Casa Fajara hotel manager, Lara picks up a book and flips through the pages, comparing the photographs on the page of a dated building with drab furnishings and lacklustre paint to the sight that is in front of me now. Whitewashed walls and wooden furnishings make up the rustic boutique hotel, which finds itself nestled in a valley in the western Algarve.
Lara tells us about the hotel’s repeat guests; athletes who come for high intensity bootcamps, yogis who take part in relaxing retreats, and even the couple swimming in the pool near us who celebrated their wedding at the hotel six years ago. There’s something about the neighbouring mountains and quiet surroundings, save for the sound of cowbells from the farm next door, that make it easy to see why guests keep coming back.
After driving through the rugged and wild roads of Carrapateira, a gravel path finally leads us to Casa Fajara. The hotel is small, only 12 en-suite rooms with terraces or balconies that are perfect for catching some rays or relaxing with a glass of wine from the complimentary bottle that greeted my guest and I upon arrival. We meet different members of the hotel’s international staff, some who are seasonal workers, and others who have been there for over a decade. It is clear that everyone is keen to get to know guests as friends rather than clients.
The dining and lounge areas were clearly designed as spaces for guests to mingle, which is now much harder with the current situation, however, it’s really the outdoor areas that makes Casa Fajara a true gem. On the hotel grounds you’ll find a swimming pool, tennis court, yoga room, a beautifully tended garden, and multiple areas for al fresco dining. Our summer visit allowed us to enjoy lots of sunshine by the pool, but winter guests will be happy to know that underfloor heating and log fires are just some of the reasons that Casa Fajara is a year-round bolthole.
I stayed in one of the hotel’s luxury rooms, which has a king-sized bed, a small living area, an en-suite bathroom with a cave-like shower, and French doors leading to the north-eastern facing private terrace looking out over the national park. The interiors are rich with terracotta and wooden elements with pops of red that brighten up the overall look. The room has a cosy feel to it, inviting you to lounge in the sitting room with a good book or lather on some SPF and sit on the terrace with the cowbells and quiet buzzing of insects as the only background noise.
The hotel serves an excellent breakfast of fresh fruits, sublime local cheeses, breads, honey, charcuterie, and the most delicious yogurt I’ve ever eaten. For other meals, the hotel encourages guests to support local restaurants and Lara gives us a list of nearby places to try out such as the seafood focused, Sitio do Rio, while stating: “For me, Portuguese food is one of the best in the world.” We take her up on the recommendation and try local specialities like percebes (goose barnacles) and seafood cataplana (Algarvean stew).
During our stay, we saw many guests arriving after a long day’s walk as part of the Rota Vicentina, a network of 450km hiking trails through the southwest coastline. Casa Fajara is on the route and is a favourite pitstop for many hikers looking for a chance to relax and recharge.
Whilst guests are welcome to enjoy a game of tennis, yoga, or a swim in the hotel pool, the Casa Fajara team is also happy to book guests into other activities like surfing, sailing, or cycling. We decided to drive a few minutes down the road to Praia da Bordeira where we walked through sand dunes until we arrived at the water’s edge, the beach brimming with families and surfers. A long bridge towered above us and we made our way up a nearby slope and to a cliff that gave us the perfect vantage point from which to watch the surfers catch some waves.
In a nutshell
“This is not a hotel; this is a home. Everything we do with the guests is special”, explained Lara. My stay at Casa Fajara was the first in a West-East Algarvean road trip. It showed me that, despite the untamed natural elements, there was a little enclave of solace to be found deep between the mountains and the cowbells.
Images courtesy of Casa Fajara