Searching for Sunshine
Staying at Portugal’s Vila Vita Parc, Venetia van Kuffeler enjoyed not only the secluded sandy beach coves, but also a gastronomic tour and the wines to go with it
With so much doom and gloom in the headlines, we’re all going to be looking for a little sunshine in our lives this summer. What better place to visit, then, than Vila Vita Parc in Portugal? Just 30 minutes’ drive from Faro Airport (flight time from London: two hours and 40 minutes) and two hours by car from Lisbon Airport, Vila Vita is one of only two resorts in the Algarve that is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World group.
Opened in 1992, this privately owned, five-star resort lies in 54 acres of sub-tropical gardens. The hotel buildings are typically Algarvian in design, their whitewashed exteriors with terracotta roof tiles and terraces betraying historical Moorish influences. Interiors feature the cool and colourful decorated ceramics of the region, born of a rustic lifestyle and love of colour. The 180 guest rooms include 65 deluxe rooms and eight suites in the main building; 29 suites in the Residence, which is situated on a cliff overlooking the sea; 60 one- or two-bedroom suites, some of them with private roof terraces, in the Moorish-themed Oasis Parc; plus three ‘Vital’ suites next to the spa.
What’s more, Vila Vita Parc has just launched three new villas in time for the summer. Vila Atlântico I and II and Vila Al-Mar offer the ultimate in luxury, privacy and service (they are even served by a personal butler). Vila Al-Mar, a luxury bungalow housing one presidential suite and two junior suites, is capable of sleeping up to eight people. Set in a secluded part of the resort, overlooking the golf course and toward the sea, it has its own private pool, terraced area and extensive garden.
All rooms, suites and villas come with Wi-Fi and satellite TV and are extremely comfortable. Leisure facilities within the resort include three swimming pools, five tennis courts, a volleyball court, various golfing facilities – pitch-and-putt and mini-golf courses and an 18-hole putting green (dedicated golfers have a choice of over 30 scenic championship courses in the area) – and a children’s park which includes a crèche. There’s also the Vila Vita Vital Spa, where guests can choose from a luxurious range of treatments. But best of all, the hotel is located just above several secluded beach coves bordered by a dramatic rocky coastline and accessed by cliff paths and steps. Sailing and windsurfing enthusiasts are well advised to take the complementary shuttle service to the nearby beach of Armação de Pêra, 1.2 miles away.
For those more interested in gastronomic pursuits, the resort has a beach club, five bars and five restaurants – each with its own special atmosphere – including the two Michelin-starred Ocean, situated in the Residence. Ocean’s talented Executive Chef, the Austrian-born Hans Neuner, keeps diners returning with his exciting menus. His culinary approach is to blend the traditional with the contemporary, putting an exciting twist on traditional Portuguese recipes and featuring the finest natural ingredients from the region’s boutique farms and producers of local specialities. Highlights from the four-course ‘Culinary Moments’ menu we enjoyed included red mullet over paella sauce and Hereford entrecote with beef cheek. Meanwhile, the casual Arte Nautica beach restaurant, at Armação de Pêra, offers fish fresh from the ocean and is definitely worth a visit.
I also highly recommend a visit to Herdade dos Grous, the resort’s own country wine estate and organic farm in the neighbouring Alentejo region. On this spectacularly beautiful 1,803-acre property – which includes plenty of livestock, a vineyard, flowering gardens and olive and orange groves – guests can have a delicious lunch and learn about horse breeding, organic farming and the cultivation of award-winning wines.
Back within the resort, Vila Vita has its own wine cellar, the Cave de Vinhos. The largest cellar in the Algarve, it is stocked with over 11,000 bottles of fine wines – including, of course, spectacular reds from Herdade dos Grous. Here Vila Vita offers guests a wonderful and exclusive wine-tasting experience, accompanied by tapas, curated by resident sommelier Luis Duarte.
The resort has an elegant 72-foot motor yacht, capable of hosting up to 10 guests on private full or half day excursions along the coastline, exploring hidden beaches and grottos. At €2,950 per day, the experience definitely doesn’t come cheap, but it is a mere snip when compared to the cost of hiring a yacht in the South of France.
Vila Vita Parc runs like a well-oiled machine, faultlessly and effortlessly. Although the Algarve coastline is certainly not as beautiful as the French Rivera, the resort’s superb facilities mean that there’s really no need to leave the property. Vila Vita Parc just has so much to offer families, couples and indeed anyone looking for relaxation and some well-deserved pampering – this is what keeps customers returning again and again.
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