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Winter wonderland

Move over Santa — the snowy landscapes and lifestyle take centre stage in Lapland, as Mary Anne Evans discovers.


Albufeira with views of the Algarve coast

feet from the castle, is the town’s 15th century cathedral — a gothic beauty of red sandstone windows and doorways contrasted by stark whitewashed walls. A 30-minute drive up into the mountains from Silves is Monchique and the Roman spa town of Caldas de Monchique. The spa baths still operate today and off er an array of treatments. Up a winding mountain road from Monchique is Foia — at 3,000 feet above sea level the highest point in the Algarve — and on a clear day the sea is visible nine miles away in Portimão. Though don’t forget a jacket as temperatures can be much lower than at the coast at this time of year. Twenty five miles further west and

back on the coast, Lagos should not be missed by culture vultures. This ancient maritime town was occupied by the Moors in the 8th century, who fortified it and

Northern Lights, Finland

established important trade links. The walled town winds gently uphill from the sea with lively bars and cosy, traditional restaurants nestling in its cobbled streets. Lagos’ historical highlights include

Castelo dos Governadores, or the Governor’s Castle which housed the Algarve’s military government in the 13th century and Forte Ponta da Bandiera — one of the largest historic fortifi cations in the Algarve aff ording fantastic views over the bay. Top off your day with a walk from

Ponta de Piedade lighthouse in the southern corner of Lagos Bay to the beach of Praía Dona Ana, just fi ve minutes drive from Lagos. Following a dirt track you’ll take in a striking coastline of jagged cliff s and grottoes carved by Atlantic breakers to Praía Dona Ana to take in the sunset.

apland in wintertime is a place of incredible beauty. The last remaining

wilderness in Europe comprises snowy landscapes dotted with reindeer herds and small villages of wooden houses that sparkle with white lights and candles. Adding to the feeling of being at the edge of the world is the extra-terrestrial fi rework display of the spectacular green and red Northern Lights dancing their way across the darkness. I fi rst saw the Northern Lights after a

day at a nearby reindeer farm run by the Samis, the indigenous people who, with the Finnish Lapps, make Lapland such a great all year-round destination. As Santa knows, reindeer are the best way to get around and we’d taken a reindeer safari deep into the forest with the guide keeping the animals at a steady trot through the snow. Hungry from the outdoors, we sat in a circular wooden building watching a salmon cook on a wooden board in front of a roaring fi re as the Sami began drumming to call up the Lights. Whether that really worked or not, when we went out into the darkness, nature’s fantastic light show was centre stage. Lapland offers all the usual sports

and winter pleasures you’d expect from a country that is covered in snow from November to May.

Dog sled team

Sunset in Lapland

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