Vilamoura Car Hire
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Vilamoura is a sophisticated and modern resort in the Algarve, southwest Portugal. While tourism in Portugal often features more basic or rustic offerings, Vilamoura (literally meaning ‘village of the Moors’) is more of an exclusive, holiday resort-type destination than the kind of quiet, rural retreat we often associate with trips to the Algarve. Famed for its golf courses, large marina (the largest in Portugal), casino and beach, it’s spread over 2,000 hectares and is one of Portugal’s most popular holiday destinations, one of the founding stones of the Algarve’s tourist legacy, and one-third of the ‘Golden Triangle’ of Algarve luxury resorts (Quinta do Lago and Val do Lobo being the other two). ‘Vilamoura’ commonly refers to the area or resort rather than a specific town or village.
You’ll find the Roman remains of a complex of Roman villas and bathhouses called Cerro da Vila here ̶ the Vilamoura area was an important fishing town and hub for the production of garum paste, a kind of fermented fish sauce popular in Roman times. The area’s history then seems largely unremarkable until Vilamoura was founded as a marina, which then morphed into the exclusive leisure and recreation resort it has now become.
Although the prices in Vilamoura might match the wallet sizes of its wealthier guests, Portugal is still cheaper than the UK (unsurprising these days) and nowhere is this more evident than the car hire deals available. At time of writing, a Volkswagen Up or similar (mini) costs just £11.51 a day, and the Citroen C3 (economy) is only £13.87 a day! Even a spacious 7-seater such as the Seat Alhambra—ideal for day trips with the whole family—is just £55 a day. Hire your vehicle with Enjoy to explore Portugal and Vilamoura for the ultimate in independent travel: but first, here’s some more about this stunning, modern resort.
- About Vilamoura: Known as the ‘Monaco of Portugal’, Vilamoura is a sophisticated hub for the rich and famous, celebrities, celebrity watchers, and anyone who wants a quality and exclusive holiday resort. Centred around its world-class marina and spreading outward you’ll find a village-resort with excellent 3-star to 5-star hotels, gourmet dining, stylish bars, designer shops, golf courses, a casino and a beach, to name just a few attractions.
The resort was founded by Portuguese banker Cupertino de Miranda in 1966, with the 800-berth marina opening in 1974 (the same year as the military coup). Apart from the (now) 1,000-berth Vilamoura Marina, there are six top golf courses, an international college, tennis courts, running and fitness areas, a sailing club, a shooting club, riding school, and conference rooms with a capacity of thousands - not to mention the bars, restaurants and clubs which give Vilamoura it’s lively holiday feel, including Portugal’s best-known club Kadoc. There are also thousands of holiday homes, not to mention accommodation for those lucky full-time residents.
- Airports and Access: Vilamoura is serviced by Faro Airport (FAO), also known as Algarve Airport, located west of the city of Faro. A hub airport since 2010, it’s busiest from March to October and processes 9 million passengers annually. Also, Seville Airport (SVQ) in southern Spain is just over two hours away by car, making it a useful transfer or connection alternative (there are no hard borders within the Schengen Zone of the EU, meaning you can simply drive into another country).
- Driving Around Vilamoura: There’s so much great motoring around Vilamoura and the surrounding Algarve ̶ a few of our best journeys:
Faro is the capital of the Algarve region. If you’re a history buff, it’s a great day trip from Vilamoura. The Neoclassical Arco de Vila is built on the site of an original 8th Century Moorish gate and wall, Faro cathedral dates back to the 13th Century, and the Municipal Museum is in a 16th Century convent. Faro is just 30 minutes’ drive along the N125/IC4.
Praia de Benagil (Benagil Beach) in Lagoa district has a small and picturesque beach, but its biggest tourist attractions are the famous Benagil Sea Caves. Located close to the world-famous Praia de Marinha—considered one of the best beaches in Europe by the Michelin Guide—these jaw-droppingly awesome caves are Portugal’s most popular. The only way to see them properly is to rent a boat, kayak, paddle board or boat tour and enjoy them from the water. You can reach Benagil in only 40 minutes from Vilamoura along the A22/N125.
If you need an almost-deserted beach, go to the towns of Cacela Velha and Manta Rota beaches in the eastern part of the Algarve, just 50 minutes by car from Vilamoura along the A22/N125. Both beaches are accessible from either town ̶ often near empty, their fine sandy expanses are a welcome oasis hidden from the overcrowded beaches found elsewhere.
If you’re in the Algarve, then visiting the region’s wild Atlantic coast is a must and it’s under two hours by car from Vilamoura. Vila Nova de Milfontes is in the Beja Region in the northwest of the Algarve. The looming, ominous cliffs of Cape Sardão and the natural solitude of Praia de Farol are the town’s hottest sightseeing spots. However, there’s history and culture aplenty ̶ visit the Fort des Milfontes, or stroll through the lovely public gardens.
The town of Tavira is located on the south coast of eastern Algarve. Inhabited since the Phoenicians around 800 BC, it was an important fishing port throughout its history, under the rule of the Romans, Moors, Conquistadors and others. It retains Moorish influence in architecture, agriculture and culture, as can be found in its whitewashed buildings and place names. It remains undeveloped and uncrowded, but that is changing so visit while you can!
- Famous Vilamoura: as no-one really lived in the Vilamoura region until the 1960s/70s, it hasn’t produced a long list of notable daughters and sons. Rather, it’s become a modern magnet for celebrities and others, often thanks to the golfing. There’s a choice of six superb golf courses on your doorstep, including the championship Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course, designed by legendary golfer Arnold Palmer and famous for hosting the Portugal Masters leg of the European Tour. Footballers like Luis Figo (who co-owns a bar at the marina called Bar Sete) and Cristiano Ronaldo have been spotted in Vilamoura, and the Algarve remains a popular vacation/second-home spot for English Premier League footballers too.
Guide to Vilamoura
Golf, Beaches, Boats and Casino
Founded initially as a marina, from the 1970s Vilamoura gradually became the purpose-built luxury resort we see today. It suffered something of a slump in the 90s, before being replenished and renewed along more environmentally friendly lines into its current incarnation. The splendid golf courses remain the main attraction in Vilamoura, but the huge marina is popular as a tourist spot in its own right ̶ it’s perfect for evening strolls with ice cream along the pontoons of sleek yachts. The beaches are expansive, and because the Algarve is quite compact you’re literally an hour or two away from many, many more. Vilamoura houses one of Portugal’s two casinos, and here you can play roulette, blackjack and poker, while there are 500 slot machines too.
City and Culture
The Vilamoura region doesn’t just mean golf and jet-setting celebs ̶ there are museums, art galleries, Moorish castles and historical sites such as the Cerro da Vila Roman ruins. The historic capital of the Algarve, Faro, is just a short drive away, as is the charm of the Old Quarter in Albufeira or the vintage market town of Loulé.
Sports and Pastimes
Aside from the world-class golfing available, Vilamoura in particular and the Algarve in general are packed with sport and leisure opportunities, and of course many are water-based, like jet skiing, banana boats, paragliding, parascending, kiteboarding, wakeboarding and paddle boarding. There are also theme parks, water parks and a mini-golf park, not to mention the tennis, riding, and other sports available.
What to do in Vilamoura?
The Vilamoura region is small enough to drive around in a day, which makes it perfect for exploring by car, and there’s plenty to see and do.
Vilamoura itself has few historical sites of interest, except the wonderful Cero da Vila, which houses the remains of Roman bathhouses, villas and mosaic floors and has a small museum attached, displaying artefacts found on site and bilingual descriptions throughout. However, elsewhere in the region there are centuries of history to soak up. The Old Town quarter of Faro is one of the Algarve’s most historic towns ̶ it’s a walled city of cobbled streets lined with orange trees and a unique cathedral. Elsewhere, the Castle of Aljezur sits high atop the village and river of Aljezur and dates to the 10th Century AD, during the Muslim occupation of the Iberian Peninsula. Subsequently in the 12th and 13th Centuries, after the peninsula reverted to Christianity, the castle was renovated several times. For breath-taking religious art, try the Church of São Lourenço de Almancil, just one of the many exceptional churches and cathedrals in Portugal.
Watersports rule in Vilamoura and you won’t be disappointed by the choice. Even if you’re not a yacht owner, it’s well worth chartering a guided boat to explore the shore with independence, and the large marina at the centre of the Vilamoura resort makes for a delightful evening walk among the yachts and boats moored there.
Party time and family fun
Vilamoura has a lively, resort-like feel, but if it’s raucous nights on the town you’re after, Albufeira is a better choice (something the locals seem keen to highlight as well). Nevertheless, there’s plenty of nightlife in Vilamoura, including nightclubs. For the whole family, how about go-karting (and more) at the Karting Almancil theme park, or a bit of laser tag at the Funny Farm in Quarteira?
Eating out in Vilamoura
Vilamoura has all the multi-ethnic, international cuisine you’d expect from a luxury resort, as well as local favourites, and of course, seafood. Here’s a few of Vilamoura’s best eateries:
First up is Emo, which features in the Michelin Guide Portugal, 2020. The focus is on modern cuisine with a Mediterranean feel (end they have excellent tasting menus), the interior is very comfortable, and you can dine with a great view of the golf course.
Our next Michelin-starred eatery is Willie’s. Situated on the Rua do Brasil, it offers great cooking and nicely presented cuisine with an international focus, and there’s outside seating available. Booking essential!
Sublime Seafood and Local Snacks
Seafood restaurants in the Algarve are plentiful. Fish and shellfish are very important elements in Algarve cuisine and there is a great range of fresh fish available all year round.
Simply grilled over charcoal it is hard to beat the fresh taste of sea bass, sea bream, mackerel or sardine. In many Algarve seafood restaurants, the catch of the day is sold by weight ̶ select your fish, check the weight and then the chefs will do their thing. Just some of the seafood widely available includes prawns, crab, lobster, mussels, oysters, clams, whelks, octopus and squid.
Restaurante Teide Flor is unfortunately located at a busy junction, but it’s one of the best cafes in Vilamoura. Popular with locals (so you know the food is good) it serves staples such as French fries but also more local dishes like bocadillos. And as it’s on a main road it’s the ideal place to stop off for lunch on the way somewhere.
Spice of life
For excellent Indian food, try the highly rated United Kitchens of India. The food is outstanding both off- and on-menu, there are tasting courses, and the chefs will be happy to turn their imagination and expertise to creating something unique for you.
Transport in Vilamoura
The Vilamoura region is served by Faro Airport (FAO), also known as Algarve Airport and situated just west of the city of Faro. Enjoy partners not only with global brands like Avis, Dollar, Hertz and Sixt at Faro Airport, but also with up-and-coming local brands like Centaur, Drive4Fun and Keddy by Europcar.
Buses and Trains
Public transport in Portugal is generally safe, clean, cheap and efficient. The bus service in Vilamoura is excellent, although it’s worth noting that the blue-sign ‘Normal’ service denotes the non-express buses, while the red-sign ‘Directa’ buses are express buses which do not stop at the same points and are faster (they also run less, e.g. not on Saturdays, Sundays or holidays). The nearest train station to Vilamoura is Loule, about 20 minutes’ distance. Consider using the Vilamoura Tourist Train, which looks childish but is actually really useful. It starts at Praia da Marina (Hotel Vila Galé) and departs every day on the hour stopping at various points in Vilamoura.
Drive on the right-hand side of the road in Vilamoura. The speed limits are: 120 km/h on the motorway, 100 km/h (60 mph) on expressways, 90 km/h (50mph) on other roads and 50 km/h (30 mph) in built-up areas. Furthermore:
Drivers must carry an international driving licence, passport, insurance documents, MOT certificate if the car is more than three years old, and car hire documents.
Speed traps are common so don’t be tempted to speed (even though the locals probably will).
Using your phone while driving is illegal.
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