
Sample product: Lisbon’s Britania Hotel boasts original art deco features, but its biggest selling point is its location, just off the Avenue de la Liberdade and a stone’s throw from the nightlife of Bairro Alto or the historic Alfama district. Three nights’ room-only starts at £265 with Thomas Cook’s Flexibletrips in November.
Or: Funchal combines the best of city and beach breaks, with whale-watching, boat trips and tours of the island’s scenery by day, and lively restaurants, bars and clubs at night. Thomson offers seven nights’ B&B at the four-star Hotel Porto Santa Maria from £1,340 per couple, departing in October.
With a fantastic range of five-star hotels, fine dining and first-class facilities, Portugal is a good choice for high-end clients looking for luxury. Whether they want good spa facilities, an on-site golf course or access to a private beach, the luxury sector in Portugal means there are plenty of options.
Sample product: Cascade Wellness & Lifestyle Resort offers uninterrupted ocean views from its cliff-top location in Ponta de Piedade, near Lagos. The five-star resort has luxurious rooms, villas and apartments built in a Moorish style, plus a relaxing spa and sports academies teaching football, golf and tennis, for those who want to brush up on their technique. Sovereign offers seven nights’ bed and breakast from £945 in June.
Or: Clients can improve their handicap at the four-star Pestana Sintra Golf Resort & Spa, nestled in the foothills of the Sintra Mountains. Golfers get unlimited time on the 72-par Pestana Beloura course, and can also enjoy relaxing massage, beauty treatments, sauna and Jacuzzi at the hotel’s health club and gym. Atlantic Holidays offers three nights’ B&B for £535 in May, including flights and transport of golf clubs.
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