B&B and Beyond: Vilacampina, Portugal

This Moorish-style guesthouse is a sophisticated base for exploring the region's natural delights, says Katie Monk

The eastern stretch of the Algarve's coast is blessed with year-round sunshine, stunning beaches, delicious seafood and unspoilt nature. A short drive from the pretty town of Tavira, between the hills and the sea, is Vilacampina – a dazzling white, Moorish-inspired villa that combines contemporary cool with rural seclusion. Built in 2005, on the site of an old farm, it's a peaceful spot, and perfectly situated to take advantage of all the area has to offer.

The house has something of an Ibizan villa aesthetic – whitewashed walls, archways, Moroccan lamps, colourful paintings and bright cushions. An open-plan living/dining area has comfy sofas, dark-wood tables, an honesty bar and a log fire that's a blessing on cooler nights. To the front are two decked areas for al fresco breakfasts or post-beach beers. At the end of the garden is the pool, with shaded terrace and white drapes. Massages can be arranged, as can lunchtime baguettes.

The bed

The nine rooms – three ground-floor doubles, five first-floor doubles and a suite – each have private bathrooms with power shower only, satellite television and French windows leading on to a terrace. Two of the rooms are slightly smaller, but this is reflected in the price. Those at the front face the garden and pool; those at the back overlook the hills and are best for sunsets. The decor is stylishly simple, with modern furniture, neutral colour schemes, padded headboards and Portuguese cotton bedlinen. Robes, slippers and little chocolates by the bedside are nice touches.

The hosts

Owner Sofia Borges used to be a stylist on an interiors magazine in Lisbon and worked with Brazilian architect Angelo de Castro to realise her vision. Sofia is exceptionally friendly and welcoming and is happy to give advice on where to go in the area, or leave you to your own devices. She doesn't live on site, but comes to the house each day and has two helpers, Katerina and Adriana. Vilacampina draws a loyal following – the very first guests from 2005 were staying when I was there and come back each year without fail.

The weekend

Around 15 minutes' drive from Vilacampina, and running parallel to the coast, is the Ria Formosa Natural Park – a protected area of low-lying islands, salt marshes and lagoons. It's wonderfully undeveloped and contains some of the country's best beaches – Barril, Armona, Ilha de Tavira and Fuzeta – accessible by local ferry or tourist train (visitalgarve.pt). Birdlife here is prolific, especially during spring and autumn migration.

Sofia recently bought a boat, which is moored nearby and available for guests to go out and explore the beaches and Ria Formosa.

The towns of Faro, Olhao and Tavira make good day trips for pottering and eating out. There's windsurfing, fishing, walking in the hills and golfers have seven excellent courses in the vicinity. The hotel has bikes you can borrow. I cycled everywhere (the beaches take around 25 minutes), picking oranges off the trees and exploring at a leisurely pace. Spa buffs should visit the newly opened Conrad Algarve for some A-list pampering (conradalgarve.com).

The breakfast

A buffet of fresh fruit, brownies, boiled eggs, homemade yoghurt, creamy local goats cheese, smoked salmon, croissants, jam, rye bread, freshly squeezed orange juice, sparkling wine and homemade lemonade, is all set up on the sideboard each morning. You can choose to eat in the dining room or out on the terrace in the morning sun. A selection of leaf teas is available and there's an espresso machine for proper coffee.

The pit-stop

Fresh fish and seafood abound in this part of the Algarve – crabs, clams, oysters, prawns and squid, and of course grilled sardines in summer. Nearby Santa Luzia is famous for its octopus (polvo), best sampled at O Capelo on the waterfront (Avenida Duarte Pacheco 40; 00 351 281 381 670). Olhao is a bustling port with an endless array of seafood bars along its harbour and a seafood festival in August (festivaldomarisco.com). Or head to Tavira for delicious pizzas at Aquasul (Rua Doutor Augusto da Silva Carvalho 11; 00 351 281 325 166). Further along at Cabanas is the family-run Noelia e Jeronimo (Avenida Ria Formosa; 00 351 281 370 649). Gourmets should book a table at Vila Joya near Albufeira – a two-Michelin-starred restaurant (00 351 289 591 795; vilajoya.com) – or the closer Michelin-starred Gusto by Heinz Beck in Almancil (00 351 289 350 700; conradalgarve.com).

The essentials

Vilacampina, Sitio da Campina, Luz de Tavira, Tavira, Algarve, Portugal (00 351 281 961 242; vilacampina.pt). Doubles start at €120 (£102), including breakfast.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Events Coordinator / Junior Events Planner

    £24K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Events Coordinator ...

    Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: Chief Executive Officer

    Salary 42,000: Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: The CEO is responsible ...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Day In a Page

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?