May/June 2007  




Vale do Lobo, Portugal’s largest luxury resort on the sunny Algarve, recently opened a stunning holistic retreat. The new Royal Spa takes its inspiration from the nearby Atlantic, the surrounding environment and the local salt mines of Loulé, renowned for their health giving benefits. The spa’s unique design is based on the three elements of salt, water and nature, and these features are carried out throughout the facility--as sculptures, cascading waterfalls and streams running over pebbles and glass encased rock salt crystals--creating a restful and calming ambience.

portugal-2The state-of-the-art amenities include saunas, a Turkish steam bath, a hammam and an indoor/outdoor swimming pool with water massage jets and a retractable glass roof. Five cozy and spacious treatment rooms, some large enough to share, are designed for the ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ treatments. There is also an oriental room for floor-based therapies like shiatsu, and you can even have the pleasure of an outdoor massage in two wooden cabins in an oriental garden.

The spa offers a combination of ancient and modern therapies ranging from the natural to the latest vitamin-enriched treatments and cosmetic medicine. Holistic therapies such as acupuncture/Chinese medicine, singing bowl sound therapy, osteotherapy and Reiki are performed in customized treatment rooms, while golfers’ afflictions are taken care of by a range of physiotherapy services, including rehabilitation workouts, passive mobilization therapy, ice therapy and back treatments. Yoga, Pilates, Chi Kung (mood balancing exercise to stimulate the meridians) and personal training sessions are available in the spa’s well-equipped gym and fitness area. Medi-spa treatments include basic and comprehensive medical examinations, cosmetic procedures consultations, Botox facials and facial fillers with Restylane.

Entering the spa is like descending into a subterranean cavern, albeit a luxurious one, with low mirrored ceilings, scented candles, salt sculptures, music and the ever present sound of running water. Arriving for my first treatment, I felt immediately relaxed and becalmed. My first and only quibble was that the changing room was too small–three or more people undressing at the same time proved rather a squeeze!

After winning the battle to access my locker, I decided to try the thermal facilities before my treatment. These are thoughtfully designed with dim lighting and have heated tiled seating where you can cool down between steam and sauna sessions with a cold water foot bath The misty atmosphere of the large steam room was pleasantly infused with eucalyptus oil, and I spent an enjoyable ten minutes relaxing in the moist heat before realizing I’d forgotten to cover my frizz-prone hair with a shower cap!

portugal-3I changed into loose clothing for my 60-minute shiatsu treatment, which was carried out on a huge floor mat in the spacious oriental massage room. Shiatsu is a deeply relaxing Japanese massage technique similar to acupressure and based on the same principles and traditions as other Eastern therapies. My friendly male therapist checked I was comfortable, then started pressing firmly along the meridian lines of my body using his elbows, knees, feet, palms and fingers. I soon gave up trying to work out whether I was being massaged with an elbow or a foot and drifted off to sleep, proving the relaxing effect of the treatment. Shiatsu restores balance and ‘oneness’ by summoning energy to and from parts of the body that need it, releasing energy blockages and helping cure insomnia, pain and tension. Afterward, I felt quite energized, so after an herbal tea in the relaxation area with its two waterfalls, I went for a stroll on the long sandy beach.

The spa offers some great signature treatments such as the Royal Hydro Mineral Mud Therapy (€100), a body and facial treatment designed to stimulate the metabolism and refine the skin’s appearance with minerals and trace elements. Spend a day or half day being thoroughly pampered with one of the Royal Spa Experiences or treatment packages that address specific health issues and offer different benefits. Or opt for a simple salt body peel, mud bath, algae treatment or hydrotherapy, to name but a few of the treats available that use luxury Babor products, as well as locally sourced muds, salts and eucalyptus oil.

Manicures, pedicures and hair styling are carried out in the bright and modern beauty salon adjoining the spa. I ended my first visit to Vale do Lobo with my favorite indulgence, a pedicure--and an excellent one it was, too. The hard rough skin on my heels was buffed away, my cuticles softened and my toenails painted a glorious shade of scarlet. I left the salon feeling on top of the world and thrilled with my sexy feet!

portugal-1The Vale do Lobo resort is situated beside a mile long beach and offers a wide range of self-catering accommodation in apartments and private villas. The resort has many excellent restaurants as well as shops, sporting and golf facilities including two 18-hole golf courses and Portugal’s largest tennis center.

Three-night Royal Spa pampering packages costs from £376 ($743) per person, double occupancy; it includes six spa treatments (maritime salt peeling with Vichy shower, spa hand & foot treatment, Royal facial treatment, hair mask, manicure, pedicure and Cleopatra body treatment). Prices include accommodation in a Vale do Lobo self-catering apartment, breakfast at Spikes restaurant and extras.

Book directly on 00351 2893533 05 or visit

Monarch Scheduled flies to Faro from Birmingham, Luton, Gatwick and Manchester. Return fares start from £70 including taxes. Book at or tel: 08700 40 63 00.

BeattieCatherineCatherine Beattie is a UK-based health and travel writer/publisher with a lifelong interest in spas. Her credentials include writing and publishing several consumer guides including Healthy Breaks in Britain & Ireland (the UK's first spa guide) and The Really Useful Guides. Catherine was founding editor of Spa Health & Beauty magazine and contributes to many UK national newspapers and magazines including The Sunday Times, The Express, Here's Health and Harpers & Queen. She is a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers, Guild of Health Writers and Spa Business Association.




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