A girl's guide to the Algarve...

It’s as famous for golf courses as beaches. But Portugal’s Algarve coast has much more than fine ­fairways and sandy coves. The region is fast developing another ­reputation – as a spa capital of the continent. The very best of them is an ­underground pamper-fest, complete with underwater hydro-beds and tropical rain showers as well as a fully stocked bar... just in case you fancy a vodka and tonic after your radiance facial at Hilton’s Seven Spa in Vilamoura.

Girls Guide to the AlgarveBut if you’re looking for ­something different again, them sublime Monte do Casal hotel runs gourmet cookery courses.

You can learn how to rustle up Algarvean dishes in between massages in the lovely grounds.

For something a little more ­adventurous, try a jeep safari or go quad biking in fig and orange groves with Quad Ventura.

There are plenty of boat trips around the Ria Formosa Natural Park (around 20 euros).

They’re great for bird watching – and include a stop on a deserted beach.

Or you can drop into one of the many water parks to sunbathe – or hurtle down a slide at top speed on a sled. At ZooMarine in Guia one of the treats is swimming with dolphins but you need to book well in advance.

If it’s the food and wines that lure you here, check out Cliff Richard’s Vida Nova at the Adego do Cantor vineyard.

Then indulge yourself in one of the myriad restaurants with fantastic fresh seafood.

Dressed crab at Albufeira Fisherman’s Tavern is wonderful – and affordable.

But nothing quite beats the breathtaking views from Restaurante Pedras Amarelas as the Atlantic rollers crash against the rocks at lovely Praia da Gale along the coast.

The local markets – Saturday to Wednesday – are best for shopping. Splash out on pottery, decorated tiles, crystal, copperware, embroidered tablecloths, filigree jewellery and cork products.

Or head to the capital, Faro, and the peaceful cobbled streets of the old town. In spring its trees are heavy with ripening oranges.

Hire a car and you can cover the whole Algarve coast in a week. Algarve Car Hire is available at cheap inclusive price with deliveries all over the Algarve

Go west for the best beaches – Carvoiera’s pretty Dues Canaries or quaint Praia da Luz with its imposing sea walls and wonderful, family-friendly promenade.

But stop off en route for a night of karaoke and cocktails in lively Albufeira.

Further east is Tavira, reputed to be one of the Algarve’s prettiest towns and home to an observatory.

They say the sky here is the clearest in Europe. Book ahead and catch the stars...

Book your stay now at Algarve hotel bookings

source: - your portugal car hire choice