Boho finca-style stay Vila Monte Farm House has bright interiors by Vera Iachia and is surrounded by citrus trees and pink bougainvillea. With its two local-flavour restaurants, twin swimming pools, an abundance of inviting spots for lounging and sandy beaches nearby, it’s boho at its best.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm. Luggage storage is available for guests arriving early or leaving late.
Double rooms from £94.40 (€103), including tax at 6 per cent.
Rates include a buffet breakfast (usually €25 for adults and €12 for children) and parking.
Arrange a couple’s massage in a quiet area of the gardens, or take advantage of the tennis court, jogging tracks, hire bikes and fitness classes and fire up those endorphins. In the evening, enjoy an outdoor film screening by the adults-only pool at Cine Paraiso.
At the hotel
Two swimming pools, shuttles to the nearby beach, tennis court, free WiFi throughout, free on-site parking, valet parking, laundry services. In rooms: Nespresso coffee machine, tea-making facilities, TV, Molton Brown bath products, a beach bag and a sun hat.
Our favourite rooms
All rooms are bright and airy, with white walls, nautical blue and white fabrics, and natural decor, such as tree-trunk coffee tables, coconut-husk rugs and hand-carved light fittings. The Junior Suite, with its private outdoor seating, might just take the cake.
Family-friendly Tanque das Bicas has Roman steps and pool toys; it’s in the main garden, surrounded by trees and a pool bar that serves fresh juices and salads (little Smiths must be supervised by a parent at all times). The heated, adults-only pool is in a quiet and lushly landscaped area of the grounds; order a cocktail, enjoy a book or just savour the silence.
Leave your straw hats and beach bags behind: they’re laid on by the hotel.
All public areas, including the lobby market and restaurants, are wheelchair accessible; there’s also a dedicated accessible guest room with a larger bathroom.
Are welcome. Big ticket littles swag, from baby cots to bedlinens, bottle sterilisers to bibs, highchairs to baby baths and towels can be provided on request. The hotel also has a family-friendly pool, outdoor play areas and bikes to hire.
Children of all ages are welcome at Vila Monte Farm House.
The hotel has a family-friendly pool, outdoor play areas, bikes to hire, an open air cinema, colouring-in accoutrements and child-friendly snacks.
Family-friendly Tanque das Bicas has Roman steps and pool toys; it’s in the main garden, surrounded by trees and a pool bar that serves fresh juices and salads (little Smiths must be supervised by a parent at all times).
The restaurants have kids menus, activity packs, family-friendly events, children's cutlery and highchairs; just ask to have baby bottles or food heated for teensy Smiths.
Give the hotel a week’s notice to arrange babysitters (or nannies) for €15 an hour.
No need to pack
Big ticket littles swag, from baby cots to bedlinens, bottle sterilisers to bibs, highchairs to baby baths and towels can be provided on request.
Ingredients used in the restaurants are locally sourced (some grown on site) and organic; eco-friendly cleaning products, bathroom products and light bulbs are used, too.
For a spot of theatrics with your meal, try to snag the two seats by the large windows to the kitchen and watch the chefs at work. You can’t go wrong with alfresco dining on the terrace, either.
A breezy linen shirt for Mr Smith and a stylish sundress and espadrilles for Mrs Smith will be all the evening-wear finery needed.
Make your way from the atrium to À Terra’s main dining area, a stylishly rustic affair with chunky wooden tables, hanging clay pendant lights and shelves filled with jars of local grains and Portuguese truffles; floor-to-ceiling windows frame the gardens. In the outdoor seating area, you’ll find oversized blue cushions and a canopy with exposed bulbs; it’s particularly charming after dark. À Terra serves up local Portuguese food and mouthwatering Mediterranean meals – order assorted cuts of meat and fish fired up over the Josper grill or pizzas direct from the wood-fired oven. In warmer months, Laranjal Restaurant is open for tapas, seafood and all manner of grilled dishes; ask for the catch of the day. We’re partial to the tuna ceviche salad, too.
There’s an honesty bar in the lobby, just to the left of the entrance – it doubles as the check-in counter and is stocked with a variety of liquors. Concoct an afternoon tipple from one of the many gins on the shelf, or simply grab a cold glass of Murganheira (Portuguese sparkling wine) and cosy up by the circular fireplace. You can also order cocktails, spirits, wines, beers and soft drinks from À Terra.
Enjoy evening meals at À Terra from 7.30pm to 10.30pm, or at Laranjal from 7.30pm to 11pm (in high season only). Lunch at À Terra is served from 12.30pm to 3pm, and breakfast from 7.30am to 10.30am.
Full restaurant menus are available during opening hours, and the in-room minibar is stocked with drinks, cookies, crisps and other snacks.
The hotel is off the beaten track, but still within a residential area; it’s a short walk to the nearest town of Caliços and you can drive to the water in around 20 minutes. Moncarapacho is the next closest town (borrow the hotel's bikes to get there).
Faro Airport is 27km away; with at least two days’ notice, the hotel can organise transfers for €37 a person each way.
Trains from Lisbon and Oporto pull into Faro station; the hotel can organise transfers for €60 a person each way if requested at least two days before your train pulls into the station.
For those puttering around Portugal, there’s free parking at the hotel. You won’t need a car to enjoy the hotel and nearby beaches, though.
Worth getting out of bed for
Beach lovers are in luck: the white sands of Fuseta Island are about a 20-minute drive from Vila Monte Farm House; a shuttle service runs between the hotel and the boat to the island every 15-20 minutes. The hotel’s boat is moored at Fuseta pier and will zip you right over to the beach of Barra Nova, where you can get (temporarily) marooned in style; a small fee covers return transport, a water bottle and a beach towel. An umbrella, towels, chairs, drinks and a picnic can be supplied, too, and the boatman will help you set up for your mini island getaway. Sunbathe, swim and picnic to your heart’s content… and be back at the hotel within 15 minutes.
The hotel can also arrange pottery-slinging sessions, horse-riding in the hills, fishing and boatingtours in Ria Formosa Natural Park, and bird- and dolphin-watching excursions. Aspiring chefs can chop, stir and sizzle the day away in the hotel’s kitchens or simply go for guided seafood tastings in nearby Ria Formosa.
For your holiday dose of cobbled streets and squares, head 15 minutes west to Tavira, a traditional Algarve fishing village. The town is intersected by Gilão river and the bridge that crosses over it is allegedly a remnant of the Roman Empire.
Casa Corvo in Fuseta (1 de Maio +351 914 130 029) is the spot for a lunch of barbecued fish by the sea. Family-run Restaurant Antonio is on Avenida Maria Lizarda Palermo in the heart of Moncarapacho and serves traditional local fare. In Olhão, get your pizza fix with a view at Italian eatery Pizza e Pedra, which also has quite the enoteca for interested oenophiles.
Gin- and wine-lovers alike will have no problem finding a tempting tipple at 7 Imeio Wine Bar (+351 965 258 266 Avenida 5 de Outubro), a tapas bar that also serves up freshly prepared sushi in Olhão. Part tapas bar, part beer garden, Terra i Mar on Avenida 5 de Outubro has a rustic interior and outdoor seating area too. And for black pork and fiery cocktails with a side of local lore, check out Tapas e Lendas (‘tapas and legends’) on Rua Dr Manuel Arriaga.
Vila Monte tops a ripple of the Algarve’s barrocal, a band of arid hills separating mountains and sea. At Faro Airport, we’d watched fellow Brits head west towards the tourist-stricken resorts of Praia da Rocha and Lagos. We’d gone east, to Portugal’s Algarve. You’ll find no tacky tourist shops flogging cheap keyrings here. Only a few crumbling barns slouched in olive groves and terse greenery unfurling to the sea.
Our taxi had pulled off the main road to climb the winding driveway to Vila Monte, through gardens of orchid and tangles of acacia, fig and citrus tree reminiscent of Rousseau’s Tiger in a Tropical Storm – without the storm.
Once inside, the hotel’s spell descended. We stood side by side at the reception desk, fixated on the receptionist. She recited something about bike hire or breakfast, but it was her hands that captured our attention: they were pouring steaming honey and lavender tea so deftly from her cast-iron teapot that we were hypnotised. She filled our ceramic cups with the elixir. We downed it, and so began our initiation into the cult of Vila Monte Farm House.
‘Follow me, please,’ the receptionist said, and we did so as she conjured lawns, vegetable gardens, swimming pools. Soon we came upon a newly-lit fire pit circled by logs – were we to dance around this? – and then to our room, where we found cult-like robes… of the fluffy bathroom variety. And in the minibar? Organic crisps and sparkling wine. We obliged both. The hotel’s methods of indoctrination were so far not unpleasant.
We settled into our new life quickly, our first misfortune being the time of day: too late for lunch, not late enough for dinner. A pity. Perhaps they could rustle up some soup? They could. But note: Vila Monte doesn’t do ‘just some soup’. At the restaurant patio, the waitress brought us two cast-iron Chasseur pots of the most fragrant broth (one: an Algarve fish stew; the other: vegetable, made with produce from the garden) plus a breadboard dolloped with garlic-and-thyme butter and goat’s cheese.
‘And could we get an ironing board, please?’ Mrs Smith asked. This was followed by a silence as the waitress, perplexed, mentally scanned the menu for this unexpected request. I enquired how my partner might have space for it after all the soup. ‘For the room… So I can iron my dress,’ she qualified.
‘I’ll have one sent up,’ came the waitress’s unruflled, but somewhat relieved reply.
Soup duly despatched, it was time for stage two of our inebriation. As we poured more Algarve wine, a cat – her white-and-tabby features appropriately in keeping with the hotel’s distressed trelliswork and whitewashed walls – made its way across the lawn. We addressed her in that strange Scooby-Doo voice reserved exclusively for cats: ‘Hello yooooooou.’
Then we noticed the plumpness of her belly. ‘Are you preggo?’ Mrs Smith asked. ‘No, I can't say that, I hate it when people say that about me.’
No wonder this moggy was pregnant: she was gorgeous, and she knew it. But what do you give a cat when you’re eating soup? Mrs Smith fed her a crouton.
‘You can’t give a cat croutons,’ I announced, not entirely sure under what authority.
‘She’s expecting,’ Mrs Smith said. ‘Women get weird cravings during pregnancy,’ and, on cue, the cat devoured it. ‘See.’
Our new Portuguese overlords were surprisingly lenient with their expectations. We were apparently free to cycle into rustic nearby town, Moncarapacho, and take a taxi to sunbathe on the sandbanks of Fuseta Beach. It was here, at a streetside shack, that we feasted on giant garlic prawns and grilled dorada, laughing manically at each other’s sun-caught faces and wondering – hoping – that staff back at the hotel might never let us leave.
Later that day I found a quiet moment to spread-eagle myself across the king-sized bed in our room. Here was my face, a sun-burnt disc, drunk on near-sleep, set adrift in a white sea of dressing gown, walls, sheets: my very own Enya video.
Cue sharp focus pull to the shower door, with Mrs Smith screaming: ‘Quick, get up!’ I leapt from the bed, landing with an unexpected splash. Water: an inch deep. I stared at it mad-eyed, and then at her.
‘Help me!’ she despaired, lifting a dripping bed curtain and placing it on the bedside table, right onto our passports and check-in folder.
‘What are you doing?!’ I squeaked, rushing to their rescue. She stepped back, knocking the ironing board, still with us and leaning against the wall. We both turned and watched it slam into the water, causing a ka-bloom of spray. Within seconds my nap had shifted from Orinoco Flow to Apocalypse Now.
‘You told me to sit down in the shower,’ came her excuse over a nerve-steadying port & tonic while the housekeeper mopped our mess. This was true. I had taken the unorthodox decision to spend my shower sat down. I’ll admit it: shower-sitting is something I enjoy, especially under a rainforest showerhead. And, slightly giddily, I’d chosen this romantic getaway to share this character quirk with Mrs Smith – no secrets and all that. But Mrs Smith, in her wisdom, had sat over the plughole.
Rain that evening meant Braveheart would be shown on the lobby’s flatscreen TV and not the outdoor cinema. We ordered more Algarve wine at the reception bar while other waifs and strays dried by the fireplace or settled in for the film. We were all spared Mel Gibson’s questionable Scottish accent as his tribe were slaughtered in subtitled silence – we could only guess to the reason behind the lobby’s ‘mute’ policy. To maintain that monastic ambiance? However, the mawkish bossa nova covers of Eighties pop hits filling the void instead preserved quietude only as far as the scene with the bottom-baring highlanders. This tickled the barman as much as it did us and, newly endeared to him, we ordered another bottle.
On our final morning we found ourselves nursing coffees for several hours in the vast breakfast atrium: plate-glass doors on two sides, four giant amphorae along the back wall, a grand buffet laid out along another. Stormclouds had returned, swallowing hill after ever-closer hill like the strip lights in a horror-movie corridor. We decided we weren’t going anywhere. When the storm finally hit, it suction-boomed the doors onto their hinges. It was like something out of Rousseau’s Tiger in a Tropical Storm – with the storm. As other guests gawped or filmed the onslaught on their phones, Mrs Smith and I took the opportunity to load up on hangover-soothing custard tarts, and by check-out the rain had passed. The sun shone as we came blinking back into the world. We were now converted disciples, determined to spread the Vila Monte philosophy far and wide. Here are its three core teachings:
Order the pork cheek casserole from the hotel restaurant
Don’t chuckle when the waiter rearranges the word order of your favourite dessert – the ‘pudding bread’ is as good as your grandma’s