Revitalizing in the Algarve
While the Algarve on Portugal’s Atlantic coast is renowned for its golf courses, the holiday playground’s superlative spas are now vying for attention. In recent years an unprecedented number of outstanding spas have opened within luxury five star hotels and resorts. Most welcome day guests, so even if you’re not staying at the resort you can still enjoy quality treatments and state-of-the-art facilities.
The Hilton Vilamoura As Cascatas Golf Resort and Spa (www.Hilton.co.uk/Vilamoura) is a striking modern resort with 154 spacious rooms and suites, all with balconies or terraces overlooking nearby golf courses or the hotel’s colorful gardens and outdoor pool.
The resort’s superb 7Spa is inspired by the ancient science of the seven ‘chakras’ or energy centers of the body and treatments reflect this philosophy and include seven different types of massage, facials and body treatments for men and women. Three-day slimming, anti-stress and anti-aging packages cost from €600. It is worth arriving well ahead of your treatment time to make the most of the extensive spa amenities – hot and cold hydro-massage pools, steam baths and saunas, waterfall experience showers, a water tunnel, ice fountain and Zen garden.
I opted for the Chocolate and Pepper Wrap – a hydrating and relaxing anti-cellulite treatment with a salt scrub and a soak in a bath with massage jets and alternating colored lights (chromatherapy). After the delicious smelling wrap was applied, I was wrapped up in polythene sheeting and weighted covers and left to ‘cook’ for 15 minutes while my face and neck were given a pleasant massage. After a refreshing waterfall shower, the treatment finished with a relaxing body massage.
Family Favorite Beside The Sea
Hotel Vila Vita Parc (www.vilavitaparc.com) is one of the Algarve’s most well established resorts and is situated above a beautiful sandy beach. Guest rooms are set amid the extensive gardens, as is the Vila Vita Spa, which offers beauty and wellness treatments and a range of medical spa services and therapies. The outstanding therapists and quality treatments make up for the slightly dated spa facilities.
My Japanese Kanebo anti-aging luminizing facial proved a delicious treat! First, my face was double cleansed with oil and cream, which was removed with hot towels (a feature of Kanebo facials). A foaming enzyme exfoliation was applied and left on my skin while my face, neck and décolleté were given a delicious massage. More hot towels and an uplifting mask were applied to my face, neck and décolleté, plus a nourishing eye mask. While the products worked their magic, my hands and arms were massaged. Finally both masks were gently removed and moisturizing emulsion applied to my face and serum to the eye area. Result: cleansed and de-toxed skin that looked noticeably brighter.
Golf & Spa Resort
Vila Sol (www.vilasol.pt/pt) is another of Vilamoura’s five-star resorts with a range of accommodation types and activities for individuals, couples and families. In addition to a championship golf course, tennis courts and swimming pools, its modern and spacious spa has 22 treatment rooms, a hammam and other facilities. All treatments are preceded by a 30-minute session in the warm hydrotherapy pool to relax the body.
A fragrant footbath preceded my Sea Shell Experience, followed by a Moroccan body scrub. This caused my skin to feel itchy in places and rather detracted from my enjoyment of the massage with shells and warm rose and lemon oil. However, as the treatment went on, my skin seemed to calm down and the massage proved soporific – I fell asleep afterwards on one of the relaxation room loungers!
The Longevity Wellness Resort (www.longevitywellnessresort.com) opened in 2010 and is Portugal’s first anti-aging medical spa within a resort environment. Located a short distance from the coast amid the green hills of Monchique, the new resort is close to Caldas de Monchique – the region’s only natural spa (see last entry).
The 195-room resort specializes in health management and preventive medicine and offers three, five and 15-day packages (Preventative Medicine, Beauty and Slimming, Detox and Stress Management, Ageing Management and Rejuvenation) that include medical consultations, personal nutrition plan and meals, traditional and holistic massage and relaxation therapies.
Guests stay in spacious one-bedroom apartments, all with two bathrooms, balcony or private garden terrace, cable TV and Internet broadband connection.
Most guests come to enjoy the beautiful setting, pampering spa treatments and superb modern facilities. As well as a gourmet restaurant with wellness cuisine, guests have use of a driving range and putting green, indoor heated pool, outdoorl pools, games room, library, cyber café, cinema and gym with Power Plate and the latest high-tech equipment.
The Grande Real Santa Eulália Resort (www.hoteisreal.com) overlooks a long sandy beach and is home to Real Spa Thalasso, an authentic thalassotherapy spa with a large seawater pool heated to 35°C, with showers, massage jets and a contra-flow swimming lane. At this temperature, trace elements in the seawater are absorbed through the skin, helping the body regenerate and heal. Thalassotherapy is a medically approved treatment for degenerative disorders like rheumatism, arthritis and back pain; it is also helpful with neurological, circulatory and metabolic disorders. And it is a beauty and slimming aid, especially when used in conjunction with toning and detoxifying seaweed wraps.
After a most enjoyable session in the large heated seawater pool, I had a superb massage in one of the candlelit treatment rooms. Therapist Georg ironed out knots of tension in my back and shoulders then gave my feet a thorough work out too! I danced back on air to the changing rooms!
The resort offers one week “cures,” including four thalassotherapy sessions a day, from €749 per person, including half-board hotel accommodation.
The stylish Tivoli Victoria Hotel (www.tivolihotels.com) opened the Elements Spa by Banyan Tree in 2009. This is one of the Algarve’s loveliest new spas with treatments inspired by Asia’s ancient healing traditions. Diminutive, smiling Thai therapists carry out indulgent facials, massages, body treatment packages and grooming services. All spa treatments include a soothing footbath and a 30-minute relaxation afterwards.
The spa wing is on the first floor and has its own pool, indoor/outdoor relaxation areas and spacious treatment rooms with en suite changing facilities – no padding about in slippers and gown here! Service is faultless, as is the attention to detail – flowers under the treatment table so you have something beautiful to look at even when lying on your tummy.
I opted for the Lomi Lomi Hawaiian massage. No hula music, but lots of long sweeping movements from head to toe, as my therapist used her thumbs, elbows and palms to ease out tension and loosen my muscles. The whole experience left me feeling relaxed and energized.
Caldas de Monchique (www.monchiquetermas.com) dates back to Roman times and is the Algarve’s only natural spa. Monchique is a charming spa village, situated in a lush green valley with a few hotels and restaurants, a wine bar and handicrafts shop set around a shady square. The Thermal Hotel houses the original bathhouse, now fully updated with modern bathing facilities, innovative medical techniques and spa treatments by professional staff. In summer, guests can enjoy refreshing dips in the outdoor swimming pool and children’s pool, which are surrounded by pretty gardens with a bar, umbrellas and loungers.
The mineral-rich thermal waters are particularly effective for treating digestive, respiratory, rheumatic and locomotive disorders and are also used in spa facials, massages, body wraps and more. Wellness programs cost from €220 for two days and two nights and include accommodation with breakfast and half board, spa treatments and access to the Thermal Circuit (indoor swimming pool with water massage, sauna, steam bath and gym).
Monarch offers flights to Faro from UK airports with fares, including taxes, starting from £46.50 one way (£83.99 return). www.monarch.co.uk
Thanks to the Algarve Promotion Bureau www.algarvepromotion.pt for kind assistance with this feature.