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.

Christmas traditions and festivals across Europe and the Caribbean

Christmas abroad may include mild t-shirt weather and be missing the alpine scent and snowy, icy slopes but don’t let that deter you from visiting foreign fields and sunnier climes this December.

Just like us, destinations across the globe are steadily preparing for the festive season; from decorating homes and streets with bright, coloured lights, cooking up unique sweet treats and savoury delights, to last-minute gift-wrapping.

To help you navigate the festive period away from home, we have put together a list of Christmas traditions from across the miles.

Algarve Christmas customs

Bolo Rei

Bolo Rei (King Cake) – a sweet cake shaped and decorated like a wreath.

With the official ‘summer season’ taking place between May and September, you’ll find temperatures typically dip between 18-20 degrees Celsius in the winter months. With the slightly lower temperatures, compared to the very warm summer period, this destination becomes less touristy and therefore, is great value for money.

To prepare for the festivities ahead, a large Nativity scene is erected each year in Vila Real de Santo Antonio. Made up of almost 5,000 figures amongst 20 tons of materials such as sand, rock dust and cork, thousands of visitors turn up to visit it.

Celebrating Christmas a day early on the evening of 24 December, Portuguese families based in Quinta do Lago and Vale de Lobo enjoy a moreish yuletide feast of Bacal (Codfish), topped off with a traditional much-loved dessert, Bolo Rei (King Cake) – a sweet cake shaped and decorated like a wreath; dotted with vibrant green figs, rich and fragrant clementines, crumbled almonds and covered with sultanas.

Once the cake has been devoured and gifts opened, families and friends venture to nearby churches for midnight Mass.

For the Portuguese, the 25 December is like a UK Boxing Day – relaxed and centered around the left-over food at home, as many restaurants and bars will have closed their doors for the Public Holiday.

You’ll still find activities to take part in on the day, from festivals, fayres and themed walks, such as the Father Christmas Walk (Armação de Pêra) – a 3km walk across the sandy shores in head-to-toe Santa-gear.

A Caribbean Christmas in Barbados

Christmas in the Caribbean

If you’re heading to the Caribbean this Christmas, don’t forgot your Santa hat!

Without snow or mistletoe, you’d be forgiven for thinking a Caribbean Christmas would not be the typical festive holiday-jaunt. Known for their love of food and celebration however, the Barbadians take great pride in their festive traditions.

The annual Christmas morning walk in Bridgetown’s Queens Park, brings families and friends together for a stroll on the promenade, where groups display their finest clothes and take part in an island fashion show.

Food is an important part of any celebration in Barbados and Christmas time is no different – festivities here include three vital components: ‘Jug Jug’, baked ham and ‘Great Cake’.

Jug Jug is a throwback to the country’s Scottish-heritage, Haggis, eaten traditionally with fresh garden peas and a herb-based sauce – a hearty, delicious plate of food.

In between the main course and dessert, a baked ham is cooked to share around with friends and extended family – smothered in a sweet, sticky, pineapple and sorrel glaze and topped with exotic fruits, this ham is served alone and without need of a plate.

Known as ‘Great Cake’, meaning ‘fruit cake’, this is made up of alcohol-soaked dry fruit, spices and lashings of luxurious liquor, from rum and port wine to sweet Caribbean syrup, falernum – this dish will take pride of place on every Caribbean table during the season.

Throughout the entire month of December, at various churches, bandstands and parks, Barbados is rife with musical entertainment – playing international jingles known world-wide, to classic Bajan tunes, such as Maizie, from Caribbean-born singers.

It seems, no matter where you are in the world at Christmas, music always plays a large part in the celebrations.

Lights of Lisbon

Lisbon at Christmas

Lisbon at Christmas

Just like London’s Oxford Street, Lisbon’s main strip and Market Square are decorated with a stunning selection of Christmas lights. From a sea of beaded, multi-coloured lights, to sparkling shooting stars, Lisbon is the perfect European location for real Christmas-light aficionados.

While this seaside city isn’t covered in snow, this location is home to Europe’s tallest Christmas tree, standing 76 metres in height and featuring over two million bulbs. Not a traditional evergreen giant, but an artificial tree that each year, dazzles visitors by a colourful light show. Unique to this spectacle, is the shade of lights chosen – specifically designed to imitate Portuguese filigree; an intricate pattern of metal work derived from their 19th century history.

While the fresh summer seafood in Lisbon is world-renowned, it is worth venturing to the city during the winter seasons, where Portuguese classics such as the ‘custard tart’ are given a festive twist, with a dusting of cinnamon and powdered sugar – these baked gems are known as Pasteis de Nata.

For the most authentic flavours, visit the original bakery where the Pasteis de Nata recipe has been used for over 200 years – Antiga Confeitaria de Belém – based on the Western edge of the city.

Merriness in Majorca

Majorca at Christmas

The streets (and tress) of Majorca light up during the festive period.

The beauty of this location is its strong cultural heritage, from medieval chants to gatherings at monasteries for midnight mass; the Mallorcan’s take Christmas very seriously.

Festivities begin here on December 8 each year, with ‘The Feast of the Immaculate Conception’, an enchanting ceremony and performance of dance called Los Seises.

Unique to Mallorcan culture, midnight mass (or Misa del Gallo) in Palma Cathedral entails families and friends taking part in a chant, ‘Sibil·la’, a song about judgement day; a sentimental song about Spanish history.

As the New Year rolls around the corner, part of Spanish culture is to welcome in the New Year by eating one grape for each chime of the clock, a tradition said to bring good fortune.

Festivities draw to a close on January 5 with the Three Knights Night, a spiritual ceremony celebrated all over Spain and influenced by the country’s religious beliefs and historical background.

Wherever you are in the world, we wish you a Merry Christmas from everyone at Sun-Hat Villas & Resorts.

Escape to Lanzarote this winter

Lanzarote beachThe nights are drawing in and there’s an unmistakable chill in the air. While the colder months call for festive cosy nights in, many tourists are flocking south to get a dose of Vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) in the long dark winter months. Although mainland Europe can be chilly in winter, look slightly further afield and find abundant sunshine year round in Lanzarote, only a four-hour flight from the UK.

This popular island, located in the Atlantic archipelago of the Canaries, is a year round sun-seeker’s dream. Lanzarote boasts a dramatic volcanic landscape dotted with stunning beaches and turquoise waters.

From restaurants, activities and places to stay – we’ve got you covered. Check out our insider guide to this beautiful island that will have you packing your bags to go and top up your tan

Head to the beach

The thing we love most about the winter sun is whiling away the hours at the beach, and luckily Lanzarote has got a beach to suit every mood. Papagyo Beach is often called ‘the most beautiful beach in Lanzarote’, and it’s easy to see why. Relax on the white sand, or stroll along the dramatic cliffs where you can catch a glimpse of neighbouring island Fuerteventura.

Playa Del Blanca is loved by families for its calm, sheltered waters; and the number of charming restaurants and ice cream parlours located a short walk from the beach are perfect for cooling down after a day of building sandcastles on the golden sands.

Lanzarote

The island’s warm yet temperate climate is suitable for sun worshippers and thrill-seekers alike. We’d suggest that Playa Chicha is where active holidaymakers should head to try out a range of water sports including jet skiing, parasailing and flyboarding

Families with active kids should also pay a visit to the famous surfing beaches on the island’s north coast. Costa Norestre surf school, which has a great reputation on the island, offers classes for complete beginners to seasoned surfers. With a friendly and experienced team of instructors, kids from ages 8 and up can take lessons and learn to ride the island’s great surfing waves. Take a look at its website for bookings and availability.

Sample some authentic eats

With abundant fresh seafood, Mediterranean cuisine and a number of upmarket culinary experiences; Lanzarote is a foodie paradise.

Restaurant Lilium is situated on Arrecife’s harbour and serves up Canarian classics with a modern twist. The range of fresh seafood is a must-try with local dishes such as Sancocho de Cherne (fresh fish prepared with sweet potatoes and spicy Mojo sauce), followed up by a selection of delicious dessert options such as chocolate mousse or fresh papaya with ice cream. A popular place for romantic dinners, bookings can be made via their website.

Lanzarote cuisine

To catch the ultimate sunset view, look no further than Cafe del Ola in Puerto Del Carmen. For a truly memorable experience, we recommend grabbing a beachside table in the evening to watch the sun set over the Atlantic with a Mojito in hand.

For a taste of some of the best regional cuisine, head to an authentic haunt and sample an array of fresh tapas, all for a price that will have you coming back for another helping! Local food, great beer and even better value is served up at El Guachinche de Luis in Costa Teguise, we recommend you try the Papas arrugadas (Canarian potatoes) served up with traditional spicy red pepper Mojo sauce. For something a little different, pick up an artisan burger and an organic beer at Tabla Arrecife.

Lanzarote is reliably family friendly and Pardelas Park is heaven for kids, who can feed the farm animals and explore the outdoor play area. Pardelas will impress adult visitors too: it has a popular restaurant which is a great spot to refuel on local delicacies and sample the island’s best wines. Its website has useful information including prices and opening times.

Pick up some bargains

Lanzarote has a wealth of shopping opportunities, whether you want to scour the upmarket boutiques, grab a local souvenir from the market or shop till you drop at one of the island’s shopping malls.

The town of Teguise comes alive for the Sunday flea market, the largest open-air market on the island, where tourists and locals scour the hundreds of stalls to hunt down a bargain and engage in some good-natured haggling with stall owners! Marina Rubicon is the place to head for clothing, jewellery and books, whereas Costa Teguise hosts an evening market with a lively atmosphere where you can refuel on tapas at a number of local bars.

Lanzarote also has plenty of chic boutique shopping; head to the island’s capital Arrecife’s main shopping street Calle Leon y Castillo and make sure to explore the quirky bazaars located down side streets for some more unique souvenirs.

For hardcore shopaholics, Bioserfa Plaza in Puerto Del Carmen is a shiny modern shopping mall housing popular European brands such as Zara and Mango.

Explore the volcanoes at Timanfaya National Park

Timanfaya National Park Lanzarote

Lanzarote is a volcanic island and The Timanfaya National Park is a must-see; with bubbling geysers, a ‘Martian’ landscape and an opportunity to get up close to the towering Fire Mountains.

After you’ve checked out the national park, be sure to sample some traditional Canarian specialties at the El Diablo Restaurant; where traditional meat and fish is cooked over a volcanic barbecue at 450 degrees Celsius.

Has this guide got you dreaming of some winter sunshine? Check out our range of luxury villas in Lanzarote to plan the perfect escape!

Five great places to eat with the family in Quinta do Lago

Koko Lane, Quinta do Lago, AlgarvePortugal’s Algarve region is famously family friendly and, here at Sun-hat, we love the easy-going vibe of Quinta Do Lago. Renowned for its golden sands and golf courses, the resort town also boasts a wide array of dining options: from unusual bars, to traditional Mediterranean cuisine, there is something to suit everyone’s tastes.

With such a vast and enticing selection of restaurants and eateries to choose from in Quinta Do Lago, we wouldn’t blame you for feeling a little overwhelmed when it comes to picking somewhere perfect for the whole family, especially if you have little ones in tow!

Luckily, we’ve compiled our top five family friendly places to wine and dine. All you need to do is decide where you want to be when you toast ‘Saúde!’ (Portuguese for ‘cheers’) to another day in paradise…

Koko Lane CaféPizza at Koko Lane, Quinta do Lago, Algarve

From mouth-watering breakfasts, to daily bistro specials, Koko Lane’s extensive menu offers something delicious for any time of the day. Located on the driving range, flatbread starters and fresh spinach tortellini provide sustenance for a busy morning practicing your drives. With a traditional oven firing up heavenly hand-stretched pizzas, a play area next to the restaurant and an ice-cream shop, the kids are bound to be entertained. Takeaway is also readily available so you can grab a slice to savour whilst strolling along the golden sands of the nearby beach.

The Shack Bar and GrillThe Shack in Quinta do Lago

For a taste of something a little different, head to the The Shack Bar and Grill, renowned by locals and holidaymakers as the place to be when it’s time to grab a sunset drink. This quirky eatery is modelled on a classic Portuguese fisherman’s shack and serves up tapas style dishes on the shoreline of the lake, overlooking the nature reserve and the sea beyond. Take advantage of long, hazy evenings and dine al-fresco, whilst the kids play in the sand. Make sure to sample the famous ‘Shack Burger’ or the fresh fish tacos, washed down with an exotic cocktail or an ice-cold glass of Sangria.

The Cheeky Pup
The Cheeky Pub, Quinta do Lago

Why not try this brand-new Irish gastropub, where the outgoing team are guaranteed to give you the warmest of welcomes. The Cheeky Pup epitomises the fun and friendly reputation of the resort, and serves up a menu of fine wines, craft beers and modern gastro dishes that can be enjoyed on the stunning outdoor terrace. Make the most of your surroundings and soak up the sun whilst sampling fresh seafood followed by a traditional orange and almond cake. The kid’s menu is jam packed with plenty of healthy options, as well as featuring more traditional pub classics such as fish, chips and peas, guaranteed to please the most discerning of youngsters. Due to its popularity, we suggest you make a reservation online.

Bovino Steakhouse
Bovino Steakhouse, Quinta do Lago

A holiday calls for a taste of luxury, and we’ve found the most exclusive steakhouse experience you can have in the Algarve. The Bovino Steakhouse offers prime-cuts and the finest dry-aged beef within a setting created by one of Europe’s most acclaimed designers. We love the rump, the ribeye, or the two persons ‘Bovino Signature Cuts Experience’. Kids are also well catered for here; there is a separate children’s menu and an outdoor play area, where they can explore the surroundings in the sun, whilst you relax close by.

Picnic in the Park or on the beachRia Formosa Quinta do Lago beach

Saturday night in Quinta Do Lago is beach party night, and nothing quite gives you that holiday buzz like dancing through the balmy nights with the sand between your toes. Lying along the stunning Ria Formosa nature reserve, Quinta Do Lago beach has pristine white sands that stretch out for three kilometres – it’s easy to see why the resort has gained its nickname as ‘bather’s paradise’. Nestled in the dunes, this part of the coastline offers unspoilt views of the ocean, making it a scenic and romantic picnic spot (check out local markets and shops for incredible local wine and home-grown produce).

The resort’s driving range annually hosts Picnic in the Park in aid of some of the neighbourhoods’ charities between July and August, offering a tranquil atmosphere as you tuck in to delicious local offerings. Live music and children’s entertainment are situated next to the first tee of the South Course, making the Picnic in the Park a splendid way to spend your afternoon. When it comes to picnic options, every taste is catered for with hampers ranging from €12 – €25. The ‘Pure’ hamper is an assortment of healthy super foods, the ‘Bovino’ is a meat-lovers dream and the ‘Clubhouse’ basket is a Mediterranean mezze lover’s dream comprised of dips and cheeses. A kid’s picnic basket is also available to purchase.

Have these divine dining destinations left you hungry for a good deal? We have a beautiful selection of luxury Algarve villas available for your next family holiday.

Ann celebrates success at the Lincolnshire Media Business Awards

We recently attended the Lincolnshire Media Business Awards where, we’re delighted to say, our UK operations manager, Ann Evison, scooped the award for employee of the year.

Ann, who has been working with us for 10 years, was delighted to be able to have a double celebration, as it was her birthday the day after the ceremony.

Ann-Evison

She received the award due to her passion for the role by exceeding our customers’ expectations and ensuring they go on the types of holidays they’ve always dreamed of. With the help of our managing director, Peter, she has developed her knowledge and understanding of our specialist area, the Algarve, and grown from a sales representative to our UK operations manager; and now manages a team of four.

The team are all thrilled for Ann, and this recognition is a real testament to her dedication to the company. She consistently receives fantastic customer feedback and has gained a growing number of repeat clients that specifically ask for her by name, which has been great for our development.

As well as celebrating Ann’s success, we also had brilliant time socialising with other local businesses based in Lincolnshire and enjoyed wearing out finest black-tie attire for the evening. Heartfelt congratulations to all of the winners and finalists!

We’d like to thank Ann and the rest of the Sun-hat team for all of their continued hard work and efforts over the years; hopefully we’ll be back again next year!

The best places to go shopping in the Algarve

Forum Algarve, Faro

The Southern coast of Portugal celebrates a rich range of history and culture, meaning there is plenty of exciting local produce to flaunt. Local delicacies, quirky antiques and high street fashion, whatever you are looking for, the Algarve is fully stocked up on choice to satisfy your abundance of holiday needs.

Constructed to suit the sunny, Portuguese lifestyle, with its host of outside markets and open planned shopping centres, you can even add a dose of glorious sunshine to your retail therapy! Here are some of our favourite areas…

Porches Pottery

Porches Pottery

The ceramic industry, was once thriving in this central district of Porches, in the Algarve, yet, Porches Pottery still manages to entice and amaze. Watch talented artists at work, as they hand-paint beautiful plates and tiles, which are later sold on site. Existing since 1968, this pottery looks to revive older techniques that once defined the area. There is even a café to quench your thirst whilst browsing for a new piece of furniture.

Loulé Market

Loule Market Algarve

Loule Market

16km away from Faro, Loulé is a captivating town with a vast amount of culture, history and activities all year round. One of its most popular attractions for locals and tourists is the Saturday flea market, taking place to the illustrious West side of the city. Whether you are after locally crafted jewellery, or independently sourced food and drink, you will struggle to leave empty handed. Loulé Market is also active during the week – based in the Municipal market, particularly handy if you are looking for ingredients to cook for you and the family.

Mar d’Estórias

An array of venues all rolled into one, Mar d’Estorias has the aim of ‘taking Portugal to the world’ with a café, bar, gallery and shop. Based in the glamorous Lagos, you start by circling the best Portuguese delicacies on the ground floor, before stepping up to the homeware section, to find the best Algarvian décor for your home. Up again, and you are in the inquisitive books and music section, for the best of Portugal’s art and literature. Satisfied with the day’s finds? Then toast your success on the roof-top terrace bar, with a glass of wine and a perfect, beach view.

A Shopping Extravaganza

Algarve shopping

A new initiative set up by businesswoman Sonae Sierra that offers the perfect mix of high street labels and chic independent stores. Just a 15-minute drive north from Albufeira, this mall showcases local businesses and artists in its FlashStores and letting booths, along with various well-known names in the consumer world. With architecture that naturally melts into the area, this is a unique experience away from your standard shopping centre.

Olhão Fish Market

Olhao Fish Market, Algarve

Now home to the largest fishing port and fish market in the Algarve, it is hard to believe that Olhao used to be just a small fishing village. Characterful, rose coloured streets will lead you to the mercado municipal, two bustling markets right on each other’s doorstep. Practice your haggling skills for Atlantic fish in one, or local fruit and vegetables in another. Take your hard earned purchases back to make into a delicious Portuguese meal for the family.

Casa das Portas

A jewel in the picturesque, western Algarve town of Tavira, Casa das Portas offers a quirky and distinctive gift shopping experience. This petite gift shop, is the perfect place to find a seaside souvenir to bring back happy, nostalgic memories for months to come. All ethically sourced products, this charming store will have you falling for the southern coast of Portugal – you will also notice the theme of doors with a gallery of canvas drawn portas, from around the town.

Lewis Andrews

Near Quarteira, the small ambient town of Almancil is a fantastic place to window shop in the sunshine. Lewis Andrews is well worth delving into, with a range of bohemian, chic styled clothes for men, women and children. The trendy boutique is likely to leave you inspired, as the clothing is designed with surrounding beach culture in mind. There are also range of gifts, furnishings and jewellery from around the world.

Forum Algarve

Forum Algarve, Faro

Faro is the most visited city within the Algarve and tourists often arrive looking for a holiday, retail fix or have forgotten their swimmers! Situated just by the IC4 road, the Forum is on the road to and from the airport and includes free underground parking. This roofless plaza has everything you could possibly need; from fashion brands to cosmetics, supermarkets to pet stores. A modern, shopping complex, this centre still manages to mould itself into the appetising, Faro aesthetic.

 Quarteira Market

The markets are one of the most enjoyable experiences of a holiday in the Algarve, and one of our favourites is the Quarteira market. Based one mile out of the town, Fonte Santa is easily accessible by a quick bus ride from the nearby town, or you can also take a taxi if you’d prefer. It’s an excellent place to find a bargain gift or souvenir, with its alternative and trendy environment. You can purchase handmade items ranging from throws, clothes and accessories; this is a superb place to wander through at your pleasure.

Antonio Manuel

If you are ready to rock the Algarvian streets with fashionable labels like Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis, then you will want to visit San Antonio Street in Faro. Known for its higher end reputation, this glitzy street is home to the eminent Antonio Manuel. With the best in international fashion including Michael Kors, Hugo Boss and Emporio Armani on show, prepare for paparazzi when you touch back down home!

Aqua Portimão

Aqua Portimao

Due to its favourable climate, Southern Portugal’s newest shopping malls are open planned, for a cooler spending experience. Opened in 2011, this is Portimão’s newest shopping centre, and is similar to the contemporary complex of Forum in Faro. Offering a number of popular high street stores, including the familiar Primark and H&M, you are likely to find exactly what you are looking for.

Feeling inspired by this list of purchasing pursuits? Take a look through our selection of luxury Algarve villas, to begin your Portuguese shopping adventure!

How to get over the post-holiday blues

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To most people their annual summer break is by far one of the highest points in their year, after working hard for what seems like forever; jetting off into the sunset can be the ultimate reward and ideal chance to unwind.

Now that summertime is officially over, and as more than half of the population have already enjoyed their week or two in the sun, we wouldn’t blame you for feeling a little less upbeat once you returned home and the initial excitement had worn off.

Our in-house travel expert Richard Robinson, gives you some great pointers to help hammer those post holiday blues.

Plan Your Next Adventure

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Fill your social calendar with a few things to look forward to with friends and family once you’re back in the country. That way you won’t get into the usual post holiday rut. If you found a particular type of food or activity you really enjoyed whilst you were away, why not find out if it’s something that you can do locally?

If you still find yourself dreaming of another blissful week in the sun, why not browse our range of luxury Algarve villas and start planning your 2018 getaway.

Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone

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You can’t change the gloomy weather or beat the rush hour traffic, but to keep uplifting your mood, you can challenge yourself to try out one new thing everyday. It can be small things like learning a few phrases of a different language, experimenting and making a new dish or sampling an exercise class you’ve always fancied. Implementing a small change could be just as good as a holiday.

Step Outside

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After having spent the majority of your time outside sunning yourself, it can be difficult to revert back to spending the bulk of our time indoors. Unfortunately the somewhat gloomy weather we usually encounter and the routine of work and other commitments, doesn’t allow us much freedom to explore the outdoors. But if you’re able to get out there and go for a stroll outside or to the park, it should hopefully leave you feeling recharged and refreshed.

Maintain Your Summer Body

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Most people aspire to have that flawless summer body to flaunt on the beach, but you shouldn’t just want to get fit for summer, you should aim to maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout the year. It is also a well know fact that when you exercise, your body releases endorphins helping you feel happier, so maintaining your fitness routine can also combat your post holiday slump. To further motivate and encourage yourself, you could join the gym or even sign-up for a few weekly exercises class with a friend. 

Display Your Memories
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There are usually plenty of opportunities to pick up little mementos from your time abroad, such as taking Polaroids during a fun day at the beach, a pamphlet from a local landmark and ticket stubs from your day at the amusement park. Gathering them all at the end of your trip and presenting them together in a frame or scrapbook is the perfect way to reminisce about your exciting adventure, in a positive and creative way.

Home Comforts

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To us, nothing beats spending some time in the sun, so to ease ourselves back into the swing of things we really like to pamper ourselves with all of things we’ve missed once we reach home. Our go to activities include a good old cuppa, catching up on all of our favourite TV shows, (we can assure you there’s quite a few) and a restful night’s sleep in our own bed.

itravelnet.com – Travel directory.

The best events and festivals in the Algarve

You may know the Algarve for its over 300 days of glorious sunshine, it’s luxurious, white beaches and its enchanting, Mediterranean seas. The Portuguese south coast however, has plenty more to offer than simply lounging in the rays; there are a host of inspiring, vibrant festivals and events waiting for you, all year round!

Whether you are after a taste of the Algarve cuisine, an activity filled adventure or an insightful, cultural experience, there are events all year round to make your stay that little bit more memorable.

All child friendly, you can keep the whole family entertained from Faro to Sagres, Loulé to Monchique with this mini selection.

Carnival Of Loulé

Carnival Of Loulé, Algarve

Whilst a lot of the Algarve is fairly low on tourists in winter and early spring, Loulé continues to be alive with an array of events in the ‘colder’ months, which includes the town’s annual carnival. The three-day parade finishes on Shrove Tuesday and people travel far and wide to line the streets for huge, comical floats, local music and dancing. 2018 dates have been announced as the 10th-13th February, costing only €2 to enter!

Make Your Heart Melt

Loulé chocolate festival

The historic town of Loulé, hosts a treat for those visiting with a sweet tooth. Every February, and often ideally placed around Valentines Day, the yearly chocolate fair comes to the town’s Municipal market to flaunt the best local, cocoa delicacies. Pouring fountains, mountain like cakes and decadent displays of chocolate make visiting this castle walled city even more indulgent. Admission is free, so be ready to feast your eyes…or more!

FIESA Sand Sculpture Competition

FIESA Sand Sculpture Competition

Located just outside of the petite and peaceful village of Pêra, is the world’s largest sand sculpture competition. Between April and September, artists from all over the world travel to the Algarve, to carve spectacular works of art from 35,000 tons of sand. With a different theme each year, there will be a number of recognisable faces for you to snap away at; past exhibitions have included Willy Wonka, the Simpsons and Star Wars!

A Race Like No Other

Rally de Portugal

Whether you are an experienced petrol head or in search of a hit of excitement, ‘Rally de Portugal’ is an unmissable off-road race to witness. Part of the world rally championships, the route swings into the Algarve as part of its 350km route through Portugal in May. Prepare for thrills and spills from dare devil drivers as they take on some of the most famous obstacles and jumps in the motor world.

Festival Med

The slogan of this festival is ‘music and much more’ and we cannot argue, as Loulé again explodes into a celebration of world music. Taking place across the whole city in late June/early July, the Med festival becomes one of the most popular events in the Algarve. With a fantastic range of artists and genres to enjoy, you can dance away to your hearts content! Entrance to the bazaar is €12 on the day and free for children under 12, who can also be enthralled by a number of street dancers, actors and artists.

Go Back In Time

If you are after a knight in shining armour, then where better place to find one than the cobbled streets of Silves? In August the town turns into a medieval setting, popular with locals and tourists alike. With spit roasted food, medieval drink and historical entertainment, including jousting and dance performances, this guarantees to be a night to remember.

Sagres Bird-Watching Festival

Sagres Bird Watching Festival

Beginning on the 4th October in 2017, Sagres acknowledges one of the Algarve’s many natural wonders, as the south west coast becomes one of the main gateways for migratory birds from Africa. Lasting for five days, the initiative has a variety of activities from boat trips, to exhibitions, diving and surfing lessons to bird watching.

Feira de Santa Iria

Honoring St Irene, every October the central Algarve city of Faro ignites into a fairground like no other in the region. Based at Largo de San Francisco, Faro’s largest festival lasts from the 20th-29th October in 2017 and is believed to have existed as far back as 1596! There is a showcase of the area’s best eats and hand-made crafts for those non-thrill seekers; if not there are bumper cars, a Ferris wheel, rides and more to keep the whole family entertained.

New Year Extravaganza

New Year Extravaganza

Home to luxuriant beaches and a crystal blue marina, Lagos is often seen as the jewel in the crown of the western Algarve. On the strike of midnight on December 31st, the town offers an awe inspiring fireworks display on the riverfront, just by the marina. Clink a glass of champagne and watch the New Year roll in and if you are lucky, catch a glimpse of the Portimao display in the distance.

Feeling inspired by the Algarve and its fiesta filled calendar? Then check out our range of luxury Algarve villas in the increasingly popular region, to satisfy your sunny needs.

The 11 best travel apps you will need for your next holiday

Travel Apps
There’s nothing we enjoy more than jetting off abroad and indulging in some much needed relaxation. But with endless amounts of things to plan for and discover, it can be worthwhile to organise a couple of things before you arrive!

There’s a huge selection of clever travel apps available at your fingertips that have been brought out to make your next venture a little easier.

Sun-hat’s travel expert Claudia Mansi, has collected some of her top picks, so you can get the most out of your next trip.

Baggage – Packing List
We can’t think of anything worse than forgetting any of our much loved and needed essentials at home before we jet off. To get your hands on your tailor made packing list, all you need to do is fill out a few details about your trip; it can even be shared with anyone travelling with you.

Price – free, but contains ads.

Holiday Extras
To save rushing around and getting stuck in unpredictable traffic, it can be a wise idea to stay at the airport the night before an early morning flight. This app will show you a whole host of deals on parking and hotels at airports across the country. Why not try not out the airport lounge to really get yourself in the holiday mood?

Price – free.

Navmii
Navmii has been designed to let holidaymakers easily find their way around their chosen destination. It is available in over 150 countries and combines live traffic information, points of interest, local searches and voice-guided navigation.

Price – free, but contains ads and some in-app purchases. It can even be used without the Internet, as offline maps can be stored locally.

TripCase – Travel Organiser
Store all the details about your trip in one place using TripCase; you are able to include hotel bookings, flight information and car reservations, as well as getting live flight updates. Everything can be shared with others on the app and it will update them on your behalf accordingly.

Price – free, but contains some in-app purchases.

Translator

Translator gives users access to instant text and voice translation for up to 100 languages; this is extremely useful for those wishing to converse in the local dialect, and a excellent learning tool.

Price – free, but contains ads.

World Travel Guide by Triposo
Sometimes it can be a bit tricky to find the places you absolutely must visit and the perfect restaurant to eat at, but Triposo provides users with reviews and recommendations across 50,000 destinations around the world; bookings can also be made through the app. There are also versions available that are tailored to a number of countries including Spain and Portugal.

Price – free, but contains ads and some in-app purchases. The app works offline too, so you won’t be surprised by any expensive roaming costs when you return home.

Currency Converter
This simple app provides you with current exchange rates. It works in offline mode too and is great if you’re travelling to more than once place, as it lets you convert up to 15 currencies at the same time.

Price – free, but contains ads.

FreePrints – Photos Delivered
Capturing your memories by taking lots of photos is one of the best ways to remember your holiday. Delivered to your door for virtually free, FreePrints lets you order up to 500 photos a year from your phone.

Price – The app and prints are free (up to 45 a month), but standard delivery costs between £1.49 – £3.99.

Countries Been
Countries Been allows travel enthusiast’s to highlight all the places they’ve lived in, been to and would like to go. It even gives you access to the world map, so the world truly is your oyster and you can find out everything you’d like to know about all the countries you’d like to visit, particularly famous sites and attractions.

Price – free, but contains ads and some in-app purchases.

Weather
To make sure you’re well prepared and up-to-date with the weather, use the attractively animated Weather app, it’s especially handy to check this before you leave, in case there’s any changes to the expected conditions.

Price – free, but contains ads and some in-app purchases.

Untapp’d – Discover Beer

If you’re a fan of Beer and fancy uncovering some fantastic ales at local venues and events, then Untapp’d could be for you. Badges can also be collected for sampling different styles of beers.

Price – free.

Eight top tips for a more comfortable flight

Holiday travel tipsWith summer time upon us, many of us are eagerly counting down the days until we are lying on a beach, sipping on a refreshing drink and drenching in the sun.

Whilst some more frequent fliers may find their in-flight experience relatively unproblematic, others could view the combination of dry air and restricted movement a little less attractive.

Our own travel expert Ann Evison, has put together a list of useful tips to make your time on board as relaxing as possible.

Clever Seating

Those hoping to get a little extra legroom often go for front row exit seats, but don’t be fooled, as these aren’t usually reclinable. So, if you’re hoping for optimum seating comfort during your voyage, these should be avoided. Instead, why not opt for the row behind; you’ll have an increased sense of space, as you are guaranteed to not have someone reclining in front of you.

Bulkhead seats are also a good option for extra legroom, but, these will leave you without immediate access to your vital items, as they don’t contain seat pockets or under seat storage. If your neighbour is a regular toilet visitor, opting for a window seat will make sure you don’t have to keep getting up. If this sound like it could be you, your fellow passengers will be grateful if you choose the aisle seat.

If you notice there are ample amounts of empty seats on your selected flight, and you’d like to stretch out for a nap, politely speak to the cabin crew and ask to move somewhere else; they will usually accommodate your request.

Pick Carefully

The fantastic thing about flying these days is that more often than not all airlines list their in-flight entertainment and menus online. Being able to see this type of information is great if you have any particular dietary needs such as food intolerances like gluten or dairy or require a vegan meal. Get yourself organised and make the airline aware of this as early as possible. Pack some extra snacks in case you find yourself feeling hungry in between meals or if the food isn’t to your taste. It’s also handy if you’re travelling with little ones, as you can load your tablet with a few games or films if needed to make sure they are kept well occupied.

Feeling Fresh and Cosy

Dressing in comfy, loose clothing is necessary for a restful journey, especially when going on night and long haul flights. Taking off your make-up and contact lenses (if you wear them) and lathering on a generous helping of body lotion aids with this too, as your skin can feel quite dehydrated and dry from the recycled air. Miniature toiletries, such as face cream and make-up wipes are perfect for onboard use and you’re guaranteed to speed past security, due to their small size of less than a 100ml. To assist with circulation, try using an inflatable footrest, it also reduces swelling and makes your flight feel a lot comfier!

Preparation Is Key

Don’t forget to include two small plastic bags in your carry-on luggage. The first will be used for any liquids to get through the security and treat the second one as your go-to-bag; with all the essentials you’ll need throughout the journey, such as hand cream, chewing gum, a book, a small water bottle and a glasses case. Once you are on the plane, place your carry-on in the overhead locker and the bag in your seat; this will save time and won’t hold up anyone else, as you won’t be frantically searching for everything in your bag.

Flying travel tips

Acclimatise Yourself

If it’s doable, aim to adjust your body clock to your holiday destination a couple of days in advance, this way when you land you shouldn’t fall victim to the customary jet-lag and insomnia symptoms. Before you go for a nap, change the time on your watch to the time back at home. You shouldn’t feel as tired when you wake up, as your body will be fooled into believing it’s had the right amount of sleep.

Switch Off The Lights

If you have the option to do this, turn your phone and other electronic devices to ‘night mode’ also know as the ‘blue light filter’ before you’re about to go for a snooze. This will assist with making your journey more calming, as the blue light on the screen mimics daylight, which tells your brain to stay awake.

Quench Your Thirst

It is a well-known fact the airplanes hugely contribute to dehydration, this is why it is advised that you drink as much as half a litre of fluid for every hour you are on board.

A recent study revealed that milk, is even better a hydrating than water, so you know what to grab if you’re feeling extremely thirsty when you land!