We have come to associate the Algarve, the southernmost part of Portugal, as a top pleasure holiday destination and yet somehow we pleasure-seeking Brits think sun, sea and Sangria and tend not to associate places such as the Algarve with Spas, which suggest (but do not necessarily MEAN) self-improvement and some degree of deprivation. Deprivation we can do at home, but let`s explain why in the Algarve you can have your holiday cake and metaphorically, eat it too.
The Algarve has a fantastically moderate climate, ranging from 15C in winter to 31C in summer and you are never far from a beach or a pool. The Algarve is also hilly, so if hiking takes your fancy, you`ve got the mountain range of Monchique. Yet the Algarve also boasts towns, villages, islands, islets and the nature reserve Ria Formosa Lagoon, a popular destination for bird watchers. The coastline is also full of limestone caves and grottos, which you can get to by boat.
But assuming that you want to go the Algarve, enjoy the great weather, scenery and historic cities, but don`t want to come back – as many of us do – with that holiday half stone surplus.
Spas combine luxury and pampering and wellness with beautiful surroundings. This doesn`t mean alternating hot and cold baths, being whipped by stocky, rather bad tempered spa staff to release toxins, but rather more a pick and mix experience. A little detox during the day, a modicum of redox during the evenings. So think of spas in terms of luxury hotels with added facilities such as gyms, Jacuzzis, steam rooms, massages, complimentary therapies, yoga lessons, but NOT deprivation.
The Belver Bo Vista Hotel and Spa, in Luz Lagos, for example, has a seven-day anti-stress programme, three-day relaxation programme and a plethora of body treatments. If you are after weight loss (although with all that fresh fish,salad, med diets in general make it difficult to gain weight, unless you are overly generous with the olive oil), The Grand Real Santa Eulalia Resort and Hotel Spa is five star luxury, with a gym and a variety of menus created by nutritionists. If holistic treatments are more your style, but you don`t fancy starving and enduring enemas such as the hardcore experiences in Thailand, you can opt for the holistic yoga retreat Epic Sana in Albufeira. This offers massage, qui gong, pilates, yoga together with workshops and retreats.
You may also appreciate the menu of the Rio Hotel and Spa, in Almancil, with a indoor Thalasso jet pool (ladies, a real fix for cellulite) Thermo spa, shiatsu and the intriguingly named chromotherapy, which is healing by colour.
If, however, you want to get stuck into the healing and healthy business the moment you get off the plane in Faro, we suggest having a few days stopover in Faro itself, an old city surrounded by ancient Roman walls and home to the aforementioned Ria Formosa lagoon. For a little comfort and health, do stay in the popular Hotel Faro, a luxury hotel with all mod cons including crucial internet access and a range of recreational/ healthy activities on site or nearby, including golfing, swimming, sailing, windsurfing, squash, tennis, bicycle rentals, bird watching and windsurfing. Although not strictly a spa as such, you can do all the healthy things during the day and dine like a king at night. Faro airport is a handy 3km away.