Top tips for air travel with the kids

Holiday travel tips

With the summer break now within an arm’s reach, it’s officially time to plan. From strategic packing, to assembling the family in the car for the journey to the airport, before you can enjoy the sea air and sip on a beverage of your choice underneath the baking sun, it’s time to think about entertaining the kids onboard the flight.

However you choose to occupy the little ones, whether it’s iPads or ingenious in-flight crafts, there’s a tip for every traveller in our foolproof list below.

Long-haul fear

Plane

Your first port of call before booking a holiday should be the length of the flight. While longer flights tend to be more stressful as everyone is sleep deprived on some level, there’s no need to shy away from taking the trip of your dreams.

Plan ahead! Long haul can offer great distractions, though sitting on a plane for over six hours with a little one (or more!) in tow can be daunting, don’t forget to make use of the plane’s entertainment system.

Try not to rely solely on the use of screens though, as the bright lights can often deter them from taking an in-flight snooze. Come armed with activities aplenty and you might even find yourself finishing a magazine from front to back with a glass of wine in hand. We’ve listed a few of our favourite techniques below, such as colouring and finger puppets.

While short-haul flights offer a speedier method of transport, they also throw another spanner in the works – no in-flight entertainment system. Bear this in mind when hopping on a shorter commute.

Crafts

Arts and crafts

Just like us, our little ones can feel agitated and fidgety on a plane, and this can sometimes result in a kicking spree for the passenger in front. To tackle your time in the air, bring along something craft-related – from age-old favourites such as colouring and sticker books, to finger puppets and crosswords.

Though TV shows will keep the mind entertained for a short while, arts and crafts will help keep their fingers busy. Pop a small selection of crayons (you can get these in lightweight packaging) and pad of paper in your bag, for them to unleash their inner artist.

On-board luggage

Kid's Backpack

Another travelling tip that might make your journey easier is with the kid’s backpacks. Allow them to take a small backpack on the flight and before you leave for the airport, let them select two or three small toys to carry on-board, along with a few of their craft supplies (don’t forget about the 100ml limit!).

By letting them pack and carry their own backpack (or Trunki) straight onto the plane you are giving them a sense of responsibility, and you’ll have a hand free for carrying any extra items.

Don’t get caught out though, keep a book, snack or much-loved teddy bear tucked away in your carry on for that extra special surprise and delight during those tense moments on the flight.

Get involved

Books

Stave off those ‘are we there yet?’ whinges by getting stuck-in yourself. Waiting for the kids to start a game or book and then asking if you can join in is a great way of catching their attention and making sure they feel they’re being listened to. During a long flight, it’s easy to slip into a holiday-lull early, with visions of the beach being the only thing on your mind, so getting involved with the action is a good tip to start the holiday off right.

Add a little fun to the journey with a game of ‘guess who?’. Using your average post-it notes, this is an inexpensive way of getting a good giggle or two out of the kids. Stick the note on your forehead and prepare for a few questions coming your way.

If your little ones are old enough, why not ask them to read a chapter of their favourite book? Though you might think this will disturb the passengers around you, it’s better than listening to the constant ping of an electronic game.

Snacks

Fun Packed Lunch

Whether you’re on a short or long haul flight, it’s important to think about food. On shorter flights though, food is generally not on offer (or can be quite expensive) so taking a packed lunch for all is wise.

Avoid sugary snacks such as chocolate bars or hard-boiled sweets, as these can lead to a sleepless flight and a hyperactive child. Pack the lunch box with grapes, dried fruit and raisins – sweet, but not too sweet. Little bits of finger food that don’t require your assistance will really appeal to them. Not only this, but small food can be surprisingly fun as they’re easily shaped into silly faces or characters.

Feel ready to fly away with the family? Then take a look at the stunning villas we have on offer www.sun-hat-villas.com.

Where to watch (or avoid) the 2018 World Cup in the Algarve

Football is a game of two halves. One half love it and the other half – well not so much.

For those of you lucky enough to be visiting the Algarve during the 2018 FIFA World Cup, you may be worried about missing some of the games (albeit in return for the sun and epic holiday-based activities) but have no fear!

There are lots of great places to watch the World Cup with a cold beer or glass of sangria. For those who saw your holiday as a well-timed opportunity to avoid the World Cup, well you can do that too. Here are just a few suggestions of fantastic places to watch the big games for the football fans, plus a few ideal ways of avoiding them for the football bans (see what we did there).

Swing and don’t miss

Golf in the Algarve at Vale Do Lobo, Sun-hat Villas

As most of the games will have afternoon kick offs, it’s not a bad idea to get yourself in the sporting mood by treating yourself to a round of golf beforehand. Most of the clubhouses near our villas will be showing the games so there’s every excuse to merge the two loves of your live – golf and football – the perfect holiday! Alternatively, if you hope to miss the beautiful game, why not just keep playing golf and get that handicap down.

The Cheeky Pup, Quinta Do Lago

The Cheeky Pup, Quinta do Lago

© The Cheeky Pup

An Irish Gastropub run by a young and friendly team. Alongside cheering on or against Lionel Messi, you are invited to ‘lick your chops’ and tuck into dishes such as homemade meatballs or a cheeky Pup cheese burger followed by orange and almond cake. There is a beautiful large covered outdoor area and, for those who want to sample the menu but avoid the football, there are areas where you can hide from the TVs (can’t promise you won’t be able to hear the fans though!).

Hit the beach

Carvoeiro_Portugal_February_2015_03

If you want to keep up-to-date with the score but don’t want to miss precious sunbathing time, have no fear, there are numerous beach-bars right across the Algarve and most will be showing the games. Giving you the chance to jump up off your sun longer, watch the big matches and then return for a dip in the sea – or to finish off building that sandcastle – whatever takes your fancy. It is likely the beach will be a lot less crowded while the football is on which is perfect for those who are staying put – you can have the best waves all to yourself.

Monty’s, Vale Do Lobo

© Shelsian Lda

© Shelsian Lda

Right in the heart of bustling Praça, where you are already spoilt for choice. Monty’s is a great venue to cheer on Gareth Southgate’s boys. Perfect for fans and avoiders alike, this is a great family venue and has kids entertainment to keep the little ones busy, alongside live sports broadcasts, live music and a mouth watering international menu boasting dishes such as salt and pepper chilli squid, smokey BBQ ribs and sticky toffee pudding.

The Melting Pot, Quinta Do Lago

Piri Piri Chicken

© Edsel Little, Flickr

Those who visit avoid recommending this place, opting to keep this great venue a secret. The bar opens a little later in the afternoon so perfect for the evening games. This stylish pub has a vibrant Moroccan theme and a lovely outside seating area. Ask for the Piri Piri chicken and any of the cocktails! As this is based at Quintana Shopping, football avoiders can hit the designer shops and quirky boutiques, perfect for spending your hard earned money or just window shopping.

Oh go on, why not just get stuck in!

Parrilla Natural Algarve

© The Parrilla Natural Algarve

If you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em. For the most steadfast football avoiders it’s hard to admit that sometimes you can’t help but get carried away with World Cup Fever, particularly if your national team is doing really well (Come on Harry Kane!). Our old favourite restaurants such as Parilla Natural and Restaurant O Tanque will be showing the games on TV – great for the evening kick offs. Vilamoura Marina is also a really popular destination for those looking to watch a match and with fun bars such as Figo’s bar; Sete 7, The Brewery, 19th Hole, and Atlantic Bar, there are lots of options to put a temporary hold on your football ban and cheer along your favourite players.

To complete your stay in Portugal’s south west, take a look at our stunning portfolio of luxury Algarve villas.

Sightseeing Ibiza without the clubs: history, culture and sun

ibiza-town-view-1465840337tZW

Though known for its lively nights out, all-day discos and beaches filled with sun-seeking students, Ibiza is an understated shining star of culture, history and delicious cuisine – a destination ideal for holidaymakers of all ages who love to roam streets, wander among ancient pavilions and stroll along quiet pebbled beaches.

This corner of the Balearic Islands, flanking the Mediterranean Sea in all its turquoise glory, is the perfect spot for a restful, yet enchanting holiday. So for those wanting to discover another side to this island, we’ve put together a list of sightseeing activities in Ibiza, that don’t involve clubs or midnight-raves.

Mystic Island

Kick your week off with a boat ride on the Mediterranean. Hidden away on the west coast of Ibiza, is the majestic rock island of Es Vedra. 400 metres in height, the island is home to a nature reserve, which is quietly tucked away behind thick pine trees and rugged rock formations.

On a misty day, the island is easily missed and looks like a scene straight out of King Kong, but a glorious day however, brings an ere of magic to the picture. To venture over to the island, take a ride to Cala d’Hort, which is the idyllic beach just opposite, where you’ll find boat tours that trace the coastline and ride right up alongside the island.

Stop off at Sa Cova, a romantic bistro that’s perfect for foodies who dream of the freshest seafood, served right from Mediterranean. Set in an old tranquil, whitewashed building and adorned with warm lanterns, bronze candelabras and heavy wooden tables, you’ll feel like you’re dining in a pirate’s cove while being fed like a king.

History Hunt

Dalt Vila

Stray away from the cavernous coves and pine-topped mountain cliffs, by heading to Dalt Vila, or rather, the Old Quarter in the capital of Ibiza Town.

Declared a World Heritage Site in 1999 by Unesco, the area’s centrepiece is its castle and towering, sandy-coloured walls, once home to Spanish royals during the 16th Century. The quarter’s cobbled streets, cafes built right into cave walls and shops make this area the ideal stop-off for an afternoon’s stroll.

Take a visit to the castle, which today stands as a monument to Spanish tradition, filled with artefacts of all kinds; from armoury and statues, to decadent table settings and hand-woven Persian rugs.

Though there are few spots to eat and drink in the ground’s of the castle, it’s a great idea to put together a packed lunch. If it’s convenient, bring a small parasol and blanket along with you so you can set up camp in the shaded, green areas.

Adventure Is Out There

Portinatx

If you’re ready for some adventure, mixed in with some fantastic scenery, then put on your walking gear and look out for the lighthouse on the hill at Portinatx.

Built in 1975, this active lighthouse is located amongst one of the most famous trails in Ibiza. Whether to walk, run or climb, this is a great activity for the sport-lovers among you and will offer both a challenge and an opportunity to snap some amazing pictures.

Begin the walk in Cala d’en Serra, a cliff top trail that offers panoramic views of the water below and wildlife unique to the area. The trodden path eventually leads you out towards the lighthouse where you can get a perfect shot of the 52m high tower, which is coated in pastel paint to look like a candy cane.

Set aside a full afternoon for the walk, as it takes on average of three hours to complete. We’d suggest timing it right to fit in with the sunset, as at the peak of the island where the tower sits, you’ll get an unspoiled view of the sun going down and the unmistakable reflection below from the Med.

Also, located a short stroll from the lighthouse is restaurant, Jardin Del Mar – four words: seafood, cocktails, and happy hour.

Artefact Adventures

Necropolis

Dating back to 600BC, this ancient cemetery, Necropolis del Puig des Molins, based in the heart of Ibiza’s Old Town, is a popular choice for a more unusual day trip out as it is recognised as the largest necropolis in the world.

Housing up to 4,000 tombs from all over the Mediterranean, the ancient cemetery was established by the Phoenicians at the end of the 7th Century. Today, it stands as a World Heritage site, displaying thousands of historical artefacts in its working museum.

The museum, which is free to attend, currently covers ancient burials, rituals of royal families and displays of jewellery, mirrors and painted ostrich eggs.

So if you want to learn about the Phoenician period, while enjoying some serious Spanish culture in its museum, then this is the ideal activity for you.

‘Ibiza Henge’

Cala Llentia

As well as being a destination dotted with beautiful beaches, historical monuments and stunning natural rock formations, this island is home to some amazing art installations.

The most unique of these designs is the aptly named, ‘Ibiza Henge’. Comissioned by Cirque du Soleil founder, Guy Laliberte and created by Australian artist, Andrew Rogers, the design was inspired – as the name suggests – by the Stonehenge we have here in the United Kingdom.

Sat on the edge of the cliffs above Cala Llentia, the 13 Basalt columns have been arranged in a semicircular shape – when the sun hits these great objects, they are said to cast an incredible, complex shadow.

While enjoying the monuments themselves, take a few moments to soak up the view on offer at the cliff’s edge, as these are sure to take your breath away. Certainly an ‘Instagram moment’.

If you’re after a getaway filled with history, culture and of course, some sunshine, then a visit to Ibiza should be near the top of your list!

To complete your stay in Ibiza, take a look at our stunning portfolio of Ibiza villas.

A guide to travelling with sports equipment: golf, cycling and trail running

Planning a golfing trip to the Algarve or dreaming of a Majorcan cycling adventure? Can’t leave without your favourite mountain bike or trusty set of golf clubs, but fraught with worry of damage or loss to your much-loved possessions? Never fear, as there’s no need to leave them behind.

If you’re planning an exciting activity holiday to the likes of the Algarve, Majorca or Croatia, then read our equipment guide to help the packing – and unpacking – process go smoothly.

Golf in the Algarve

The Royal Vale do Lobo

The Algarve is home to some of the world’s most superb golf courses, hosting some of the world’s most-watched championships on its stunning courses, which spread the length and breadth of the region.

If you’re a true golf lover and someone who follows the sport all over the world, then the Algarve is the perfect place for a getaway based around the sport you love.

Tips

While you can hire or loan equipment on holiday, particularly in a destination known for its excellence in sport, nothing will ever be quite the same as playing with your favourite set of golf clubs.

Before you whisk away the golf bag and polish your putting plimsolls, there are a few things you need to think about:

  • Firstly, non-stop flights are ideal as the fewer times baggage handlers need to move your clubs from plane to plane, the better. Depending on your flight duration and destination though, you can put other measures in place to ensure the on-board safety of your beloved club set.
  • To prevent dents, scratches and scrapes, a durable bag is a must. Although expensive, well made travel bags, either hard-shelled or not, can save your equipment from serious damage, a brand to look out for is Ogio, which offers a selection of lightweight, yet durable bags at a reasonable price.
  • Look out for a bag that has multiple pockets to hold tees, pencils and accessories like golfing gloves; be sure to get a bag with zip pockets though, to avoid them becoming loose in-flight. Also, a smooth-rolling bag with wheels is a must-have feature, as you’ll likely be juggling other baggage, too. With this in mind, don’t forget to check out your airline weight restrictions before you book.

Where to play

If you’re looking to stay in the Algarve for your activity holiday, visit Vale do Lobo, a destination that boasts two renowned championship courses set amongst spectacular scenery and sea-views – The Royal and The Ocean Golf Course.

Cycling in the Balearics

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Like the Algarve, Majorca is renowned for its sport – most famously, its cycling. According to The Telegraph in 2016, Majorca is “the holiday destination for British cyclists”, with its all-round sunny weather and a mixture of flat and mountainous terrain.

Perfect for cyclists of all abilities, there are few climbs that will prove too difficult for the average rider.

Tips

Carrying an expensive piece of equipment along with you? Perhaps a flashy mountain bike that requires thick wheels, a gentle terrain bike with a thin, lightweight body or even a bike for the little one to join in? We’ve put together a few tips below to help you transport your trike, bike and scooter.

The size of a bike today, even ones made for children, are certainly bound to fit within the ‘oversized’ category. However, there are a few methods to help the process run smoothly:

  • First, clean your bike and ensure no grease is gathering around the chains. Just like taking your clothes on holiday, it’s always good to make sure everything is clean.
  • Most airlines require you to remove a number of components of the bike – such as handlebars, seat-post and pedals. It might seem strange to take your bike apart, but the more you remove, the better it will be for packing down and transporting.
  • It’s time to pack up your equipment – the bulkier the bag, the better, and for added protection for lightweight bikes, we’d recommend purchasing a bag bigger than your bike’s model, allowing for extra padding to be wrapped around the frame. Bubble wrap is the ideal material for added protection.
  • If you’re looking for something lighter and pretty cool for the kids, then try the Micro Luggage Scooter by Steve Aoki; not only a trendy suitcase, but also a kickboard scooter and trolley rolled into one.

Where to ride

Take your pick from the island’s vast array of cycling routes.

Trail Running in Croatia

© Philipp – Flickr

© Philipp – Flickr

Beach holidays and sun-loungers not the right getaway for you? Then a running trip to Croatia could be on the cards. With the country’s warm climate, challenging routes and scenic views, there’s no better place to feel the thrill of an activity holiday.

Perfect for climbers of all abilities with the country’s rough, flat pebbled ground and mountain trails, Croatia offers climbers the chance to experience stunning views, and sensational circuits; giving runners Instagram-worthy photo opportunities.

Tips

While you may think that running holidays require little equipment, the courses that trail runners often encounter throw up some challenging obstacles such as steep mountain cliffs, rough forest terrain and sometimes, water. Routes like these demand tougher, sturdier equipment.

  • Some of these tools include heavy down jackets, rain gear, hydration packs, GPS trackers and, mountaineering boots for when a little more grip is required. Although all of this equipment can be easily transported in a large duffle bag, there is a high chance of damage to the various items in your bag.
  • With carrying a mixture of plastic, rubber, metal and lycra, there’s a risk of tearing your equipment, so it’s important to keep your things separately. Put to use your stretchy dry bags to help keep the items apart, as these bags have thick lining on the inside to avoid penetration, particularly from sharper objects such as the tread on your boots.
  • Your baggage won’t be heavy, so it shouldn’t cost anything extra to board the plane and sometimes you might even get your things checked in as hand luggage. However, depending on your airline and destination, the advised size of your carry on might differ, so check before boarding.
  • Though the weather in Croatia is likely to be quite fine, you can never be too sure you won’t experience some odd weather when trail climbing, particularly at higher altitudes at certain times of year. To save space when packing your all-weather running clothes, vacuum bags that remove air from clothes are a must-buy.

Where to run

Meet local runners and enrich your stay in Croatia.

Booking Flights

  • Choose your airline.
  • Check for restricted materials or objects for your designated airline.
  • Check the weight of your baggage does not exceed airline limits.

Keeping Your Equipment Secure

  • Check your baggage is adequately labelled.
  • Check your baggage is surely padlocked.

Travel Insurance

  • Check your equipment is covered on the airline policy.
  • Check for any hidden costs.

For a restful night’s sleep once your jam-packed day has ended, take a look at our range of stunning villas in the Algarve, Majorca and Croatia

Things to do in Lisbon during Eurovision 2018

Eurovision Song Contest, Lisbon 2018

Are you preparing a Eurovision Song Contest party for this year’s festivities in Lisbon? Why not go one step further and take a trip out to the Portuguese capital? Taking place between 8 – 12 May 2018, this year’s Eurovision will certainly be a true taste of Portugal hospitality.

See the sights of Portugal’s hilly, coastal capital city, wander amongst its ancient Old Town, and frolic in the city’s contemporary district, Praça do Comércio, where this year’s Eurovision Village will take centre stage.

To keep you occupied in between performances at the Altice Arena, we’ve put together a list of must see tourist attractions and things to do in Lisbon during your Eurovision excursion.

Take in some history 

Jeronimos Monestery

Visit the resting place of Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama, in the Jeronimos Monastery. A stunning church built during the 1500s as part of a magnificent monastery, the building today is listed as a World Heritage site and is visited by thousands of tourists and locals each week.

Described as the ‘Sagrada Familia of Portugal’ because of its wide congregation hall, domed gothic ceilings and towering pillars, the Jeronimos Monastery is widely admired by one and all. Not only as a remarkable example of early architecture, it is also recognised as an integral part of Portuguese culture and identity.

Add some colour to your stay

Cais Do Sodre, Lisbon

Regarded as the ‘Capital of Cool’, the streets in Lisbon are known for their vibrancy; from the street musicians and multi-lingual visitors, to the colourful walls of the Cais do Sodre.

Once known as Lisbon’s ‘red light district’, Cais do Sodre is now filled with aspiring musicians, quirky bars and street artists. It’s trendy atmosphere makes for a great place to grab a bite to eat or drink and the painted walls, bridge arches and floor murals make for stunning Instagram backdrops. One of our favourite dinner spots here, is Casa de Pasto, as it harks back to 19th Century Lisbon cuisine, serving up fresh clams and bacalhau (codfish).

While you’re spending some time down in this district, head over to Lisbon’s biggest food market, the lively Mercado da Ribeira, open all week (except Sundays) 6am – 2pm. This place is perfect for buying fresh fish, cheeses and sampling some of Portugal’s finest wines.

Lisbon’s disco scene

Lux Fragil, Lisbon

To round off the evening, head over to one of Lisbon’s best nightclubs, Lux Fragil. Located by the Santa Apolonia train and metro station, this nightclub is housed within an old warehouse and consists of three floors; the first for dancing, the second is a bar, and the third floor is a terrace, perfect for looking out over the city and famous River Tagus at night.

Playing a range of techno, house and pop-culture, as well as hosting local DJs, this is the ideal venue to continue the party.

Take a look at the nightclub in action, via its Instagram page.

Futuristic Lisbon

Parque das Nações, Lisbon

Take a detour from the city’s oldest quarters and head to the futuristic side of Lisbon, known as Parque das Nações, right beside the 2018 Eurovision Village. Take the metro, which stops at the stunning Oriente Station – a railway station that is as grand as it sounds. Quilted in glass, this place looks like something straight out of a science-fiction film.

This redeveloped area on the River Tagus is filled with green spaces, public art and contemporary structures such as the Teatro Camões and the Oceanarium, a state-of-the-art sea life centre.

It’s worth seeing this area from above, as the concrete floor is dotted with patterns only seen from the sky – take advantage of the nearby cable cars that run parallel to this quarter and look out for the crab and dolphin floor murals below. Get the camera out ready, as there will be some great photo opportunities here.

Get an ear full of Fado

Fado music, Lisbon

Get a sense of Portugal’s musical heritage ahead of Eurovision, with a display of fado, a genre that can be traced back to Lisbon in the 1820s. Visit one of the 40 fado music houses sprinkled around the city and discover the wonders of the genre which, in 2011, was declared World Heritage by Unesco.

It’s impossible to come to this city and not experience its rich music scene – from acoustic tunes on cobbled street corners, to soothing sounds of Portugal’s traditional ‘fado’ music echoing from inside the city’s bustling bars and taverns.

Located in the city’s oldest and most emblematic neighbourhoods of Bairro Alto is fado house and family run restaurant, A Severa. Serving classic Portuguese cuisine and an atmosphere to be rivalled, A Severa is one of the finest examples of Lisbon’s fado houses still operating and thriving today.

To get the full flavour of fado during your stay, take a look at the other fado houses around the city.

Celebration of diversity

Centro Cultural De Belem, Lisbon

Built to champion Lisbon’s diverse culture, the museum of Centro Cultural de Belem, was designed as an ‘open city’, a space where people from all walks of life can meet up and experience a variety of cultural activities and events.

Overlooking the picturesque River Tagus and regarded as a national and international landmark today, it is a must see on your Lisbon Eurovision excursion. The space consists of buildings, streets, plazas and bridges, all of which celebrate the diversity of its residents by channelling various forms of architecture, music and language. What better way is there to see the city than to experience the heart of its cultural centre?

To complete your stay in the ‘European Capital of Cool’, take a look at our stunning portfolio of villas near Lisbon.

2018 in the Algarve: activities to explore this summer

If you love holidays jam-packed with activities and exciting sightseeing explorations, then a trip to the Algarve should be at the top of your list.

This location has some of the most stunning white beaches and crystal clear waters in Portugal, and an annual average of 3,000 sunshine hours, making it the perfect destination for wanderlust travellers who crave outdoor adventures aplenty.

For those with a thirst for adventure, we’ve put together a list of 2018 Algarve activities to keep you busy during your stay this year.

Monday – Scuba diving

Scuba diving

The Algarve coastline is a sublime backdrop to diving, rich in sea life with endless corals, gigantic caves and fascinating rock formations.

Locals dive here and use the translucent blue waters to catch the freshest fish for cooking later that day. With a scuba diving excursion situated in the marina of historic seaside town, Lagos, it’s your chance to live like the locals!

Dive Time, the Algarve’s longest established five-star diving school, offers people of all abilities the chance to be able to explore the depths of the ocean and see the Algarve from a whole new perspective. It’s well worth spending a day out on the sea, and at the end of the trip, why not dine in one of Lagos’ quayside restaurants. Portofino’s Ristorante Italiano is a particular favourite of the locals, with fresh fish and fine views, you’ll never want to leave.

Tuesday – Algarve International Circuit

Algarve Motorsport

If you’re looking for things to do during your stay in Portimao and you’re a fan of motorsports, then this one could be just for you. Ever wanted to take a drive on a working track? Now’s your chance, take a break from the tourist scene and head for a day of thrill seeking, fast-paced action at the Algarve International Circuit!

Home to Autodromo Internacional do Algarve, as well as Kartodromo Internacional do Algarve, the 4,646km track plays host to some of the biggest industry races around and is known worldwide by sporting professionals.

For aspiring drivers and motorsport fanatics, the circuit gives visitors the chance to hire a vehicle and test drive it on the track. Learn from the best motor racing enthusiasts and ex-drivers in Portugal on its go-cart circuit or off-road park.

Wednesday – Zoomarine Algarve

ZooMarine, Algarve

They’ll be no shortage for the little ones, with this offering from Zoomarine. From its 4D cinema, pirate bay live show, pirate ship rollercoaster and rescue centre, the marine’s activities are endless and will surely be a fun filled day for not only the kids, but also the adults.

For a life changing experience during your visit, swim on over to the Dolphin Emotions pool, where you’ll get the once in a lifetime chance to swim with some of the ocean’s most loved animals – dolphins! Dive in the marine’s lagoons, surrounded by fine sand and exotic fish, and enjoy a dip with your new friends.

To see what’s on offer through April – October this year, check out the Zoomarine’s Instagram page.

Thursday – Life on the fairway

16th Royal Vale do Lobo

The Algarve is home to some of Europe’s most superb golf courses, hosting world championships on its vast range of courses. Attracting thousands of eager visitors each year, if you’re after a golf holiday, the Algarve is the place to look.

At the top of golf fanatics’ lists for this corner of Portugal, is the Royal Golf Course, Vale do Lobo. Designed by top golf architect, Rocky Roquemore in 1997, this is recognised as one of Portugal’s most prestigious 18-hole courses and is best known for having the most photographed 9th and 16th holes in Europe.

Set on a beautiful green landscape, coupled with rolling fairways and lakes, pine trees and wild flowers, this golf course is the perfect space to while away a day on the green. Eat on site from a choice of two sensational restaurants, both of which serve up traditional Portuguese-style cuisine.

Friday – Caldas de Monchique

Monchique Waters

End a busy week with a trip to the spa in the medieval mountain town of Monchique – not just any spa, the Caldas de Monchique are old Roman thermal baths.

While you relax in the calming waters or enjoy a therapeutic massage, immerse yourself in the history of the space. Famous for its waters, which are said to contain healing properties, this is a must see activity on your trip in the Algarve.

In the spa’s grounds, you’ll find old stone picnic areas where you and your family can enjoy lunch surrounded by the olive trees and exotic animals. If you’re after a more sophisticated, romantic meal though, the on-site restaurant offering traditional tapas dishes by candlelight could be for you.

Wake up fresh on Saturday morning, ready for a new adventure.

Saturday – Bike ride

Mountain Bike Riding

Want to immerse yourself in Portugal’s natural beauty? Then take a bike ride through Ria Formosa Natural Park with MTB Algarve.

MTB offers guided and self-guided tours around the natural park, which covers a total of 60 kilometres of the park’s landscape, taking around two and a half hours. You’ll bike across the unspoilt coastline and spot dolphins in the waters nearby, spy dozens of birds in the blue sky above and come across unique flora and fauna.

Depending on the type of cycling activity you enjoy, MTB offers a wide range of trips – covering the rugged back trails of the park for a challenging cross country course, or gentle free-rides through the creek valley which follows a smooth flowing, sandy track for you to enjoy. Guided tour prices start just over £30 per person.

Sunday – Horse riding in Silves

Horse riding Silves

Whether you’re an experienced rider, or a complete beginner, Country Riding Centre in Silves, a municipality in the Algarve, offers an afternoon trip with a difference.

A three-hour guided tour with horse riding professionals, this is an activity not to be missed, as you’ll wander through the mountainous district of Silves and experience views like no other. Perfect for a Sunday stroll or gallop on the beach, the family-run CRC champions all that is great about Portugal – from its stunning Friesian horses, to its outstanding natural beauty.

If you’d prefer a less hands-on approach to riding, then why not sit in the back of an old-fashioned wagon and enjoy a relaxing experience, while the guide talks you through the surrounding landscape? You’ll be able to really appreciate the views and take in the breathtaking location at your fingertips.

To complete your stay in Portugal’s south west, take a look at our stunning portfolio of Algarve-based villas.

Magical markets in Majorca: freshly caught fish, hand-woven baskets and gastronomic delights

Whether you’re a foodie or a serial bargain hunter, Majorca’s maze of markets is the perfect way to spend an afternoon in the sunshine.

A feast for the eyes, and the stomach, the island is famed for its variety of weekly street bazaars, which are often a celebration of all things local. From homegrown towering piles of oranges and hand-woven baskets, to freshly caught fish and hanging charcuterie, the markets in Majorca are a pleasant assault on your senses.

To guide you through your stay, here is a whistle-stop tour of the most exciting and vibrant daily markets open throughout the week in Majorca:

Gastronomic Delight at Mercat Olivar – Everyday

Mercat Olivar, Majorca

Palma Olivar Market is the finest display of gourmet food in a market-stall setting in Majorca and is definitely not one to be missed.

Not only for the food lovers amongst us, this market boasts a stunning, historic location situated in a beautiful 20th Century modernist-style building. Mercat Olivar has an array of different produce available, demonstrating the world-renowned culinary skills of the Spanish and also the flavours of foreign fields.

A haven for wanderlust travellers who crave the taste of wider delicatessen, Mercat Olivar offers its 4,000 visitors per week a chance to sample food from Japan, Thailand and of course, the food of Majorca.

In addition to its stalls, the market also has a cocktail bar that can be hired for private functions or parties, a café and an on-site fish bar serving you contemporary dishes straight from the ocean – this is no ordinary market!

Alcudia Market – Tuesday and Sunday

Alcudia Old Town

Spoiling locals and tourists, this twice-weekly market held in the Old Town of Alcudia is as traditional as it gets in Majorca. Spread through the winding, cobbled streets of this northeastern town, this market proves especially popular during the tourist season as holiday-makers flock in search of unique gifts for loved ones back home.

Held in support of the local farmers, this market champions all that is great about local produce and as such, has a dedicated section entirely of its own for produce grown by farmers from the surrounding areas.

The second half of the market acts as a form of a car-boot sale, minus the car. Filled with an abundance of leather clothing, shoes, handbags and souvenirs, you could find anything hidden away in this miscellaneous jungle. Looking for some unique bargains? Then be prepared to haggle, as these sellers love a challenge.

Andraxt Market – Wednesday

Andraxt Market, Majorca

With over 200 stalls selling local produce and arts and crafts unique to the region, Andraxt market is the ideal place to get lost. Due to its long isles and large display of ‘just about everything’, you could spend a full afternoon here, easily.

Referred to as an ‘ancient’ town along the Mediterranean, Andraxt is known for its classic pottery making, with locals producing some of the most stunning, high-quality plates, bowls and decorative tapas dishes in the region.

Located at one of the stalls in the market, is a pottery-seller who not only offers a selection of hand-made products, but also gives visitors a chance to sit at the wheel. Why not give it a try; you might discover a hidden talent?

The market also has an expansive food canteen boasting over 20 different world cuisines. While away your afternoon by ogling at the traditional food being prepared right in front of your eyes; watch as delicate squid are fried, sardines are plunged into fragrant marinades and coal-fire ovens are stoked to prepare for the arrival of a soft tortilla.

If these dishes sound appealing, but not quite the right location for a romantic dinner, then check out Miramar de Giuliano Restaurant. Situated at Port d’Andratx, this Mediterranean-themed restaurant was founded way back in 1927 and continues to be a favourite amongst the locals. Sit underneath the outdoor cabana, lit only by candles and feel the sea breeze on your face.

If you prefer a more luxury shopping experience, head to Port Andratx, where you’ll find a range of fashion, fine art and gift shops.

Mercado de Consell – Sunday

Consell Flea Market

Founded by Australian John Douglas, Consell market started in 1994 after he set up two small tables in the street and began flogging his own, second-hand wears.

Located in the district of Raiguer in Majorca, visitors from all over travel to this region to collect souvenirs, and locals use this as their regular Sunday haunt. A “flea-marketers dream”, this is the place to root around in dusty boxes, uncover hidden gems and barter with the vendor.

For those of you on the hunt for furniture, you’ll find the best vintage goods – from rocking chairs and full-length mirrors, to oak cabinets and record players – at the edge of the market. Far more expensive than the rest of the market, but worth the walk to see what you can unearth.

Serie B, Palma de Mallorca – Every day

Palma, Mallorca

Located in Palma’s Old Town, the Serie B market is an Aladdin’s cave of retro wonders. Small, but jam-packed, this market is like an organised thrift shop, just waiting to be explored. Hiding away, you’ll find vintage film posters, world maps and charts, all with a distinctly ‘weathered’, yet charming appearance.

You can also purchase its goods online via the market’s dedicated website. Its Instagram page, updated daily with new products, from typewriters to old Converse trainers, is also a good first port of call. Scope out the typical stock on its page and see if something tempts you before you visit.

Llotja del Peix, in Palma Marina – Monday to Saturday

Palma Marina Market

Neighbour to the enchanting waters of Palma Marina, this market sits alongside the quayside so makes for a perfect place for a gentle stroll.

Selling fresh fish and giving you that ‘straight-off-the-boat’ feel, Llotja has a really vibrant atmosphere that really does shout ‘holiday’. Sales on the market begin at 6am and activities wrap up about 1pm – why not take an early-morning walk beside the marina and take in that fresh, salty sea air? Stop off for a coffee at the nearby waterside café and treat yourself to a traditional Spanish breakfast of Pisto Con Huevo, a mix of sautéed vegetables and fried egg.

By night, the marina is lit up and locals flock to this area because of the chilled, romantic atmosphere at the new bar and grill, Port Blanc, just around the corner from the market. Finish the evening with a favourite, Nounat, a white wine made from a combination of Prensal Blanc and Chardonnay. Today, Majorca is one of the largest local wine producers, with over 70 currently in operation.

Explore our full-range of stunning Majorca villas for rent and book a dream holiday to the Balearics today.

Hunting for the best holiday exchange rates

Euros

Holidays are all about stress busting, and yes, this does include the moments right before you leave, from booking and packing, to flying and of course, ordering your currency.

Before you jet off, take a look at our top seven money-exchange tips put together by our own travel experts on getting the best value for money…

Keep An Eye On The Figures

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If you’ve booked in advance for a little getaway, take advantage of the time you have to monitor the exchange rates. Watch out for any daily changes to the rate, as these can fluctuate dramatically, particularly with the ongoing uncertainty of Brexit.

The best exchange rates can differ between providers too, so don’t just rely on your local post office. Phone around, check online and get a few quotes under your belt before you buy.

Keep a close eye on money converter websites, such as www.xe.com or apps like Revolut, both of which can ensure you get the best rate for your sterling. Perfect for travel aficionados, the Revolut app allows you to exchange your money at the weekly market rates, meaning you don’t miss out on the best daily deals. This app also allows you to make free bank transfers in your chosen currency, too.

Negotiate

If you’ve found a better rate elsewhere, notify the providers you’re dealing with and see if they have any room for movement. This might not always guarantee you the best deal, but it might help you head in that direction.

Go Online

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While you can haggle in person, you’ll find rates are typically better online. If you’re planning in advance, then order your cash and have this delivered straight to your door within only a few days. The only bugbear with this method is you need to ensure someone is at home to sign for the money, as delivery drivers won’t leave this with a neighbour.

To combat this, currency providers offer you a little more flexibility with deliveries, giving you a selection of dates and times for you to pick from so that you can be there to sign for your package.

Don’t forget though, before submitting your online form, be sure to check for typos or incorrect banking details.

Lock In The Best Rates

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It can be a bit risky, not to mention, daunting, taking wads of cash out with you on your holiday adventures; there’s the threat of losing your money or spending too much in one go. Avoid these blunders by picking up a prepaid card from your exchange bureau and you can put all your money straight on there.

Having said that, a spare few notes and coins can be quite helpful, especially when paying for buses and food or drink at local markets, where cards just won’t cut it. Never fear though, as the card allows you to withdraw certain amounts per day – watch out for those card operators with small transaction fees.

Another positive to the prepaid card is its ‘locking’ features. No, this doesn’t mean your funds are locked away, instead it means that there won’t be any fluctuation in exchange rate on your money while away on holiday.

Currently on the market, offering a good rate and free-transaction fees, are prepaid cards from Travelex. With a choice of 10 available currencies, from US dollars, to South African rand, these cards are the perfect travelling companion. Also, versions from AA and FairFX offer free transactions.

Withdrawing Cash

atm-1524871_640When withdrawing your cash abroad, you should be wary of a few things, most importantly, this phrase:

“This ATM offers conversion to your home currency”

These cash machines may seem like your best friend when they offer you the chance to withdraw money from your credit card and have the funds debited straight into your account in your own currency. Though this may seem generous, and pain-free, this transaction gives the bank provider a chance to take more of your money, for less, just for the convenience.

Known as Dynamic Currency Conversion, or DCC, this process will give you a mark-up on your money, meaning the rate you will receive will be a lot higher than the standard 3% credit card transaction fee you may pay when using your card overseas.

If you have to withdraw cash, avoid choosing the ‘conversion to GBP’ option and opt for withdrawing cash in the currency from the country you’re currently in – its much cheaper and you’ll get the correct, market rate at that time.

Loyalty Points

If you’re a savvy Sainsbury’s shopper, you’ll know about its loyalty scheme with Nectar. Collect points on your card during your weekly shops and exchange these for trips and discounts, a simple process that goes a long way.

With Sainsbury’s Bank, you can exchange your points for travel money and with over 50+ currencies available, there’s plenty to choose from. Check out the value of your points before you buy.

Get Your Currency Covered

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Though you may opt to put the large portion of your funds on your pre-paid card, it can be useful to get a small amount of cash out to pay for your first taxi from the airport to the villa or for those unplanned emergencies. If that’s the case, don’t overlook getting this money covered on your insurance, no matter how small.

Due to the increase in travel to far off destinations where cards are not always an option, travel insurance policies are more likely to cover for the accidental loss, theft or damage to your money. Visit sites such as GoCompare to find the best cover for your currency.

For more travel inspiration and to search through our portfolio of stunning villas, visit https://www.sun-hat-villas.com.

Things to see and do in Portugal in 2018!

Leading vacation and travel expert, World Travel Awards, has recently revealed Portugal as the winner of the ‘World’s Leading Destination’ accolade for 2017. Recognised worldwide as a Port producing country with postcard worthy landscapes, medieval villages and beckoning beaches, Portugal continues to capture the heart and soul of wanderlust travellers across the globe.

In recent years, the award’s history has demonstrated that previous winners often go on to impress in consecutive years, with Las Vegas taking home the title in 1998, 1999 and 2000. With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of upcoming 2018 events that demonstrate Portugal’s unique attractions and vibrant traditions, showcasing why we believe it will remain ‘World’s Leading Destination’ this year.

The Music Scene

Lisbon Fado art, Portugal

Lisbon art celebrating Fado.

In 2017, Portugal took home its first ever Eurovision trophy in Kiev, with the winning ballad, Amor Pelos Dois from Portuguese-born Salvador Sobral, capturing voters’ hearts. The win meant that this year’s competition will be heading to Lisbon’s Altice Arena on 12 May.

Known by many as ‘Europe’s San Francisco’ for its cascading hills and classic cable cars, this year’s competition will showcase the capital’s other attributes, which include music and performing arts. As the home of ‘Fado’, a traditional type of Portuguese folk music, Lisbon is a popular jaunt for music lovers of all generations.

If you’ve got plans to jet off to Lisbon in May, why not hop on over to the Altice to see the first stages of the competition take off? If you’re still around the city, then see if you can grab tickets to see the final live performance!

‘Festival Month’

Lisbon festivals

Before you leave Lisbon, you have to experience its street festivals!

June is widely regarded as ‘festival month’ here, and activities of all kinds take place every day and night during this period – from traditional, to religious celebrations, the Portuguese take their festivals seriously.

You can head to the quieter neighbourhoods of Graca, Bira or Alfama for a more intimate experience of the ‘Festas de Lisboa’. Dine alongside the locals in an open-air restaurant, followed by dancing outdoors to the echoes of festival music nearby.

Those wanting to get into the thick of it should wander the city’s main parade streets where you’ll see giant floats and hanging bunting, coloured tinsel and extravagant costumes. The loudest and most populated celebration takes place between 12 – 13 June, celebrating Portuguese Catholic priest, Saint Anthony.

‘Rock in Rio Lisboa’

Rock in Rio

While the Lisbon music scene caters to both tradition and popular culture, it also hosts a rock and funk concert named Rock in Rio Lisboa, which takes place every two years in the city’s Bela Vista Park.

Back for 2018, musical megastars such as Muse, Bruno Mars and The Killers have been selected to headline performances over the four-day fiesta. Dates announced are 23 – 24 June and 29 – 30 June, with an average admission of £60 for a single-day. With scenic festival grounds, bustling food stands, and globally renowned acts, what more you could ask for?

Head to the Coast

For activities ‘with a difference’, head over to the Algarve coast where you’ll not only find endless golden, sandy beaches and quaint market stalls, but also an exciting array of events taking place in some of the Algarve’s most beautiful coastal villages – from pirate adventures in Armação de Pera, to mountain biking in Tavira – we’ve created a list below so you can plan ahead!

Pirates A-Hoy

Sea Ship, Pirate Week, Algarve

If you’re looking for something unique during your stay in the Algarve, then visit Armação de Pera for Pirate Week, a fishing village just 20 minutes from Albufeira.

Visitors take part in mapped treasure quests along some of the coast’s beaches, enjoy sing-a-longs on the village’s cobbled streets, and dine on the revived ‘Lady of the Rock’ galleon. The week’s activities are captured on video and documented on the organisation’s Facebook page, so keep a lookout, shipmate!

With over one million visitors to the event each year since 2014, it is no surprise that the Algarve’s very own Pirate Week has been named one of the largest gatherings of pirates in Portugal.

While exact dates are yet to be announced for this year’s activities, officials state Pirate Week will take place in either July or August. So get together your fiercest costumes and gather the pirate clan for an event of a lifetime. Follow the latest updates here, http://pirateweek.net/.

Saddle up  

Volta ao Algarve

Now in its sixth year, the Algarve’s annual bike challenge features over 1,000 elite and amateur competitors from over 23 nationalities, tackling 160 km of mountainous trails in the historic village of Tavira, just on the edge of the coast. This year, the challenge takes place from 2 – 4 March.

While registration for 2018 has expired, it is an activity that draws out thousands of both locals and tourists, as the trails offer spectators a chance to witness views of the stunning landscape never before seen from ground level.

Quite the spectator sport, residents prepare culinary traditions such as pastéis de nata and grilled sardines to feast on as the event commences, as well as toasting a glass of port to competitors.

If you have a thirst for adventure, then hire a bike and follow the trail yourself, guided by the online map provided by the organisers. Take the family out of the village for a day and enjoy the picturesque views and endless sandy roads – free to go at your own pace.

For more Algarve-based events, visit My Guide Algarve’s Algarve Events page where you can fill your day with recommended sporting activities, sightseeing attractions and delicious cuisine.

Football Frenzy

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Now that we’re in 2018, it’s time to start thinking about the World Cup – although the games take place in Russia, it would be valuable to keep in mind which days Portugal play during your stay, as the atmosphere will be electric!

The Portuguese national team boasts some of the worlds most talented and expensive footballers, meaning they take their games very seriously. For viewers watching from local bars, this is a spectator sport with added spectacle! Celebrations take place around the country, where fans (local and from far afield) dedicate chants, food and drink to their footballing heroes.

The first match on the cards for Portugal is against Spain on 15 June – as one of the oldest football rivalries at a national level, this will be an unrivalled event. Win or lose, the Portuguese celebrate in style, so don your favourite football shirt, join the locals and enjoy the festivities.

Choosing where to go in Croatia

Croatia

In the last decade Croatia has gone from being a secret luxury escape that only the Italians seemed to be in on, to a worldwide bucket-list destination. With a stunning mountainous backdrop and a turquoise coastline, this destination is becoming more popular and more accessible every year. With an increasing number of airlines putting this beautiful country on their roster, and an extended and modernised motorway network, the country is now easily accessible by land, air and sea. What are you waiting for?

One of the things people find quite overwhelming when deciding to go to Croatia is the abundance of choice. Look on any forum or travel chatroom and there is no definitive answer for the best place to go. Everyone knows about Game of Thrones fan favourite and Unesco world heritage site, Dubrovnik, which no one can argue is epic, but it can be said that this destination has more of a city break feel than a laid back holiday destination. With a dash of summer sports thrown in (Croatians take their sport very seriously, especially their water sports with the small country seeing a great success in rowing, sailing and water-polo in the 2016 Olympics) there are also dozens of other activities to enjoy, from rock climbing to sea kayaking.

Alongside the stunning coastline, with pebbled coves, unspoilt nature and pretty much guaranteed sunshine, there is also a lively cultural and historical scene. We’ve scaled this breath-taking country to find some of the best and most fascinating hamlets, villages and towns and here are some of our favourites:

Svetvinčenat

Grimani Castle

Svetvinčenat is full of attractive historical sites, including the medieval Grimani castle which hosts the increasingly popular Istra Etno Jazz festival. This quaint town, located in south central Istria, is a real gem and starting to boom as a popular tourist destination. With a charming main square hosting various traditional dances, it is also a great foodie spot, with its delicious cheese festival in August becoming the must do event. If cheese isn’t your thing, it also hosts a great festival of new wine in late Autumn which showcases some of the best Croatian winemakers. What’s not to love?

Poreč

Porec

If it’s vibrancy you’re after, than Poreč is the perfect place to go. This ancient Roman town comes into its own in the summer months. Home to one Europe’s finest intact examples of Byzantine art and a world heritage site, the 6th-century Euphrasian Basilica, alongside a plethora of Instagram-worthy gothic and baroque buildings in its historic old town, this resort is a sight-seeing paradise

Umag

Umag not only has great sun-bathing weather, it’s also a hop, skip and a jump from Slovenia, perfect for those who like to cross borders to tick off from their bucket list. This area has a very Italian feel and with that comes great restaurants and retail therapy. The Old Town juts out into the Adriatic, offering exceptional views and great seafood.

Umag is another great place for history buffs, with its preserved town walls and towers around the town dating back to the Roman Empire, set nicely alongside the Blue Flag award-winning Marina and gorgeous coastline. Umag is also home to the ATP Croatia Open, taking place this year from 16-22 July 2018. 

Labin 

Labin, Croatia

Located in the southeastern region of Istria, Labin hosts a varied calendar of events in the summer, with everything from popular classical music festivals, open air cinemas, eco-friendly markets and street entertainment. Like many towns in Croatia, Labin has a fascinating old town dating from the Middle Ages, with 15th century town gates and exquisite palaces, decorated with Renaissance details and the baroque facades.

You can walk to the top of the old town for stunning views and nearby is a naturally beautiful green cove, and wooded hills great for those holiday snaps. It’s nice to drive around the lovely rural villages such as Vrecari; also not to be missed is the nearby resort of Rabac.

Pula

Pula amphitheatre, Croatia

Pula is one of our favourite destinations offering everything from flamboyant festivals such as Outlook Festival, a soulful electronic music event located in an abandoned 19th Century Fort , top notch Italian cuisine and Roman ruins (arguably the best outside of Italy, especially the imposing amphitheatre). Pula is also known for its fine seafood – if you’re feeling romantic we highly recommend a stroll along the Limski Canal for restaurants serving the freshest oysters you may ever taste, and very quaffable Malvasia wine and rakija – what more do you need?

Take a look at Sun-hat’s selection of luxury villas in Croatia.