Join the jet set on the sunny Algarve coast

If you thought the rich and famous only bronzed themselves in achingly chic sun-traps such as Cannes, Monaco or St Tropez, think again. With its fabulous blue skies and sizzling heat, the Quinta Do Lago-Almancil area of the Algarve is a popular, undisturbed haven for quite a few paid-up A-listers. Cliff Richard owns property (and a vineyard, Quinta do Moinho) here, Chris Evans had his wedding reception at the Alambique restaurant and apparently even Madonna has invested in some local real estate.

Just 15 minutes from the airport in Faro, the small town of Almancil is famed for its pottery - but it's the über-swanky resorts of Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo as well as fantastic golf courses that get the well-heeled drooling.

I checked into the Monte Da Quinta hotel at the southern end of Quinta Do Lago. The hotel was completed in March last year alongside the existing Monte Da Quinta Club - a village of holiday flats, villas and townhouses.

The hotel didn't disappoint - it's lovely and quiet with a wonderful kids' club and staff who really bend over backwards to help. The only downside is that within the complex, among its manicured lawns and cobbled private roads, you have a feeling that you could be anywhere in the world.

So you may want to venture out, starting with the beach (car hire is recommended as my experiences with taxis from the hotel proved costly). Ancao Beach is a mile from Monte Da Quinta and this is where the natural park of Ria Formosa starts - 16 miles of beach with powder-soft sand that starts in Faro and ends in Vilamoura.

Anaco is covered in dunes and extends as far as the eye can see and it's very popular with the Portuguese jet set. Gigi's is one of the few restaurants along the beach and one of the most famous on the Algarve - check it out for couldn't-be-any-fresher seafood.

Vale de Lobo Beach - just over two miles from the hotel - is surrounded by red sandstone cliffs, at the top of the which is one of the most famous golf courses on the Algarve. With your own set of wheels you can get stuck in to some good local culture too.

East of Almancil is São Lourenço with its fabulous 18th Century church covered in blue ceramic tiles. Loule is a city quite close to Almancil and bargain hunters may want to check out its markets. And if you haven't quite had your cultural fill Alte, near Loule, has a Moorish castle and some lovely Renaissance chapels.

Faro, the Algarve's capital, is eight miles out of Almancil. Check out the ornate Church of Nosso, the Naval Museum and the city's numerous markets and shops (there is also a big shopping centre called Forum Algarve). The Faro Cathedral - a mass of wonderful gilded woodwork, marble, paintings and sculptures - is a must, as are the Roman ruins of Milreu (near Estoi).

An excursion to Zoomarine is also recommended if you have kids. There your tiddlers can marvel at marine life in the aquarium as well as have an opportunity to see dolphins, seals and sea lions close up. There are rollercoasters and waterslides to keep the little ones entertained.

Closer to home extreme shopping fans may want to check out Quinta De Lago - a mall of luxury boutiques. Be warned though... even if you just purchase a sock, your credit card may never forgive you. The Almancil's gipsy markets (first and fourth Sunday of every month) are a little cheaper and great for crafts and ceramics.

For tasty grub, the prawns and salads at the Monte Da Quinta gourmet restaurant were amazing. Further afield, try Alambique (Estrada Da Quinta Do Lago) with its traditional Portuguese cuisine (if it's good enough for Chris Evans and his 200 guests... ). Fuzios is just minutes from Vale De Lobo and is family friendly or there are the locally commended O Tradicional (Estrada Da Fonte Santa) and Pequeno Mundo.

If you are in search of some nightlife, the Monte Da Quinta resort has live music in the evenings and other clubs at Quinta include the Melting Pot (quite pubby).

Further afield in Vale Do Lobo, Monty's Restaurant and Bar provides some late-night dancing and karaoke, Papagaio Beach Restaurant serves cocktails until 3am and The Beach Club turns into a very cool affair in the evening with a DJ until 4am.

You will need a rental car to drive throughout the Algarve and enjoy all its natural beauty. So book your Algarve Car Hire online at Portugal Cars and your rental car will be delivered to your accommodation or at Faro airport on your arrival.

So, grab this season's coolest shades and join the Algarve jet set.

What's the deal?

Book Monte Da Quinta Resort through Special Hotels of The World. One-bedroom suites start from £132pp per night including breakfast. Go to  or call 0800 032 4254.

Hire golf clubs at Monte Da Quinta for £34 a day.

Easyjet fly direct to Faro from Belfast, Bristol, East Midlands, Glasgow, Liverpool, gatwick, Luton, Stansted and Newcastle from £26.99 one way (£50.98 return) including tax. To book go to or call 0905 821 0905.



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