Hotel Review: Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort in Portugal
As the nights draw in and the days start to get chillier, Portugal’s Algarve is still enjoying plenty of sunshine and warmth. Just two hours away, it’s one of the best places to head for a winter break.
The new Anantara Vilamoura, the group’s first European opening, sits directly above the championship Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course – the longest 18-hole layout in the country, and the site of the annual Portuguese Masters tournament.
Obviously the Anantara is great for golfers, but equally you could just hole yourself up and enjoy some serious pampering. With four restaurants, three outdoor pools with cabanas and bars, an Asian-inspired spa, floodlit tennis court, and a gym with yoga and HIIT classes, there’s more than enough to do. There are also a complimentary tuk-tuk tours and a shuttle to Vilamoura marina and the private beach club, if you wanted to explore the local area.
The hotel is also a good base for seeing the Algarve as it’s in the middle of everything. The pretty towns of Lagos, Tavira and Faro are a short drive away, and I highly recommend the sandy islands around the Ria Formosa Natural Park, as well as the surf beaches to the west, and the mountains around Monchique and Aljezur.
Dinner can be taken in the Victoria restaurant, which has a nightly buffet. Or downstairs at poolside Ria, which specialises in seafood and fish from the Algarve. Traditional dishes such as clams sautéed in lime and coriander, and garlicky shrimps ‘pic a pau’, sit alongside seafood bisque and Algarvian fish soup.
For something more experimental, the upstairs signature concept restaurant EMO is a must. Resident ‘2014 Best Sommelier of Portugal’ winner, António Lopes, chooses the best wines to pair with each dish, and often the chefs take his cue and create dishes to match his selection – a far less common way of doing things, yet, in this part of the world almost makes more sense. Such is the depth and breadth of Portugal’s wine landscape, it feels right that it takes priority.
We tried a delicious spicy corn soup with a Duvalley Grande 2011, Atlantic scallops and braised turbot with a 2015 Vale da Capucha Arinto, followed by a Madagascan chocolate and hazelnut ‘wave’ with a 1989 Carcavelos Quinta dos Pesos. All delicious. If wine is your thing, António can also take you on a private tour to a local vineyard.
The hotel’s 280 guestrooms and suites all have huge double beds with super-soft feather pillows and mattress toppers, Nespresso machines and shady balconies with sofas on which to relax. The two-bedroom Anantara Suite also has a private dining area, butler, jacuzzi and sundeck.
A separate adults-only pool is more peaceful and secluded than the central pool, and has the added bonus of Veuve Clicquot cabanas, which can be rented by the day and come with their own butlers. You just press a button and someone comes to your service.
Anantara manages to fuse Asian and Portuguese influences seamlessly. When you check in, you’re taken to a lounge and given refreshments then asked to tap a small triangular gong to symbolise leaving bad energy at the door and to welcome you in. In the breezy central atrium stands a large tree where live fado (Portuguese singing and guitar) is performed live each night at 8pm.
However, for me, the pièce de résistance is the spa. Located on the top floor of the hotel, with views across the Victoria golf course and ocean beyond, it’s a seriously tranquil spot. Anantara’s Asian influence really comes to the fore here, with sleek black-and-gold decor and Oriental-style treatments. I tried the soothing orange oil Anantara Signature 60-minute massage, which began with a foot ritual of milk and coffee scrub (good for collagen production). The terrace makes the perfect recovery spot, with sunbeds and sea views and ginger and honey tea. It’s bliss. And, this being the Algarve, the scent of pine and the sound of the birds adds to the experience.
To be honest, I’d come here again even for a weekend break. You’d arrive on a Friday and go home on Monday morning feeling like a new person on Monday. Roll on, winter.
Anantara Vilamoura has Deluxe Doubles from €255/£218, including huge buffet breakfast, tuk tuk tours, Adventurer’s Kid’s Club for children aged 4-18, shuttle to Vilamoura Marina and access to Purobeach Club. Massages start at €90 for a 60-minute Anantara Signature Massage.
Address: Victoria Gardens, Av. dos Descobrimentos, nº 0, 8125-309 Vilamoura, Portugal
Phone: +351 289 317 000