Western Algarve resort surfs up a treat away from the golf course!

Resorts in the central and western Algarve are famous for world-class golf, but head west and one resort is making a name around the world for another activity – surfing.

The 100-acre Martinhal Beach Resort in Sagres is the first 5-star surf destination in Portugal. Surrounded by the Costa Vicentina National Park, it has been recognized as a surf hot spot in Europe, even in the winter months thanks to the Algarve’s balmy year-round climate.

Sagres is becoming recognized as one of the best surf spots, offering both south and west-facing coastlines and providing fine surf conditions for all surfer levels, regardless of the swell and wind direction. There are 22 beaches within a 30-minute drive from the resort. For beginners, the best beaches are Castelejo, Amado, Carrapateira and Arrifana, while more experienced surfers can enjoy beaches at Ponta Ruiva, Cordoama and Vale Figueiras.

Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel offers surf adventures for all the family. Experienced surfer instructors provide surf lessons on a daily basis for different ages and skills, keeping everyone focused on catching the best wave. During the lessons, kids and adults will learn about surf safety information, ocean awareness and different surf techniques needed to stand on the board. All the necessary equipment is included.

The resort features a 37 bedroom 5-star hotel and a selection of more than 150 spacious 1 to 5 bedroom Villages, 4 heated pools, gym, Spa with Jacuzzi, steam room and sauna, tennis courts, kids clubs, 3 restaurants and a family surf bar.

For residents or owners of property on the Algarve, learning to surf at Martinhal could make an exciting break away from the golf course.

Portugal’s Golden Visa going from strength to strength in 2014

Portugal’s appeal to foreign investors is continuing to grow, after reports in July confirmed that the country’s Golden Visa investment scheme has earned Portugal more in revenue during the first six months of 2014 than it did during the whole of last year.

According to Portugal’s SEF immigration office, by June the amount of funds brought into the country by Golden Visa candidates had reached €417 million, €100 million more than the €307 million generated by the scheme during the whole of 2013. A total of 670 new Golden Visas were issued during the first six months of 2014. This is good news for the mid to high end of the property market in Portugal, which in includes luxury villas in the Algarve.

The Golden Visa scheme gives foreign investors from outside the EU who invest in private property or a company in Portugal the right to live in the country. Successful candidates are also free to travel around the EU, thanks to the Schengen Agreement, and after six years they can apply for Portuguese citizenship.

To qualify for the Golden Visa scheme, candidates have the choice of investing €1 million in a public or private company or fund, setting up a business and creating 10 new jobs or buying property, which can be any type commercial, residential or land for a minimum value of €500,000.

Property can be owned jointly and loans can be obtained to finance properties over and above the €500,000 equity stake. An applicant can apply to bring his or her spouse and his under age children as well as those who are students, who do not have to be in full time education as long as they are attending a recognised course. Dependent parents (ie, those who are over retirement age) may also join the applicant.

Ryanair flying high with more flights and plans to become No.1 in Portugal

Holidaymakers and homeowners in Portugal may soon find themselves flying more frequently with low-cost airline Ryanair, after the carrier confirmed in June its ambition to become Portugal’s largest airline operator.

The bold plans were higlighted by Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary at the same time as the carrier announced new winter routes, which will connect Lisbon with Bremen, Eindhoven, Milan and Rome, and Porto with Bremen and Brussels. Meanwhile the frequency of flights between Lisbon and both London and Brussels is expected to be boosted.

“We’re the second biggest [airline] in Lisbon and we’re already leading in Porto and Faro”, Michael O’Leary told the press, adding that over the next three or four years, “working together with ANA [the airports authority], we will be able to become the number one airline in Portugal”.

Meanwhile, there are no signs that Ryanair will resurrect its service between Lisbon and Faro – evidence suggests that travellers between the two cities are just as happy using the motorway.

In other Ryanair news that should benefit families travelling to Portugal, including those with property in the Algarve, the airline has launched its new Family Extra scheme. A spokesperson explained: “Families booking with Ryanair can now avail of discounted seating, baggage and insurance for children, a reduced infant fee and 5kg infant bag allowance, bottle warming and changing facilities on board, bring two free pieces of infant equipment, and can bring a car seat on board when they book a seat. And with our Fly & Save bonus, families who fly twice with Family Extra can enjoy 20 per cent off their third flight booking.”

Rate cut and exchange rate will make euro mortgages cheaper for UK buyers

Buying conditions for British people in Portugal are set to get friendlier, thanks to the combined effect of a fall in the value of the euro and the arrival in June of conditions for cheaper euro mortgages.

The changes came about after the European Central Bank historically imposed a negative interest rate for banks keeping money on deposit, and at the same time reduced the central re-financing rate to 0.15 per cent from 0.25 per cent, which typically influence mortgage rates set by banks within the Eurozone.

This is the sixth ECB rate cut in the last two-and-a-half years and means the monthly payment of a tracker mortgage on a €300,000 loan by is around €240 a month less compared to in the autumn 2011. Meanwhile, Sterling has hovered around an 18-month high against the euro, adding further impetus to the buying power of Britons in depressed property markets in southern Europe, including Portugal.

Most mortgages in Portugal are variable, so borrowers will feel the immediate effect of the recent rate cut. Rates are typically around the 4 per cent mark for foreign borrowers and loan-to-value available can vary from 50 to 80 per cent.

British buyers considering a home loan in Portugal should remember the exchange rate can go the other, meaning monthly mortgage repayments could go up if the euro strengthens. One way to minimise this exposure is to forward purchase with a fixed exchange rate enough euros to cover repayments for six months or a year, thereby fixing your monthly outgoings in pounds.

Algarve to welcome global golfing industry for launch of new awards

The Algarve has been chosen to host the first ever World Golf Awards, an international event launched this year to celebrate and reward excellence in golf tourism, world class courses and golf destinations.

The inaugural ceremony for the World Golf Awards will take place from November 14th-16th at the Conrad Algarve in Quinta do Lago, when the three-day sporting extravaganza will welcome industry leaders from around the globe.

Conrad Algarve is one of the most modern five-star hotels in the region and exemplifies all that Quinta do Lago stands for, from the world-class spa to the five restaurants and bars. Quinta do Lago is one of the most desirable places to own property in the Algarve.

The awards ceremony on Saturday November 15th will form the centre-piece of the Awards, when guests will be able to enjoy some of the world-class facilities on offer at Quinta do Lago. Everything from a chauffeur driven airport pick-up, to a full 18-holes of golf on both the Friday and Saturday will be included in the weekend package. Among the highlights will be a chance to play on the newly renovated Quinta do Lago North Course – a challenge for golfers of all standards set in a natural woodland setting of pine, gorse, heather and wild flowers.

Golf resorts, hotels, tour operators and destinations are currently being urged to submit nominations for the inaugural World Golf Awards, with voting set to open on June 20th.

Ahead of the event World Golf Awards, chief executive Chris Frost said: “What better location for us to host our inaugural Gala Ceremony than in the Algarve, one of the finest sports tourism destinations in the world, and what better location than the Conrad Algarve? Open for just over a year, the property has already established itself as an industry leader and it will be an honour for us to welcome our nominees to the hotel in November.”

Quinta do Lago Chief Executive John Dwyer also expressed his support for the event, saying: “It is a very exciting time at Quinta do Lago; significant recent investments have ensured the resort remains the freshest, most family-friendly venue on the Algarve. With a wide range of new packages designed to suit everybody’s requirements and a series of summer events to excite young and old, including the re-launch of our remodelled North Course, there’s never been a better time to visit the resort.”

Vale do Lobo scores a hat trick with England football team preparing for World Cup

The Algarve’s combination of world-class sporting facilities, relaxing scenery, balmy climate and healthy living made it the ideal place for the England football team to prepare for the World Cup between 19th and 23rd May.

The Three Lions squad, including manager Roy Hodgson, could be seen warm-weather training at the upmarket Vale do Lobo resort this month. And like most visitors to this part of Portugal, when England’s football stars were given the odd hour or two of down time, a number of them headed to the golf course. This included Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney, both keen golfers.

Many of the squad will have felt immediately at home in Portugal, as both Vale do Lobo and neighbouring Quinta do Lago are popular spots for holidays with British sports personalities, with a handful of footballers, including Rooney, Gerrard and Owen, said to have second homes in the one of the smart, tree-lined boulevards.

Roy Hodgson said: “Since the start of the training camp there has been a tremendous feeling of energy. It has been a very good three days. This is an excellent place to have a training camp and we have been very well looked after here. We wanted the facilities and a chance to get away together.” He added: “We are very happy with the facilities, the pitch and the place. Portugal remains one of our favourite places to come to.”

Player Leighton Baines added: “It’s a nice set up we have here and it is great for the lads to be able to go and get a game of golf after training hard.”

Exclusive Vale do Lobo is just 20 minutes from Faro airport and boasts two of the most popular golf courses in the Algarve, the Royal and the Ocean.

England’s first World Cup match is against Italy on 14th June, but before then they have a friendly against Peru.