Think Vale do Lobo, and it’s probably the lush green of the fairway at one of the two stunning 18-hole golf courses that criss-cross the resort that comes to mind. But there’s a lot more to this oceanfront community, which is one corner of the famed Golden Triangle of luxury holiday spots in the Algarve, Portugal. And you won’t have to look too hard to find it.
Vale do Lobo boosts your wellbeing in many ways, not least via the radiant sunshine, cloudless skies and 25C (77F) temperatures typical of October. But the food at the 500ha (1,236-acre) resort is something else, with an incredible range to choose from.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Spikes is in the clubhouse at Vale do Lobo, but that’s where the similarities with most 19th-hole venues end. Of course, you can get a great club sandwich here, but the Mediterranean and European restaurant, opened by chef Maurice Belhaj and his family in 2003, has a whole lot more to offer. During the day, the chef and his wife Fátima, along with sons Alex and Kevin, reward those golfers adventurous enough to look beyond the usual post-round fare with such delights as spaghetti with prawns, vegetables and tomato confit, and a gloriously fresh Moroccan salad with chicken, couscous and aromatic herbs.
Come in the evening, and with the adjacent putting green now empty, you can enjoy the majesty of the indigenous pine trees ringing the terrace, each lit from below. The prawn and monkfish stew with vegetables is light and simple yet rich in flavour, and the tenderloin steak with shallot and tomato confit does not disappoint. But it’s the chocolate cake, a 20-year-old recipe by chef Belhaj himself, that you really should not miss. It’s served chilled with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream and reaches some divine point halfway between cake and mousse that you won’t soon forget. The brunch at Spikes is spectacular, too.
U&Co Restaurant has a great spot on a bluff overlooking the beach and a canopied terrace that affords fine sunset views. The food lives up to that vista as well, from crispy panko prawns with green mango salad, lime and sriracha mayonnaise to seafood pasta sotto swimming in a delicious broth and crusted cod in a bouillabaisse broth accompanied by clams, cherry tomatoes and gnocchi. For dessert, the indulgent key lime pie is a winner.
Right down by the sea is Sandbanks Beach Restaurant, which brings to mind the glitzy neighbourhood of the same name on the beachfront in Dorset, where rumoured Vale do Lobo villa-owner Harry Redknapp famously once lived. If the seafood is lovely elsewhere, Sandbanks takes it to another level. Try the salt-baked whole sea bass or golden bream – which you have to order in advance from the chef; melt-in-the-mouth seared scallops on parsnip puree; or cataplana à Algarve, a Portuguese seafood stew for two that comes steamed in a large dish and is ladled onto the plate by your waiter. Try the gratin potato side, too.
Between meals, there are a lot of opportunities to burn off calories outdoors that don’t involve golf, including HIIT classes, boot camp-style training, deep-core and wellbeing sessions and yoga. There are also guided walks around the resort, taking in its undulating roads and immaculately maintained tree-lined avenues – well worth it for a peek at some of the modernist mansions and traditional villas.
Indoors, there’s pilates at the pilates studio and cycling at the fitness centre by reception. Downstairs, there’s a wellness centre that offers massages so good that they’ll iron out the tension in muscles you never knew you had.
Then there’s the renowned tennis academy, which has nine hard courts, four artificial clay courts and three padel courts – the majority of which are floodlit – not to mention a gym and an outdoor swimming pool, as well as a bar and a restaurant. Every morning, the sound of tennis balls being thwacked fills the air of the little valley where the academy sits.
Down by the beach, before the red-clay cliffs, where the vivid pink sunsets are spectacular, is a plaza with a selection of restaurants and bars, including Sandbanks. There’s also crazy golf and the chance to test your football skills against a robot keeper.
Vale do Lobo takes sustainability seriously, too, with regular beach clean-ups. The best way to get around is also the most ecofriendly, with several smart bike ports dotted around the resort, where one swipe of a card allows you to pick up one of the electric cycles. Just a single push of the peddle on an incline will send you whizzing up the hill, which is helpful at Vale do Lobo, where there are plenty of steep ones. They even have electric bell buttons you can push to let cars know you’re nearby.
Loyalty cards get you a free bus shuttle service you can call up to any one of 19 pick-up points around the resort, as well as discounts on rounds of golf, the wellness centre and restaurants.
Book a stay at Vale do Lobo right now with Culture Trip.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.