Our final 2-night stay was in Vilamoura, a wealthy harbour town known for its golf courses – voted the best in Europe and the beautiful Marina. About 20 minute drive from the Luna Alpinus hotel, Vilamoura is a bigger town, well laid out and landscaped. You pass several golf courses along the way plus protected wetlands where we saw lots of different birds just along the roadside – a bird watcher’s dream.
Luna Olympus is opposite the impressive marina area with lots of shops, bars and restaurants. This is definitely an artist’s and photographer’s paradise. The hotel entrance is not as grand as the other two Luna hotels, but is currently due for an upgrade. However, our room on the 8th floor took up the whole end of the hotel with splendid views on all three sides through ceiling-to-floor windows. Excellent facilities in the apartment, clearly set up for longer stays with full range of kitchen appliances and lots of storage space. Again, there are no indoor spa or pool facilities.
Unlike the other two hotels, Luna Olympus only serves breakfast (at least while we were there) hence the exceptional self-catering facilities, but there are plenty of places to eat out nearby, even a Mcdonalds. We ventured out in the evening to find an Indian restaurant by the marina that we had seen during the day. A nice young man asked if we wanted to go the “best Indian restaurant in Vilamoura” so we were very trusting and followed him down lots of little alleyways. Only slightly nervous at one point when we realised we didn’t know why we trusted this unknown man – my husband was dutifully shoved in front of me just in case – we reached the lovely little Murghal Clay restaurant right on the front of the marina.
The waitress was very helpful and explained dishes, willing to make sure dishes suited the customer – such as very hot or mild vegetable curry to go with the biryani. I had the best chicken dupeaza ever, and my husband’s chicken biryani was tasty and fragrant with a lovely rich sauce. The house wine was easy drinking and good value at around €12 so the meal including wine and starter was less that €50. It was that good, we went back the next night.
Unlike Albufeira, Vilamoura is largely flat with wide pavements so very easy to walk around and for wheelchair users. The hotel is so close to both the marina and the beach, there is no need for transport. So, if you are keen on golf, bird watching, people watching around the marina, or basically just strolling around, this is the perfect base. For the really energetic, there are many cycle hire points and excellent cycle/ jogging pathways with outdoor gym stops along the routes. Sadly, we didn’t have time to try these out during our visit!
We took an organised trip to Silves, which was the original capital of Portugal until 1575, and Lagos which then became the capital as it had the critical advantage of being a harbour town until it was almost completely destroyed by a massive earthquake in 1756 (Faro is now the capital city). This is an interesting tour that gives an insight into the history of Portugal and the significant contribution it has made to the development of tools and skills for seafarers to navigate the globe. We only had a short time in Lagos so missed the daily morning market selling fresh fish from the boats nearby. However, I did manage time to find a small shop selling cork products (Novipel, Rua Dr Faria e Silva) where my husband bought me a handbag. You can see lots of cork products online at www.corkbags.com and www.projectotasa.com/info-en/
The week before Christmas week is an odd time to stay unless you are planning a longer 3-4 week break as many places are closed from the end of November to at least 27th December. There will be much more available from then as there were lots of advertisements around for New Year celebrations and events. Although lots of places were closed in the evenings, more of them were open in the day, so we were able to sit and people watch on the morning before our trip and enjoy 18ᵒ and sunshine – definitely suncream needed on this day.
We loved Vilamoura and would certainly enjoy a few weeks to explore, walk the beaches and explore the wetlands (maybe not the outdoor gym options. Nor cycling. Nor jogging). The trip was short but visiting three of the Luna Hotels – they have 11 altogether in this area – meant that we had an excellent opportunity to see how different the locations are around the Algarve, and what each has to offer Silver Travellers during the winter months.
For more information, please visit www.lunahoteis.com
• Read Luna Hotels, The Algarve, Portugal: Part 1 – Luna Miramar
• Read Luna Hotels, The Algarve, Portugal: Part 2 – Luna Alpinus