Not only is Portugal's southern Algarve region blessed with more sunshine per year than California, but it's also a top choice for playing golf, whether you're an amateur or a serious golfer. Here are some clues as to why it's so popular:
Bring your handicap certificate and try some of these:
If you want to be surrounded by nature then the sister courses of Quinta da Ria and Quinta de Cima are the obvious choice, being beside the Ria Formosa Natural Park that is a haven for wildlife. The clubhouse and restaurant is converted from a farm building and has beautiful views of the greens as well as the surrounding area.
Other highlights for golf addicts include Benamor, in Tavira, and Quinta do Vale, in Castro Marim, both of which are 18 hole courses.
Newer players might prefer the 9 hole choices of Colina Verde, which is between Olhao and Tavira, and Castro Marim. Colina Verde has a signature 5th hole which will put you through your paces!
This has the biggest concentration of courses. The Masters is held at the Oceanico Victoria in Vilamoura and it's filled with lakes, wetlands and a large putting green. You'll need a handicap certificate to play here, so it's something that seasoned golfers will really enjoy.
For a really interesting course, Pinheiros Altos has three sets of 9 holes, all named after different local specialities: Oliveiras (Olives), Pinheiros (Pines) and Sobreiros (Corks).
Other notable golf courses in the Central Algarve are the two Vale do Lobo greens, called Ocean and Royal. If you play before 9am then you'll get a generous discount.
If you’re looking to improve your game then Boavista, in Lagos, is the place for you. Designed by major golf architect Howard Swan, the course is varied enough to keep players of all abilities on their toes, and you can also book golf lessons to work on your swing.
There are some good options for keen golfers here, such as Penina Championship in Portimao, and the Oceanico Faldo course, which was designed by golf legend Nick Faldo. The best choice for families is Vale do Milho, with 9 holes including a very short 3rd hole of just 70 metres.
If you’re not into the sport then don’t panic. Here are some great ideas of what to see and do in the Algarve:
• Shop til you drop: Vilamoura is the shopping hub of the Algarve, with boutiques at the marina and lots of shops along the bustling main streets.
• Hit the beach: Some of the best beaches for sunbathing or water sports are found near Albufeira. In the entire Algarve there are 74 beaches with Blue Flag status, including Quinta do Lago and Portimao, so you'll be spoilt for choice.
• Meet the locals: Visit Sir Cliff Richard’s winery, Adega do Cantor, where you can take a tour and buy a bottle or two of his very own wine. Singing is not compulsory.
• Chill out: try the beachside resort of Tavira, which has its own camera obscura, a market hall and the atmospheric waterfall ‘Pego do Inferno’.
• Try the nightlife: head to Praia da Rocha for an entertaining night out, either with dinner and games at the casino or walk along the Avenida Tomas Cabreira for its many clubs and bars.
Yes. Every year there’s a cycling race called the Tour of the Algarve, which sees professional road cyclers from around the world competing.
Water sports are a massive part of Algarve beach society and you might be tempted to join in. Luckily the water is warm enough for swimming all year round. Try your hand at wakeboarding or windsurfing for the day.
If you’d rather take life at a slower pace, hiking is also popular here. The Via Algarviana is a long hikers’ trail which cuts across the region and travels through Monchique and the Costa Vincentina Natural Park, so there’s lots to see on your journey.