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The Most Beautiful Beaches in the Algarve

Whatever the reason for visiting the Algarve, do not give in to the temptation to miss the stunning beaches.  They are not like beaches in other popular holiday destinations such as Spain.  For a start, the beaches in the Algarve are not on the Med but the Atlantic, so there is a proper tide, big waves and the beaches are just a bit wilder, especially as you go west: wherever you are, you are never far from a really good beach.  Almost all have the coveted EU blue flag for water quality and while some may get crowded, you don’t have to go far to get off the beaten track.  Here is the first of an occasional series of some of the best beaches, starting off with the Central Algarve which is where you will find the beaches that are likely to be closest to where you are staying.

Praia da Marinha

Praia da Marinha from Beaches in the Algarve

Praia da Marinha, Luis Ascensa, (Creative Commons)

 

In the most central part of the Algarve, Praia da Marinha is the classic picture postcard beach that regularly shows up in lists of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and appears on lots of postcards and posters. The eroded limestone forms outcrops, arches and caves that are very photogenic and great fun. Snorkelling is superb, as the sea is particularly clear, and the rocks continue out to sea. The white sand may hold your interest all day, but boats depart from here for very scenic tours of the sea caves along the coast. It has restaurant, WCs and car park.

Praia do Ançao

From Faro in the east to Olhos d’Agua in the west runs a continuous stretch of smooth white sand along which are lots of the area’s most famous beaches. Praia do Ancao is a continuation of the Quinta do Lago beach (but with free parking) and has a wide, clean, sandy beach surrounded by dunes, protected from development as it forms the western end of the Ria Formosa National Park. It is usually much less crowded than some other beaches in the area. One of the best fish restaurants in the Algarve Dois Passos is here, built on stilts right by the sand and where you can eat indoors with amazing glass walls, or upstairs on the open terrace.

Olhos d’Agua

Head a bit further towards Faro and you come to the village of Olhos D’Agua with its delightful beach. The rocks and cliffs here are very good for climbing.  Flat rocks jut out into the bay and at low tide you can scramble over them and explore the rock pools. On the sand are rock formations and caves rather like on the Praia da Marinha.

Praia da Gale

Gale is a quiet residential area a few kilometres to the west of Albufeira. The beach is 4km running over to Armacao de Pera, perfect for running or walking. At the eastern end are sheltered rocky coves, good rock pools and wild rocky fun, and to the west end it is wider, more open and spacious but generally it is wide, sandy and beautiful. The great thing here is that you just walk and walk until you get tired or find a nice bit. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes (mainly around Gale).   At the eastern end is also the Vila Joya hotel and restaurant, with 2 Michelin stars.

Praia da Gale, near Albufeira (Isa Costa, <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/legalcode">Creative Commons)</a>

Praia da Gale, near Albufeira (Isa Costa, Creative Commons)

 

Santa Eulalia Beach

A very pretty, smaller beach about 3km east of Albufeira, almost a secret and quieter than the other beaches in the area. Just off the beach is a strip of restaurants and cafes and a good hotel. The beach backs onto attractive and dramatic cliffs, with a couple of beachfront villas nestling into them.

 Meia Praia

Stretching for 4km alongside the lively town of Lagos, this is a fun, sociable beach that fills up with all sorts and more but always has plenty of spare sand even if it does get busy sometimes. Several good bars and restaurants are on the beach itself, so you can make a day of it here.

meia praia

Praia da Luz

Just a bit further along the coast in a lovely bay surrounded by cliffs and high ground is Praia da Luz. The town is built around the beach, so everything is convenient and you can walk off the beach to any number of restaurants, bars, shops or anything else. Villas that are very close to the beach are also easier to find here. A fun beach, you can often find things such as sand sculpture competitions at different times of year, and sailing dinghies and windsurfers are available for rental.

Gale Beach, the Algarve

Approach to Gale Beach, by Isa Costa (CC license)

 

Spanish regional fiestas: celebrate baby jumping, the throwing of goats and tomatoes

One of the things that makes Spain such a fascinating place to visit is a very strong sense of local culture and traditions which go back centuries and vary widely from one village to the next.   When planning a trip try to plan some of these in to your itinerary.  Wherever you go you will find something going on not too far away, and usually the best way to find out is to ask somebody on the ground as things can change from one year to the next.  Every village and every town will have its own things going on, but here are some ideas, including the famous and the downright unusual, to get started.


La Tomatina, Valencia: a riot of colour and fun, don’t bring your good clothes. Valencia may be famous for its oranges, but the nearby town of Bunol is just as famous for its tomatoes – or rather what people there do with them. On the last Wednesday of every August, the charming town gets very messy when after a week of processions and lower-key celebrations, trucks full of tomatoes arive from all over Spain and up to 20,000 revellers proceed to make a complete mess, throwing squashed tomatoes at anything that moves.
Follow Palmer&Parker Holidays’s board La Tomatina, Valencia on Pinterest.


Baby jumping: held each year in Burgos.  Dating back to 1620, this festival is truly hair-raising: babies born in the preceeding 12 months are lined up on mattresses in the main street and grown men dressed as the devil run and leap over them.  This is supposed to cleanse them of evil.  The babies are then showered with rose petals.


New Year’s Eve in the summer, Berchules, Sierra Nevada: the New Year’s Eve of 1994 was a famous washout with a powercut that destroyed festivities, so the people of Berchules in the Sierra Nevada mountains took matters into their own hands and now celebrate the new year not once but twice per year.  The first time is at year’s end and the second time is on the first Saturday in August.  The village once again decks itself out for Christmas with nativity scenes, Christmas trees and carols broadcast from public address systems. Celebrations take place through the day leading up to the chiming of midnight.


Goat throwing!  On the third Sunday of each January, the little town of Manganeses de la Polvorosa celebrates the life of a long-forgotten saint by throwing a goat from the top of the church.  It is hard on the goat but usually they catch it.


Easter processions on Good Friday, pretty much anywhere on the mainland and islands.  In a tradition that goes back to the middle ages, the Semana Santa processions are staged by religious brotherhoods who dress in penitential robes and distinctive tall, pointed hoods.  Each town, village and area adds its own distinctive touch to the celebrations.


Closer to the Costa del Sol, the Gaucin Bullrun About half an hour inland from the coast, the village of Gaucin kicks off the year’s celebrations with its own version of the famous bullrun: the roads are closed off and a bull is chased through the streets by people who didn’t sleep much the night before. very dangerous but maybe worth a look if interested!


Algarve Motorway Tolls Explained

If you haven’t been to the Algarve before (or even just for a few years) then the new toll system on the A22 motorway might be something of a surprise.  It is actually not new (it has been in operation in Portugal since 1991) but it is new to the Algarve, and it is actually very good: in brief, here is how it works.

You may be more used to road tolls in countries like France where you queue up at a window, fumble for change, pay your money and drive on.  The difference is that in Portugal, no people or cash are involved: instead the car is recorded electronically as it passes the toll points and 48 hours later you can go to a post office to pay the toll.

It is a good system (you don’t have to slow down and there are no queues at the toll points) but going to the post office 2 days later is a bit of a pain, especially if there is a queue there, and it is easy to forget (in which case you get fined).  The biggest problem will  be when you are driving back to the airport: if you are flying out of Portugal, how will you get to the post office the next day?

When you pick up a hire car, most companies will offer you an electronic box at a nominal charge of typically about 2€ per day.  The gadget is usually already installed and beeps as you pass the toll point.  The money is taken from your card, usually at just the public tariff, and you don’t need to do anything else.  Many people say ‘no thanks’ to all the extras at the car hire desks: by all means say ‘no’ to everything else but not the road toll box!

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The Algarve Children’s Activities

With hundreds of miles of unspoilt beaches, beautiful scenery and matchless golf, Portugal is rightly one of the top destinations for family visits in Europe. It is an especial hit with children as well: everybody loves a pool but there is more to it than that. The Algarve loves children and they are entirely welcome in all restaurants and cafes at any time of day, and when the beaches and the pool get tiresome (as if!) there is still plenty for them to do. The following is just a sample of possible days out from the villa, in all parts of the Algarve.

Slide and Splash, Lagoa. More than just a waterpark, this offers at least a day’s worth of thrills and excitement and is highly recommended: something fun for all ages including the large shallow children’s area with dragon and elephant slide and the tunnel slides and Blue Hole. Gets excellent reviews , site here (in Portuguese). (Open 1 April to 31 October, 26€ for adults, 19€ for children.)

Fiesa Sand Sculptures: unusual and definitely a must-see. An annual event since 2003, covering 15000 m2 and created by teams of sculptors from around the world, the effect is baffling in its brilliance and the theme this year is music. You are encouraged to get sandy and creative, and there are workshops and demonstrations. Opening time is from 10am to 10pm up to 14 July, then open until midnight. The evening, when the lights add another dimension, is particularly recommended. At Pera: more information on 282 317 084

Riding at Pine Trees: in a lovely area just between Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo, professional and well-run riding stable, child friendly with happy horses offering individual lessons, hacks and trecking in the pine forests and along the coast. Not the cheapest but worth it. Approved by the BHRS. +351 289 394 369 More details on their Facebook page

Boat Trips: Maybe a bit slow for some thrillseekers, but nobody can say that the sight of dolphins in the wild is dull! As you walk through the marina in Vilamoura, Lagos or Albufeira you will come across lots of organised tours, or splash out and organise your own boat for the day, and do what you want to do. Dolphin watching, deep sea fishing and jetskiing (only for the older ones) are all possible. (Algarve Seafaris 289 302318 in Vilamoura, or Dream Wave at Albufeira Marina have been recommended strongly, but there are lots of others to choose from if availability is tight.)


This photo of Sealife is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Hot Wheels Karting, Albufeira Marina: fun and fast, smelly and dirty and guaranteed to be more exciting than the pool. The underground track has 12 corners and a long straight with powerful 4 stroke gokarts. From 15€ up, depending on how many races etc, student discounts. http://www.algarvekarting.com/ ,

Parque Aventura: get back to nature in the assault course in the treetops where adults and children of 4 and above (minimum 1 metre height) can dangle, slide and climb on the ropes using climbing harnesses.  Make your way along 4 increasingly vertiginous treetop rope courses. Stop where you like – the last one is really quite scary! If that isn’t enough adrenaline there is paintballing as well. 2pm – 6pm daily. http://www.lusoaventura.com/en/the-adventure-parks.html

Wherever you are in the Algarve, local tourist information offices are enormously helpful and keen to help.

Some of the Best Villas with Saunas in Spain

What can you add to the house that has it all? How about a sauna for ultimate relaxation? Here is a list of some of the best villas with saunas in the Marbella area


perlasauna

Perla Rosa, Sierra Blanca, Costa del Sol

Up the hill behind the Marbella Club with stunning 180 degree views of the coast and the sea, Perla Rosa sleeps up to 17 in two buildings and has traditiional Scandinavian sauna alongside the large fully equipped gym in the separate guest house. It also has games room, home cinema, private floodlit tennis court, and big heated pool.

More details…


Villa Golfe, El Paraiso, Marbella

Beautiful, spacious villa with infinity pool, jacuzzi, gym and sauna, in a large garden of half an acre with huge terraces and views over the golf course to the sea. Air conditioning in the three twin bedrooms and two doubles, constantly upgraded and improved.

More details…


Cloud Nine, Flamingos Golf, Marbella

Very large villa with everything, including choice of indoor and outdoor pool, gym, sauna and separate steamroom, tennis court and catering space for up to 200. A lift serves all floors, and the the living room, kitchen and dining room are surrounded by floor-to-ceiling glass. More details…


Martinete, Puerto Banus, Costa del Sol

Superb location on the seafront in Puerto Banus, landscaped garden with inset pool is private but leads directly onto the beach. Furnishings are exceptional. Downstairs is the indoor pool with sauna, bar and dancefloor. Seven bedrooms and roof terrace with separate kitchens and knockout views upstairs More details…


Some of the Best Villas near the Sea

Beach or pool? Pool or beach? It can sometimes be quite hard to decide. Here is a quick list of villas that make the decision harder – very close to the beach but with lovely private pools.


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A Colina, Praia da Luz, Algarve, Portugal
Sleeps up to 11.Lovely family villa with boules, pool table and satellite TV just 250 metres from the beach and a short walk from shops and restaurants. More details…

 

 


Image10Atlantico 93, Quinta do Lago, Algarve, Portugal
Sleeps up to 12. Outstanding location with views down the Ria Formosa and out to sea: superb interiors and equipment. One of the best villas (if not the best) available in Quinta do Lago. Available for last minute bookings up to the week of 9 August. More details…




Image61064 Vale do Lobo, Algarve, Portugal
Sleeps up to 10. Just 50 metres from the beach, this is an impressive modern house with architecture and interior design in harmony with the beach setting: spacious and airy with lovely matte American oak floors, and attractive light soft furnishings. Week of 30 August still available. More details…


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Anastasia, Villefranche-sur-Mer, South of France
Sleeps up to 8. Villefranche is one of the world’s most picturesque harbours and this villa is perched above the bay with views of the sea and over to Cap Ferrat. Look down on the yachts from the beautiful inset pool.
More details…


Image2Villa Chloe, Cap d’Antibes, South of France
Sleeps up to 10. Fully refurbished for summer 2014:very attractive and in a stunning location with beaches and restaurants walking distance and interiors of the highest standard. Available before 26 July and from 9 August.
More details…


Image7Villa Santa Eulalia, dos Bicos Beach, Algarve, Portugal

Sleeps up to 12.A beautiful house on high ground with lovely sea views and a short walk from the Dos Bicos beach just outside Albufeira. 12-metre pool, jacuzzi and large flat lawn. The living room has sliding glass on three sides so that it can be opened up to let the sea breezes through. More details…


Image9Martinete, Puerto Banus, Marbella, Spain

Sleeps up to 14. One of Marbella’s top properties right on the beach at Puerto Banus with beautiful views. There are two pools (indoors and outdoors) and very good outdoor space on a number of terraces and balconies including the roof terrace from which views are spectacular. More details…

Things to do in Praia da Luz

When we first started in Praia da Luz (in the early 70s!) it was really just a modest fishing village, but a very scenic and attractive one.  Since then there has been development but nothing like in other parts of the Algarve: of course tourism is important but it remains low-rise and has a villagey feel that people keep coming back to.  (For that the vibe is relaxing so if it’s nightclubs you want then it probably isn’t the right choice.)

Whereas other parts of the Algarve may revolve around golf or other activities Praia da Luz centres on the beach which is wide sandy and really very nice, with a black cliff at one end.  Even in summer it is not as crowded as beaches elsewhere in the Algarve.

Praia da Luz: the beach

Just off the beach is a cobbled area with a choice of cafes and restaurants, and artists will often show their sculptures and paintings here; often amazing sand sculptures that can take several days in the making.  The beach has showers, sun beds and parasols, and you can hire water sports equipment or go on thrill rides pulled behind power boats.  Luz beach holds the coveted EU Blue Flag for cleanliness.

This area has been inhabited since before the Romans.  Remnants of the Roman settlement remain in the village: have a look at the Roman bathhouse just near the beach.

In a compact area at the centre of the village are a wide variety of shops and restaurants, all within easy walking distance of rental villas that are scattered around the village. Because you can walk to shops and restaurants, a car is not strictly necessary as it may be in other parts of the Algarve, but if you have one then you can really take advantage:  Slide and Splash at Lagoa is a waterslide park that makes a fun day out for children as is the Zoomarine at Guia (a bit further at about 30 minutes drive). Golf courses are all around, starting at about a 5 minute drive from the centre of the village.  Head further west and you come to the west-facing Atlantic coast and beaches such at Praia da Amado where the surf is said to be fantastic

Lagos is the nearest town and about 5-10 minutes away: it is a very attractive and formerly very important port guarded by a 14th Century fort, with a picturesque marina, fish market and main avenue that runs down the length of the the town with many cobbled streets and squares behind it.  A boat trip from here to explore the grottoes that lie along the coast is unforgettable.  The other side of Lagos is the 4km sandy Meia Praia beach.

 

Planning the Perfect Villa Holiday in the Algarve

With a just over three hour flight time, a warm sunny climate and a series of stunning beaches, golf courses and shopping areas, the Algarve might make a perfect choice for your next holiday. Relax beside your private pool, soak up the sun and take in the breathtaking views. Those looking for a more active break will find some of the best golf in the world, or try their hand at surfing, scuba diving and other water sports, discovering hidden gems on a boat or walking trip.

 

Villas in Albufeira

As one of the biggest and best known resorts in the Algarve, Albufeira is a stunning location with cobbled streets and picture perfect beaches. The area attracts visitors from all over the world and its lively nightlife with many chic bars and nightclubs is a hit with all ages. Those looking for a slightly quieter holiday can stay near the old town with its beautiful squares, quaint cafes and restaurants.

Our handpicked villas in or near the Albufeira region include Linucia, a luxury rental on the beach of Praia da Gale. With direct access to the beach and views which must be seen to be believed, this villa sleeps 12 and has exclusive grounds containing a tennis court, large pool area and billiard room. Enjoy meals on your private terrace or head to the nearby Vila Joya Michelin-starred restaurant for some fine dining.

Villas in Praia da Luz

A favourite with UK visitors, Praia da Luz has a beautiful beach and dozens of shops, cafes, bars and restaurants along the long promenade. A hit with families, the resort has a nearby zoo, go karting track, and water park – great for a day out with the kids.

A Colina is our Praia da Luz holiday rental which sleeps up to 11 guests. Make the most of the spectacular sea views from the upper level swimming pool or enjoy a game or two of boules on the lower level. Within walking distance from the centre, this ideal villa is in a great location. Entertain in the courtyard with a BBQ, spend your mornings catching some rays on one of the private terraces or head to the new golf course just a 10 minute drive away.

Villas in Quinta do Lago

As an exclusive golf resort, Quinta do Lago is great for those looking for a luxury golfing getaway. As well as superb courses, the area is great for families with a beach, lake, plenty of shops and dozens of activities on offer.

There are many luxury villas in this exclusive location, and we’ve handpicked some of the best on offer to ensure you holiday in style. Jacaranda is an incredible holiday home with full air conditioning, modern interiors and a heated pool. Sleeping up to eight guests, you can relax in spacious bedrooms with terraces and there is even an outdoor play area to keep the little ones occupied. The outdoor kitchen area is great for BBQs and garden parties, whilst arm chairs and sofas allow you to catch some rays in sheer, luxurious comfort.

Villas in Vale do Lobo

The luxury beach and golf resort of Vale do Lobo has received awards for being the best golf resort in Portugal. With many sporting events, concerts and plenty to see and do here, it’s easy to say why the resort is a popular choice for villa holidays.

Sleeping up to 8 guests, Villa Begonia is ideal for families and has a private pool with fencing to ensure little ones are safe when playing in the beautiful garden. With heaps of entertaining space, Begonia is a great choice for families and groups.

For more information on booking your ideal Algarve holiday, get in touch with our expert team today.

Luxury Holiday Rentals in the Costa del Sol

With stunning landscapes, beautiful beaches and charming villages, the Costa del Sol is a perfect destination for all ages. A favourite hotspot for the rich and famous, the resort of Marbella should not be missed. Known as the St Tropez of Spain, the cosmopolitan town has dozens of fine restaurants, bars and beaches where you can take in the spectacular scenery. Explore the winding, pretty back streets of the old town or relax with some fine wine and tapas in an exclusive beach bar.

Villa Rentals in Marbella

We have a wide selection of handpicked luxury villas in Marbella.

Those wanting to celebrate a special occasion in style should spend some time on Cloud Nine – our incredible holiday home nestled in the hillside. Sleeping 20, you can catch up with family and friends whilst taking in the breathtaking mountain and sea views. With an indoor and outdoor pool and entertaining space for up to 200 people, Cloud Nine is an ideal party house. Floor to ceiling windows allow you to really take in the extraordinary views, and the sauna and gym are great for catching up on some quality ‘me time’.

For a getaway with just your closest family or friends, Villa Pipitas is the perfect solution. Located right by the popular Los Naranjos Golf Course and just a short drive from the shops and restaurants, this villa is fully equipped with four bedrooms, a private outdoor pool and beautiful terrace that is perfect for alfresco dining.

Be sure to take a look at the Golfe villa. Sleeping 8, this magnificent rental has an incredible infinity pool with views overlooking the sea and nearby golf course. With the beach, shops and restaurants just a short walk away, this secluded rental is in the ideal location. Spend your evenings having heaps of fun in the games room or simply relax with a glass of champagne in the Jacuzzi.

The Eastern region of Puerto Banus really is the gem of Marbella with an amazing marina and exclusive beach clubs where you can brush shoulders with celebrities. Our Martinete villa is the perfect holiday rental for experiencing this luxury region. Sleeping 14, you can relax by the outdoor or heated indoor pool and make the most of the breathtaking sea views.

Things to Do in Marbella

Those looking for a spot of adventure can hire their own yacht, or why not try your hand at jet skiing or wake boarding? For avid golfers there are plenty of beautiful courses and for little ones there is an aquarium, crocodile park, and water park. You can also visit the bonsai museum which houses over 300 hundred miniature trees. Treat yourself at the many shopping centres or simply kick back and relax at your luxury villa.

Situated just an hour from Gibraltar, those staying in Marbella can head over to the rock and enjoy dolphin and whale watching, or a trip to Apes Den where you’ll see hundreds of monkeys hanging around near the cable-car station. The nearby city of Malaga also has many fine restaurants and lively bars. Be sure to visit the extraordinary 17th century cathedral and many museums.

Book your luxury Marbella villa holiday today or call one of our experts for advice and help with your booking.

Organising Your Perfect Villa Holiday

Whether it’s a short break in Spain, a spot of relaxation in the South of France or two weeks of sun, sea and sand in the Caribbean, a villa holiday is the ideal solution.

Make the most of spending time with friends and family in your own private hideaway. Relax beside the pool in your beautifully maintained garden whilst your chef prepares a delicious lunch for you to enjoy on the terrace. Your holiday should revolve completely around you, so avoid the constraints of set meal times and noisy guests in hotels and book a luxury getaway.

Step 1: Choosing Your Destination

With so many amazing destinations to choose from this is often easier said than done. If you’re just looking for a relaxing holiday in the sun then every location we offer is suitable. Browse our villas to find a rental which best suits your party.

  • The Algarve has something to suit everyone from designer stores and excellent golf courses to water parks and white sandy beaches.
  • The South of France is perfect for those looking for a spot of luxury with its chic resorts, spectacular scenery and rich culture.
  • With just a two – three hour flight time from UK airports and plenty for everyone to see and do, the Costa del Sol is a great destination for all ages. Marbella has a real cosmopolitan feel with excellent nightclubs, bars, restaurants and boutique stores.
  • The Caribbean should certainly not be crossed off your holiday wish list and is great for those looking to travel earlier on in the year (January – April). Head to St Lucia to enjoy a tropical paradise or visit Ocho Rios to experience the natural beauty of Jamaica.

If you’re still unsure which destination is right for your party, get in touch with us today. We are happy to offer our advice and expertise to ensure you enjoy the villa holiday of a lifetime.

Step 2: Decide Who is Going

Perhaps you just want a week in the sun with your children or maybe you’d like to celebrate a special occasion with 10 of your closet family and friends? Start planning your villa holiday by making a list of everyone you wish to invite. To ensure you have a wide choice of holiday homes, it’s best to book as soon as possible, so give attendees around a week to respond.

Step 3: Choosing Your Villa

We have villas to suit all parties. Enjoy a home from home with modern or traditional interiors, your own private pool, air conditioning and spectacular countryside or sea views.

Great for golfing holidays, with three of the best courses in Europe, the resort of Quinta Do Lago, Algarve is great for avid golfers, whilst still having superb beaches, shopping centres and activities for the whole family to enjoy. Head to this beautiful region and spend a week with your family and friends in our Abril villa, which sleeps 12. With its unique design, marble floors, heated outdoor pool and brilliant views of the championship golf course, Abril offers everything for a perfect villa holiday in the Algarve.

Looking for something spectacular to celebrate a special occasion? How about a week or two in your own French chateau? Sleeping 46, Chateau de St-Loup, located in Loire Valley, has 125 acres of private gardens and parkland and heaps of entertaining space. With luxury 17th century interiors, this chateau is ideal for weddings and other big events.

Fancy your own private villa right on the beach? Sleeping  7, the elegant La Pereza villa in Marbella is great for a chilled out break with family and friends. Cool off in your own private pool which overlooks the white sandy beach.

Step 4: Book Your Villa Holiday

Shortlist a few of our incredible villas and simply give us a call to check availability and book. As ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents) members, you can be sure you’re booking your perfect holiday. Our exclusive villas are all handpicked, each with their own unique style, so we can offer something for everyone.