The Golden Triangle is an unofficial term for the mini region that encompasses resorts like Vale do Lobo and Quinta do Labo, the two most prestigious resorts on the Algarve. These two resorts are like the Beverly Hills of the Algarve: both are known for their decadent mansions, perfectly-manicured lawns, and esteemed golf courses.
Being a triangle, there’s a third point but, because there’s no official definition, some people say that the Algarve’s Golden Triangle third point is Almancil while others say that it’s Vilamoura.
Although Vilamoura, with its marina, 5-star hotels, and golf courses, is far more luxurious than Almancil, Almancil actually makes the most sense as the third point in the triangle.
This way the triangle is smaller and only encompasses really luxurious resorts and hotels, whereas stretching it out as far as Vilamoura means covering a lot more ground, including places like Quarteira which, while perfectly nice, aren’t in the same class as Vale do Lobo and Quinta do Lago.
Vale de Lobo
Vale do Lobo is one of the most luxurious places on the Algarve, known for its beautiful mansions, luxury shopping, and the celebrities that frequent it. It’s also incredibly popular with golfers, its two 18-hole championship golf courses attracting players from all over the world.
While both the Royal and Ocean courses are loved by golfers, the Royal course is definitely the more popular: the 16th hole with its clifftop carryover is considered to be the most photographed hole in Europe
Naturally, Vale do Lobo also has an impressive beach, backed by beautiful reddish cliffs and plenty of bars and restaurants. And, if you do decide to relax with a few aprés sun drinks in one of the beach bars, there are plenty of taxis or the resort’s free bus service to bring you back to your accommodation.
Where to stay in Vale do Lobo
- Vale do Lobo Resort – Apartment, villas, and studios, and get access to all the facilities on Vale do Lobo like tennis courts, golf, spa treatments, and more.
- Hotel Quinta Jacintina – Boutique hotel decorated with classic décor and an outdoor swimming pool.
- Dunas Douradas Beach Club – Has several outdoor swimming pools, along with other relaxing facilities like a sauna and a hot tub.
Want more options? Check out this list of the best hotels in Vale do Lobo.
Quinta do Lago
Located just 5 minutes’ drive from Vale do Lobo, Quinta do Lago is another of the Algarve’s most impressive luxury resorts. While it does have a beach, Praia da Quinta do Lago, it also has a large lake with a sandy beach, restaurants, and places to rent kayaks and stand up paddle boards.
Like Vale do Lobo, there is a big focus on golf and the resort has three golf courses: North, South, and Laranjal. There are also plenty of places to play tennis or rent bikes, and there’s a large nature reserve near the beach that you can walk along as well.
Properties in both Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo aren’t cheap: it’s not unusual to see properties listed for €10 million or more. Likewise, a stay at one of a hotel in Quinta do Lago won’t mean roughing it: expect to pay €200-300 per night or more. If it’s luxury you’re after, Quinta do Lago should definitely feature high on your list.
Where to stay in Quinta do Lago
- Conrad Algarve – 5-star luxury hotel with an infinity pool, sauna, indoor pool, and other essential luxury amenities.
- Hotel Quinta do Lago – 5-star hotel set in the Ria Formosa Natural Park with its own private beach area, indoor and outdoor pools, and a spa with a wide choice of treatments.
- The Magnolia Hotel – Stylish contemporary hotel with tennis courts, swimming pool, and well-equipped fitness centre.
Want more options? Check out this list of the best hotels in Quinta do Lago.
Almancil is definitely the black sheep of the Golden Triangle. Although it is home to Michelin Star Restaurant Henrique Leis, as well as plenty of high end estate agents, Almancil is really quite a simple Algarve town.
There’s not much in the town (the nearest attraction is the Church of São Lourenço around 3 km away), but what Almancil lacks in terms of attractions, it makes up for with its location. It’s just a 10-15 minute drive from the nearest beaches, and the golf courses and high-end restaurants of Vale do Lobo and Quinta do Lago are even closer again.
Accommodation in Almancil, both hotels and property, is going to be a lot cheaper than in places like Quinta do Lago, Vilamoura, or Vale do Lobo, so it’s ideal for those that want to experience this part of the Algarve on a smaller budget.
Where to stay in Almancil
- Farm of Dreams – 1, 2, and 3-bedroom houses with shared facilities such as a swimming pool, sauna, and BBQ area.
- Almancil Hostel – Affordable dorm and private rooms with a shared kitchen, lounge, and terrace.
Although it didn’t make this writer’s definition of the “Golden Triangle,” if you’re looking for somewhere luxurious to live or take a break in, Vilamoura is definitely somewhere to consider.
The town is famous for its marina and the superyachts that dock there. It also has one of the highest concentration of 5-star hotels in the Algarve, including those by brands like Hilton, Four Seasons, and Anantara.
Another haven for golf lovers, Vilamoura has many golf-themed bars and, of course, golf courses: the Old Golf Course, Millenium, Pinhal, Laguna, and Victoria. As well as golf and luxury hotels, you’ll also find plenty of boutique shops, restaurants, and cocktail bars.
With more people staying in Vilamoura, and with most of the bars and restaurants generally concentrated in one place (the marina), Vilamoura has a bit more buzz to it than either Vale do Lobo or Quinta do Lago.
Depending on whether you’re looking for absolute peace and quiet or somewhere to have a good time, this will probably be a big factor in deciding whether Vilamoura is right for you.
Where to stay in Vilamoura
- The Lake Resort – Luxurious resort with beachside pool, several onsite restaurants (including one floating restaurant), and 3 different swimming pools to choose from.
- Anantara Vilamoura – Luxury 280-room hotel with facilities that include a tennis court, four swimming pools (one of which is adults only), and complimentary pilates, yoga, or tai-chi in the mornings.
- Laguna Resort – Luxury 5-star Algarve resort with 3 swimming pools, including 1 unique sandy swimming pool, several onsite restaurants, and a spa.