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I paid £430 for a surprise package holiday – the only thing I knew in advance was the destination

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It’s the perfect smooth-brained holiday (Picture: Ella Glover)

With only so much annual leave, choosing where to go on holiday, then making sure you make the most of what little time you get there, can be stressful.

Oftentimes, I find myself unable to make a decision and leaving a destination without having seen, or done, as much as I possibly could.

Enter: Quinta Do Lago’s surprise package, which takes all the work out of a weekend break.

Quinta Do Lago is a stunning resort nestled in Portugal’s Algarve, offering a package deal including accommodation and multiple experiences around the resort and local area, allowing you to make the most of your time in the region.

Prices start from just €500 (£430) per person for three nights and four experiences over two days, but despite the low prices, what really makes this package such a sweet deal isn’t just the excitement and anticipation of not fully knowing what to expect, but it also takes all of the planning out of your hands. 

It’s the ideal smooth brain holiday choice. All you have to do is pay and turn up. Everything else, from the itinerary to the logistics, is covered. 

The resort is nestled inside a vast and beautiful nature reserve (Picture: Ella Glover)

Quinta do Lago in a nutshell 

Quinta is a sprawling, upmarket golf resort nestled inside an even bigger nature reserve, with so much to see and do.

The Ria Formosa Natural Park, a protected nature reserve that stretches along Portugal’s southeastern coast, from Faro to Tavira, is one of the country’s seven wonders, and is a defining feature of the luxurious area.

The views are lush (Picture: Ella Glover)

Quinta itself is a residential resort, with luxury villas and apartments – one of which is owned by Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard – nestled among hotels and holiday homes. 

With this in mind, the price of the surprise package is an insanely good deal. With facilities fit for the stars, it’s hard to argue.

I stayed in a private room at the resort’s boutique-yet-cheap hotel, the Magnolia, which had a Palm Springs feel to it. 

The pool was a bonus (Picture: Ella Glover)

It was the ideal place for me as it had a gym, sauna, jacuzzi and swimming pool – all the things that bring me comfort when I’m on holiday. Not to mention, the breakfast was lovely and the cappuccinos were great, too. 

The resort is also home to 15 dining and drink options, including a Japanese restaurant, a fresh seafood restaurant and a classic Portuguese steakhouse. There are some more casual options for lunch, too, including sports bar Dano’s and health cafe PURE. 

The steak was incredible (Picture: Ella Glover)
Dining on fresh seafood was a real treat (Picture: Ella Glover)

While food is not included in the price of the surprise packages, Quinta’s dining options are, frankly, unmissable. The selection of steaks at Bovina were mouthwateringly tender, and lakeside Casa Lago’s seabass was cooked to perfection.

Did I mention the fruit platter we had for dessert?

The food is to-die-for (Picture: Ella Glover)

The surprise package 

There are a plethora of excursions and activities to try at Quinta, from sports and fitness classes at the renowned Campus fitness centre to golf lessons, cooking classes and nature tours. 

To help the resort choose which experiences to put into my three day itinerary, I answered a questionnaire, which asked questions about dietary requirements, the sorts of things you’re into (art and culture, food, fitness, etc.) and some broader questions about yourself and whoever you’re travelling with. It also meant I had a rough idea of what to pack.

When I walked into my hotel room, I was eager to check out my itinerary for the next few days. So, what did they come up with?

Day 1: Razor clams and padel

On the first day, I was up bright and early for a bit of an adventure — a trip down the Ria Formosa lagoon on a fishing boat adorned with huge, painted eyes. We’re off to learn how the Algarve fisherman dig for clams.

I wasn’t expecting to find myself on a rowing boat (Picture: Ella Glover)

We spent the morning up to our calves in either sea water or sand, using alien (to our city dwelling hands) tools to root through the earth for razor clams and cockles. 

I figured out how to squat comfortably while keeping my not-well-thought-out midi skirt out of the muck, and dug away, filling a basket with little critters which we eventually sent back to the ocean. 

Razor clams are fascinating little creatures (Picture: Ella Glover)

Afterwards it was another new and nerve wracking experience for me: learning to play padel, a new racket sport, and one of the fastest growing sports in the world. 

Despite the flashbacks to high school PE classes and fears of being smacked in the face by a ball, the padel class was easily my favourite activity — and something I never would have chosen to do if it wasn’t for the surprise package.

The endorphins rushed through my body as I went along for a quick gym session before heading back to the hotel. If this is what getting out of my comfort zone felt like, why had I waited so long to do it?

The sports facilities beat my old school sports hall (Picture: Ella Glover)

Day 2: Lake sports and nature walks

Day two was more sports, and a wander through the nature reserve with a wildlife specialist, who pointed out rare species of birds, fiddler crabs and turtles – yes, turtles! – which lived around the resort. 

The owners of Quinta do their bit to preserve the natural environment, with 91% of the land conserved, and it’s a blessing. Being able to wander through the nature reserve under the beating sun was truly beautiful, and something I’d have liked to do whether it was included in my package or not.

Turtles live here (Picture: Ella Glover)
I survived my first time paddle boarding (Picture: Ella Glover)

Later, we headed to the lake to try out some watersports. I’d never been on a paddleboard before – I’d always been too scared of falling in – but I put on my brave face and gave it a go.

To my surprise, it’s really easy to balance on a paddleboard. What’s less easy is trying to navigate around a gaggle of school children also trying their hand at sailing on the lake. 

Afterwards, we went to Umami, the resort’s Japanese restaurant, and feasted on the most delicious food, the standouts including platters of sushi, milk buns and chicken satay, before heading back to the Magnolia bar for drinks.

Cocktails after a busy weekend? Yes please! (Picture: Ella Glover)
The milk buns were delish (Picture: Ella Glover)

On the surface, Quinta Do Lago is a destination for golf lovers – and that it is  – but it’s also so much more than that. Whether you’re a fitness and wellness buff, a culture vulture or the ultimate foodie, there’s something for everyone.

I came away from the trip feeling inspired, invigorated and genuinely fulfilled. Now, I feel like I can take on anything. 

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