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You’d be forgiven for thinking that the Algarve was family-package territory. We’ve got the lowdown on it’s lesser-known side, where Moorish architecture and Michelin-starred dining abound in a bucolic landscape. Book one of these eight hotels and you’ll fall for southern Portugal.
You’ve seen the eye-roll when someone mentions vacationing in the Algarve. Portugal’s southernmost region has long been seen as the territory of family packages, golf resorts and English speakers.
But there’s a lesser known side – one of traditional turrets, red cliffs and vegetable gardens (with a spot of Michelin-starred eating to boot).
From citrus-scented farmhouses and Moorish-style mansions to coastal idylls that are as gorgeously whitewashed as they are family-friendly, our rundown of the best places to stay will have you falling in love with the Algarve all over again.
As you’d expect from the name, the vibe here is of a distinctly bohemian luxury, with a bucolic setting to match. Burrowed among olive groves, orange trees and pink bougainvillea, Vila Monte Farm House feels worlds away despite being a 25-minute drive from Faro airport. Whitewashed Moorish buildings are decked out finca-style with an abundance of driftwood, coconut-husk rugs, tie-dye pillows, cane chairs and tree-trunk coffee tables. Aside from Pinterest-worthy interiors, guests can enjoy Monday morning yoga sessions, borrow bikes, watch outdoor film screenings and access the private shores of Fuseta Beach. Separate adult-only and family-style pools mean you’ll be able to crack open a book in peace without throwing an pass-ag side-eye towards the shallow end.
Pro tip: Don’t pack your straw hat and beach bag; they’re on the hotel. Do bring home a massive jar of the juicy olives for sale at Vila Monte’s deli.
Martinhal Sagres does much to erase the bad rap of family-friendly hotels with its elegant interiors, first-class service and utterly enviable views proving that you don’t have to make concessions just because there are little ones in tow. Stone, timber and cork decor make this a haven of natural materials, but Martinhal Sagres’ love affair with nature goes deeper still – the hotel runs on solar power, serves organic local produce and is heavily involved in conservation projects. In terms of activities, you’ll find yourself spoilt for choice with five swimming pools, tennis courts, a watersports centre, hiking tours, al fresco yoga and wildlife trips on offer. If you do feel like venturing beyond the hotel walls, head to Sagres, a port less than 10 minutes drive west. Beyond that you’ll find the best surfing breaks to hit the waves, or just people watch – a sport in itself, really.
Pro tip: Pack comfortable shoes for leisurely hikes around the neighbouring national park – for when you get sick of the beach (if ever).
This is the Algarve at its most hedonistic. Vila Joya is a place for those with discerning tastes and deep pockets. Enveloped in lush gardens, it is a chic collection of 22 luxurious suites, a two Michelin-starred restaurant and boutique spa overlooking the Atlantic ocean. Like any ultra-luxe villa worth its reputation, the only thing the suites have in common is an unparalleled sea view, with each room taking on a personality of its own, be it nautical, natural or neoclassical. The cutting-edge horizontal shower (google it) in the Junior Suite makes it our pick of the crop. The nearby Moorish market town of Loule is an attractive prospect for when the villa’s first-class food, spa treatments and all around relaxation get too much. Come night time, lights are dimmed and Vila Joya takes on that quintessential holiday sepia glow, flush with sun kissed skin, warm hearts and full bellies.
Pro tip: Head to the on-site beach shack for cocktails and sushi after hours.
Praia Verde’s steel open bracket structure protrudes from the pine forests of the Algarve coast boldly and beautifully. Unlike most boho-chic, whitewashed Algarve hotels, Praia Verde is sleek and design-led, though not lacking in Portuguese warmth and hospitality. Suites are neutrally coloured, bathed in natural light and enjoy either a garden or sea view, but the hotel’s rural locale amid dense pine forest mean you’ll hardly be spending much time in your room. The surrounding campground inspires afternoon rambles while free yoga classes encourage morning sun salutations and the nearby stretch of sand promises fresh freckles and bronzed limbs. If you need to squeeze in a spot of work in between striking shavasana and mountain biking, the designated work area is an escape from your escape, so you can get to it before resuming your regularly scheduled programming of lazing by the saltwater pool.
Pro tip: Drag yourself away from the sun lounger to explore the nearby coves and beaches, or for a taste of culture, head to the castle and fort in neighbouring Castro Marim.
Perching on Praia da Rocha is Bela Vista Hotel & Spa, a 19th-century mansion that was converted to the Algarve’s first hotel in 1932. Its heritage manifests in a sprinkling of vintage trinkets while remnants of the original decor survive: stained glass windows, wall tiles and painted wooden ceilings. Yet a rich history hasn’t held this hotel back from modernity; a recent refurbishment, courtesy of acclaimed designer Graca Viterbo, has introduced bold colours, fun patterns and striking materials in a “Miami-meets-the-Mediterranean” style. Although small, the hotel has a grandiosity far beyond its size and once you’re through the tall wrought-iron gates, the concrete eyesores beyond its walls all but disappear along with any stresses. If any linger, a trip to the hotel’s L’Occitane spa will do the trick. Rooms are elegant but not boring, a more vivid take on Portugal’s bohemian feel that stops short of garish. If you’re feeling sluggish from too many cocktails or are in a Michelin-starred food coma and can’t drag yourself to the nearby strip of beach, the hotel’s palm-fringed pool is a prime second choice.
Pro tip: Room 116 is Bela Vista’s pièce de résistance, with a lavish bathroom housed in a magnificent stained-glass turret. It’ll be the prettiest shower you ever take.
Five-star in the most traditional sense of the word, Vila Vita Parc has set the standard for luxury lodging in the Algarve since its opening in 1992. Expect the usual suspects: unparalleled sea views, direct access to the beach, a two Michelin-starred restaurant, exquisitely designed suites, extensive activities including golf, tennis and waterskiing. Yet it’s the service which puts Vila Vita Parc a rung above the rest. The staff here are knowledgeable, helpful and ensure your holiday is hiccup free. Although indulging in a Michelin-starred meal at Ocean restaurant and sampling the tuna tartare with yuzu miso at Mizu is a must, true foodies will delight in a trip to the hotel’s own country wine estate in Alentejo. The rural extension of the seaside hotel, Herdade dos Grous inspires bucolic bliss with its sprawling acres of vineyard, vegetable gardens and an abundance of cows, pigs and sheep. Wine tasting and a tour of the estate’s extensive wine cellar is a must on the agenda.
Pro Tip: For an especially extravagant trip, hire the Vila Vita Parc’s yacht for a day spent discovering coves along the coast and spotting dolphins.
Baroque and renaissance architecture come together to form this magnificent 16th-century convent in Tavira. Converted in 2006 into one of the country’s historic Pousadas, this is the place to immerse yourself in Portuguese culture beyond the sun, sand and sea variety. Within its glorious ochre-coloured facade are 36 bedrooms set around 12th-century Moorish cloisters, each varying in size but all offering a private garden, teensy balcony or terrace for surveying the rooftops of Tavira. Moorish architecture aside, much of Pousada Convento de Tavira’s appeal lies in the final word of its name. Perched on Tavira’s castle hill, the hotel provides the ideal place from which to explore this history-rich town. Begin your exploration with the Roman Bridge – which on holy days is strewn with rosemary – before making your way to the 16th-century Igreja da Misericórdia, widely recognised as the Algarve’s most important renaissance monument. This being the Algarve, a sandy stretch is never far off; from Pousada Convento Tavira it’ll take you only 15 minutes in a car to happen upon iridescent waters.
Pro tip: For commanding views of the magnificent architecture of Tavira, head to the disused water tower that has been converted into a camera obscura – less romantic than a rooftop garden, sure, but the views are worth it.
Call us crazy, but we’re finding ourselves increasingly drawn away from the country’s coastal allure, opting instead for a taste of Portugal’s pastoral romanticism instead. A tiny boutique hideaway standing alone amidst 10 acres of the Algarve’s rolling countryside, Fazenda Nova is a secluded sanctuary and a rarity in the tourist-ravaged region. Imbued with a chicness that recalls summering in the south of France (with a Mediterranean twist), the hotel boasts a reserved but stylish stature. Of all the rooms though, our pick is the Terrace Suite where, as the name suggests, guests can unwind on the rooftop and lounge on a sunbed in one of the plush bathrobes provided (or absolutely nothing – it is private after all). You won’t find much surrounding the hotel besides blue skies, orchards and gardens that are perfect for a leisurely stroll or bike ride, but if you do wish to leave the premises, a 10-minute drive will lead you to beaches, the historical town of Tavira, the quaint fishing village of Fuseta and plenty of other local secrets Fazenda Nova’s staff will gladly let you in on.
Pro tip: Check out the hotel’s designated vinyl room where the owners have carefully curated around 1,500 records over the years – a perfect soundtrack to your Algarve adventure.
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