Limestone cliffs, deep blue waters and golden coves merge into an interior of olive trees and cork groves in Portugal’s southernmost region, the Algarve. Head to Vila Real de Santo António for wide boulevards and the marina, or buzzing Albufeira with its sandy beaches. There are modern, built-up areas, but the region remains a place where the warm sun sets the rhythm of long lazy days. You’re spoilt for choice with places to stay, but here’s our pick of the best, bookable on Culture Trip.
Miami-meets-Positano is the vibe of this bijou Algarve palace overlooking one of the region’s most popular beaches – Portimão’s Praia da Rocha. Accents of canary yellow and breezy nautical blues come courtesy of designer Graça Viterbo, who has skilfully blended 21st-century touches with the ancient hand-painted tiles and wooden beamed ceilings that nod to the hotel’s late 19th-century origins. Small in size, big in charm, the hotel has a palm-fringed pool, L’Occitane spa and Michelin-star restaurant that provide reasons to linger longer here.
This all-inclusive is aimed at active families, offering impressively equipped kids’ club playgrounds and water aerobics at one of the six swimming pools, plus watersports at the nearby beach, beside the fishing village of Alvor. Bedrooms are basic but pleasingly clean-lined. Food across the three restaurants ranges from Italian to the Surf and Turf Grill, and snacks at the Sardine Bar with drinks on tap. Perfect for travellers who want to make new friends.
Grand indeed, this imposing Belle Époque façade was built with the aim of impressing the Spanish, just across the River Guadiana, which divides the two countries this far south. Interiors hit just the right note between elegant timelessness and contemporary chic. Wander down to their seaside Grand Beach Club for a dish of zingy ceviche (marinated raw seafood) and dig your toes in the warm sand, before enjoying a negroni at the mahogany counter of the Grand House’s bar, accompanied by flickering candles and evocative jazz tones.
Cosy rather than cutting edge, this warm and welcoming whitewashed quinta (farmhouse) is surrounded by lush, bougainvillea-clad gardens, inset with a generous swimming pool. The eight bedrooms (and two-bedroom cottage) come with tiled floors and sea views, and brim with a simple home-from-home feel. Owners Chantelle and Fraser willingly share their knowledge of the local area over a warm-from-the-oven cake. Yoga is also a reason to stay – the studio’s white-draped windows, with views of the fragrant Algarve pines, and inlaid azulejo (small stone) tiles place you in Portugal with every stretch and shoulder-releasing sigh.
A stone’s throw from the beautiful, many-spired town of Tavira, this authentic, family-run farmhouse roots you with a sense of place. Decor is drawn from local artisans, interwoven with a lick of Lisbon sophistication – think macramé hangings, regional tiles and rattan across the 11 rooms, one of which comes with a terrace and hot tub. Top billing goes to the Treehouse, set atop a carob tree, with wood-clad interiors and views of the sea. The gardens are filled with cork trees, while the kitchen pays homage to the region with octopus and squid dishes. Don’t miss the home-made pumpkin jam at breakfast.
Set in the unspoilt eastern Algarve near off-the-radar beaches, pretty white-washed towns and wine estates, Fazenda Nova is the dream home from home. Surrounded by gardens, abundant with olives, almonds, pomegranates and fragrant with lavender and rosemary, the 15 sleek rooms mix varnished concrete with local driftwood and the region’s eucalyptus. Elsewhere, the hotel’s A Cozinha restaurant dishes up sea bass from nearby Olhão fish market – the best in the Algarve – on a bed of chickpeas with the estate’s own olive oil. There’s also an infinity pool to laze by and a 1,500-strong vinyl library to peruse.
Low-lying and Moorish in design, with courtyards where orange trees flank trickling water fountains, Vila Monte has evolved over time to become a truly charming country-house hotel with a lush, flower-filled garden. The heart of the retreat is the huge fireplace, off which À Terra restaurant radiates, with its not-to-be-missed roasted farm chicken with lemon and garlic, and chocolate mousse with sea salt and French lavender honey. There are film screenings by one of the pools in the evenings and excursions to deserted beaches during the day.
Affordable with a capital A, Praia Verde entices with a confident, contemporary style. Staff are memorably helpful, dishes such as wood-fired cod or grilled local octopus hit the mark, and the walk through the pine forest to the beach is a treat. Rooms are divided into 23 with sea views and 42 with kitchenettes, balconies and sitting rooms, with sofa beds for children. Speaking of which, there’s also a small but good kids’ club.
On the wild, west coast of the Algarve, just near Cape St Vincent – Europe’s southwesternmost point – this child-centric resort stands on the cliffs facing out to sea with golden sands stretching out beneath it. Containing everything a child (and peace-craving parent) could want, from trampolines to swimming pools, bikes to basketball, surfing lessons and screen time, plus a baby concierge to ensure all needs are met, this makes an ideal holiday for crowd-pleasing families.
If none of these take your fancy, the Algarve is home to many luxury hotels or holiday rentals, now bookable via Culture Trip. As for things to do, see what’s on in Lagos, the best restaurants in Lagos, or where to spend your evening drinking in one of Faro’s many bars. From bustling cities to mountainous landscapes, Portugal has something for everyone. For more ideas on where to go, see what makes the country a must-visit destination.