The Algarve – Portugal’s main tourist destination located on the south coast is a direct 3 hour flight from Belfast, so it’s easy to get to too, even if you choose to fly via London or Dublin.
Our boutique bolt-hole, the Tivoli Victoria, is a luxurious five-star resort hotel just five minutes inland from the town of Vilamoura.
A short 30 minute drive from Faro airport, it’s hailed as the best hotel in the area, if not the whole of the Algarve.
Not long after checking in, I was stretched out on a bed in the hotel’s Banyan Tree spa, as Bonnie the therapist got to work on my knotted muscles and hunched-up shoulders.
The luxurious, and ever-so tranquil, Elements Spa By Banyan Tree, is one of the most respected spa brands in the world, from one of the best hotel groups.
They take a holistic approach to physical and spiritual well-being here, and the treatments draw on ancient Asian traditions.
There’s everything from hot stone massages to head-to-toe facials and foot treatments, but I opted for the spa’s ultra-indulgent signature Rainmist Rejuvenation.
It started with a soothing foot bath and a herbal drink, before moving on to a steam bath and a herbal salt scrub.
But that’s not all, as the treatment then concludes with a rain shower and a choice of massage. In all, it’s a two-and-a-half-hour pampering session that will leave you in a state of total and utter bliss.
There are seven treatment rooms, plus an indoor heated pool, a veranda with loungers, a sauna and a Jacuzzi plus hydro-massage and relaxation area.
But the Elements spa is just one of the many highlights of the Tivoli Victoria, and, as I found out, lots of Northern and Southern Irish guests choose to vacation here.
With a choice of rooms, from the presidential suite to double and twin rooms, and views overlooking the central outdoor pool and lounger area, as well as the golf course, there’s accommodation to suit every need, from girly weekend breaks, to romantic holidays and family getaways.
After a day spent by the pool or being pampered in the spa, you may think that life can’t get any better or more relaxed. But a great night’s sleep awaits you too, as the Tivoli group is rightly famous for its ultra-comfy T/Bed.
Golfers will appreciate the hotel’s highly-rated Arnold Palmer-designed golf resort and foodies will love the gourmet restaurant, EMO, and the evening buffet in the Sensorial restaurant.
Nearby, you’ll find the tourist resort of Albufeira, with its picturesque old town, narrow shop-filled lanes and sandy beach, or you can spend a day in Aqualand (www.aqualand.pt) or visit the Zoomarine Oceanographic Park or Lagos Zoo (www.zoolagos.com).
After dark, Albufeira is the place to go to for nightlife, cocktail bars and several Irish pubs, or you can pop into Vilamoura itself, a five minute taxi ride from the hotel.
Here you’ll find the Victoria’s sister hotel, the five-star Tivoli Marina Vilamoura with its own beach, spa and open-air restaurant.
For the perfect winter sun break, both the Tivoli and the Algarve itself has got the lot.
Tivoli Victoria, Av dos Descobrimentos, Vilamoura, Portugal. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.tivolihotels.com.
Tivoli Marina Vilamoura, Apartado 65, Marina Vilamoura, Portugal. Email: email@example.com, www.tivolihotels.com.