Shhh, keep it to yourself, the Algarve's great for a holiday
Get a taste of the coast's quiet side at this stylish resort
Sunday 17 August 2008
The Algarve is Portugal's best kept secret. Secret? Tourists have been flocking here since the Sixties for its golf and beaches.
True. But there's much to explore beyond gaudy Albufeira and the ubiquitous manicured greens that have tamed this once wild coast.
Take advantage of the volume and frequency of flights to Portugal's southern coast, then leave the crowds behind and head for the region's quiet side. Explore the beautiful old town of Tavira and its beach island, the hidden coves and bays west of Lagos, the windswept beaches around Sagres, and the foothills of the Serra de Monchique.
The place to base yourself is the Vila Monte, a former manor house at Moncarapacho, close to the airport and just a 10-minute drive from the coast. The antithesis of the usual Algarve resort, the Moorish-themed complex has four individually designed "guest houses" – Vila Indigo, Riad, Orangerie and Kasbah – and is set in pretty gardens. Delightful features, such as the orange grove in the central courtyard of the Orangerie, the private roof terraces of the Kasbah, and Vila Indigo's private pool, reveal careful attention to detail.
This resort may be small, but the clever arrangement of rooms and facilities, and the convenience of three pools, means there's never a sense of being crowded out. It's oh so quiet, but when you require a little bit of a buzz the pool bar at the resort's heart is a convivial place to hang out.
The guest house concept means there are different styles to choose from across the hotel's 55 rooms and suites. I stayed in the Orangerie; my room was very spacious, comfortably furnished and had good views, though lacked a little in character.
The food and drink
Choose formal dining in the Orangerie Restaurant or the more casual surroundings of the Pool Bar. There's also a pleasant bar in reception, with an open fire for exceptional times when the sun isn't shining.
In the exotic Kasbah Spa a full range of treatments is offered, as well as a Turkish bath. There's also a gym, tennis courts, a driving range and three-hole golf course.
Wheelchair access. Children are welcome.
Double rooms cost from €133 (£106 ) per night, including breakfast.
Vila Monte Resort, Sitio dos Calicos, 8700-069 Moncarapacho, Algarve, Portugal (00 800 2000 0002; relaischateaux.com).
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