We weren’t sure what to expect when we jetted off for a winter week in the Algarve for February half term. I knew it was a bit of a gamble with the weather but we decided to give it a try, figuring that we would console ourselves with some lovely meals and indoor pools should it be windy and cold. What we weren’t quite expecting was the glorious blue skies every day and a sun so strong and hot that we wished we’d brought more t-shirts and sandals. Particularly for our six year old who, in the rush to get to the airport, neither of us had checked the foot wear of and it was only when we were stood in check-in at Gatwick Airport did I realise he was wearing his favourite wellies.
A short hop from the UK and we arrived into Faro Airport in the evening, the beautiful dusty pink shades of the Algarve shimmering as we came in to land.
Picking up our car from Luz Car Hire we loaded up the luggage and were off, just twenty minutes down the road to our first stop of a stay at Vale do Lobo. Check in was fast and seemless and we were in our lovely little apartment in no time, the kids devouring the mangos and grapes left out for us while we unpacked enough to brush teeth and get in to bed.
When morning came the sun streamed in and we loved the views out to our private pool on the terrace. It would have been lovely for it to be warm enough to splash about in but the sun wasn’t quite strong enough to enjoy outside swimming for us.
We loved Vale do Lobo though and spent our days really relaxing here. The kids loved taking part in the crafts that were on offer and also having a tennis lesson down at the courts which then turned in to a whole family game.
We hardly ventured out as everything we needed was right there in the resort but it was carnival time in the Algarve and with the biggest and best happening nearby at Loulé we couldn’t resist a trip out.
Loulé Carnival was a feast for the senses with the music loud and throbbing, the costumes extravagant (or non-existent!) and the confetti flying. We all loved it, seeing the wonderfully made up characters and all of the colour and drama of the event.
It was a wonderful experience and if you’re heading to Portugal around Lent, particularly to the Algarve region, then definitely try to catch a carnival while you’re there.
Our last few days at Vale do Lobo were very chilled out. We loved our time at the beach here which was wide and sandy and almost empty while we were there. The perfect spot to chase the waves or head for a walk in the sunshine.
We did come across a train of Processionary Caterpillars – who had ever heard of such a thing? We watched their painfully slow march across the car park, fascinated by these furry little creatures but unaware that it would be us in pain later as unknown to us their tiny barbed hairs speer through the air and our daughter’s sensitive skin became covered in blotches. They were nonetheless fascinating to encounter (although we would keep a little more distance next time).
Then it was time to head off to our second stop of the trip and a wonderful stay at Pine Cliffs, A Luxury Collection Resort, a little further down the coast towards Albufeira. We adored our time here which was another gorgeous resort with amazing facilities including golf, tennis and pools.
I absolutely loved their Serenity Spa which was an adult only space and Mr G took the kids down to the beach while I had the most relaxing facial and had some precious chill out time.
We all loved spending our time at the beach here which was a beautiful walk through the deeply red cliffs the resort is named after.
Here the waves were crashing but our daughter kept running in every time the water retreated to collect the biggest shells we’d ever seen on a beach. All three children were just shrieking every time she came back with a new one. It was so beautifully warm and we were all just so happy in that moment, together and relaxed.
We drove up the road towards Lagos as we really wanted to pick up some of the beautifully decorated plates and bowls synonymous with this region. We’d read about Porches Pottery so stopped there and it was the perfect place. We had come across other roadside pottery which felt mass-produced and touristy but Porches was very different. With the painters sat in the back decorating we picked through the rows of gorgeous pottery and decided on a large fruit bowl and two smaller table top bowls and our son picked out an egg cup. It was the perfect place to pick up a souvenir.
We grabbed some ice creams and headed back to Pine Cliffs for a little more relaxation. We do often find ourselves rushing about on the trips that we take, going from one attraction to another. There are places open in the Algarve over winter but much less than usual and for once we decided that this trip wasn’t about seeing as much as we could but just relaxing and reconnecting and enjoying each other’s company.
It’s the first time in the longest time we’ve had a week like our winter week in the Algarve for February half term but we’ve decided it won’t be the last. This time to just be together and really relish in the moments of calm are going to become a yearly tradition I hope. That the sun shone bright and long and warm just added to the overall experience. We love the Algarve and can’t wait to return.
We were guests of Vale do Lobo and Pine Cliffs for the purposes of this review but all opinions are our own.